Dragons gelling at right time

Jan. 7—MIFFLINBURG — Lewisburg started the season slowly — suffering a four-game losing streak to end 2022 — but the Green Dragons were integrating four new starters to a team that won a District 4 championship and a game in the state playoffs last season.

A little less than a week into the new year, the Green Dragons have a three-game winning streak after Friday night's 57-45 win over Mifflinburg in a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II contest.

"I think we were trying to find our identity with four new starters. Jack (Blough) and Henry (Harrison) were almost like starters last year, but they are in new roles," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "I think we can be a pretty good defensive team, and we are pretty athletic. After tonight, the way we battled tonight, I can't ask for anything more."

Senior Cam Michaels, the only returning starter for the Green Dragons added: "We had a bit of a rough start. I think it took a couple of those losses to get used to playing with each other. We lost four starters, and bringing four new guys in to start, it took a little time."

The Green Dragons (5-5 overall, 2-0 HAC-II) fell behind early — the Wildcats began Friday's game with an 8-3 run — but Lewisburg's defense clamped down from the 5:22 mark of the first quarter and limited Mifflinburg to just 30 points over the next 22 minutes before a Wildcats' scoring spurt over the final two.

"I think we were trying to get a feel for them, and once we got a feel for them — credit to the boys — I think we keep playing better-and-better defense," Vaji said. "They are buying in on that side of the ball."

Michaels hit two 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the first quarter to jump-start the Lewisburg offense, and the Green Dragons were within two points. Mifflinburg took a five-point lead, and Harrison and Michaels missed the majority of the second quarter with foul trouble. However, the Green Dragons got a lift from the bench — Noah Pawling, Dylan Dershem, Tsogtoo Batbaatar and Jack Landis — and took a 21-20 lead into the break at halftime.

"Pawling, Landis and Dershem came off the bench and played well — Sogie gave us some good minutes," Vaji said. "That was huge. Henry maybe played four minutes in the first half, and Cam sat the last 5:10 of the second quarter, and we had the lead.

"We had to be feeling pretty good going into halftime, and I think our start in the third showed that."

Lewisburg built a 12-point advantage in the third quarter, going up 37-25 lead with less than a minute left on Harrison's first bucket of the game. Michaels had a 3-pointer and also found Blough three different times with passes to account for six points on three layups.

"Me and Jack have been playing since elementary (school) and we have the chemistry," said Michaels, who finished with 16 points and six assists. "We both know our strengths and our weaknesses, and we both play together well."

Mifflinburg (7-3, 1-1) got a bucket from Tyler Reigel with 43 seconds left in the third quarter, and a putback from Ethan Bomgardner to get back within eight at 37-29 very early in the fourth.

However Harrison knocked down a 3-pointer, and Blough was the recipient of a fourth Michaels assist of the half — this time for a three-point play — to push the lead back to 15 with 6:12 left in the game. Blough tied Michaels for game-high honors with 16 points.

Reigel and Bomgardner each finished with 10 points for the Wildcats, while Carter Breed had a game-high nine rebounds. Aaron Bollick and Jackson Griffith each chipped in eight points.

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LEWISBURG 57, MIFFLINBURG 45

Lewisburg (5-5) 57

Cam Michaels 6 1-2 16; Devin Bodden 2 2-2 6; Henry Harrison 3 0-0 7; Wade Young 1 1-2 4; Jack Blough 6 4-6 16; Noah Pawling 0 0-3 0; Dylan Dershem 1 2-2 4; Charlie Landis 1 2-2 4. Totals 20 12-21 57.

3-point goals: Michaels 3, Harrison, Young.

Did not score: Tsogtoo Batbaatar.

Mifflinburg (7-3) 45

Tyler Reigel 4 1-1 10; Ethan Bomgardner 5 0-0 10; Carter Breed 2 0-0 4; Aaron Bollick 3 2-3 8; Jackson Griffith 3 2-4 8; Chad Martin 2 0-0 5. Totals 19 5-8 45.

3-point goals: Reigel, Martin.

Did not score: Zack Wertman.

Score by quarters

Lewisburg;10;11;16;20 — 57

Mifflinburg;12;8;7;18 — 45