The Greater Johnstown High School boys basketball team had watched both an 11-point halftime advantage and a seven-point fourth-quarter lead dissolve in a non-conference match with undefeated Tyrone on Tuesday night.
When the Golden Eagles’ Blaine Hoover beat the buzzer in regulation with a rebound basket to force overtime, the Trojans could have sulked or panicked.
Instead, coach Ryan Durham’s squad took control in the overtime session as the Trojans beat the Golden Eagles 82-73 at Doc Stofko Gymnasium.
“We knew they were going to come in here at 10-0 and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Trojans senior Gershon Simon, who netted 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. “We just had to play hard and keep playing with the same mentality we came out playing with.
“We let up a little bit and we just had to pick it up. It wasn’t easy at all but we did what we needed to get the ‘W.’ ”
The Trojans led 35-24 at halftime but Tyrone (10-1) came out in a full-court press in the third quarter. The Eagles used a 14-2 run to take a 38-37 lead on a conventional three-point play by Jake Taylor (19 points) with 4:27 left in the third.
The Trojans’ Joziah Wyatt-Taylor scored with 34.1 on the clock to set a 46-all tie entering the fourth quarter.
Greater Johnstown (11-1) led 58-51 with 4:08 remaining in regulation after a basket by Anderson Franklin, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Franklin made a free throw with 44.3 left to give Greater Johnstown a 64-58 advantage, but Tyrone finished on a 10-4 run to force OT on Hoover’s rebound of Cortlynd Rhoades attempt.
“They’re really well-coached and their kids play extremely hard,” Durham said of Tyrone.
“This is our eighth game in 11 days. We had a game last night (an 85-69 win over visiting Penn Cambria) so there was really no time to prepare. We had to stay solid in our disciplines and our rules and just try to gut one out.
“It was tough fought. We had to win that game about three times. There is a reason why they were undefeated.”
Simon hit two key baskets early in overtime to give Greater Johnstown a 72-70 lead. The Trojans guard had a free throw and a late field goal as Greater Johnstown outscored Tyrone 14-5 in the 4-minute session.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Durham said. “He’s a senior. He’s had a slow start to the season. But he’s starting to pick up. He missed six months with a MCL sprain. We just got him back a week before the season started.
“He’s just starting to round into shape. That’s what seniors do. They step up in big moments.”
Wyatt-Taylor had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Trojans. The 6-foot-3 junior said Johnstown didn’t buckle after Tyrone beat the buzzer to force OT.
“All we said is, ‘We got this. We need each other,’” Wyatt-Taylor said. “ ‘Stay together like a family.’ ”
The Trojans built a 16-10 first-quarter lead on the strength of Franklin’s six points and three steals and a late Simon 3-pointer.
The trend continued in the second quarter as Simon hit two more 3-pointers, including one to beat the buzzer on an inbound pass with .5 on the clock. The Trojans led by 11 at halftime.
Tyrone’s Damon Gripp (16 points), Rhoades (12 points), Brandon Lucas (10) and Hoover (10) joined Taylor as Golden Eagles double-digit scorers.
“They wanted to win. They were undefeated. What can I say? They didn’t want to lose,” Wyatt-Taylor said.