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Keystone Panthers survive Cranberry, 41-40

By Rich Rhoades

CLARION — A fast start proved to be just enough for the Keystone Panthers to survive a comeback by Cranberry in their 41-40 nail-biter over the Berries in their District 9 Class AA quarterfinal matchup Wednesday night.

The Panthers (12-11) led from start to finish but scored just two points in the final 4:19 of the game and had to hold their breath at the end when Cranberry guard Jacob Creighton’s off-balance runner in the paint bounced off the rim as time expired. Keystone avenged last year’s semifinal loss to the Berries this year’s regular-season loss at home in December and won their first playoff game since 2010.

Next up for Keystone is top-seeded Redbank Valley in next week’s semifinals at a time and site to be announced. The Bulldogs beat the Panthers twice this year by 15 and 20 points.

Adam Lencer led the Panthers with 17 points while Alex Graf scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Evan Lutz led Cranberry (12-11) with 12 points. Ty Rex and Tim Swartzfager each scored eight points. The Berries were playing without their leading scorer, 6-foot-5 junior Janco Swart who was apparently out with an injury. Another Berries big man, 6-foot-3 sophomore Brendan Zerbe, also didn’t play.

Keystone led 41-35 after two Micah Sherry free throws with 1:08 remaining. Cranberry’s Rex banged home a 3-pointer with 50.1 seconds left, and after Sherry missed a front-end one-and-one free throw with 40.9 seconds, the Berries got to within 41-40 after Sherry’s deep jumper from just inside the 3-point arc with 13.7 seconds left.

Then the Panthers left the door open again when Lencer missed a front-end of a one-and-one with nine seconds left to set up Creighton’s chance at winning the game for Cranberry.

The Panthers started strong, jumping out to a 20-8 lead by the 4:43 mark of the second quarter. Cranberry ended the first half with a 5-0 run and got to within 24-13 at the break.

The Berries outscored Keystone, 12-6, in the third quarter and got to within two points once before the Panthers took a 30-25 lead into the fourth. The Panthers led 37-30 with five minutes left and Graf’s basket put them up 39-33 with 4:19 remaining. They didn’t make a shot from the field the rest of the way, just getting Sherry’s two free throws in the closing minute for their final points.

KEYSTONE 41, CRANBERRY 40

Score By Quarters

Keystone            15            9            6            11            –            41

Cranberry            6            7            12            15            –            40

Keystone – 41

Alex Graf 4-9 3-4 11, Tim Haines 2-4 0-0 5, Cameron Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Wolbert 0-0 0-0 0, Adam Lencer 6-13 1-3 17, Micah Sherry 2-5 2-3 6, Jake Courson 1-2 0-0 2, Brayden Shick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-33 6-10 41.

Cranberry – 40

Evan Lutz 4-9 2-3 12, Ty Rex 3-4 0-0 8, Colton Cunningham 3-10 1-2 7, Jacob Creighton 2-9 1-1 5, Tim Swartzfager 3-9 0-0 8, Austin Rex 0-0 0-0 0, Dechlyn Sheffer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 15-42 4-6 40.

3-pointers: Keystone 5-13 (Graf 0-1, Haines 1-3, Lencer 4-8, Sherry 0-1), Cranberry 6-18 (Lutz 2-5, T. Rex 2-3, Creighton 0-4, Swartzfager 2-6). Rebounds: Keystone 32 (Graf 11), Cranberry 16 (Cunningham 5). Turnovers: Keystone 20, Cranberry 13.

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