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East Juniata goes down fighting; falls late to Northwest

Photos by Bob Hockenbrock
By Kenny Varner

COCOLAMUS – They battled til the end!

The East Juniata boys basketball team went toe-to-toe with the 16-7 Northwest Area team deep into the fourth quarter.

But in the final minute, the Rangers made the most of its free throws and was able to extend the lead and then hold on for the 69-64 victory over the Tigers.

East Juniata was done in by the Northwest sharpshooter Josh Miner who posted a game-high 34 points.

Teammate Gary McLendon followed up with 14.

Offensively, the Tigers were led by Jack Brackbill who finished with a hard earned 17 points.

Teammate Tanner Barth finished with 15 points.

Going into the final stanza, the two teams were tied at 45.

Miner got the scoring started with a triple, upping it to 48-45.

But East Juniata came roaring back on the next trip down court when Brackbill went strong to the hoop and made a shot before being fouled. He hit the extra free throw, tying things.

When in doubt, the Rangers put the ball in Miner’s hands. He put his team back ahead after being fouled on the floor and completing the one-on-one.

But a jumper by Brackbill put the game back to a stalemate.

Miner wasn’t done there, he was fouled in the front court on a phantom call by the referees, causing the East Juniata bench to erupt and then called for a technical fouls.

On a rare 4-point trip to the foul line, Northwest Area opened up a 54-50 lead with 3:40 left.

The Rangers forced a turnover again, they got the ball back to Miner’s hot hand going 2-for-2 once again to up the lead to six.

Brackbill tried to get his team back in the game and went straight to the hoop once again. He was fouled in the process sending him to the line. He was a perfect 2-of-2, cutting it to four.

After another Ranger bucket, East Juniata made another run at the lead. Owen Dressler went to the hoop and was fouled on the play. The ball went in and Dressler went to hit the free throw.

Unfortunately, the ball shanked off the rim. But fortunately for East Juniata it went back into the hands of Dressler and he followed up his shot with another bucket.

East Juniata forced a turnover and got the ball back to Dressler from behind the 3-point line, making it a one-point Northwest lead.

The Rangers went back to their hot hand in Miner and he was successful, hitting two more free throws. He finished with a 12-for-12 performance from the line.

Back struck the Tigers as they cut the lead to one once again when they were able to work the ball inside to Dylan Wagner.

But as quick as the East Juniata offense cut into the lead, the Rangers would be back to expanding it.

Holding onto a 3-point lead, Northwest never looked back as they ended the game going on a 7-5 run to end the contest.

In the first, the two teams battled close as the Rangers would take a very slim 14-11 advantage.

Northwestern continued to build up its lead going into the intermission, posting a 34-24 advantage.

But in the third quarter, East Juniata came roaring back and was able to overcome their deficit to take a lead going into the last seconds of the half before the Rangers tied the game on a buzzer beater to send things into a 45-45 tie going into the fourth.

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