State College head coach Joe Walker thought his team may have enjoyed the Christmas holiday a little too much based on Tuesday’s practice and a lethargic start to the 25th annual Kiwanis Holiday Classic on Wednesday.
It took the Little Lions a few minutes to burn off the extra cookies they consumed over the Christmas break, but once they did, Owen J. Roberts didn’t have much of a chance of hanging in a 83-62 State College win.
The Little Lions full-court press helped them create 18 steals, including a team-high six steals by star Drew Friberg.
“I think we started flat, but for the rest of the game our energy and intensity turned into easy buckets,” Walker said.
Friberg paced the Little Lions with an all-around performance, adding a game-high 19 points and seven assists to his steals total.
He got off to a shaky start in the third quarter, missing his first three shots, which was capped off by a missed dunk attempt off one of his steals.
Friberg finished the third quarter with a flurry though, hitting three straight 3-pointers. He also drove the nail in the coffin of the Wildcats, driving and kicking to his brother Johnny Friberg for a wide-open 3-pointer to end the third quarter with a 68-47 lead.
“He’s just such a smart player. Nothing really surprises me with what he does,” Walker said. “He shot really well in the second half. There’s a reason he’s going to Princeton and there’s a reason he got a lot of Division I attention.”
State College’s lead swelled to 34-19 in the second quarter, but the Wildcats climbed back into the game with 9-0 run — thanks to a four-point play by Nick Massa — once Drew Friberg left the court briefly.
Brandon Clark got the Little Lions back on track with 10 of his 15 points coming in the second quarter, helping State College go to the half with 43-32 lead.
“In most games, (Drew) is not going to be coming off the floor for very long — just to get his breath,” Walker said. “There’s something about him, his teammates look to him and he’s a calming presence. We don’t like to see him off the floor for very long.”
The Little Lions will take on District 1’s Germantown Academy in Thursday’s championship game at 5 p.m. The Patriots defeated District 4’s Loyalsock 56-52 in Wednesday’s other game.
Germantown Academy’s freshman guard Jordan Longino caught the attention of Walker in the opening game of the boys’ tournament by hitting six 3-pointers. Walker also hopes to have his team prepared quickly for the three-quarter court trap that the Patriots ran against the Lancers.
“That’s the tough part about a one-day turnaround,” Walker said. “Whatever you want to implement, you have to do it in a very short time in a shootaround in the morning. We have to stress to our guys to get in the right spots to carry out our gameplan.”