Without a doubt, the Manheim Township Blue Streaks have gotten off to a red-hot start this year. And like any good story, it’s appropriate to start at the very beginning.
After winning their season-opening tip-off tournament to start the campaign, the Streaks went on a streak. Literally. After Township sailed past Mid-Penn blueblood Central Dauphin 59-42, the Streaks dispatched fellow Section 1 foes Lebanon and Conestoga Valley by a combined total of 52 points to start 2-0 in section play and 5-0 overall. But last Wednesday night in Landisville is where the narrative took a bit of a turn.
Playing in front of a packed house on the home floor of their foremost rival last week, Hempfield had clearly arrived with bad intentions as Black Knights jumped on the Streaks early, en route to a 39-15 halftime lead, before going on to post a resounding 67-36 victory that sent shockwaves not only around the Lancaster Lebanon League, but District 3 as well in the immediate aftermath of the highly-anticipated matchup between two of the best teams this side of the Susquehanna.
And whether you consider it fair or foul, some may likely hold that Hempfield game over the Streaks’ collective heads like an ominous dark cloud hovering above for quite some time. But not a game does a season define. A lesson that Township proved to those very same skeptics just 48 hours later as the Streaks traveled north to Cedar Crest and came away with a momentous 77-71 triumph, knocking the Falcons off their unbeaten section perch, all in the face of arguably the toughest home-court atmospheres in the entire league, the vaunted “Cage” in Cornwall.
On Thursday night, Township returned home for the first time since last Monday looking to build upon their aforementioned late week momentum against a tenacious Dallastown team in a nonleague tester. A Wildcat squad that was already 1-0 against LL competition this year as Dallastown came away with a 71-62 road win at E-Town earlier in December. But for unfortunately for those who call Neffsville home, it would not be a happy homecoming.
It would take Dallastown all of 15 seconds to break the scoring seal on Thursday evening. On the game’s opening possession, Dallastown sophomore point guard Nike McGlynn knocked down a trifecta to put Wildcats up very early, sending a message in the process.
Defensively, Dallastown employed a 2-3 zone defensively to start things off and while it did stymie Township offensively at least at the beginning of the contest, back to back spot up jumpers by MT senior guard Reece Sachs over top of the Dallastown zone made things a stalemate once again with the score gridlocked at 6-6 with 3:30 left in the opening quarter.
Although forward Ben Ward would go on to have an immediate answer which put the visitors from Dallastown back in front, an old-fashioned three point play authored by Township’s Brendan Mellott gave the Streaks their first lead of the contest at 9-8.
Over the course of the next few minutes however, Dallastown would regain the lead and then some as a 7-0 Wildcat run which culminated in a Ben Writer jumper made it 15-9 Dallastown advantage with two minutes left in the opening stanza.
Fortunately for Township however, Tyler Crespo was there to stem the tide as the star junior guard popped a 3 ball to cut the Dallastown lead down to three at the conclusion of the opening period with Dallastown in front 15-12.
Picking up right where he left off at the conclusion of the opening act, Crespo began the second quarter in style as well, dialing up another trifecta before a nice offense board and stick back by Township’s Cameron Mulcavage to put the Streaks back in the driver’s seat at 18-17 with 6:30 left to go in the half.
But once again however, Dallastown would promptly rip off another salvo to create some distance between themselves and their hosts. Ignited by a triple splashed home by Nike McGlynn that returned the lead back to Dallastown at 20-19, a nifty drive to the tin by senior guard Braden Caldwell saw the Wildcats suddenly balloon to 24-19. And aided by a late half drive to the rack plus the foul by Dallastown’s Brandon McGlynn, the Wildcats were able to head into the halftime dressing room with ownership of the 27-21 lead.
After a first half that largely went Dallastown’s way, it seemed only fitting that the Wildcats would open the second half with a bang as well. And thanks to Brandon McGlynn getting open after a sensationally conducted out of bounds play, the Wildcats were able to start the second half with a nine point cushion as McGlynn’s early triple put Dallastown up 30-21.
But Township was not about to go quietly into the bitterly cold night. After Brendan Mellott was able to get the hometown bounce off of the forgiving Township rims, the Streaks had come back to within five at 30-25 with still six minutes remaining in the third frame.
