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West Shamokin boys capture Heritage Conference title with 51-46 win over United

By Josh Shreckengost

The West Shamokin boys varsity basketball team poses with the Heritage Conference championship plaque after a thrilling, 51-46 victory over United on Saturday night.

Rural Valley, Pa. -- Great teams are forged by how they handle adversity and the West Shamokin boys varsity basketball team handled said adversity flawlessly on Saturday night as they held off a gritty United team to capture the Heritage Conference championship, 51-46.

The Lions tied the game at 45-45 with under a minute to play after point guard Johnny Muchesko hit three straight free throws, but the Wolves had an immediate answer.

Senior guard Justin Smulik set a screen and popped out beyond the arc and took a pass from fellow senior Eric Spencer. When Smulik's defender did not close out immediately, the 6-3 lefty pulled up and drained a go-ahead three-pointer to put the Wolves up, 48-45. The big shot sent West Shamokin's sideline into a frenzy.

"That's clutch, man. That's a senior stepping up big in a big moment," West Shamokin head coach Judd McCullough said. "That's incredible. And it wasn't just one shot. It was a couple of dagger-like threes in the second half. In the first half, there was a lid on the basket and obviously we can shoot better. In the excitement of a championship game, sometimes it takes a little bit longer to find your rhythm and Justin with those shots in the second half, it was just big."