A few hours before his team fell to State College 65-57 on Friday night, Central Dauphin East coach Marty Hasenfuss said he’s never seen a team shoot the 3-pointer like the Little Lions.
He was correct to be concerned.
Nursing a three-point lead with just over four minutes left in the game, the Little Lions struggled to inbound the ball after a timeout. The Panthers swarmed. Anthony Wright, a CD East junior, lunged to intercept a pass to Kyle Kanaskie, but when he missed, the Little Lions had numbers.
Kanaskie looked up and put a pass right into the hands of Bryan Sekunda, who calmly rose up and drained a critical 3-pointer that pushed State College’s lead to 53-47 with 4:16 left.
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“When I got the ball, I knew I had a defender behind me and an open lane,” Kanaskie said. “So I dribbled it hard into the lane and the defense collapsed, and Sekunda was there on the wing.”
Kanaskie said when he looked up and saw it was Sekunda, who was open, he already knew the end result.
“It’s like he’s automatic, so I just start jogging back,” he continued. “That’s the good thing about this team because we have so many good shooters so it makes my job much easier.”
Sekunda and Kanaskie, both seniors, led State College with 28 and 16 points, respectively, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Eddie Cowan, the Panthers’ senior guard, torched the Little Lions’ defense early, scoring at will with an assortment of moves. He hit a step-back jumper in the first quarter, then followed that with a floater in the lane, then a pull-up jumper in the lane. He capped off the first quarter with another step back with seconds remaining, en route to an eight-point quarter and a 15-11 CD East lead.
“Well, he hit a couple of shots in my face, so it got me a little angry,” Kanaskie said. “So I tried to go right back at him.”
Cowan earned a team-high 21 points, but Kanaskie’s 16 points, including an and-one on a Cowan foul after he intercepted a Cowan pass and then beat the speedy guard down the court for the bucket.
“Cowan’s really a nice player,” said State College head coach Drew Frank. “He’s going to get his own but he’s truly one of those players that makes everyone on his team better. And I thought Kanaskie and Connor Shadle were able to stay in front of him better as the game went on but boy he’s a complete player.”
Sekunda isn’t bad either. He got off to a slow start from the perimeter, missing his first three 3-point attempts before adjusting and assaulting the basket to trips to the foul line. He shot 11 free throws in the game.
“You have to get a couple of easier baskets,” Sekunda said. “I tried to get inside the lane a little bit and get a couple ‘chippers;’ anything easier just to get your game going.”
Sekunda scored just four of his 28 points in the first quarter. He scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including the pivotal 3-pointer late.
“Any open shot you know it’s going up,” Sekunda said with a smile. “Leaving your hand you can tell if it’s going in or not and that shot just felt great coming off.”
Senior Jason Costa contributed 11 points. Junior Michael Beattie scored five and Ryan Karstetter, a sophomore, and Shadle, a senior, each had two points. Junior Bryce Williams scored one point and played good defense down low.
But when it came time to win, Frank relied on Kanaskie and Sekunda to carry the load.
After Joe Lemelle hit a three to pull the Panthers within one at 54-53 with just over two minutes to go, Kanaskie and Sekunda took over.
The duo scored nine of the team’s last 11 points down the stretch.
“This is their third year playing in our program and they just have a sense of where each other is going to be,” Frank said. “And Kyle just makes such good decisions. If we can keep the ball in his hands in end of game situations I’ll take my chances with that.”