GIRARD - If there was one reprieve for the Jefferson Falcons, it was that they didn't have to see Girard's star forward Craig Randall, who torched the Falcons with 41 points the last time these two squads met.
Though, in the end, it was sloppy ball handling and another sophomore that caused problems that did the Falcons in throughout the second half, as the Girard Indians overcame a 15-point halftime deficit en route to 66-58 thrilling victory in All-American Conference, National Division, play.
"The first half, we were able to run our sets," Jefferson coach Jeremy Huber said. "The difference between the first and second half is that we just didn't handle the basketball in the second half. They pressured a little bit and that was our undoing."
Before the second half, the play of the Falcons (4-10, 2-5) was a complete 180, as they did what they wanted with not much opposition from the Indians (10-4, 4-2).
The Falcons shot 15 of 19 in the opening half, steadily expanding their will with inside buckets and numerous jumpers. Brett Powers was the main cog of what was working, as he scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the first half.
"Our effort wasn't there," Girard coach Craig Hannon said. "I give them all the credit in the world. They came out ready to go and provided more effort than what we did.
"It hurt us because they were just getting layup after layup, whether it was offensive glass or transition. We were just not doing a good enough job of getting back. They made us pay for it."
In the second half, the Indians made a conscious point of attacking inside and thanks to the Falcons fouling Girard throughout the third quarter, it allowed the Indians to get to the free-throw line 12 times and stop the clock.
Hannon felt his squad having a good amount ball handlers allowed his team to work it inside and look for a good shot.
"It just so happened they were bumping us, and it works out if you make free throws," Hannon said. "The clock stopped and it helped."
With the Falcons throwing their concentration deep in the paint, it then opened up a lot of big shots - none bigger than the five 3s from Dylan O'Hara, which got the Indians within four at 49-45 in the fourth quarter and then shortly later, their first lead since the first quarter at 51-49 with 2:57 left in the game.
O'Hara led the Indians with 21 points, as he sparked the Indians and was much needed when they were closing the gap in the final quarter.
Huber was quick to point a lot of the blame on himself as his team struggled to find answers for O'Hara and overall the hustle the Indians possessed throughout the final quarter.
"(The) second half was all about them making shots in the corner," Huber said. "Their offense was able to penetrate and kick high out and knock those shots down. We just didn't handle the basketball on our end.
"We could have scored, but I think we let emotions and some extraneous factors dictate what we were doing. I did a poor job of controlling our guys in the second half."