EAST MARLBOROUGH >> They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Well, the young and inexperienced Conestoga boys basketball team made a great impression Friday night against Downingtown East in the Unionville Tip-Off Tournament.
Conestoga jumped out to a big lead early, fueled by the 3-point shooting of Jack Liedtka and Austin Fontaine. The pair combined for 10 treys with Liedtka leading all scorers with 20 points, including six from distance, and Andrew Fox scored late from under the basket to give the Pioneers a 55-53 win.
Conestoga (1-0) held a 20-9 lead after one period, but in the fourth quarter, it was the Cougars (0-1) who came back to take a slim lead before Fox put the Pioneers on top to stay.
“This was a real good win for a young team against a good and experienced team,” Conestoga coach Mike Troy said. “We got out to a good lead and when they came back to go up by five, we made good defensive plays and fought back. This was a tough win for a young team.”
At the end of the third quarter, Conestoga had a 47-40 lead, but the Pioneers went ice cold from the field, misfiring on their first nine shots as the Cougars came back. When James Basilii drained a jumper from the right side, the Cougars were down only 47-46.
With the Pioneers unable to score, Downingtown East took the lead on a Dave Owsik trey at 49-47. Owsik had 12 points for the Cougars while Jayden Rowe led Downingtown East with 15 points.
When Grant Umberger scored inside, it was a 53-48 Cougar lead and the Pioneers looked dead.
But, this young group came back on a Liedtka 3-pointer to draw Conestoga within 53-51 with 1:22 to play. The Cougars got a good look, but Basilii missed a jumper and the Pioneers grabbed the rebound and tied the game on two Jerry Miller free throws with 48 seconds to play.
“I found my shot early tonight and I consider myself a shooter,” Liedtka said. “And we wanted some revenge on them because they knocked us out of the district playoffs last year. I thought we fought back well after they came back and took the lead.”
Downingtown East threw the ball away on an inbounds pass coming out of a timeout with 38 seconds to play. Conestoga came down and Liedtka missed inside, but Fox cleaned things up to give the Pioneers a 55-53 lead with 15 seconds left.
The Cougars called timeout and got a good look for Rowe at the top of the key, but the shot rimmed out and the Pioneers held on for a two-point win.
“You cannot get behind 18-4 to a good team like that,” Downingtown East coach John Goodman said, “We expended a lot of energy fighting back and in the first game of the year you don’t know what you are going to get. But, give them credit. They had a lot of guys make shots,”
Conestoga 55, Downingtown East 53
CONESTOGA (55): Mackey 0 1-2 1, Barczak 0 1-2 1, Miller 1 4-4 6, Liedtka 6 2-5 20, Fontaine 6 0-0 16, Steele 2 0-0 5, DeShelter 0 0-0 0, Cuthbert 1 0-0 2, Fox 2 0-0 4, Mayock 0 0-0 0.Totals 18 8-13 55.
DOWNINGTOWN EAST (53): King 4 3-3 12, Owsik 3 3-3 12, Umberger 4 0-0 10, Basilii 1 0-0 2, Rowe 4 4-4 15, Bosum 1 0-0 2, Jacobson 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 10-11 53.
Conestoga 20 9 18 8 – 55
Downingtown East 9 17 14 13 – 53
3-point goals: Liedtka 6, Fontaine 4, Steele, Rowe 3, Owsik 3, Umberger 2, King
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