SUNBURY -- Even for a program that has been as successful over the years as the Danville boys basketball team, it had a chance on Wednesday night to enter some rarified air in its regular-season and Heartland Conference-Division I finale with Shikellamy.
The Ironmen were looking to win their 20th consecutive game and become the first squad with an undefeated league season in 12 years.
Consider the mission accomplished.
Danville used a huge first-quarter run and held off two Shikellamy rallies to down the Braves 69-53 at the Shikellamy Field House, becoming the first Danville team to finish the league season undefeated since the 1999-2000 squad.
"This is pretty special. We certainly didn't expect this in the beginning of the season. With the way we schedule and to start 0-2, 20 wins didn't seem possible. You are not going to have too many 20-win seasons anymore," Danville coach Lenny Smith said.
Danville improves to 20-2 overall, 14-0 HAC-I and will be the top seed in the District 4 Class AAA playoffs. The Ironmen will face No. 4-seed Shamokin at a date and time to be determined in the semifinals. It was a great night overall for Danville basketball. Shikellamy drops to 15-5, 10-4. The Braves have a road game with State College on Friday night and will play Selinsgrove for the fourth time this season in the other District 4 Class AAA semifinal.
The game started close as the teams parried early in the first quarter and the Braves took an 8-7 lead on a Tyler Pratt drive midway through the first. However, as the Ironmen have done numerous times this season, they exploded at the end of the opening stanza, using a 17-2 run to open up a 21-10 lead.
Senior center David Vitunac had two 3-pointers in the run, while Andrew Andreychik chipped in five points in the spurt.
"We do seem to do that a lot (go on a quick run in the first quarter). When we start hitting shots, it gives us confidence," Andreychik said.
"These kids seem to have a real knack for scoring points in bunches," Smith said. "David's 3-pointers were huge (in the first quarter). I really don't think Shikellamy thought he could shoot the ball like that."
The Braves didn't go away, though. Danville built a 31-15 lead after a Ross Litz basket with a little less than five minutes left in the first half, but it would be the Ironmen's final bucket of the first quarter.
Shikellamy would score the next 13 points of the game, the final 10 points of the first half and when Pratt hit a 3-pointer to start the second half, the Braves pulled to 31-28 with 7:12 left in the third quarter.
Danville used a 10-0 run as four different Ironmen scored. When Bret Berg scored with 4:09 left in the third, Danville had built its lead back to 41-30.
"That 10-0 run was huge for us. We got some of the momentum back," Andreychik said. "We just wanted to keep the pressure on them."
Shikellamy had one last run left, as it got back within five by scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter. Taylor Mantz scored off a feed from Pratt with 5:49 left in the game to cut the Danville advantage to 47-42.
That's when Andreychik took over the game. The senior standout hit back-to-back 3 pointers as the Ironmen built their lead back to 11. He also added three assists in the final three minutes as the Braves' didn't get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"We got ourselves in a hole (in the first half), but we did a great job of battling back," Shikellamy coach Tim Foor said. "Then in the fourth quarter, we got a little lackadaisical in our transition defense and that turned a close game into a 15-point game.
"I can't fault our effort, but we certainly have some things to clean up (before the district playoffs)."
It was Andreychik's second game back since missing 10 days with an illness. Andreychik returned last Friday night against Jersey Shore, something the senior thought helped him for Wednesday's game with the Braves.
"I didn't know if I was going to play in that Jersey Shore game, but I'm glad I did," Andreychik said. "It allowed me to get some of my game legs back because I knew tonight was going to be a dog fight."
Andreychik finished with a game-high 20 points along with seven steals and four assists. Vitunac added 17 points, 11 of which came in the first half. Berg added 15 points and Litz had 10 points.
Pratt led the Braves with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Benny Delgado and C.J Tyler each added nine points.