State College basketball coach Joe Walker said he could talk at length about Drew Friberg after watching the star sophomore carry the Little Lions in the fourth quarter.
Walker noted some of Friberg’s strengths as he discussed Friberg’s late-game heroics. He plays with confidence, something that was clear when he started for State College last season and on display again during the Little Lions’ 48-45 win over Cumberland Valley on Tuesday night. And he can score in a variety of ways, finishing inside through fouls and hitting a crucial 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
But more than anything, Walker said Friberg simply played with urgency down the stretch.
Friberg made big play after big play, scoring 12 of State College’s final 16 points in the win.
“We talk about unselfish play,” Walker said. “In a sense, he was selfish because he needed to be, and he took some big shots with a lot of confidence and hit ‘em.”
Friberg finished with a team-high 18 points. He scored his 12 fourth-quarter points in the final six minutes, helping the Little Lions (6-8) erase a five-point deficit. He knocked down a pair of free throws to give State College the lead for good late in the team’s third straight win.
Friberg broke through after going scoreless in the second and third quarters.
“I just got to stay attacking, look for ways to score and luckily I found a couple ways to score,” Friberg said.
The Little Lions trailed 15-8 after the first quarter, but they turned it into a tight contest with a flurry of 3-pointers in the second. State College’s Andrew Witt hit back-to-back 3s to push his team ahead 18-17. Tommy Sekunda, who finished with 12 points, hit a 3 from the right corner to push the lead to 21-18.
Cumberland Valley took a 26-24 lead into halftime, and both teams struggled in the third.
The Little Lions started to get into foul trouble in the third quarter, with point guard Keaton Ellis and Friberg both picking up their third fouls early. Friberg’s third foul came with 6:43 to go in the third, and Cumberland Valley hit one of two at the foul line to tie the game.
Friberg was whistled for his fourth foul with 3:09 to play.
“It definitely comes into your mind,” Friberg said of playing with foul trouble. “We had a bunch of people with fouls on the team. You can’t be as aggressive on defense, you got to stay straight up. I thought all in all we did a good job defensively.”
State College needed him to avoid fouling out while continuing to make plays.
“We can’t afford to not have him on the floor,” Walker said. “And getting three fouls kind of early, he was smart about it. I looked at him once and just said be smart, and he was. He didn’t pick up that fifth foul, which was huge for us.”
Friberg started to take over after Cumberland Valley appeared to be gaining separation.
After a turnover, Cumberland Valley’s Josh Giardina swished a 3-pointer to give his team a 37-32 lead.
State College took a timeout with 6:29 left.
“I told them in the huddle, I said, ‘Relax, there’s a lot of time left,’” Walker said. “And I think they did. They responded well.”
Out of the timeout, Friberg grabbed an offensive rebound off his own and miss and finished through a foul. He then hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and pull the Little Lions within three. He made another tough layup through a foul to tie it with just less than three minutes left, but missed the free throw.
After the Eagles regained the lead, Friberg rose up for a 3-pointer from the left wing over Cumberland Valley’s Jon Drapp.
Walker could see the confidence on his face.
He drilled it, and the Little Lions led 42-41.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” Walker said.
After Giardina got a jump shot to drop, State College needed Friberg to stay cool under pressure again.
He stepped to the free-throw line with his team down by one point with 1:28 left.
He sank both.
And the Little Lions survived the wild final minute and a game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
“It was really hectic at the end there,” Friberg said. “We just had to stay calm.”