The last time that the Manheim Township Blue Streaks and Governor Mifflin Mustangs hooked up on the basketball court, the result had seismic-like repercussions. On the late Saturday afternoon of January 28th last year, the Blue Streaks trekked northward to tangle with the then #1 ranked team in District 3 6A. It was a game that would turn out to be a signature moment in Township’s 2016-17 campaign as the Streaks lead for 31 of 32 minutes en route to a dramatic 65-63 victory over the hard-charging Mustangs on Mifflin’s home floor.
On Saturday afternoon, the two squads would renew acquaintances once more with a win being arguably just as valuable for Township again this season as the Streaks. Why? Well first and foremost, the Saturday matinée provided the Streaks with the opportunity to make good on reversing the disappointment of their last two outings. Games in which MT saw fourth quarter leads evaporate before ultimately ending in bitter defeats in back to back fashion. And while Manheim Township was looking to regain some momentum heading into what they hope is another postseason run in Neffsville, Saturday’s game would also offer up some historical business to take care of. That of course being getting one of the better players in program history, junior guard Tyler Crespo, over the 1,000 career point plateau. And just as fate would have it, the Streaks would make it an afternoon to remember as MT was able to accomplish both objectives once the final buzzer sounded.
Once the game got underway, it became very clear that Township had arrived with the intention to quickly wipe away the sting from Friday evening’s setback against Cedar Crest as the Streaks jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead following a pair of free throws from Tyler Crespo at the 5:30 mark of the opening quarter.
Although Mifflin would finally be able to erase the goose egg on their side of the scoreboard after a nice flip inside by junior forward Bryce Black, Township would proceed to double-up their guests from Shillington as a powerful move inside by sophomore forward Zach Oldac put the Streaks in the driver’s seat at 8-4 midway through the opening period. But Governor Mifflin had other intentions as opposed to being just being a sideshow to the Township festivities on Saturday.
Never was that more apparent than with Mifflin’s ensuing response as the Mustangs proceeded to rip off the game’s next five points, a run which was capped off with a trifecta dialed up by senior forward Casey Khlar to give Mifflin their first lead of the ballgame at 9-8 inside the three minute mark of the opening quarter. In fact, Mifflin would be able to continue on their march as a steal and lay in by Bryce Black put the ‘Stangs up 11-8 before a nice up and under counter move by Township’s Cameron Mulcavage put the Streaks back within one at 11-10 as the senior forward closed the book on the game’s opening stanza.
As the second quarter began to take shape, one thing quickly became apparent. Neither team would be able to gain much in terms of separation on the scoreboard. And while Mifflin was able to produce a six point lead at 22-16 following a trey popped in by senior guard Darius Copeland in the early portion of the second quarter, the Streaks were able to reel the Mustangs back in as a triple put home by MT junior guard Will Greiner got the Streaks back within three at 22-19 with the game now under the four minute mark of the second period. But Township wasn’t done there.
With all eyes on Mr. Crespo in terms of when he would finally be able to accomplish his historic achievement, the smooth junior guard showed off his all around game as he later rifled a sweet dish through traffic into the waiting hands of fellow junior Tyler Vicidomini who was able to lay it up and in to get the Streaks within a point at 22-21 with 2:45 left to go in the second.
Once the second quarter clock did finally expire, it showed things all square between these two solid 6A programs with the Blue Streaks and Mustangs all knotted up at the intermission, 26-26.
For a first half that was defined by tight play with neither being able to run away and hide, the game was certainly there for the taking once the second half got underway. And when it did, it would be the hometown Blue Streaks that would land the first punch.
Aided by a strong bucket inside by Vicidomini, the Streaks had gone on to reclaim the lead at 28-26 before eventually seeing their lead swell to five following a triple pumped in by Zach Oldac which gave the Streaks the 35-30 advantage at the 3:40 mark of the third quarter. From there, Township would be able to go up by a touchdown after another tough bucket inside by Oldac to put Township in front 39-32. On the afternoon, Oldac would prove to be a critical piece of the Township puzzle as the 6’3” sophomore forward would go on to finish with an impressive 14 point outing.
But once again, Mifflin would refuse to go away quietly. Case in point, the Mustangs rallying to cut the deficit down to just a deuce following an old fashioned three point play put home by junior forward Niggel Brown which made it a 41-39 contest in Township’s favor at the conclusion of the third frame.
But now the stage was set for history. With the Streaks trailing 42-40 and the game now inside the early fourth quarter, Tyler Crespo saw his opportunity to pounce. And pounce he did as the courageous and battle-tested 5’9” do-everything MT guard drove along the baseline before finishing with an acrobatic reverse to put the game into a 42-42 tie but more importantly, joining an exclusive list of Blue Streaks who have a career point total where a comma was needed.
And with Governor Mifflin now having gone cold from the field, the Blue Streaks as a whole saw their opportunity to strike.
Following the historic Crespo bucket, the Streaks went on to post a critical 7-1 run over the next several minutes as a pair of free throws from the master of ceremonies himself put the Streaks on top and firmly in charge at 49-43 with just 2:30 left to go.
From there, a Brendan Mellott knockdown jumper would push the Streaks over the 50 point mark as the junior guard’s bucket made it a 51-44 Township lead with time now running out on the Mustangs.
And in a game that was defined by Township’s young talent, it seemed only appropriate that a sophomore would have the final say in this one as Zach Oldac went on to knock down two more freebies from the free throw stripe before an emphatic rejection down on the defensive end which effectively put a bow on Township’s big afternoon as the Streaks went on to close things out from there by posting a 53-46 victory over the upset-minded Mustangs from Governor Mifflin.
As mentioned, Township came into Saturday afternoon looking for some much-needed momentum here down the final stretch with the Streaks angling for a definite District 3 playoff appearance and in all likelihood, a spot in the league playoffs as well. An accomplishment that Manheim Township head coach Matt Johns knew was of the upmost importance. “It certainly wasn’t pretty but after struggling in the fourth quarter in two consecutive games, it gave us an opportunity to go out and not just practice what we’ve been talking about, but to perform in some tight situations,” Johns said after the game on Saturday. “I thought our guys put a nice little blur on in the fourth where we got some stops in a row when we needed them and some scores in a row when we needed them.” And after two straight games in which that largely had been MT’s Achilles’ heel, Saturday afternoon appeared to have been exactly what the doctor ordered for Township both in the short and long term for a core of young Blue Streaks who are eager to make a splash on this year’s postseason scene. A task in which they are more than capable of accomplishing.
NEXT UP: As far as the short term is concerned, Township will look to get back to their winning ways within Section 1 as the Streaks will go back into the lab to tinker and fine-tune some things heading into their Tuesday night contest against Penn Manor. And while the Streaks will find themselves dancing in the postseason in just a few weeks, Coach Johns knows that there is still plenty left to improve upon before that time comes. “Defense, defense, defense,” Johns said stressing what is at the top of MT’s To Do list. “The other part of is, we have to recognize when is it time to score and when is it time to play the clock game more. I thought at the 2:00 minute mark we did a little bit better job at that. That’s the biggest thing we need to work on. Our defense on penetration and then making good decisions when we’re ahead.”
The road doesn’t exactly get any easier for Governor Mifflin following Saturday’s setback to Manheim Township. From here, the Mustangs will look to regroup and fast as a grueling end of season slate is about to commence. A final stretch run that includes bitter rival Wilson, defending state champion Reading, and up and coming Muhlenberg as the proverbial cherry on top. A run that is exactly is not exactly for the faint of heart, but one that the Mustangs are likely up to the challenge for.