West Shamokin guard Bo Swartz knocks down a buzzer-beating jumper to close out the first half of action against the Penns Manor Comets. Swartz finished the game with 12-points, five rebounds, five assists, and four blocks.
By Jake DeLuca
On Friday evening, the West Shamokin Wolves (14-0) completed their season sweep over the Penns Manor Comets (9-4) -- after traveling down to Penns Manor earlier in the season and walking away with a narrow 52-47 overtime win, the Wolves got it done in regulation at home thanks to a superb performance in the second and fourth quarters.
One key difference in this matchup compared to the previous between these two teams was having back a healthy Justin Smulik, who netted the Wolves eight-points, five boards and three steals.
"I think that getting Justin back in the fold and being able to have all six of those guys working together, including Sean (McCullough) with some cameo appearances has really made us feel like we're hitting out stride," West Shamokin head coach Judd McCullough said.
The Wolves faced an early five-point deficit in the first quarter, but that would be the farthest that West Shamokin trailed against the Comets on Friday. After falling behind early, the Wolves closed out the first quarter trailing 16-14, but came alive in the second quarter.
Before heading to the locker room at the half, the Wolves opened up a 14-point lead after Bo Swartz knocked a shot down at the buzzer, giving West Shamokin a 44-30 lead.
The Comets and Wolves battled in the third, with the visiting Penns Manor team narrowly outscoring West Shamokin in the quarter 16-13 thanks to a last second three-pointer from Ryan Gresko.
Penns Manor started the fourth quarter with the momentum from that buzzer-beating three and was able to cut the Wolves lead down to six with five minutes left -- that was when the Wolves offense really started to click, similar to how they ended the first half, giving them enough firepower to outlast the Comets for another big Heritage Conference Win.
West Shamokin's Ezeck Olinger was a man on a mission, and while his effort was displayed on the scoreboard -- finishing with a game high 22-points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists, his effort couldn't be measured with simple analytics.
"He's always played with that type of passion and now I think he's putting together a little extra poise and the game's slowing down for him," McCullough said of Olinger.
"When the game slows down like that with a kid who plays with that type of motor, that's a special combination. He's got a lot of talent, which he's starting to show and display with his ball handling. I can't say enough about (Olinger), it was a great game -- and yes his stats are going to pop out on the screen, but really it was that warrior mentality he had defending in the post, getting after loose balls, diving on the floor that really gives us the energy we need to pull off a victory over a tough opponent," McCullough added.
Rounding out the Wolves double-digit scorers was Trevor Smulik, who finished with 14-points and a game-high 16 rebounds, and five assists; Bo Swartz also stuffed the stat sheet with 12-points, 5 boards, 5 assists and 4 blocked shots.
Another player who really helped swing momentum with some big defensive plays was Eric Spencer, who recorded two blocked shots that send shockwaves of energy through the West Shamokin bench.
Up next for the undefeated Wolves will be hosting another Heritage Conference bout against the Marion Center Stingers on Tuesday, February 16th at 8:00 p.m.
As for the Comets, they will travel to Northern Cambria to take on the Colts on Monday, with tip-off scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
To watch a complete re-broadcast of West Shamokin's win over Penns Manor, please click the link below: