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Juniata evens season series with rival EJ

By Kenny Varner

MIFFLINTOWN – It was a Pink out Thursday night in the second iteration of the Annual Juniata County rivalry the put the East Juniata boys (7-12) basketball team against Juniata on the Indians’ home court.

The Tigers were looking for the season sweep while the Indians were looking to tie the season series.

In their first meeting East Juniata took the contest in a defensive contest, 37-28. Both were looking to keep a direct path to the post season.

It would be Juniata that would take home the TVAA victory  58-43 evening the season series.

After a tight first half that saw the Indians take a 27-24 advantage into the intermission, the Indians came out sizzling on offense to outscore the Tigers 20-6.

“We talked about that coming out. We had the lead going into halftime. We told them we need to come out in the third quarter and get our offense going,” said Juniata coach Al Ream. “We got a couple of steals and a couple of easy buckets inside. The kids really worked the ball around well and got us to where we were up. It was just a matter of us playing smart and not mistakes. They played hard especially when we almost go a 20-point lead.”

Juniata got strong efforts by Grant Reinhold who had 18 points followed by Jasper Shepps who had netted 17.

The Indians also got a boost from guard Ricky Guante who was very active on the boards collecting nine rebounds while scoring two points short of double digits with eight.

East Juniata got a valiant effort from Clark Ritzman. Despite trailing by double digits in the final stanza, Ritzman did what he could to try to cut into the Juniata lead scoring all 13 points for the Tigers.

Teammate Wrett Smith had the hot hand early posting nine first quarter points en route to a 13-point effort.

Juniata out rebounded East Juniata 31-15.

“Hats off to those guys (EJ) Having  a young team and playing in this crazy environment come and play in,” said East Juniata coach Chris Lenig. “I think emotions might of played into it. We went into the half trailing by three. We were still in it. Hats off to Juniata they played a heck of a second half.

In the first quarter, the game started off as a back and forth as each teams tried implement their tempo and style of play into the contest.

East Juniata got the scoring started in the contest at the foul line when Sam Kopacki hit 1-of-2 from the line and teammate Wrett Smith was a perfect 2-for-2, taking the early 3-0 lead.

Juniata’s Caden Swailes put up a jumper from the foul line, cutting it to one.

The Tigers had a 4-0 mini run when they started to find open shots underneath. Both Smith and Josef Book found themselves open and scoring down low.

In the Indians next possession, the cut the lead to just three when Reinhold hit 2-of-2 from the charity stripe.

Ritzman got his scoring started as he took his dribble and headed into the lane for the bucket.

But with one flick of the wrist by Ricky Guante, the Indians got the triple and cut the Tigers lead to 9-7.

After holding solid on defense on the following East Juniata possession, the Indians got it to the fast running guard Guante and he took it in to tie things at nine.

The Juniata defense held up on the next Tiger possession, as Shepps took the steal and went in for the transition bucket, giving the Indians its first lead.

East Juniata ended the first half in strong fashion, going on a 10-3 run.

In the scoring spurt, the Tigers were led by five points from Smith and four from Ritzman, taking the first quarter lead at 19-14.

Defensively, Juniata clamped down on the opportunistic offense of East Juniata, holding them to just five points in the second, going into the intermission leading by three.

Offensively, the Indians offense came out of the half on a mission.

After early buckets by Swailes and Reinhold, East Juniata was able to notch another Smith bucket.

But disaster struck the Tigers when Grant Reinhold was fouled going up for a shot and was sent to the line. On the play, East Juniata picked up a technical foul, causing in turn what would be a 5-point play for the Indians.

From there the game belonged to Juniata as it was able to outscore the Tigers 9-4 to end the quarter.

When the game went into the final stanza, Juniata held a 47-30 advantage.

East Juniata refused to go away without a fight and fight they did outscoring Juniata 13-11. All the buckets scored by Ritzman who hit from outside, the inside and in traffic to pick up those points.

However, it wasn’t enough as the Indians were able to clip the possible East Juniata comeback attempt with clutch free throw shooting en route to the victory

Juniata  58, East Juniata 43

EJ.       19    5   6 13 – 43

JUN     14 13  20 11 – 58

Scoring: EJ – Wrett Smith 5 2-2 13, Jaiden May 2 1-2 5, Sam Kopacki 1 1-2 3, Clark Ritzman 7 2-2 19, Josef Book 1 0-2 2, Nathan Carolus 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 7-12 43. J – Jasper Shepps 7 4-4 20, Ricky Guante 2 2-2 7, Grant Reinhold 6 5-6 17, Caden Swailes 4 0-0 8, Damien Vance 1 0-0 2, Wyatt Stoner 1 1-2 4. Totals 21 12-14 58.

Played but didn’t score: EJ – None. J – None.

Three-point: EJ –    Smith, Ritzman 3. J –  Shepps 2, Stoner.

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