It had all the trappings: A near-capacity crowd and two teams undefeated in the league and off to strong starts overall. Brookside came in 7-0, while Keystone had dropped two straight after opening 5-0.
Neither team disappointed either as Keystone, behind a monster performance by Caleb Shillace, grabbed an early lead then withstood a furious rally for a 36-34 victory.
“It’s great to knock off an undefeated team but we have a lot we can work on,” said Shillace, who finished with 24 points and 22 rebounds. “We started out well, but we trailed off there in the second and third quarters. There’s a lot more that we can do better than what we did tonight. So we need to get to work on those things.”
Keystone was in control for most of the game, building a 16-7 lead after the first quarter behind 13 points from Shillace. The Wildcats led 23-14 at halftime and were ahead 27-16 lead with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
However, the Cardinals (7-1, 4-1) went on an 8-1 run to pull within 28-24 entering the fourth quarter.
Keystone pushed its lead to 33-25 with 3:04 left, but Brookside made another charge. A Mat Gorta putback and a Hunter Skolnicki 3-pointer cut the deficit to 33-30 with 2:35 left.
Shillace and Brandon Osborne each split a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats a 35-30 lead with 1:23 remaining.
Brookside cut it to 35-34 on a left-handed Skolnicki layup with :36 on the clock, but the Cardinals couldn’t get any closer. Shillace split a pair of free throws and Brookside missed its last three shot attempts.
“From a psychological standpoint, maybe we needed this one a bit more than they did,” said Morgan, whose team improved to 6-2 and 5-0.
“But the reality is that they’re only a game back right now. They’re going to get us again (at their place) and it’s a long season.
“We know that we have lots of things that we need to work on and I expect they’re thinking the same thing on their end. It’s one game but I think it’s a sign of how close this race is going to be.”
The feeling mutual on Brookside’s side.
“We’re disappointed and we should be, but it’s just one game,” Cardinals coach Brent Schremp said. “If we had done some things different throughout the game it might have been a different outcome. “Regardless, the key for us is to shake this off and get ready for the next game.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Keystone 36, Brookside 34
BROOKSIDE (34): Hunter Skolnicki 5-0-12, Matt Gorta 4-1-9, Justin Lopez 1-2-4, Josh Zenkert 2-0-4, Alex Robinson 1-1-3, Keyonte Francis 0-1-1, Kelvin Jones 0-1-1. Totals 13-6-34.
KEYSTONE (36): Caleb Shillace 9-6-24, Brandyn Sittinger 2-1-6, Jacob Kolar 0-3-3, Adam Hopkins 1-0-2, Brandon Osborne 0-1-1. Totals 12-11-36.
Brookside 7 7 10 10 — 34
Keystone 16 7 5 8 — 36
Three-point goals: Brookside 2 (Skolnicki 2), Keystone 1 (Sittinger). Field goals: Brookside 13-44 (30 percent), Keystone 12-50 (24 percent). Free throws: Brookside 6-10 (60 percent), Keystone 11-26 (42 percent). Rebounds: Brookside 28 (Gorta 11), Keystone 42 (Shillace 22). Turnovers: Brookside 12, Keystone 16. Total fouls: Brookside 21, Keystone 11. Technical foul: Brookside 2 (Skolnicki, Robinson).
Junior varsity: Brookside, 49-33