Although the 2017-18 high school hoops season only became a week old on Friday night, it has not been without its share of early headlines. Perhaps none nearly as eye-catching across the LLhoops landscape than that of the Donegal Indians. Starting off a season 3-0 may seem like old hat to some programs year in and year out, but this year’s impressive beginning is especially memorable considering what the school from Mount Joy has endured the last handful of seasons on the hardwood. Ever since that memorable playoff ride of 2013 that included victories over the likes of Allentown Central Catholic and Neumann-Goretti, the last team to beat Neumann Goretti in the state playoffs as a matter of fact, the winters have likely seemed a little longer and a little colder for Indians hoops fans ever since with wins not being nearly as plentiful. But all that has appeared to change after a sensational start to this season that has breathed new life to a program eager for its chance to break back out and challenge once again for section supremacy. And the Indians would get their shot right out of the gate as Donegal navigated the tricky roadways on a slick and icy Friday evening around the county for a matchup against the L-S Pioneers. An L-S program that seems to always be in the running for section title races, district playoff spots, and yes, state playoff appearances on an annual basis with this year appearing to be no different in Lampeter.
Although Donegal’s hot start to this season would be the narrative entering the evening, it would prove to be L-S who would define starting fast within the actual contest. The Pioneers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after a 3 ball was cashed in by L-S’ Jordan Sweger before Andrew Stwalley was able to counter with one of his own which put Donegal on the board all while cutting the Pioneer lead down to size at just two. From that point on however, L-S ran away with it. Both literally and figuratively.
Aided by a barrage of triples and a superb display of transition offense from the likes of Chase Broderick and Jordan Sweger, the Pioneers proceeded to blitz their guests, jumping out to a quick 12-3 lead, forcing Donegal to call time with half the quarter left to go.
But unfortunately the timeout would not provide the relief that it was originally intended for as the Pioneers went on to rattle off a separate 5-0 scoring punch that was capped off by a triple in the corner from Seth Beers which made it a commanding 17-3 Pioneer advantage.
To their credit, Donegal continued to scrap and claw their way back into things as a triple from Donegal star senior guard Avery Walker stopped the powerful Pioneer charge before three more Donegal points, all racked up from the charity stripe by Stwalley, trimmed the L-S lead down to just ten at 19-9. After the Stwalley freebies however, L-S was there to answer as yet another triple, this one from junior marksman Chase Broderick, announced the Pioneer retaliation and allowed L-S to go on and enjoy a 23-12 lead after the first quarter.
Even a change in quarters did nothing to cool off L-S’ blistering-hot shooting touch early on. Once the second stanza got underway, it was senior guard Isaac Beers who stepped out behind the arc and promptly splashed home a triple of his own to put L-S up by two touchdowns at 28-14 with 6:20 left to go in the half. And although L-S largely relied upon the performance of their guards in the opening quarter, the second quarter also saw the emergence of Ryan Smith, L-S’ ultra-talented 6’10” senior center. Shortly after the Beers’ triple, Smith found himself around the tin, seemingly plucking the ball out of thin air to tally an offensive rebound, but also proceeding to lay it up and in for the putback which made it a 31-14 Pioneer advantage.
The inside out game of L-S continued on as the second quarter progressed with Broderick getting loose for yet another trifecta, only to be followed by teammate Marc Wilson from close range as the Pioneer senior who battled hard all night inside, collected an offensive board and putback to only increase the L-S advantage. Fortunately for Donegal however, Avery Walker was on the scene to make sure that the Pioneers did not get too far out in front as Walker sunk a triple from the top of the key to answer the Wilson stickback as Donegal found themselves now within a dozen at 39-27 going into the halftime intermission.
Although L-S was not able to start nearly as fast as they had in the previous two quarters, Donegal was not able to either as the Indians were held scoreless in the second half until a pair of free throws converted at the line by senior Michael Lyons with 5:13 left in the third made it a 41-29 contest in favor of L-S. Despite their slow start in the second half, the Pioneers began to find their footing as the third quarter progressed when Seth Beers collected a steal and raced all the way to the other end for the finish to put the Pioneers up 48-34 with 2:45 now showing on the third quarter clock.
The L-S lead only continued to grow from there as yet another tough battle won inside by Marc Wilson was good enough for more high-percentage Pioneer points as a Wilson stickback pushed the L-S lead out to 50-34, leading to a Donegal timeout.
Following the timeout, Avery Walker responded with a pair of buckets to keep Donegal within shouting distance but Donegal was still down by 14 at 52-38 as the game moved into the fourth quarter.
In the early stages of the final frame it had appeared that perhaps Donegal was on the verge of creating something to spark a late-game comeback when a steal and drive to the cup by Michael Lyons got the Indians off to a fine start. But once again however, L-S would have a rebuttal. Once more, another 3 ball, this one from Ryan Smith who both defined the L-S inside/outside game to a T in just that snapshot, stepped beyond the arc to rain down another Pioneer 3 ball to up the L-S lead to 55-41 as the final quarter trudged along.
Although Donegal would climb back to within a baker’s dozen later on at 57-44 following an Avery Walker trey, L-S would go on to close this section opener out in style.
Without question, the play of the night came shortly thereafter when Jordan Swegar went behind the back in midair for a sensational move for another Pioneer deuce in the waning minutes. Sure, the move itself was pretty sweet, but it took on a whole different dynamic considering Swegar was forced to exit the game just a few minutes prior after suffering a scary spill hard onto the deck after hustling to secure a defensive board.
It then seemed only fitting that the Pioneers were able to close this one much in the same the same way they started it as a fast break layup in transition from Seth Beers to Chase Broderick put L-S up by 19 at 67-48 before Cam Niemeyer offered up the last highlight of the night with a steal and finish at the tin to put the finishing touches on L-S’ impressive victory to start Section 2 play 1-0 as the Pioneers bested Donegal 73-52.
NEXT UP: L-S is back at it again on Saturday evening as the Pioneers rekindle their current out of league series with Octorara. A phrase that will go by the wayside of course when Octorara fully comes on board next year. After Saturday’s tilt against the Braves from Atglen, the Pioneers will reenter Section 2 play against E-Town, Solanco, and Garden Spot respectively before going off to play in the Middletown Holiday Tournament.
Although Donegal suffered their first loss of the season on Friday night, it is important that the Indians put this one in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible heading into next week with a schedule that features dates with Manheim Central, Garden Spot, and Ephrata before the holiday break. If nothing else, it is apparent that this is a different Donegal basketball team. One that seems rejuvenated and eager to take on the likes of Section 2 on a nightly basis. Starting with the talented and scrappy backcourt of Avery Walker and Elijah Swanigan coupled with key cogs such as Michael Lyons and Andrew Stwalley, the pieces seem to be in place for Donegal to be a team that can be heard from all winter long.