RIMERSBURG – Johnsonburg was the team that wouldn't go away the whole game.
In the end, a tying field goal was not in the cards for the Rams as Union held on for a 49-46 victory over Johnsonburg Friday night in the quarterfinals of the District 9 Class playoffs at Union High School.
"We felt we could compete with anyone in District 9," Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey said. "It's heartbreaking to lose. We had opportunities to win this game. It boils down to who made the shots, who made the plays. Union did and we didn't."
The Rams had a chance to tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter trailing by three with 24 seconds left. Johnsonburg ran a play to the right side and the Rams had a shot from the right elbow with three seconds remaining that went off the front iron.
"The final play was supposed to be a screen for Louie [Imbrogno] on the baseline," Shuey said. "He went way too early, didn't go through the double screen. It just didn't work."
Union coach Karen Davis said Austin Davis did a good job on defense in the final sequence.
"Austin, he's been my go-to defensive guy," coach Davis said. "He's just so good and strong and quick. He knows where they're going. I knew 32 (Louie Imbrogno) was going to shoot the ball. He didn't get a shot off. I was just hoping he didn't foul him if he did shoot."
Union had a 22-21 lead but quickly lost that lead when Cole Peterson scored a basket to start the third quarter. The Knights then went on an 8-0 run to take a 30-23 lead with 5:16 left.
"We knew going on that Union, especially on their home court, would make runs," Shuey said. "I thought we did a nice job with weathering those."
Johnsonburg was able to regroup as Cameron Grumley spun in the post for a basket and Joe Holmberg countered with two straight buckets in the post. Brody Pollock drained a 3-pointer for the Knights but Joe Holmberg and Mitchell Holmberg were able to tie the game at 33 with back-to-back baskets. Joe Holmberg led the Rams with 16 points.
Pollock hit a 4-point play for the Knights to put Union ahead in a lead which would not be relinquished. Pollock had 24 points to lead the Knights.
"Pollock shot very well in the second half," Shuey said. "We got out on them, we put a hand in his face and he still made it."
Peterson had a steal and a layup late in the third quarter to cut the Union lead to 37-35.
The two teams traded hoops to open the fourth quarter, then traded treys as Imbrogno hit a 3-pointer. Union would build the lead to five once again but a Joe Holmberg trey kept the Rams within striking distance at 45-43. Johnsonburg had chances to tie but a pair of missed shots from in close kept the Rams from tying the game.
"I thought down the stretch, we had some opportunities to stay with them and to go ahead," Shuey said. "We missed some easy shots."
Pollock nailed 1-of-2 from the foul line and then Johnsonburg had an inbounds pass stolen away. Austin Davis made one from the foul line but Imbrogno drained his third trey of the game to put the Rams within one. A pair of Pollock free throws set up the final sequence.
Union struggled from the field early in the game as the Rams took a 4-0 lead after the first four minutes after baskets by both Joe Holmberg and Mitchell Holmberg. At 6-2, Union went on an 11-3 run to take a 13-9 lead after the first quarter.
Grumley opened the second quarter with four straight points to tie the game.
At 17-14, Union was whistled for a technical foul, the game's second as the Rams also had one assessed on them in the first quarter. Peterson nailed two free throws to make the Union lead 17-16. At 19-18, Peterson put the Rams ahead 21-19 with a 3-point play. Three straight points from Union put the Knights up 22-21 at the half.
Union advances to take on the winner of the Venango Catholic/North Clarion game which was postponed to 2 p.m. today. Davis, in her eighth year as the head coach, is advancing to the state playoffs for the first time.
"This feels so good for this group of kids, they're a good group of kids. We're over the hump, finally," coach Davis said. "Those kids from Johnsonburg played a great game."
Johnsonburg 9 12 14 11 - 46
Union 13 9 15 12 - 49
Johnsonburg – 46
Joe Holmberg 7 1-2 16, Cole Peterson 4 3-3 11, Louie Imbrogno 3 0-0 9, Cameron Grumley 3 0-0 6, Mitchell Holmberg 2 0-0 4, Totals 19 4-5 46.
Union – 49
Brody Pollock 7 6-7 24, Trent Corle 3 2-4 8, Shawn Booth 3 0-0 6, Taylor Smith 2 0-0 4, Austin Davis 1 1-4 3, Aaron Graham 0 2-2 2, Derek Shirey 1 0-0 2, Totals 17 11-17 49.
3-pointers: Johnsonburg 4 (Imbrogno 3, J. Holmberg), Union 4 (Pollock 4).