OIL CITY - Eisenhower will live to play another day.
Actually, make that at least two days.
The Knights (9-14) defeated Commodore Perry, 65-47, in the District 10 Class A Quarterfinals Friday at Oil City High School for the school's first boys basketball postseason victory since a state playoff run in the 2009-10 season.
Times Observer photo by Allen Seybert
Eisenhower's Alex Johnson (22) looks to make a pass to a posting up teammate Nathan O'Brien (15) while Commodore Perry's Brandon Stringert defends during the first half of the Knights' 65-47 victory over the Panthers in the District 10 Class A Quarterfinals Friday at Oil City High School. The Knights (9-14) advance to play Cochranton in the D-10 semifinals on Tuesday at a time and venue to be announced.
Thanks to Friday's win, these Knights will have that same opportunity, needing to win one of the next two games to secure a spot in the PIAA field. The first of those games comes Tuesday when Eisenhower plays region rival Cochranton in the District 10 Class A semifinals. The time and venue of the game have not been announced.
Many of the same players on this year's Ike team were members of last year's club that lost to Vision Quest in the D-10 playoff opener. This time, the Knights wouldn't be denied.
"It's awesome," said senior Ryan Williams, who led all scorers with 20 points in Friday's win. "This was it for our seniors - do or die time. The younger guys on the roster stepped up and played so well tonight. I'm happy for them and happy for my classmates that we got this win. Now, we get to play a team that we know well for a trip to the District 10 championship. It's difficult to beat a team three times in a season and they've already beaten us twice. Hopefully, the third time is the charm."
Eisenhower coach Dave Allenson was also happy for his players, but not necessarily surprised that Friday's game with Commodore Perry (5-18) stayed so close for so long.
"I think what happens is the kids get excited and get caught up in the emotion of the game," said Allenson. "Early on, we were hitting shots and building a lead. After that, we stopped getting back on defense and they were shooting layups while we were missing jumpers. That allows a team to come back pretty quickly."
While there was plenty the veteran coach was unhappy with during the win over the Panthers, there were also plenty of positives that he was quick to point out.
"When we did get back defensively, I think we played very well in the half court," said Allenson. "We also cut down on turnovers compared to many of our recent games. Ryan Williams started shooting the ball and he knocked down some big shots tonight.
"I feel very good for the kids," he added. "Now we have at least two more games and next play an opponent we know very well. If we play smart, I think we can play with them."
The game looked like it would be a rout early on with the Knights leading 7-0 after just over a minute of play. Aaron Lundmark had a steal and layup, Williams hit a three and Colin Shine hit a nifty reverse layup after a pass from Nathan O'Brien and the Knights led 7-0.
Commodore Perry began to find its stride after a timeout, but Jarrett Johnson hit a pair of mid-range jumpers and a deep three to make sure the Knights' lead held strong at seven points.
Eisenhower led 24-19 after the end of the first quarter. While both teams were hitting shots, the high scoring stanza can also be attributed to what amounted to nearly a ten minute opening quarter. With 6:31 left in the first, action continued on the court for nearly 90 seconds without a single tick coming off the clock. It wasn't until a stoppage in play that officials realized the clock had never started, but the time was never reset.
The Panthers scored the first four points of the second quarter to cut the deficit to one and the usually docile Allenson emphatically called timeout and voiced his displeasure to his team. After the timeout, the Knights continued to struggle on offense but also clamped down on defense and never allowed Commodore Perry to take the lead.
A Lundmark three-point play with 3:18 left in the first half ended a nearly seven-minute stretch without a point for the Knights. The teams would trade blows for the remainder of the half, but Shine gave Ike some much needed momentum right before the break by canning a buzzer beating three that gave Ike a 37-31 halftime lead.
Out of the locker room, the Knights continued to get defensive and, despite scoring just six points in the first four minutes of the third, were able to push the lead into double figures. The advantage would stay at 10 or more for the remainder of the third and Williams continued his hot shooting night with his 16th point and third three of the game with 2:24 left in the third.
The Knights led 48-36 after three quarters and went to work on grinding out the final eight minutes. Eisenhower essentially put the game away with a quick six-point spurt with 4:43 remaining. The run included quick buckets from Johnson, Lundmark and Shine and the Knights held a commanding 54-37 edge.
The Panthers would make their final stand moments later, getting within 12 with three minutes left, but the Knights scored the last six points of the night to close out the scoring at 65-47.
Williams led all scorers with 20 points, Lundmark added 15 points and Johnson was the third Knight in double figures with 13 points. Shine chipped in seven points and O'Brien, Carter Farrell, Alex Johnson and Ricky Zortman also found the scoring column.
Commodore Perry was led by the 14 points of freshman Tanner Hildebran. He was the only Panther to hit double figures as Tyler McCracken was second on the score sheet with nine markers.
Eisenhower and Cochranton will play in one semifinal on Tuesday while Vision Quest and Kennedy Catholic will meet in the other. Prior to Ike's contest, Vision Quest built a 17-0 first quarter lead before hanging on for a 54-48 quarterfinal victory over Rocky Grove.
COMMODORE PERRY (47): Paul Jewell 1 1-2 3, Cody Beachy 1 0-0 2, Brandon Stringert 1 2-2 5, Jeremiah Small 2 0-0 5, Sean Britton 1 1-2 3, Phillip Stringert 1 3-4 6, Tanner Hildebran 5 2-2 14, Tyler McCracken 4 0-2 9, Totals: 16 9-14 47
EISENHOWER (65): Aaron Lundmark 5 5-8 15, Casey Vincent 0 0-0 0, John Potts 0 0-0 0, Carter Farrell 0 1-3 1, Jarrett Johnson 6 0-0 13, Colin Shine 3 0-0 7, Nathan O'Brien 2 0-0 4, Chris Sanders 0 0-0 0, Alex Johnson 1 1-2 3, Ryan Williams 7 3-3 20, Ben Harvey 0 0-0 0, Ricky Zortman 0 2-2 2, Totals: 24 12-18 65
Commodore Perry 19 12 5 11 - 47
Eisenhower 24 13 11 17 - 65
3-pointers: C- Hildebran 2, B. Stringert, Small, P. Stringert, McCracken; E- Williams 3, J. Johnson, Shine