Balanced Efforts Allow Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys’ Senior All Stars To Shine In Final Swan Song

 

When talking about the 2017-18 Lancaster Lebanon League Boys’ Basketball season, it’d be fair to say that this most recent year will forever go down as a successful one.

Why? Well, we were fortunate enough to witness a few programs ascend to heights which they hadn’t ever experienced for one. And how could we ever forget about some of the memorable performances from the crème de la crème of the league’s stars that took place over the course of the last four months? Oh yeah, we also had more than our fair share of heart-stopping moments to go around if that’s more your style.

Just try some of these numbers and factoids on for size as we take a brief and abbreviated look back to examine the year that was.

Let’s get to it then shall we?

12: As in the number of teams from the L-L that had taken care of their business during the regular season with enough gusto to qualify for District 3 playoff spots as a dozen teams from the L-L earned the right to live on and play into the postseason.

2: Trips to the palatial confines of Hershey’s Giant Center for District 3 playoffs with old rivals Hempfield and Manheim Township being the lone L-L representatives in Chocolatetown this year as both the Black Knights and Blue Streaks were able to make it to the 6A semifinal round before falling to Chambersburg and Reading respectively.

5: Each and every season seems to yield new members into the “four digit” club and this year was again no exception. Yes, the 2018 season saw five new members reach the 1,000 career point plateau with this handful of talented hoopsters listed below…. And what a starting lineup this would be.

Ryan Moffatt (Hempfield)
Noah Myers (Annville-Cleona)
Tyler Crespo (Manheim Township)
Jordan Shewbridge (Garden Spot)
Ryan Smith (Lampeter-Strasburg)

3: This year for the first time in a long time saw the L-L League go back to an old way of life for which they hadn’t seen in over a decade: The dismantling of 4 sections and the beloved crossover games in favor of the tried and true method of 3 sections.

39-3: Speaking of 3 sections, the “new” format change did nothing to deter the performances of the three section champs throughout the year as Hempfield, Lampeter-Strasburg, and Lancaster Catholic all rolled to supremacy within their respective divisions by posting a combined 39-3 regular season league record with the Crusaders boasting a perfect 14-0 campaign in Section 3.

6: After surviving the landmine-filled District 3 tournament, a half dozen teams from the L-L were able to advance into the state’s invitation-only event, the prestigious PIAA tournament. In fact, next year this number would be bumped up to 7 as Lancaster Country Day was able to secure a bid to the dance as well with LCD coming aboard next season. Belated congrats for the year that was and a heart-felt welcome to the Cougars for the season coming up, which will likely be here on the horizon before we all know it.

Here’s your rundown for a refresher. No worries, it’s an open book exam.

1A: Lancaster Country Day
3A: Lancaster Mennonite
4A: Lancaster Catholic
5A: Garden Spot and Lampeter-Strasburg
6A: Hempfield and Manheim Township

1: After all was said and done this season, the L-L saw one final team left standing in the Final Four: Lancaster Mennonite. And what a ride it was. Yes, the undersized but tough-as-nails Blazers were able to advance all the way to the state semifinal before they would be knocked out in the cruelest of ways, a buzzer beating 35 foot shot as Tyler Zimmerman, a name which will always and forever be remembered by those who had a strong rooting interest in the Blazers’ two week crusade across the western half of the state, as the Richland senior guard was able to work his way off a screen near the scorer’s table after securing a baseball pass hurled from the opposite baseline before turning the corner with a full head of steam to rise and fire, knocking down the last second jumper to send the Richland Rams into the state finals opposite of Pennsylvania behemoth Neumann Goretti, where the Rams would eventually fall after a hard-fought 57-42 decision.

And while many may have thought that the book on Lancaster-Lebanon League hoops for 2017-18 was permanently closed after Mennonite’s heartbreaking defeat two weeks ago at Chambersburg, one of the most beautiful gyms across all of District 3 I might add, there was still one bit of business left to attend to: The annual L-L Senior All Star Gym which took place on Wednesday night at Hempfield.

Ironically, for a game that is so often defined by it’s defense or lack thereof, the opening minutes of Wednesday’s L-L finale proved that this year’s senior class was cut from a different cloth when compared to their recent predecessors.

However once the offense did get flowing, it would prove to a 3 point aerial display as triples cashed in by Cedar Crest’s Blake Thomson, Garden Spot’s Jordan Shewbridge, and fellow Cedar Crest Falcon Cole Laney helped pave the way for “Away” Team to open up an 11-0 bulge through the early stages of the opening period before Northern Lebanon’s Alex Yeager was able to knock down floater in the lane off an underneath out of bounds inbounds pass to get the “Home” side on the board under the direction of Northern Lebanon’s Chris George and Hempfield’s Danny Walck.

