Drew Friberg is comfortable in control — and it showed Tuesday night.
Friberg took the reins in the fourth quarter, bringing the ball up and down the floor, taking it to the rim, and scoring State College’s final 10 points in a heated 63-60 win over Harrisburg.
“You can depend on him,” State College coach Joe Walker said of the team leader. “He’s making sure we’re not playing at a pace we shouldn’t be with the lead. We have a lot of confidence with the ball in his hands.”
Friberg’s 26 total points led the Little Lions (10-3), while the 6-foot-5 junior was joined by three teammates in double figures. His younger brother, Tommy, as well as Brandon Clark and Tommy Sekunda all scored 10 points.
Quentin Flemister guided Harrisburg (10-4) with 15 points on five 3-pointers. Micah Parsons, a 6-foot-3, five-star verbal commit to Penn State football’s 2018 class, had 14 points and seven rebounds, while small forward Tony James added 13 to the scoresheet.
The win moves State College ahead of Harrisburg in the Mid Penn-Commonwealth standings. The Little Lions slid up to second place, just behind Carlisle.
Despite a six-point advantage after the first quarter, State College trailed 31-30 at halftime due to a barrage of 3-pointers, and it looked like the two teams would enter the fourth quarter knotted up at 46 apiece.
That is, until Friberg drew on his experience with a savvy play. As time expired in the third quarter, he leaned into his man-up defender at halfcourt and attempted a desperate heave.
The ball barely went 10 feet, but the official called a shooting foul on Harrisburg’s Ali Anthony. State College’s smooth free-throw shooter had a trio of looks at the line, and he buried all three chances.
It gave the Little Lions a 49-46 lead heading into the final period and shifted momentum. Walker, Friberg and the Little Lions were pumped, but Harrisburg coach Kirk Smallwood wasn’t happy.
“They’re a very good team, but I just thought they got a whole lot of help that they didn’t need,” Smallwood said. “That’s not what gets called in the Mid Penn back in central Pennsylvania. ... It’s hard when you come up here. Just let the kids decide the game on the damn floor.”
Smallwood wasn’t happy with how the game ended, either.
Following an up-and-under layup by Friberg that gave State College a 62-60 lead with 42 seconds left in regulation, the Cougars had an opportunity to knot things up. Harrisburg’s Elijah Barrett drew a foul and earned two free throws, but missed both looks.
Friberg hauled in the rebound and was fouled. The junior made one of two at the charity stripe, moving the score to 63-60 with 20 seconds to go.
Flemister pushed the ball down the floor and tried to make his sixth 3-pointer of the night, but was bodied up behind the arc by a pair of State College defenders. The shot attempt hit nothing but air and was tipped around until the clock ran out.
The Little Lions were all smiles as Smallwood couldn’t believe his eyes. He thought that if Friberg was fouled at halfcourt at the end of the third quarter, surely Flemister did enough to draw a foul himself, which would’ve awarded him three shots and a chance to tie the game.
“That was a foul on the 3-pointer at the end of the game, clearly,” Smallwood said. “And that wasn’t just a foul. It was a foul where he took the guy down to the floor.”
Still, Harrisburg’s coach gave credit to State College, and noted that the Cougars’ defensive game plan was to make Friberg work for every point he got.
The Harrisburg defense was aggressive, but Friberg and the Little Lions did enough to hang on for a season sweep of the Cougars.
Walker wasn’t overly ecstatic with how his team performed. There were mistakes throughout the first half, sure, and it wasn’t a pretty win.
But now with three W’s in a row, it was a victory Walker would certainly take.
“It was a tough game down the stretch; every game in the Mid Penn is. But they stuck together. They didn’t panic,” Walker said of his team, which travels to Mifflin County on Friday. “They look around they trust one another at this point. We’ve been in some close ones. Good teams win close games, and tonight we pulled it out.”