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Mount Union turns back Blue Devils to take control of JVL

Mount Union put a death grip on the Juniata Valley League’s second cycle with a 61-52 showdown win over Bellwood-Antis Friday night before some 925 fans packed into the Trojan gym.
Both teams entered the game with 5-0 marks in the second half of JVL play.
“This was a big win for us, but we didn’t win the league tonight. We still have three games left,” cautioned Trojan coach Joe Komir.
The Trojans, who edged the Blue Devils 58-57 in a JVL first-cycle playoff a week ago, have three games left and can win the program’s first league championshipsince the 1988-89 season with a sweep. Mount Union travels to West Branch (2-17) Monday and to Southern Huntingdon (4-17) next Thursday before ending the regular season with a Feb. 10 home game against Glendale (8-12). The three remaining teams have a combined record of 14-46.
While anything is possible, Bellwood-Antis coach Tim Keech all but conceded the league championship to Mount Union. He said, “They’re not going to lose another game in the regular season. We have to work and get back on track. We hope to see Mount Union again at St. Francis in the district finals. We will be there.”
The Trojans (21-1) won their 13th straight game since dropping a 52-50 decision at Bellwood Dec. 20 on a Ryan Myers’ buzzer baseline jumper. Mount Union and Bellwood-Antis (18-3) are ranked second and third behind unbeaten Ligonier Valley in District Six Class AA. If that holds, their next meeting would be in a district semifinal.
The third meeting of the schools was a closely-called affair. The Blue Devils finished with 21 personals assessed against them, losing Ricky Shannon and Danny Smith while Myers played most of the game in foul trouble and finished with four. The Trojans were charged with a dozen fouls, including three on Jared House in the first half, but didn’t lose a player.
Both coaches agreed that fouls were a definite factor in the game. Keech observed, “They were the difference between this game and the early two that we played against Mount Union. But this will make us stronger down the road. We had some guys come off the bench and step up in a pressure game.”
The other difference in the game was 6-6, 270-pound Trojan center Earl Hollis, who finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
“When Myers got in foul trouble, we wanted to take the ball to Earl inside as much as possible,” Komir cited. “In fact, we forced it too much at times and turned the ball over.”
Keech acknowledged, “Earl has the ability to take over a game. Not only is he big, he’s one of the strongest high school players I’ve seen in a long time.”
The game was tight throughout the first half with three lead changes and six ties. The Blue Devils were hot from beyond the three-point arc, hitting four treys in the first quarter and two more early in the second. B-A got only two more in the second half.
Komir said, “We gave them a lot of open threes in the first half, but did a better job denying it in the second half. We were collapsing inside with our help defense and Bellwood kicked the ball back outside to the perimeter where it had the open shot.”
Steve Crider’s jump shot with five-tenths of a second on the clock lifted B-A to a 31-29 lead at the break.
Mount Union pulled away with big runs at the outset of both the third and fourth quarters. The Trojans scored the first eight points of the third stanza and opened a 40-35 lead after outscoring Bellwood-Antis 14-4 in the first 4:37. Hollis scored nine of those points, five with Myers on the pine. A pair of baskets by Crider and a Shannon trey rallied the Blue Devils to within 46-42 at quarter’s end.
Mount Union put the game out of reach by scoring the first 10 points of the final period to go on top 56-42 after House drained a trey from the left wing with 4:25 to play. The Blue Devils never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
The Trojans shot 51 percent from the floor (22-for-43) and converted 12 of 20 chances at the charity stripe.
The Blue Devils were 20 of 51 from the field for 39 percent and four-for-eight at the line. Mount Union controlled the glass 28-17 behind Hollis. Justin Price scored 16 points and Danny Puchalla a dozen, along with five assists. Isaiah Helton had nine points and six assists.
Crider fronted the Blue Devils with 18 points and Myers contributed 11, followed by Shannon and Nathan Carlson with eight each.
Mount Union’s junior varsity (11-6) won its fifth in a row, beating Bellwood-Antis 47-42 in the prelim behind Stefan Morgan’s 29-point explosion.
Mount Union 61 Bellwood-Antis 52
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (52) – Myers 4 2-4 11; Crider 8 0-0 18; Carlson 2 2-2 8; Shannon 3 0-0 8; Smith 1 0-0 3; Rogers 2 0-0 4; Hughes 0 0-0 0; Mattern 0 0-2 0. Totals: 20 4-8 52.
MOUNT UNION (61) – House 1 1-2 4; Hollis 9 2-2 20; Puchalla 5 0-0 12; Price 4 7-9 16; Helton 3 2-5 9; Morgan 0 0-2 0; Sroka 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 12-20 61.
Three-Point Goals: Bellwood-Antis 8 (Crider 2, Carlson 2, Shannon 2, Smith1, Myers1); Mount Union 5 (Puchalla 2, House, Price, Helton).
Score by Quarters
Bellwood-Antis 16 15 11 10 — 52
Mount Union 18 11 17 15 — 61
J.V. Score: Mount Union 47, Bellwood-Antis 42