Unfortunately for those donning the white jerseys on this night, the hole would only continue to grow deeper from there as the Lampeter-Strasburg two-headed monster of Ryan Smith and Isaac Beers was on full display for all to see as Smith was able to get loose and pop a trey, destroying the notion yet again that 6’ 10” big men need to remain inside at all times, before Beers would follow suit by going on his own personal 5-0 run which allowed their squad to double-up the opposition at 22-11 at the 2:40 minute mark of the first quarter.

However to their credit, the Home team would continue to battle back throughout the waning stages of the first stanza as a 3-ball cashed in Cocalico’s Aidan Trynosky trimmed the Visitor’s lead to 27-19 before the quarter would eventually expire with the Away Team in front by nearly double digits at 29-20.

As it turned out, the fiery start to close the first period would only continue to rage on once the second ten minutes got underway as an old-fashioned Ryan Moffatt three point play would cut into the Away Team lead at 32-23 as the outgoing Hempfield do-it-all senior continued to shine while playing in the comfortable surroundings of his home gym one final time.

From there, the Away Team cushion grew more precarious over the span of the next few minutes as the lead was sliced down to a mere deuce following yet another three point play, this one administered by Annville Cleona’s Donald Friday, made it a 32-30 affair with the second frame nearing it’s midway point.

And although the dynamic Cedar Crest duo of Blake Thomson to Cole Laney were up to their old tricks as evidenced by Thomson lobbing up a sweet alley oop to his long-time confidant, Ryan Moffatt was there for a dunk of his own for the other side which coincidently gave the Home Team their first lead of the ballgame with score standing at 35-34.

Their lead would prove to be short-lived however as a 5-0 answer authored by the Away squad was capped off with Conestoga Valley’s Logan Monroe splashing in one of his trademark trifectas to put the dark uniform-clad All Stars back in front 39-35 with four minutes left to go in the opening half.

Once the game finally did reach intermission, the scoreboard read 48-42 in favor of the Visitors with L-S’ Isaac Beers leading the way with 10 first half points and fellow Pioneer Ryan Smith along with Lebanon’s Luis Aquino-Rios hot on his heels sharing 8 apiece between them.

Yet for as slow as the first half seemed to start with both teams likely getting their sea legs back underneath them for the first time in nearly a month in some cases, the brief respite in action did nothing to slow the hot-shooting touch of Garden Spot’s Jordan Shewbridge as the newly-minted Lancaster Bible College commit was able to rain down three of his signature triples in the early going of the third frame as the Away Team lead had dramatically swelled to 59-44.

In many ways, it may have been quite possible that Shewbridge’s dazzling proficiency from behind the arc became contagious over the course of the next several minutes as Blake Thomson was able to pour in 3 of his 11 points on the evening by dialing long distance to help keep the Away team lead at a comfortable 15 point difference, 69-51 with 5:04 to play in the third quarter.

In fact, the lead would even grow on from there over the course of the final five minutes and change as the Away lead would improve to a 20 point advantage at 81-61 with one final quarter of the L-L season officially upon us.

After the first couple minutes of the final stanza, it became apparent that the effort to chisel into the Away Team lead would prove to be a sizable ask to say the least. Yet they still continued to relentlessly trudge along as a Ryan Moffatt 3 ball kept the deficit at 20 points, 86-66 with time of the essence for a possible late game comeback.

From there, Northern Lebanon’s Caleb Light was able to lend a helping hand by exploding out of the chute with a dizzying half dozen points to help the Home Team effort down the final stretch for this talented group of hoopsters playing in their final scholastic event.

Yet even though the Away Team was still in control of the scoreboard, that certainly did not mean that the Home Team was devoid of their share of highlights which was becoming very apparent to all inside Buchanan Gymnasium.

Yes, for as much damage as Cocalico’s Aidan Trynosky has been able to inflict upon opponents with his long-range marksmanship over the last handful of seasons, the outgoing Eagle turned E-Town Bluejay was able to reverse the trend by elevating through the air and finishing with a dunk that drew plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” from those in attendance. Not to mention a very select few who were following along via social media as the Home Team only continued to tighten their grasp on claiming the showmanship portion of the final quarter.

But even though the Home Team was able to garner much of the attention with their splash-reel type plays inside the final ten minutes of the 2017-18 season, the bow was fittingly put on the night, and the season for that matter, by Lancaster Mennonite’s John Gillespie as the star-studded senior floor general for the league’s only state semifinalist was able to finish things off with an emphatic tomahawk dunk of his own, giving everyone just a brief glimpse as to why he was arguably the best point guard in the entire L-L League all season long.

And not only would have the dunk drawn several high scores had there been a panel of judges in the house to offer up their approval, the Gillespie jam put his Away squad over the century mark as the victorious team coached by Ed Berryman of Lampeter-Strasburg and Lancaster Catholic’s Joe Klazas would go on to close things out by turning away the Home Team, 101-89, lowering the curtain on yet another wild, fantastic, and memorable L-L Boys’ Basketball season that is sure to live on for years and years to come.

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