By: Ed Weaver / February 3, 2023 / Photo: Dr. Robert Bair
The North Penn-Mansfield Tigers clinched the NTL Large School Division championship on Thursday, February 2, defeating rival Wellsboro, 48-45.
"It'll be a great memory," Tiger skipper Kipper Burleigh said. "What a great crowd. Packed gym, super loud gym, hostile, and the game went back and forth and for the kids to find a way it's super special. It means a lot to me to watch them achieve one of their goals for this season. It's pretty special."
The game was neck-and-neck from start to finish. After the Hornets struck first on a Hayes Campbell shot, the Tigers answered with back-to-back buckets to make it a 4-2 game before the Hornets tied things up at 4-all with 5:35 remaining as senior Conner Adams found senior Cameron Brought open for a layup. Then senior Peyton McClure caught fire from downtown, hitting three in a row to put the Hornets up 14-7.
Wellsboro would lead 15-11 after the first quarter.
The Hornets opened up the second quarter with more three's. McClure hit his fourth of the game and Adams connected on one, extending Wellsboro's lead up to 10 at 21-11. But the Tigers kept chipping away at Wellsboro's lead with baskets by Brody Burleigh, Alex Davis and a three from Karson Dominick to make it a five-point, 27-22, game at the half in favor of Wellsboro.
Both teams traded early buckets to start the second half. Eventually a three-point shot by junior Caden Smith put the Hornets up 32-25 and McClure's fifth three make it a 35-29 game, but the Tigers would continue cutting into the lead. A three-pointer from Andrew Green cut Wellsboro's lead down to 35-32, a layup and foul shot by Davis cut it to 35-34, then a Davis layup gave the Tigers their first lead since early in the opening quarter at 36-35.
Wellsboro, however would close out the quarter on a five-point run. An Adams layup put them back in front at 37-36, then a steal and layup and foul shot by Campbell made it 40-36.
While it was Wellsboro's game for the first three quarters, the Tigers dominated the 4th, outscoring the Hornets 12-5. A Davis turn-around jumper cut the lead to 40-38 early in the final frame, then a Cooper Shaw basket knotted it at 40-all. McClure hit a pair of foul shots after making a steal and driving to the basket to put the Hornets back up, 42-40, but Green would again tie the game up on a back door cut and layup at 42-all with 3:19 remaining.
With 2:33 remaining Shaw again put the Tigers in front. Off an inbound play near the Tiger bench, Green delivered a pass into Shaw at the low block, he turned, went up for the shot, converted, and drew the foul. He sank the foul shot, giving Tigers a three-point, 45-42, lead. They held the lead until just under a minute to play when Adams drained a shot from long distance to tie the game back up, tying it at 45-all.
Following a Mansfield timeout with 49.1 seconds remaining, they went into their stall offense and retook the lead as Davis found Shaw on a back door cut, putting the Tigers up 47-45.
Wellsboro had a chance for the win late, but their shot fell short. Davis was fouled with the ball after the shot, sending him to the line. He went 1-of-2 to ice it, giving the Tigers the season-sweep of their rivals.
"It's a tough one because there was a lot riding on tonight's game and you have to give Mansfield credit," Wellsboro head coach Steve Adams said. "They beat us twice during the regular season to give them the league championship, but that's two good teams battling. The crowd was great tonight, our student section did a great job. It was a great atmosphere for the kids, we just came up a little short. We didn't score well in the fourth and that was the tale of the game."
McClure led all scorers with 22 points, Adams finished with 10, Brought and Campbell added 5 points apiece, and Smith rounded out the scoring with 3.
Davis led the Tigers with 20 points, Burleigh added 10, Shaw finished with 7 (all in the fourth quarter), Dominick had 6, and Green rounded out the scoring with 5.
In the JV game North Penn-Mansfield won 40-29. Freshman Jonathan Carl led the way with 9 points and freshman Aaron Kirk added 8.
The win keeps the Tigers perfect in the league at 14-0 and 19-1 overall. The Hornets fall to 13-5 and 11-2 in the league. Both teams resume play next Tuesday as the Tigers head to Wyalusing and the Hornets hit the road for Troy.