64 Pine Richland 60
- Championship @ Giant Center Hershey
Reading Is Able To #ProtectTheCity
Against All Of Pennsylvania
As Red Knights Capture
First Ever State Title
We know that this space is typically reserved for chronicling all
of the action from within our own Lancaster Lebanon League, but
we hope that you will forgive us just this once. After all, it is
a special occasion. An occasion so special and unique that the odds
of something similar to it ever happening again are slim and none..
On Saturday night at Hershey’s Giant Center, the Reading Red
Knights exercised all of the demons that had besmirched them in
the past as the pride and joy of Reading, PA ascended to the top
of Pennsylvania’s mountain top after taking down the Pine
Richland Rams 64-60..
Even before the ball was tossed into the air shortly after 8 o’clock,
it was evident that this would be a night unlike any other. Rumors
spread like wildfire about a possible, almost unthinkable, sellout
of the Giant Center in the days preceding the headliner of PIAA
finals weekend. Sure enough, Saturday March 25, 2017 will always
be remembered as the day that the geographic location of Reading,
Pennsylvania made the shift westward to occupy a small outpost on
the outskirts of Hershey Park.
Red Knight fans set up shop early Saturday morning in the parking
lots surrounding Central PA’s most grandiose arena partaking
in the same tailgating activities that you would see at any major
sporting event to help set the tone for what they hoped would be
a day that would live in infamy for their team and for their city.
You see, basketball means a great deal to this place and rightly
so. They are the state’s all-time winningest program, yet
were without their centerpiece. This night was believed to be the
night that would finally quench that long-desired thirst and all
signs pointed to that, especially given last year’s remarkable
run. Reading advanced all the way to the state semifinals 12 months
ago before the Red Knights ultimately fell short to Pittsburgh’s
Taylor Allderdice, last year’s eventual state runner up .
With a large contingent of last year’s team coming back to
fill in this year’s roster, including McDonald’s All
American Lonnie Walker, plus an always-welcomed new face here and
there, Reading looked to be on a mission to complete last season’s
unfinished business. And for the better part of four months, the
Red Knights looked to be on a collision course to make good on their
After coasting through their home Berks County league, the Red Knights
set sail on their voyage in the district tournament, only to have
the wind taken out of said sails by long-time rival Harrisburg in
the semifinal round. Although it was a sudden and downright surprising
exit from the District tournament, Reading still had a chance to
make good a return to the Giant Center if they could manage the
intense two week gauntlet that is the PIAA state tournament.
Taking nearly all of the city with them on their travels across
the eastern part of the state, the Red Knights finally found themselves
with 1 of the 2 spots in 6A championship title tilt. That’s
when things got crazy.
Although all state championship games are special in their own right,
there was a certain buzz in the air for this one that was undeniable.
Could this game, this scene, be as good as advertised? That answer
would prove to be a resounding yes..
They split the games up by sessions. Two games in one session, two
games in another. After Imhotep was able to display their all of
the size, speed and skill that has them rightfully inside in the
Top 10 rankings according to USA Today as the Panthers took care
of Erie Strong Vincent with ease, all of the patrons were forced
to exit so the staff could make arrangements for the nightcap.
The first game up on Saturday night was the Girl’s 5A championship
game between Archbishop Wood and Trinity. Archbishop Wood’s
school colors are black, yellow, and green. Trinity on the other
hand dons the blue and white. However, if one is to go back and
look at old footage or pictures from that game, all that will be
seen are two teams playing in front of a sea of red.
They said that the line to get in when they finally opened the doors
for the evening session wrapped around the building. And like the
aptly named sea of red, they came trickling in. Wave by wave by
wave. They kept coming and coming until finally, nearly the entire
joint was filled in both the upper and lower bowls. An extremely
rare sight for even the most robust hoops fan that has spent more
than a few afternoons and evenings inside the Giant Center.
