STATE COLLEGE — It’s not often that a basketball game is decided in the first quarter, but State College’s 66-43 win over Loyalsock was precisely that on Friday in the championship game of the Kiwanis Holiday Classic.
The Little Lions lunged to a 26-7 first quarter advantage and essentially played the Lancers even the rest of the way.
“I said to the guys in the locker room before we came out that every minute counts,” head coach Drew Frank said. “If you take care of business in the first minute, the last minute might not matter.”
“Everyone always focuses on the end of the game,” Frank continued. “I told them we should focus on the beginning of the game, and I think it was that first 16 minutes that won that game for us.”
Bryan Sekunda led all scorers with 25 points and buried three of his five 3-pointers in the first quarter.
State College’s defense was equally impressive, allowing just two field goals in the first frame.
“I felt like I had to come out a little differently today,” said Sekunda. “My energy has been down a little so I felt like I needed to give a little more today and get things going early for myself and the team.”
Fellow senior Jason Costa also exploded early. In fact, each senior scored 16 first-half points.
“Jason has really stepped up for us this year to give us that other player on the perimeter so teams can’t just take Bryan out of the game,” Frank said.
The second quarter was more of the same as the Little Lions once led 40-9.
The Lancers would make a modest 11-2 run against mostly State College reserves late in the quarter to make the 44-22 halftime score a bit more respectable.
Roger Wilson led Loyalsock with 19 points in the game while Kyle Datres and Mike Pastore each contributed five for the previously undefeated Lancers.
Wilson and Datres were also named to the all-tournament team.
After halftime, the two teams played evenly, scoring the same amount of points in each quarter.
But not all points are created equal as evidenced by a demoralizing dunk by Sekunda that thwarted any thoughts of a Lancer comeback.
Kyle Kanaskie’s routine eight points in the game belied his importance as he orchestrated an impressive offense all night.
Kanaskie saw Sekunda being overplayed on the left side of the floor and called the play he wanted. Michael Beattie jumped to the ball just above the 3-point line as Kanaskie fed him a bounce pass.
Almost simultaneously, Beattie dropped a low bounce pass to a back-door-cutting Sekunda who caught it in rhythm as he headed to the basket.
Only the long-armed, 6-foor-5 Wilson was back to protect the Lancers’ basket as Sekunda elevated. Wilson was too late for the block but right on time for a poster as Sekunda crammed the ball in the basket with two hands.
“Kyle called that play,” Sekunda said. “I feel like he wanted to get something going and that play really got our energy back up.”
Before Sekunda left the ground there was no doubt of his intention whether anyone tried to block it or not.
“I wanted to dunk it,” Sekunda said. “That’s all I was thinking and I got to do it so it was awesome.”
Sekunda and Kanaskie were each named to the All-tournament team. Beattie added ten points in the game.
“Even though Kyle’s box scores alway look impressive, people that don’t really understand the game really can’t appreciate what he does for us,” Frank said.
For example, the Lancers started the game forcing Kanaskie to the baseline on all pick-and-roll situations with Sekunda. Kanaskie simply adjusted.
First, he hit Bryce Williams on the block who then hit a streaking Sekunda for an easy layup and a hockey assist for Kanaskie.
On the next possession, Sekunda’s sheepish defender, wary of another back cut, gave the senior some room so Kanaskie simply hit Sekunda with a crisp chest pass that ended in another 3-pointer.
“That senior leadership and his basketball IQ (are tremendous),” Frank said of his point guard. “Kyle has just been so consistent not just being able to handle pressure but also to get the ball to guys in spots where they can be successful.”
State College will need another stellar performance as it heads to Harrisburg next for a showdown with the 6-1 Cougars on Jan. 4.
“Our first game back after break will be at Harrisburg so we’ll see how we handle their pressure,” Frank said. “But this win does give us some momentum and we’re figuring out what we need to do to be successful and that’s where we are right now.”