Suffocating Second Half Defense Helps Manheim Central Pass Another Test As Barons Nip Garden Spot

On Saturday afternoon the Garden Spot Boys Basketball team boarded the bus in New Holland and set their sights on Manheim Central where the Spartans would venture to play a basketball game. But no, the Spartans wouldn’t be matching up with the hometown Barons on this day. Instead, Garden Spot looked across at the other bench and saw the Kennard-Dale Rams, their opponent put in front of them for this year’s War of the Roses competition, an annual showcase which pit teams from across the L-L and YAIAA landscape against one another for an 11 game all-day battle royal of hoops held at West York and Manheim Central with regional bragging rights being up for grabs between the two leagues. A matchup by the way where the L-L was able to prevail, coming out on top after a 7-4 overall decision against their neighbors to the west. And part of those seven victories posted by the Lancaster Lebanon League on Saturday also just so happened to come by way of Garden Spot.

In Saturday’s late afternoon battle against Kennard-Dale, Garden Spot was able to lean on their talented and battle-tested backcourt comprised of Javi Westmoreland, Jordan Shewbridge, and Keontae Nunn to get the job done as the Spartan trio combined for a 39 point outburst as the Spartans went on to post an impressive 50-38 victory over the Rams from Fawn Grove. A team headlined by one of the most talented players across the entire York-Adams league in smooth southpaw senior guard Adam Freese.

Unfortunately for Manheim Central, this year’s game in the War of the Roses spectacle was not quite as successful. Although the Barons would be taking center stage on their home floor in the finale on Saturday night against Gettysburg, MC would see themselves come up short against a white-hot Warriors team that has now won five of their last six ballgames with their only defeat ironically coming to an L-L opponent in Solanco in a 1 point defeat over the Christmas break. A victory that would serve as the Golden Mules’ first of the season.

Even still, all was not lost in Saturday night’s defeat. After all, when the Barons returned to live action by welcoming Garden Spot back to the friendly confines on Tuesday night, Manheim Central went into the evening with the unique distinction of being the lone unbeaten team in section play inside the hectic world known as L-L Section 2.

And while Garden Spot came in into Tuesday night jostling for position alongside the likes of L-S, E-Town, Ephrata, Donegal, and those same Barons for a spot in the league playoffs, a theme that will likely continue to take place over the course of the next month, every team wants a shot of knocking the king off his throne. A task that this year’s feisty pack of Spartans would certainly welcome with open arms while hoping to rekindle some of that magic they had enjoyed in same building just a few days earlier.

Once the game got underway, it was evident from the get-go that Manheim Central’s Chase Marquette had come to play. The 5’11” junior got things started in a big way for his Baron teammates as Marquette went on to score the first four Baron points before Garden Spot’s Andrew Zenter would go on to give the Spartans their first lead of the contest on an easy bunny from point blank range. But yet again, Garden Spot would have to answer to Mr. Marquette as #32 of the home-standing Barons pumped in a triple right after the Zenter chip shot to put Central back in front 7-6. However this time it would be Garden Spot’s opportunity to answer.

Following the Marquette 3 ball, Garden Spot would go on a 5-0 run that was engineered behind a Javi Westmoreland trifecta and a beautiful dime inside from Matthew Sharp to Zenter which made it an 11-7 Spartan lead, prompting a Manheim Central timeout with 2:23 left in the opening quarter. And although Garden Spot’s lead would be trimmed somewhat at the conclusion of the first eight minutes, the Spartans were still were able to maintain control of the scoreboard as a free throw cashed in just before the horn sent Garden Spot into the second stanza with possession of the 12-9 advantage.

At the onset of the second quarter, Connor Hostetter did not seemed phased by his team’s early second quarter deficit as the 6’2” senior guard immediately cashed in a 3 ball to start the period to knot things back up at 12-12. But unfortunately for the maroon-clad Barons, that largely would prove to be the last of the Manheim Central momentum for the remaining minutes of the first half.

After a Cam Roth follow put the Spartans back on top 14-12, Garden Spot turned to their guards to help turn defense into offense which is precisely what the Spartan backcourt was able to do. Following a sweet posterization-type rejection on a Manheim Central 3 point attempt that was negated by Garden Spot’s Jacob Arndt, the 5’9” senior guard raced right to the hole with his theft for the easy deuce to put GS up 18-14 with 3:45 left in the opening half. From there, it was Keonate Nunn’s opportunity to get out and run in the transition game as back to back lay ins from Garden Spot’s 5’6” junior guard donning #20 put the Spartans up by a half dozen late in the half by the score of 22-16.