They first got a glimpse of their team as a sudden roar broke out
from the eastern end of the arena as the Red Knights came out just
to sit in the stands and take in some of the action from the girl’s
game that was taking place on the very same floor that they were
about to make history on. Many of them were wearing headphones as
they made their way up the steps, but that sound was probably better
than any pregame mix that a playlist could’ve provided. It
was clear. Reading was here to party.
As Archbishop Wood made their way off the floor with their gold
medals and gold trophy in hand, the atmosphere was nothing short
of electric. Pine Richland took to the floor first. They would not
have the crowd advantage on this night. As the Rams made their way
through their pregame layup lineups, the decibel levels kept rising
and rising as all eyes were fixated on the eastern tunnel to see
when the Red Knights would make their grand entrance. After they
broke the huddle, they came out onto floor to a sound that they
could probably hear back on Penn Street as the game, or rather this
spectacle, was finally about to commence.
Reading started off cold shooting the rock from the floor. Whether
it was nerves, or just inability to find their touch, the Red Knights
trailed 6-3 at the under 4:00 TV timeout as Pine Richland senior
guard Andrew Petcash was able to complete the whirling dervish to
give the Rams the early lead.
Reading was then able to calculate 4-0 response that culminated
with Jose Genoa knocking in the trifecta that created yet another
incredible roar of approval as the Knights took control of the 7-6
lead. Genoa continued to be the difference-maker in the game’s
opening quarter as the senior forward battled tough inside collecting
a handful of offensive boards before finally getting fouled on the
way up and going 2-2 once sent to the stripe.
Even though the game was still in its infancy, it was paramount
that Pine Richland answer back with some kind of a response to quell
the Red Knight momentum. The Rams found their answer in the form
of sophomore big man Andrew Kristofic as the PR center scored inside
to cut into Reading’s lead at 11-8 before Reading eventually
went on to lead after the opening period 13-8.
Pine Richland opened up the second quarter with a bang. Senior guard
Sean Colosimo checked into the ballgame and delivered a big time
3 ball to get the Rams within a bucket at 13-11, before Pine Richland
eventually was able to tie it up at 15-15after two Andrew Petcash
free throws at the 6:10mark of the first half.
As the second quarter progressed, Reading’s full-throttle,
high-intensity defense was on full display as the Red Knights went
on an 8-4 run following the Petcash freebies before Phil Jurkovec
was able to knock down a jumper to pull the Rams within a point
An exchange of 3 balls ensued as Reading’s Jose Genoa and
Pine Richland’s Andrew Petcash each traded buckets from downtown
before Greg Shullosky drove to the rack for PR to put the Rams up
by the slimmest of margins at 27-26 with 1 minute left in the half.
Even though Reading was able to put the ball through the cup just
before the buzzer, a long baseball pass found its way into the waiting
hands of Shullosky as the sophomore guard was able beat the horn
and put the Rams up a deuce at the end of two quarters 30-28.
It was a new-look Reading team coming out of the break both literally
and figuratively. Red Knight head coach Rick Perez swapped out the
traditional suit and tie look for the black zip-up in hopes that
a wardrobe change would be part of the karma that would put them
over the hill with 16 minutes left to decide their fate. Or as he
describes it, nothing superstitious whatsoever. “I don’t
call it superstition,” he said after the game. “I say
whatever makes the wind blow a certain way and the wind wasn’t
blowing very well with the red jacket.” With that, a change
in attire was in order. “It made the wind blow the right way.
Tyrone started hitting shots.”
The Red Knight senior swingman helped his coach look like a genius
for bringing a few different shirts along on the trip as Nesby started
off the half by knocking down a big time trey to give the lead back
to Reading at 31-30 just 8 seconds into the half. Nesby’s
outside shooting prowess carried over to sophomore guard Wesley
Butler as the 5’11” point man knocked down a triple
of his own to knock Pine Richland back on their heels to start the
second half with their lead now erased, down 34-30.
Pine Richland was able to withstand the early second half swing
from Reading as two Andrew Petcash free throws tied things up at
34-34 with 5:10 left to go in the quarter before the Rams went on
to take the lead 39-36.
