CATAWISSA RR - Their pre-game records showed that rivals Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia were both 11-11 entering Wednesday's District 4 Class AA preliminary game at Southern. But the end result between the teams will show that the Tigers won all three head-to-head meetings.

Southern (12-11) bumped up its pressure in the second half and got solid showings throughout its lineup to rally from a one-point halftime deficit to beat the Red Tornadoes, 56-44, earning a berth against unbeaten, top-seeded East Juniata Saturday at East Juniata. Mount Carmel ended its season 11-12.

The Red Tornadoes played a solid first half, taking a 23-22 lead and pounding Southern on the boards, but Southern coach Joe Britto was saving a weapon.

"I didn't want to use our press too early," Britto said. "I wanted to save it for the second half when we'd need it. I didn't want to use it in the first half and then they'd make an adjustment at halftime. I called timeout and questioned their toughness (about the rebounding) and they answered it."

The press enabled Southern to outscore Mount Carmel 17-5 in the third quarter for a 39-28 lead. Mount Carmel never got closer than within six points after that, and the Tigers protected the lead by making 7 of 8 foul shots in the fourth quarter.

"Getting that double digit lead was really important," Southern junior Mike Klebon, who paced the Tigers offensively with 20 points, said. "We feel we have an advantage with our quickness and that we could cause some chaos in the backcourt."

Mount Carmel coach John Lazicki said missed opportunities hurt his team.

"We missed a lot of easy shots in the first half," Lazicki said. "We could have been up maybe six or eight points if we make some two-footers. And then we did some crazy things against their pressure and got out of our game."

Klebon added seven rebounds and four steals to his 20 points, and the Tigers got other solid performances too. Kyle Mostic had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Luke Rarig had seven points, eight rebounds and four assists. Rarig came up big late in the the game, taking a key charge and then hitting three big foul shots after being fouled hard by Ben Scicchitano.

And Doug Michaels came off the bench to score eight points, hitting 4 of 5 shots from the floor.

"Doug has a very good basketball IQ," Britto said. "We match up very well with Mount Carmel and that's the second big game he's had against them."

Schicchitano had 17 points, eight rebounds, and three blocked shots, and Zach Tocyloski 15 points for Mount Carmel. Zach Wasilewski scored seven points but had 13 rebounds.

"I can't say enough for our seniors," Lazicki said. "Washie and Schicky both played great. Their leadership is going to serve them well in life."

Southern now has to get ready for an unbeaten team. Klebon thinks they're up to the challenge.

"It's going to be a challenge but we feel we're playing well right now," the junior said. "We've won something like six of our last nine games and one of those losses was to Lewisburg, which is ranked second in the state. We're playing with a lot of confidence."

Game Summary

MOUNT CARMEL (44) - Lynott 0 0-0 0, Tocyloski 5 2-5 15, Sullins 0 0-0 0, Scicchitano 6 2-3 17, Wasilewski 3 1-4 7, Kelley 2 1-2 5, Amarose 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 6-14 44.

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (56) - Palacz 2 2-2 8, Klebon 7 3-4 20, Mostik 5 2-2 13, Do. Michaels 4 0-0 8, Rarig 2 3-4 7, Olson 0 0-0 0, Ciocco 0 0-0 0, Young 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-12 56.

3-point FGs: Mount Carmel (6) - Tocyloski 3, Scicchitano 3; Southern (6) - Palcz 2, Klebon 3, Mostik 1.