T-Bird Boys Fall Late to Parsons

Luke McGinnis (12) drives against Parsons' Sylas Hickles (21) on Dec. 7 at Circle High School. The Junior had 30 points in the 65-63 loss to Parsons on Monday night.. [Ethan Denton] E

TOWANDA – Circle head coach Bo Hornya has a talented squad, but for the most part, it is a young and inexperienced group. In Friday night’s season-opening home matchup with the Parsons Vikings, there were moments of brilliance and periods where the Thunderbirds broke down. And in the final seconds, a breakdown proved costly as Parsons escaped with a thrilling 65-63 win.

“We’re starting two sophomores, two juniors and a senior,” Horyna said. “One of our first guys off the bench is a freshman so we just don’t have that experience in those kinds of situations.”

In a second half where the teams went back and forth with spurts, Circle built a 63-58 lead with just under two minutes to play.

Parsons’ Jesse Jones would score inside while being fouled and his three-point play trimmed the margin to two. Then after getting a stop, Paxton Swanson was fouled with 13 seconds to play. He sank two free throws to tie the game.

Circle brought the ball up the floor and tried to set up a dribble handoff at the top of the key, but Swanson knifed in to steal the ball. He raced to the hoop and scored with seven ticks remaining to give the Vikings the lead.

The T-Birds with no timeouts pushed the ball up the floor, but indecision on who would take the final shot ate up the final seconds and Circle never got the shot off.

“Anytime you have a young team, you’re going to have some growing pains,” Horyna said. “I think that was pretty apparent tonight.”

The T-Birds were led by junior Luke McGinnis, who poured in 30 points. His backcourt mate, senior Drew Middleton added 17. The duo combined for five threes in the opening quarter as Circle took a 19-9 lead.

Parsons battled back, and they were led by senior Julius Smith-Reece. He would finish with 31 points to lead the Vikings, who took a 32-30 lead before the T-Birds responded with a 7-0 run to lead 37-32 at the half.

PARSONS; 9;23;16;17 – 65

CIRCLE; 19;18;10;16 – 63

Parsons: Smith-Reece 31, Houk 9, Swanson 9, Jones 8, Hickles 6, Gatewood 2.

Circle: McGinnis 30, Middleton17, Galloway 5, Smith 4, Foes 3, Cowman 2, Koehn 2.