After Pine Richland was able to find their groove, Reading was there
to take it all away as a putback by Tymir Comfort got the Knights
within a bucket before a steal created by frantic Red Knight D led
to a Tyrone Nesby lay in as Reading regained the lead.
The Red Knights were then able to build upon their lead heading
into the final stanza as a long, delayed possession right before
the end of the quarter end with the ball with Lonnie Walker’s
mitts. Not a bad gameplan. With time ticking down, the future Miami
Hurricane was able to slice through the Ram defense and lay it up
and in before the clock hit zero as the Red Knights were now just
8 minutes away from history and in possession of the 47-41 lead.
Although Reading was able to keep Pine Richland at arm’s length
at outset of the final quarter of the PIAA season, the Rams continued
to battle back as a lay in by Evan Luellen cut the Red Knight lead
to just 2 at 54-52 with 3:10 remaining.
Although Reading’s senior leadership is what helped them reach
this point of the season, it was a sophomore in Wesley Butler who
delivered the monumental game-saving play as the Red Knight guard
went in amongst the trees and came out with a bucket plus the foul,
tacking on the remaining free throw out of the media timeout, to
put Reading up 57-52.
Pine Richland was not out of it however, as a Red Knight foul on
the other end sent the Rams to the charity stripe with a chance
to chisel into Reading’s advantage. They were unable to do
so. After a costly 0-2 trip to the line, Lonnie Walker was there
to put the exclamation mark on this historic night as he went soaring
through the air on a breakaway dunk, finishing with an emphatic
one-handed throwdown, creating an image that will live on forever.
And just like that, the drought was finally over. The quest for
a championship that lasted more than a century was finally put to
bed in the matter of an hour and a half as Reading was able to win
their first ever state championship, defeating Pine Richland 64-60.
The celebration started with a dogpile near midcourt after the final
seconds ticked off and buzzer rang out before it continued in the
medal ceremony as hugs and smiles were not in short supply. But
it didn’t stop there..
Even after the customary postgame obligations were complete, no
one left. They all wanted to stay and savor this moment. Heck, they
didn’t even care when the arena lights were dimmed. No one
wanted to miss a thing. The arena staff even tried to take the floor
out from underneath Coach Perez as he stood on the court doing yet
another interview to prep for an upcoming hockey game, but it didn’t
matter. They had earned this.
Even the most popular celebrity in Berks County stayed out, much
to the delight of fans both young and old. As late as 10:45, well
after the game had ended, Lonnie Walker was still out on the Giant
Center floor signing autographs and posing for pictures for anyone
who made their way down for the chance to say “thank you.”
The well-wishers never seemed to stop coming as fans kept appearing
from all sections of the spacious confines long into the postgame
celebration looking for one last glimpse of the one who stayed home
and helped deliver a title to the city.
In a journey that may never been seen again in terms of fan support
and all of the other unique factors that went into this year’s
memorable trek to the state finals, Reading head coach Rick Perez
said simply, “You gotta enjoy it,” before offering one
last bit of advice. “When you get to the top, you have two
options. If you make it with humbleness, you’ll fall gently.
If you make it with arrogance and are ignorant, you’ll fall
Only time will tell just how long Reading stays at the top. But
for the right now, they stand alone at the apex of Pennsylvania
basketball. And just like the famous Pagoda that overlooks their
city, both are beaming with an unmistakable red glow.
All Senior All -Star Game
LL Seniors Put On An Offensive Showcase
As Both Teams Combine For 235 Points In Final Curtain Call
The 2016-17 season was a darn good
season for Lancaster Lebanon League Boy’s Basketball. To be
fair, you knew it was bound to be a fantastic season before the
ball even tipped as two LL big men made the decision to take their
talents to the Division 1 stage next season in Dylan Hastings and
Taylor Funk, choosing Lafayette and St. Joe’s respectively.
