Braves jump up early, fend off ‘Cats By Chris Brady
SUNBURY — Mifflinburg coach Eldon Hoy learned a lot about his team Tuesday night when it went head-to-head with a veteran-laden Shikellamy team on the Braves’ home floor.
Hoy learned first that his team has no quit in it and secondly, he learned his team can battle with the best of them.
Shikellamy scored the 60-44 Heartland Conference-I victory but did so with the Wildcats clawing at them the entire way.
The Braves improved to 5-1, 1-0 in league play while the Wildcats fell to 3-3, 0-1.
After jumping out to an 18-2 lead on the strength of a 17-0 spurt that saw Mifflinburg go without a point for five minutes, the Braves had a fight on their hands. “We got out to the quick start then I think we got a little complacent,” said Shikellamy coach Tim Foor. “You’ve gotta credit their kids. They didn’t quit. We found out we were in a game.”
Shikellamy senior standouts Brantley Osborne, the sharp-shooting guard, and Andrew Mantz, the 6-7 power forward, did most of the heavy lifting for the Braves. Osborne scored 16 points, with 10 of those coming in the first half. Mantz scored all but two of his 16 points in the second half. Mantz was 10-for-12 from the charity stripe and pulled down 11 rebounds.
“They’ve been starters four years,” said Foor. “They’ve been there. We need to be consistent to improve. We need to be consistent so that we don’t take a step back in January.
“This league is going to be very competitive.”
For Mifflinburg, which went 1 for its first 13 from the field, it was a matter of hanging tough.
The Wildcats, after digging the hole early, clawed back to within 10 early in the third quarter. Sophomore Travis Trutt had a couple of early buckets in the third and sophomore Matt Kurelja came off the bench to spark the Wildcats in the second quarter and beyond. Kurelja finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and three impressive blocked shots. Trutt finished with 16 and Kaleb Snyder added nine for the Wildcats.
“Take away the first quarter and that’s a battle against one of the elites of this league on their floor,” said Mifflinburg coach Eldon Hoy. “We told the kids before the game the key word was going to be ‘battle’, and it was. “We told them, ‘You’re undersized and underaged. The first quarter concerned me and we called a couple of early timeouts and to their credit, they responded.”
Shikellamy nearly got the lead to 20 in the third quarter. A Mantz follow-up flush off a Cody Daddario miss and a running floater by Osborne gave the Braves an 18-point lead, but the ‘Cats scratched back again closing it to 14 at the end of three.
“We’re realistic about the season,” said Hoy. “There are a couple of elite teams and there’s a bunch of teams that are battling. In my mind, we’re one of those teams.
“Tonight we went right at one of the elites on their home floor.”
Mifflinburg is back in action Saturday and Sunday in tournament action in Florida.