On Friday night the ball was officially tossed into the air in gyms across the state signifying the start of another season of high school hoops. And for the Garden Spot Spartans, the 2017-18 campaign began like many others of recent memory as the Spartans made the short trek eastward on Route 23 to get their season underway at the Twin Valley Tipoff Tournament. This year against the host Raiders.
For fans of fantastic guard play, set your GPS destination to New Holland this winter. This year’s Spartan bunch features a talented crop of primary and secondary ball handlers that can attack the glass, penetrate and pitch, and oh yes, also knock down the 3 ball.
On Friday night, the cast of Keontae Nunn, Jacob Arndt, Jordan Shewbridge, and a host of others put on a dizzying display in Elverson as the Spartans jumped on their hosts early and never looked back.
Although Twin Valley scored the first bucket of the contest, Garden Spot responded emphatically by rattling off the next 9 behind two triples from senior marksman Jordan Shewbridge, coupled with a nifty spinning move inside by fellow senior guard Jacob Arndt, which put the bow on the early 9-0 Garden Spot run. Although a Kenny Miller jumper was able to finally to douse the flames of Spot’s initial fiery start, the Spartans would respond with yet another run as a steal and lay in by Keontae Nunn put GS back up by a dozen at 16-4 with 3:20 left in the opening quarter.
Twin Valley would inch closer on the scoreboard over the next few minutes behind a 5-0 run authored by junior point guard Bernie Blunt, but Garden Spot would continue to have the answer as a Jonathan Morales tip in made it a 22-9 score in favor of Garden Spot before the Spartans went on to close the first quarter in command, leading 24-11.
Once the second quarter got underway, Twin Valley continued to methodically plot their course, trying to trim Garden Spot’s lead bit by bit. To Twin Valley’s credit, the Spartan advantage would eventually be cut to 10 at 25-15 after a nice spin move inside by the Raiders’ dominating inside force of Jeremy Deihm. But much like in the first stanza however, Garden Spot refused to flinch in the face of whatever momentum Twin Valley was able to muster as a step back 3 ball by Javi Westmoreland put a stop to the Raider flurry and simultaneously saw the Spartan lead swell to 32-15 midway through the second frame.
After the Westmoreland triple, it was Twin Valley’s turn to go on a bit of a run as the Raiders went on to outscore Garden Spot 7-2 over the next few minutes. Behind a two-handed slam by Kenny Miller and a trifecta by Aidan Kaplan, Twin Valley was able to use their late half rally to slice Garden Spot’s lead back down to 12 with time winding down in the initial half of action, with the host Raiders hoping for a manageable deficit to work within once the second half got underway. Unfortunately for Twin Valley, a Javi Westmoreland tip in just before the horn seemed apropos for how the second half would turn out as well as Garden Spot raced into the locker room in possession of the 36-22 lead.
For as much as of an offense showcase that Garden Spot put on in the first half, the Spartans’ defensive performance in the third quarter may have been equally as impressive. And yes, the Garden Spot offense did come to play out of the intermission as well. Namely Jordan Shewbridge. Garden Spot’s battle-tested, senior guard was able to start the second half off with a bang as Shewbridge went on his own personal 7-0 run to start the second half, forcing Twin Valley to call a timeout and regroup, still scoreless to that point, with 5:03 remaining in the third.
As mentioned, the third quarter defense employed by Garden Spot put Twin Valley in a tizzy. So much so in fact that Garden Spot was able to pitch a shutout for over half the quarter as a tip in by Jeremy Deihm with under four minutes to go in the quarter finally got the Raiders on the board in the second half. From there, Deihm was able to close out the quarter by knocking down a pair of free throws to make it a 20 point deficit at 49-29 to start the fourth and final quarter.
Unfortunately for Twin Valley, the hill, much like the one that their school sits upon, was just too step to climb. Although the Raiders were able to cut the Garden Spot lead down to 14 after a three point play by Jeremy Diehm which made it a 50-36 ballgame with 6:14 left to go, Garden Spot was still able to pull away late.
The banks were open late on a Friday night in Elverson for junior Jonathan Vergoen as his bucket from behind the arc helped aid the runaway cause before one last highlight reel play from the Spartans on opening night as a rejection inside by sophomore big man Andrew Zenter led to a Garden Spot runout which Jordan Shewbridge was able to finish with a put back for two of his game high 21 points.
With time winding down, junior Matthew Sharp became the beneficiary of a beautifully designed out of bounds play down the stretch to chip into the opening night victory with a deuce, before fellow junior Josiah Snader got in on the act himself with a nice backdoor cut along the baseline for the easy lay in which help put the wraps on Garden Spot’s dominating opening night victory 67-47. With their triumph on Friday night, the Spartans advance to the title match on Saturday afternoon back at Twin Valley High School for a 1:30 tip time against Owen J. Roberts.