It may not have officially been a five-point play, but it sure felt that way for the State College boys’ basketball team.
Drew Friberg sank two free throws, then converted a turnover into a 3-pointer in the final 2.3 seconds of the third quarter Thursday afternoon to put the Little Lions in front for good.
The sequence accounted for five of the 28 points from Friberg in a 68-56 victory over Germantown Academy in the championship game of the Kiwanis Holiday Classic, keeping State College perfect on the season.
“We’re happy with an 8-0 start, but we can’t be satisfied,” said Friberg, who also grabbed eight rebounds. “We’ve got a lot of work to do still. ... We’ve got to keep building.”
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State College also got 12 points and eight rebounds from Brandon Clark, 10 points from Ryan McNulty and eight points apiece from Keaton Ellis and Tommy Friberg. Ellis also had five assists and Tommy Friberg added four.
The Patriots (4-7) were paced by Jordan Longino’s 19 points and Zach Anderson’s 15. Owen J. Roberts beat Loyalsock 56-45 in the consolation game earlier Thursday.
Several times State College would surge ahead, only to see Germantown rally. The game was knotted 44-44 late in the third until Tommy Friberg hit one of two free throws with 21.8 seconds left to get the Little Lions back in front.
Drew Friberg then drew a foul and made both attempts from the line with 2.3 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, a long pass was swiped by McNulty near midcourt. The senior quickly dished the ball back to Friberg, who released his shot just before the buzzer from about 25 feet away, hitting nothing but net.
“Ryan made an awesome play on the ball,” Friberg said. “He made that play. He tipped to me. I just had to shoot it.”
Coach Joe Walker could feel a difference during the break between quarters.
“Just in terms of energy, it gave them a shot in the arm,” Walker said. “Just keeping our intensity up, that gave us a boost going into the fourth quarter.”
State College added the first five points of the fourth quarter and Germantown didn’t have another run the rest of the game.
The decisive burst contrasted the game’s first quarter, when the Little Lions raced ahead 18-2, watching the Patriots make just 1 of 13 field goal attempts. But Germantown turned it around quickly, slicing the margin to 18-14 in the final 75 seconds of the quarter. Longino then drilled a 3-pointer to open the second to get the lead down to one point, and the Little Lions were a little rattled.
“That surprised everyone,” Clark said. “Usually when we’re up we get kind of lazy and that’s not really good. As our coach says, we have to keep stepping on their throats until the game ends.”
Walker knows it will be a topic his players will hear about more as the season progresses.
“The discipline, the maturity, to make sure (it doesn’t) give them confidence,” he said. “If you keep that buffer, it’s hard for them mentally. It was a couple irresponsible plays, being too quick on offense, giving up second-chance opportunities.”
There were a few other, smaller lapses, but State College also had some impressive performances with its half-court defense. Germantown was forced into 34 percent shooting, aided by 10 blocked shots and plenty more altered or off balance. Clark and Drew Friberg each had four of those blocks.
“That’s huge,” Friberg said. “Putting our hands up and contesting shots, that’s a big part of what we need to do defensively.”
There can be a lot of satisfaction with an 8-0 start to the season, with a break for a few days before resuming the schedule in 2018, but Walker can see a lot of work still needs to be done.
“We need to take every single part of the game seriously,” Walker said. “You can’t take anything for granted. There comes a point in the season where one loss and you’re done, and you can’t use it as a teaching lesson anymore. We have to take advantage of our opportunities.”