With that kind of talent added in with a bevy of other talented
teams and players, many of whom have since decided to take their
talents to the next level as well, the local basketball scene promised
to be appetizing. And sure enough, it was.After a season full of
memorable highs that culminated in nearly a dozen teams getting
the nod to advance to the postseason, the LL rightfully set up shop
at the highly sought-after Giant Center playing in either the semifinal
or final round of the District playoffs, taking center stage on
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday during District 3’s
six day stint at the palatial confines in Hershey.
The league also saw two of its
members advance all the way to the Elite Eight round of states until
Hempfield and Lancaster Mennonite fell short to members of the juggernaut
that is the Philadelphia Catholic League last weekend. With everyone’s
season being in the books, that meant that all of the predetermined
All Star rosters would be maximized to their fullest potential as
the best and brightest senior players that the LL had to offer put
on one last show Thursday night at Hempfield in the league’s
In a game that figured to have
the element of defense being optional at best, a cold shooting start
from both teams from behind the arc meant that the logical decision
would be to go inside to break the dam and find the elusive points.
Ben Sandberg and his aerial display then followed that instruction
as the departing LS senior threw one down with authority in the
early going before Elco’s Mason Bossert rang it up from deep
for 3 of his team high 26 points to give his squad the 10-6 lead.
With the “Road team”
being down 15-13 later on in the opening period, Penn Manor’s
Cameron Lovett and Garden Spot’s Brenden Bradley were able
to go back to back with 3 balls to put their squad on top 16-15
with 2:45 go in the first period. After a dunk by Garden Spot’s
Kyle Gordon put the “Away” bunch up by 3 at 20-17, they
later saw their lead grow to 9 before Lebanon’s Shaq Ortiz
threw one down for 2 of his 24 points to shrink the “Home”
hole to 7 at 28-21 after the first eight minutes.
Once inside the second frame, Warwick’s
dynamic duo of long range shooters were up to their usual tricks
as Alex Lalovic and Tyler Trimarchi each splashed in treys, with
Trimarchi’s 3 ball putting the guests up by double figures
at 44-33 with 5:03 to go in the first half. The half continued on
with the home bunch being able to close the gap to a manageable
4 at 47-43 after a 5-0 spurt by Ben Sandberg, including a 3 point
play after the game’s first foul call. The half ultimately
concluded with the road team up by the cinco spot at 54-49 as the
league honored other outstanding individuals during the intermission.
After back to back dunks from Solanco’s
Dylan Hastings and Lancaster Catholic’s Danny Bomberger got
things started after the break, McCaskey’s Ricky Cruz stole
the show with an 11-0 charge, written all by himself, en route to
a game high 32 point outburst.
Once the fourth quarter got underway
with the visitors leading 87-83, Shaq Ortiz rattled off 4 in a row
for his side as things became tied up at 87-all to start the final
frame of the season. After the home team eventually took the lead,
Tyler Trimarchi responded back with another trademark triple that
put the lead back on his team’s side as the road warriors
went up 93-92.With 5 minutes remaining, Danny Bomberger dialed up
from distance to make it a 97-97 ballgame, but Manheim Township’s
Nick Vicidomini’s 3 ball put the home side over the century
mark as the white jerseys went on top 100-97. After the Vicidomini
trey, the 3 ball continued to be the fuel that sparked the home
team’s separation as yet another Mason Bossert trifecta put
his team up 107-99. Dylan Hastings later had a 3 point play to make
it a 112-104 ballgame, but another Vicidomini triple proved to be
a crucial basket that put the home team up 120-111.
With the outcome already decided
and time ticking away, Ben Sandberg fittingly threw down what may
have been the dunk of the year as the Pioneer big man received the
alley oop and flushed one-handed, meeting the ball at the rim, officially
closing the books on another fantastic season of LLhoops as the
home side walked off with 122-113 victory.
All Game Starting Five
Ben Sandberg (Lampeter-Strasburg)
Shaq Ortiz (Lebanon)
Ricky Cruz (McCaskey)
Mason Bossert (ELCO)
Nick Vicidomini (Manheim Township)