But Manheim Central was able to keep within shouting distance to close the half as a Chase Marquette floater just as the buzzer rang out sent both teams into the locker room with Garden Spot leading by the 22-18 score.

As it would turn out, one Manheim Central team went into the locker room and an entirely different cast of Barons returned to play the second half. It didn’t necessarily look that would be the case early though as Javi Westmoreland was able to extend the good vibes that Garden Spot was able to enjoy at the conclusion of the first half in the opening stages of the second as a Westmoreland hoop plus the harm on Garden Spot’s second possession just added more salt to the Baron wound.

Some wounds are covered by bandages and gauze. For Manheim Central on Tuesday night, the remedy for what ailed them was defense. And lots of it.

Much in the same way as they were able to do in their game against Cocalico last week, Manheim Central’s defense would prove to alter the entire narrative of the contest. More specifically, by way of an air-tight halfcourt trap. And just like the Eagles were forced to experience last week, the midcourt line ended up being the point of no return for the Spartans as well.

With Garden Spot now being smitten with a bad case of the turnover bug courtesy of Manheim Central’s punishing defensive effort, a 6-0 Baron run would ensue which sliced the Spartan lead down to just 1 at 26-25 with 5:53 left in the third quarter as Garden Spot burned a timeout to regroup. It then took them just 23 seconds to go in front and never look back.

Following an out of bounds lob play which saw Connor Hostetter on the receiving end following a Garden Spot technical foul, the Barons went ahead 27-25 and would never relinquish the lead from there. But the Baron blitzkrieg was only just beginning.

Following the Hostetter lob play, the Barons found their outside shooting touch and then some. After a Drew Mummau triple got the party started, Cameron Sell was there to join in on the fun as two late third quarter 3 balls dialed up from the 5’9” junior guard helped send Manheim Central into the final frame, now suddenly in command by way of the 39-25 advantage heading into the final stanza.

But unfortunately for the visitors from New Holland, the break in between quarters did nothing to cool down the hot-shooting Barons as evidenced by back to back triples splashed home by Drew Mummau and Chase Marquette for 3 of his game-high 22 points got things underway in the final eight minutes.

Even though the hill appeared to keep getting steeper and steeper to climb with time going against them, Garden Spot continued to fight as a fourth quarter Baron turnover saw the ball end up in the hands of Jacob Arndt who promptly raced home for the easy bucket to bring the Spartans to within 12 at 46-34 midway through the fourth.

And although an Andrew Zenter 3 ball in the corner pocket trimmed the Manheim Central lead down to ten at 52-42, then later to nine after a Zenter lay in which made it 54-45 contest with just 1:30 left to play, Manheim Central would go on to close things out at the foul line as two 2-2 trips from the chairyty stripe cashed in by Cameron Sell and Jake Novak respectively, put the finishing touches on Manheim Central’s remarkable second performance as the Barons remained perfect in section play by posting a 60-47 victory over Garden Spot.

NEXT UP: Following their win on Tuesday night, Manheim Central now at long-last has a date with arguably one of the best in the entire L-L League, the Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers, as the Barons make a house call down to Lampeter. It was a matchup that was originally supposed to have taken place twice already but thanks to snowouts and iceouts in the winter wonderland known as Central Pennsylvania, both Manheim Central and L-S backers are hoping that the third time is indeed the charm as both squads are finally set do battle in a Section 2 heavyweight fight set for Wednesday night at L-S.

Garden Spot on the other hand will now go back to work as the Spartans begin their preparations for Solanco on Friday night and an early afternoon visit immediately following on Saturday when Red Land comes calling before the Spartans jump right back into section play against Cocalico. But as in the case in the upside down world of Section 2 this season, it’s most important for teams to handle their own business and worry about what they can control. And although Garden Spot is currently on the outside looking in, the Spartans have the talent to rise up and strike even the best of them, making them anything but an easy out for every team that lines up against them the rest of the year. And if the Spartans can do exactly that, don’t be shocked to see Garden Spot enter the 2018 edition of the L-L Playoffs. A matchup that would make even the most experienced a little restless when they see Garden Spot staring at them in their bracket.

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