Just as they had done at the start of the contest, Dallastown returned to their 2-3 zone to open the second half as well. Only this time around, Township appeared to have the teacher’s answer sheet as Tyler Crespo and Brendan Mellott were not exactly timid, penetrating the D-Town zone and finding high percentage buckets from close range. Although Township would close the gap to four at 35-31 midway through the third quarter, a reverse finish at the cup by Dallastown’s Will Barton upped the Wildcat lead to 37-31, prompting a Manheim Township timeout with 3:20 left in the quarter.
From there, the Dallastown lead would grow to as large as seven following a pair of free throws knocked down by Brandon McGlynn, good for two of his 14 on the night, which made it a 39-32 Dallastown advantage. But Township would again respond. After a 3 ball was answered in the corner by junior guard Will Greiner, a hoop plus the harm was awarded to Brendan Mellott as Township once again found themselves within a handful, down just 44-39 before the margin would increase to six when the quarter expired with Dallastown in front 46-39.
With the game on the line, an immediate start to the final stanza was sure to do wonders for Township in their comeback efforts. Fortunately for them, they were able to find their man who would aid their cause as back to back buckets inside from senior forward Cameron Mulcavage got things started on a high note for the Blue Streaks at the onset of the final period. And shortly thereafter, Township found themselves trailing by the slimmest of margins at 49-48 following a sweet spin move en route to the hoop put home by Brendan Mellott. On the evening, both Mellot and Crespo would share in team-high scoring honors as the Blue Streak backcourt tandem accounted for 15 points apiece.
But just as they had all game long, Dallastown would refuse to flinch just when Township appeared to be making a final push to overtake the lead once and for all. Over the span of the next few minutes, the Wildcats marched off a crucial 4-0 run to go extend their lead before a badly-needed triple was nothing but string music for Township guard Will Greiner, trimming the Dallastown lead to 53-51 with 3:50 left to play.
And yet again, Township would cut the deficit down to four, but another backbreaking bucket, this one laid up and in by Dallastown senior forward Ben Ward following a steal, pushed the Wildcat lead out to six at 57-51, causing Township to burn a timeout with 2:50 left on the board.
Coming out of the timeout, Dallastown was able to work their version of “stall ball” like a charm, and after a minute had elapsed off the fourth quarter clock, Ben Ward found himself at line. With ice water in his veins the 6’5” Wildcat big man knocked down a pair of critical freebies from the charity stripe, upping Dallastown’s lead to 59-51 with 1:24 to go. From there, the Wildcat lead grew to a monumental ten points following a layup in transition by Braden Caldwell with just one minute left to play at 61-51. That’s also where the fun began.
For many teams, staring down the barrel of a double digit hole with just seconds to play could lead to an early raising of the white flag in terms of finishing things out. But not for Township and not tonight. After Dallastown failed to convert an easy bunny which would have more or less added late-game cosmetics, the Streaks saw a sliver of daylight behind the door with Tyler Crespo there to run right to it as the 5’9” point guard raced end to end for the lay in to close the gap down to six at 61-55 with 29.9 to go, forcing Dallastown to call time. After the timeout however, it was more bad news for the Wildcats as a steal by the Blue Streaks would follow with junior guard Hilton Ridley scoring the bucket plus the foul after the theft to make it a four point ballgame at 61-57.
From there, Braden Caldwell marched to the opposite end of the floor after being fouled on the ensuing inbounds, going 1-2 from the stripe. But Township was not done fighting yet as a strong drive to the cup by Brendan Mellott incredibly sliced the Dallastown lead down to just three at 62-59 with 9.6 to go.
But that would prove to be the end of the Township magic on this night as a 2-2 trip to the line from Brandon McGlynn would close things out, putting the closing argument on Dallastown’s gritty 64-59 road victory over a strong Manheim Township outfit.
NEXT UP: Dallastown will pick up with YAIAA action once again next week as the Wildcats prepare to do battle with the South Western Mustangs next Friday night before a quick turnaround as Dallastown will face their third LL opponent, Warwick, in the annual War of Roses series being contested at West York throughout the day next Saturday.
For Township, although the Blue Streaks did not close the 2017 calendar year in the way they would have hoped, there is still much promise with the bulk of their season left in front of them. The Streaks’ next opportunity to have a go at it will come next Friday night as Township entertains Penn Manor at home before turning right around and heading to West York as well on Saturday where the Blue Streaks will also compete in the War of Roses.