ALLPORT — The West Branch boys basketball team outscored visiting Moshannon Valley 17-7 in the second quarter to open a 34-21 lead at the break.
The teams played even the rest of the way until the Warriors put a little distance on the scoreboard late in the contest as they picked up a 67-47 victory on Monday evening.
The Black Knights had some momentum after rallying from an early 10-2 deficit, tying the game at 10 and finding themselves right in the thick of things, down just 17-14 after one.
But a rough start to the second quarter helped the Warriors build a double-digit lead.
Mo Valley turned the ball over five times in its first seven, second-quarter possessions and the Warriors took full advantage, extending the advantage to 25-14.
The Knights had eight turnovers in the quarter and were in a 13-point hole at the half.
“Throughout the course of the game, we went on some good runs and we had a bad run in the the second that was the nail in the coffin tonight,” Black Knight head coach Derrik Eckenrode said.
Spurred on by a Larry Cowder alley-oop jam early in the game, the Warriors ran out to a 10-2 advantage.
Cowder took the pass from David Guerra in transition after a steal and brought down the house with a thunderous two-handed jam to give the Warriors a 4-0 lead.
“That was probably the best play in this gym’s history,” West Branch head coach Danny Clark said. “In my time here, that was the best play I ever saw. That was amazing.
“I’ve seen lob plays, but not on transition like that. I was in awe. That play happens in Philly and Pittsburgh, not central PA. Credit Larry.”
But as the buzz died down from the Cowder dunk, the Black Knights worked back into the game.
Alex Kitko drained a 3-pointer, while Joe Bacher, Ethan Reed and Alex Capitos picked up buckets inside, helping the Knights outscore the Warriors 12-7 over the final four minutes of the quarter.
“I think that got us up so high that we went kind of flat,” Clark said of the Cowder dunk.
West Branch responded with the 8-0 run in the second and Cowder led the Warriors to a 17-7 quarter by scoring 11 of his 19 points in the frame.
The Warriors were able to extend the lead to 16 by the end of the third quarter, largely due to a 9-2 advantage on the boards in the stanza.
“We were doing a good job playing defense, but in the beginning of the second half, we got killed on the boards and that was a big difference,” Eckenrode said.
The Knights quieted Cowder in the third, holding the Warriors’ leading scorer without a point. In fact, Cowder only netted four in the second half.
But Matt Fluck stepped into the primary scoring role over the final 16 minutes. He collected 14 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to help the Warriors keep the Knights at bay.
“That was great,” Clark said of Fluck’s performance. “They were on Larry pretty good. All eyes are on him, and other guys stepped up. Matt had a good game. John Arnold played well in the second half too. That was probably one of his better games.
“But that is what we need. When Larry was stopped, we had Matt and John pick it up, and that’s what we need.”
Kitko picked up 9 of his team-high 18 points in a fourth quarter that saw the Warriors outscore the Knights 20-16 to set the final.
Despite the win, Clark thought his squad was in cruise control during much of the game.
“We maintained the lead. That’s all we really did,” Clark said. “I’m disappointed some in our effort. Credit to Mo Valley though. They played well. They were aggressive and they had a little momentum. But I felt like we kind of maintained and went into practice mode a little bit on our end. I expected a better effort.
“I thought we were slow on our presses. I thought we were slow on our defensive rotations. That isn’t how we’ve been playing the three games before this, and hopefully that isn’t a trend the next couple of games. But it was a win.”
Cowder led the Warriors in rebounds with 12 and added five steals and four blocked shots.
Guerra added 10 points and three assists.
Bacher was in double figures for Mo Valley with 11. The Black Knights slipped to 1-8 overall, 0-5 in the ICC and 0-3 in the Moshannon Valley League.
“I’m looking to make strides and improve every day,” Eckenrode said. “Every game we’re looking for improvement. We’re taking slow steps, but we are moving forward.”
West Branch improved to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in both the ICC and MVL.
Both teams are back in action Wednesday.
Mo Valley travels to Claysburg-Kimmel, while West Branch visits Northern Cambria.
Kitko 6 4-4 18, Matchock 0 0-2 0, Murawski 2 0-0 4, Bacher 5 1-2 11, Reed 3 0-2 6, Butler 0 0-0 0, Capitos 2 1-2 5, Sherkel 0 0-0 0, Campbell 0 0-0 0, Plumb 0 0-0 0, Dufour 1 0-0 3. Totals: 19 6-12 47.
Guerra 5 0-1 10, Cowder 5 8-12 19, Fluck 9 6-9 24, Arnold 3 1-2 7, Gutierrez 0 0-2 0, Eboch 1 1-1 4, Emigh 0 0-0 0, Kolesar 1 0-0 3, Bellomy 0 0-0 0, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Smeal 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 16-27 67.
Three-pointers: Kitko 2, Dufour; Cowder, Eboch, Kolesar.
Score by Quarters
Mo Valley 14 7 10 16—47
West Branch 17 17 13 20—67