PIAA HOOPS: Johnsonburg’s magical season ends in Class A title game loss

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) – Vaux star Rysheed Jordan went to Cougars head coach Jamie Ross in the third quarter of Friday’s PIAA Class A boys’ basketball championship game with Johnsonburg and suggested they switch to a man defense.

The coach agreed and from that point on Vaux slowly took the air out of underdog Rams’ hopes for an upset over.

Vaux poured in 47 second-half points and limited Johnsonburg to nine field goals over the game’s final 16 minutes to claim what in the end was a comfortable 83-63 victory at the Giant Center.

“I’m not one of those coaches who doesn’t listen to his players,” Ross said. “When I put in my quicker guys they really get after the ball, and that opened the floor for us.”

Jordan, a senior who has narrowed his final three schools to St. John’s, UCLA and Temple, poured in a game-high 32 points to pace Vaux (24-8).

The 6-foot-4 guard also had six rebounds, four assists, five steals and shot 14 of 20 from the floor.

“You just slow down a guy like that,” Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey said. “I thought we did a good job in the first half on him. In the second half they spread the floor and he did what he wanted.”

Johnsonburg (30-3) came in as heavy underdogs to the Philadelphia city school that is scheduled to close after this year.

But thanks to some sharp shooting, coupled with deep foul trouble for the Cougars, Johnsonburg snared a 37-36 halftime lead by scoring 12 of the final 14 points prior to intermission.

The Rams shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, including 5 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“We hung with them for a while,” said Shuey, whose club was paced by 17 points from junior guard Cameron Grumley. “What they did was exploit their athletes. To finish our season being in Hershey for our last game is something to be proud of.

“These kids provided their town with some exciting basketball.”

Grumley nailed a triple at the 5:40 mark of the third quarter to give the Rams a 44-41.

That’s the point when Vaux switched up its defense, and Johnsonburg then went more than three minutes without a point.

Sparked by six points from Jordan, the Cougars closed out the final 98 seconds of the third quarter with a 12-2 run to open up an 11-point cushion.

“Our man defense got us out on the shooters. And it opened up the floor more for us,” Jordan said. “I knew I could get to the basket and score. I just wanted to get my teammates more involved.”

A triple by Samuel Forman, who finished with 22 points, and four more points from Jordan in the opening three minutes of the fourth quarter pushed the Vaux lead to 16 points.

“Rysheed is pass first, shoot second guard. Some say he’s a point guard, others say he’s a shooting guard. I just call him a basketball player,” Ross said. “If he has to score 30 or 40 for us, it’s because we needed that from him. He’s one of the most unselfish kids I’ve had.”

Johnsonburg, trying to become only the third PIAA champion from District 9 since 1980, managed only one field goal during the opening seven minutes of the final quarter and shot only 38 percent from the floor the second half.