COAL TOWNSHIP — With Julian Fleming in early foul trouble, Southern Columbia leaned on senior guards Tobias Walden and Damien Ares Friday against Shamokin in the championship game of the Bob Probert Memorial Holiday Tournament.
Walden scored 12 of his 13 points in the first half, hitting 6 of 7 shots from the floor, and had eight rebounds, and Ares took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his team-high 19 points as the Tigers (6-1) fought off a comeback for a 59-52 win.
Ares made 7 of 10 shots from the floor and contributed five steals as well.
“We wanted this game a lot because they beat us by a lot here last year,” said Ares. “We executed real well.”
Fleming scored all 11 of his points in the second half, and Liam Klebon scored 15 points. The win capped a great tournament for the Tigers and head coach Pete Long, who beat his old school, Lourdes Regional, in the semifinals.
“This was very satisfying,” Long said. “But it’s not about me. It’s about these kids, and they are playing very hard for me. For the second night in a row they executed our defensive gameplan to perfection. Those two guys (Walden and Ares) really stepped it up and I thought we got some great contributions off the bench while Julian was out.
“We weren’t going to let them beat us on 3-pointers and although we lost number 2 (Collin Bowers) a couple times, for the most part they didn’t.”
Southern used an 8-2 run at the end of the first half to take a 29-23 lead, then scored the first eight points of the second half to build the lead to 37-23. But the Indians (6-2) went on a 13-0 run of their own and appeared to be taking the upper hand. But after a timeout the Tigers hit a three and a bucket off a steal to go ahead 42-36 early in the fourth quarter and kept the Indians at arm’s length the rest of the way.
“That timeout was big,” said Ares. “We choked late in the game when we lost to Mount Carmel and we learned from that.”
“We knew they were going to play a 2-3 zone, and we’ve seen it before but again, like I said last night, I thought we were sloppy with the ball,” said Shamokin coach Chris Zimmerman. “We need to work on the mental part of the game. The difference tonight was that their guards played well and ours didn’t.
“I think Julian Fleming is the best athlete I’ve seen in District 4 in my lifetime, but is he their best basketball player? They have some other kids who are really good.”
Bowers hit four 3-pointers on the way to a 22-point game for the Indians, and added 13 rebounds. But the Indians took the same number of shots they took against North Schuylkill (59) but made 15 fewer (19). Overall they shot 32 percent. Joey Masser had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Mason Filarski had nine points but was just 1-for-7 from three-point range. The Indians made just 2 of their 10 first shots and missed badly on several.
By comparison, Southern shot 55 percent overall (22-41) and got many layups, particularly in the first half.
“Julian is still getting his basketball legs, and our team is learning a new system,” said Long. “Liam Klebon has been the X-factor for us. Teams can’t concentrate on other people and he is playing very well for a freshman.”
Shamokin also missed 6-4 Nafees Love, who was not with the team for the tournament due to a family situation.
“That was probably a factor,” Zimmerman said. “But it’s the next guy up and we played with the team we have. Southern did a better job than us. But I still think we have a good team and maybe this will be a good loss for us.”