Michaels sets the tone as Lewisburg defeats Bloomsburg in HAC Tournament semifinals | News, Sports, Jobs


SUNBURY – Sometimes Cam Michaels moves so fast he can’t even stop. So, yes, Michaels will occasionally return the ball while accelerating to turbo speed.

But Lewisburg will accept this trade because Michaels playing so fast and so relentlessly offers so much value to his team. He certainly did Thursday night in the Heartland Conference Semifinals against Bloomsburg.

It was an offense operating at peak efficiency and Michaels was the engine of the machine. The junior point guard dished out 10 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds, headlining a well-rounded performance in Lewisburg as the Green Dragons beat Bloomsburg, 59-49. Lewisburg (19-4) faces Loyalsock Friday night at Shikellamy Field House for the championship.

“Cam is our spark plug. He’s so athletic. I just like that he slows down sometimes, but I prefer him to play fast, rather than play too conservatively. Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “He does so many good things for us. He understands things so well. He knows where the guys are at and that’s what you expect from a point guard. He knows where everyone is at and he does that job.

All of the Dragons did their job well against a strong Bloomsburg team that beat Loyalsock 62-48 last Saturday. Jake Hernandez scored 24 points, Forrest Zelechoski 12 and Henry Harrison 12 off the bench. Joey Martin blocked two shots, Khashaun Akins provided solid defense and Lewisburg never trailed past the middle of the first quarter.

Most impressively, Lewisburg brilliantly moved and shared the ball against Bloomsburg’s aggressive zone defense. The Dragons had 22 assists on 24 field goals, bringing that point home. And after Bloomsburg cut a nine-point deficit to four with three minutes left, it was Michaels’ pass that sealed the win.

Lewisburg worked the ball inside and out after a timeout and Michaels capped possession when he found Zelechoski on a back door. Michaels picked up his 10th rebound and delivered his ninth assist, quickly finding Hernandez in transition. The three-year-old starter then produced an unconventional double-double (6 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) when he found Harrison for a 3-pointer that made it 58-47.

Three assists, seven points… game over.

“It’s always fun to get out and run. We’re better when we run.” Michaels said. “We’ve been in those situations before where we lost a lead and the other team came back and made it a game. We were like this time, we just need to make them work. We have to run out and move the ball.

Lewisburg did that well all night and that made the ultimate difference. In early January, Montoursville’s zone defense gave Lewisburg fits and helped end its six-game winning streak. The Dragons turned that negative into a positive, learned from their mistakes and carved out Montoursville in last week’s rematch.

Then Lewisburg put an exclamation mark on their progress, doing so against an excellent opponent who had just come off a string of big wins. The Dragons passed the ball inside, outside and kept moving. The ball and players rarely stopped moving, helping Lewisburg go 12 of 22 from the field in the first half while building a 27-22 advantage.

Zelechoski’s backhand put Lewisburg up nine early in the third quarter before Bloomsburg slipped inside two minutes later. The Panthers (18-5) kept coming back, but each time they did, Lewisburg responded by playing selfless, efficient basketball with players setting up for quality shots.

“We had counter-zone experience with Montoursville. We struggled the first time we played them and the next time we played them we figured it out” Michaels said. “We just have to move the ball a lot, so we moved it pretty well. We had it in the middle and once we did it was all open.

“One of our best games we’ve played in the last two weeks was against Montoursville and we executed that game. This game really helped prepare us for what we were going to see later on,” Vaji said. “It’s a merit for the boys to have learned and understood that we struggled in Montoursville against the zone, but now we are starting to learn how to attack the zone and do a lot of good things against it.”

Five players produced multiple assists, including Hernandez who had four with 24 points, six rebounds and three steals. Lewisburg’s ability to get the ball to Hernandez on the inside early opened up the perimeter and Harrison’s marksmanship (three 3-pointers) helped Lewisburg close out the second quarter strong to take a lead that he never gave up.

Lewisburg was particularly effective late in the season as they developed a lot of threats. Hernandez is a 1,000-point scorer, but Martin and Michaels are also averaging more than eight points per game and Zelechoski has consistently produced double-digits, as he did again on Thursday. Harrison and Jack Blough were dangerous off the bench and there were plenty of options again against Bloomsburg.

“We have fairly balanced games this year and we don’t care who scores,” Michaels said. “If we get this win, that’s all that really matters.”

“We stressed to them not to depend on just one guy. Tonight everyone in the field contributed for us and that’s what we preached. Vaji said. “Be a team, go after it and do the job and they did it.”

Bloomsburg started strong, making their first four shots and coming up 9-4. Lewisburg responded quickly with an 11-1 run and opened a five-point lead going into second. Bloomsburg tied it midway through the second, but a straight 3-pointer from Harrison helped Lewisburg close the quarter strong by reducing the lead to five.

The rest of the game played out similarly with Bloomsburg chasing down Lewisburg and nearly firing before the Dragons even split further. Now the clock has rolled back and Loyalsock and Lewisburg will rekindle a rivalry that was perhaps District 4’s best from 2012 to 2015.

These teams met in the first HAC Finals in 2013 as well as in the playoffs three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014. They also combined to win district championships every season during that time.

“I have so much respect for (Loyalsock coaches) Ron (Insinger) and Jeff (Everett) and what they do at Loyalsock,” Aji said. “I can’t wait to see what we can do against them.”

BLOOMSBURG (49)

Adam McGinley 6 2-2 14, Madden Locke 3 2-5 11, Nasir Heard 4 0-0 8, Dan Gusevich 0 1-2 1, Rae Grant 5 2-3 13, Jake Evans 0 0-0 0, Andru Williams 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 7-12 49.

LEWISBURG (59)

Jake Hernandez 11 2-6 24, Joey Martin 2 0-0 4, Cam Michaels 3 0-0 6, Forrest Zelechoski 6 0-0 12, Khashaun Akins 0 0-0 0, Henry Harrison 4 1-2 12, Jack Blough 0 1-2 1, Devin Bodden 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 4-10 59.

Bloomsburg 10 12 14 13–49

Lewisburg 15 12 14 18–59

3 points: Bloomsburg 4 (Locke 3, Grant); Lewisburg 3 (Harrison 3).

Records: Lewisburg 19-4. Bloomsburg 18-5.



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