WRIGHT TWP. — Friday’s night District 2 Class 2A consolation game between Honesdale and GAR provided a stark contrast from one half to the other.
The first half saw the Grenadiers start slowly and miss their first nine shots from the field. But thanks to the heat being turned up on defense with a full-court zone press and a superb performance by Isaiah Francis, GAR was able to secure a spot in the state playoffs with a thrilling 56-54 win.
The District 4 champion, the winner of today’s Central Columbia-Shamokin game, will await the Grenadiers next Saturday.
“Our man defense has been playing very well, GAR coach Paul Brown said. “But we also have been mixing our press in. That December schedule really helped us. There were some teams we just couldn’t man up with. We had to press and play zone. It came back today and we were able to use it again.”
Honesdale (21-5) was able to take advantage of cold-shooting at the start by GAR (20-6). The Hornets jumped out to a 10-0 lead and forced Brown to use an early timeout.
“It’s one of those things where we had shots,” Brown said. “We started 0-for-9. We got looks at the rim and the ball didn’t fall. We were hoping that sooner or later we would get in a rhythm, and finally we got in a rhythm.”
Greg Skrepenak’s basket almost six minutes into play finally got the Grenadiers on the scoreboard. Consecutive three-pointers by Jahili Harvey were followed up with a bucket from Francis, cutting the lead to two after the shaky start.
Ian Langendorfer, who scored a team-high 20 points for the fourth seeded Hornets, put together a personal 8-0 run to push the lead back to 10 with 5:33 left in the second quarter. The press started to reap benefits later in the period as Nigebo Francis and Walker converted turnovers into points.
Trailing by eight at halftime, the Grenadiers came out strong in the third quarter. Francis brought the crowd to its feet with a reverse dunk off an alley-oop pass, getting GAR within 30-26. Honesdale began to show it had no answer for Francis. He scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, with many shots coming from close range.
“Isaiah goes to the rim pretty strong,” Brown said. “I think he was being intelligent tonight. He wasn’t relying on the three like he has sometimes. He understood the scoreboard. He knew we needed points, so he stepped up his game.”
Walker gave his team its first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter on a three-point play off an offensive rebound. James Holmes drained a shot from downtown that put GAR up 47-40 with 5:12 left.
The Hornets gave GAR a dose of its own medicine late in the game. Honesdale went to a press that caused some problems. With GAR clinging to a 55-52 lead, Kevin Miller stole the inbounds pass and cut the lead to one with 18 seconds left.
“Things went well until the end,” Brown said. “We worked on the press (Thursday). It’s one of those things now where maybe I’ll have their attention when we work on that kind of stuff.”
Harvey made the second of two free throws with 13 seconds left. Honesdale brought the ball up and tried a desperation three for the win. Nick Casazza’s shot under duress bounced off the rim as the clock ran out and kept GAR’s season alive.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been out of the area,” Brown said. “When we get on the coach bus and get some meal money, it will feel like Christmas again.”
HONESDALE (54) — Cole McConnell 1 0-0 2, Ian Langendorfer 5 9-11 20, Kevin Miller 6 1-3 13, Kyle Carney 2 2-3 6, Nick Casazza 3 3-4 9, Pat Hart 2 0-0 4, Gus Martin 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 15-21 54.
GAR (56) — Isaiah Francis 10 5-5 25, James Holmes 1 1-2 4, Jahlil Harvey 3 5-8 13, Dajon Rush 0 0-0 0, Greg Skrepenak, Jr. 3 0-1 6, Nigebo Francis 3 2-4 8. Totals 20 13-20 56.
Three-point goals — HON 1 (Langendorfer). GAR 3 (Harvery 2, Holmes).