The second-seeded Johnstown Trojans nearly blew an 11-point lead with 1:45 remaining against third-seeded Lewiston in what became an incredibly wild finish.

Johnstown emerged with a 53-51 victory.

Lewistown’s big man, Dan Wheeler, hit his first 3 of the game with 35 seconds left before Mitch Whelman buried an NBA-range 3 to bring the Panthers within two points.

Johnstown’s Dwight Andrews missed the front end of a one-and-one with 17 seconds left and Lewistown, which was without a timeout, got the ball and went down the floor looking to tie or win the game.

Cy Treaster missed a contested 3 from the corner and the ball landed out of bounds with a second left and Johnstown in possession.

That’s when things got crazy.

Johnstown called a timeout and coach Neil Cobaugh told his players to look to in-bound the ball deep, preventing a possible turnover on Lewistown’s side of the court. Cobaugh didn’t anticipate Lewistown sneaking a sixth player onto the floor, and the Panthers got away with it.

With the Johnstown coaching staff screaming from the bench, Lewistown’s sixth man went unnoticed to officials, and Lewistown’s Ted Wilson grabbed Johnstown’s half-court heave and fired up a Panthers’ prayer that fell short, ending in a 53-51 Johnstown win in the semi-finals of the District 6 Class AAA playoffs.

 “Everybody has bad nights and I guess officiating-wise this was a bad night for those guys,” Cobaugh said. “We all have off-nights. We (as a team) had an off-night tonight too, and it the bad night just seemed to go hand-in-hand with the official’s bad night. But we’ll take the win, ugly or pretty.”

The Panthers crashed the boards and came up with 19 offensive rebounds against a Trojans team that normally dominates the glass. Lewistown trailed the entire game despite the rebounding margin, with Johnstown leading 14-7 after the first quarter, 24-18 at the half, and 39-30 in the third quarter. The Panthers scored 21 fourth-quarter points.

“Lewistown didn’t want to go home,” Cobaugh said of the Panthers’ comeback. “They fought us to the end and that’s a credit to them. We haven’t been in that many close games this year, and this was a tough one. (The games) are going to be tough from here on out and our kids have to learn from this.”

Lewistown coach Aaron Gingrich was proud of the way his team battled right up to the final second of the game.

 “I thought that we outfought Johnstown tonight,” he said. “I thought we out-worked them on the glass. I thought that defensively we made them work for everything they got. Against a good team, you have to do the little things and we rebounded and took care of the ball well. We just didn’t finish on each possession. “

Whelman scored 21 points for the Panthers while Wheeler added 18 in the loss. Andrews scored 12 for the Trojans, while Isaiah Haselrig and Quentin Brandon scored 11 and 10, respectively. Philip Madison and Alkwan Williams chipped in nine points apiece.

The Trojans will meet up in the District 6 championship with Forest Hills—a rematch of the Laurel Highlands championship game.    

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