Andy's Take!

ED Note: LLhoops welcomes Andy Herr. An ex-Warwick player, Andy gives LLhoops a new veiwpoint. Enjoy! @andybrackets

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Jan 30- Feb 10

Week of Feb 13-18

Hempfield Grinds Out Tough-Minded Win Over Manheim Central In Opening Round Of LL Playoffs


Survive and advance. That’s the goal of every team this time of year. It doesn’t have to be the most aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball you’ve ever seen, just as long as you have more points than the other team at the end of the night, that’s all that truly matters.


For both Hempfield and Manheim Central, Monday night’s opening round contest looked more like a game of tug of war where a basketball game broke out with both teams taking turns pulling the rope, but neither one exerting enough force to where the other team fell down. With both squads playing primarily in the halfcourt with diligent offensive sets, possessions were equal to that of precious gold with empty trips being magnified to the highest degree. After a back and forth battle that lasted all night, Hempfield ultimately turned up the defensive intensity which led to critical Baron turnovers in the waning minutes to give them the fuel to eventually pull away, despite a herculean effort by MC’s Taylor Funk.


Monday night’s matchup gave the Barons new life after coming up short in 3 of their last 4, including the Section 2 championship game last week. Hempfield on the other hand came in as one of the hottest teams around winning their last 4 coming into the playoffs, including handing Lebanon their only league loss this season. Early on however, it would’ve been hard to tell which team was which as the Barons and Black Knights went blow for blow.


Central’s Taylor Funk and Hempfield’s David Martin-Robinson carried the load for each of their squads in the early going as both were responsible for their team’s first 5 points halfway through the opening quarter. Playing from behind or equal to Hempfield to that point in the ballgame, Kody Kegarise was able to give the Barons their first lead of the contest at 7-5 later on in the 1st as the senior guard earned himself a bucket. The early Central takeover did nothing to deter Javon Mitchell as the senior point guard for the Black Knights responded with a triple with just over two minutes remaining to put Hempfield back on top 8-7 before MC came back with a free throw to close the quarter with the score tied at 8 apiece.


The start of the second quarter saw Taylor Funk put his hardhat on and go to work as the Baron big man tallied two buckets inside for MC to start the quarter which put the Barons up 12-8 with Funk having his hand in 10 of the 12 MC points with 6:40 remaining in the opening half. Hempfield would then come back to tie Central at 12-12 just 1:20 later as Ryan Moffatt converted the stick-back for the Black Knight bucket. Once again however, Mr. Funk had the answer with another Baron deuce with Connor Hostetter later firing from 3 to give MC the 17-12 lead, forcing Hempfield to burn a timeout and regroup.


Hempfield would be able to get slightly closer to Manheim Central to close the half as a beautiful out of bounds play led to Bryan Karl scoring underneath as the Knights trimmed to Baron lead to 17-14 at the break.


Karl would continue to have the hot hand for Hempfield once the second half got underway as the senior forward tied things up at 17-17 just 20 seconds into the third with a trifecta. From that point on, it was hard for either team to really get into a rhythm as whistles continued to disrupt the flow over the new few minutes. Nevertheless, Ryan Moffatt took matters into his own hands as Hempfield’s junior guard blazed a path coast to coast and was rewarded with a trip to the free throw line which he made the most of as he brought the Knights to within a point at 20-19 with 4:33 left in the quarter after converting the pair.


Moffatt would later put the Knights in front with a take to the rack to make it 21-20 Hempfield and Tyler Hilton later increasing the Hempfield lead to 4 with a knockdown from behind the arc to make it 24-20 with 1:45 to play in the third.
Just as he did all night, Taylor Funk refused to let MC go away as his tough 3 point play inside later on in Q3 put the Barons right on the doorstep heading into the final quarter trailing by just 1 at 24-23.


If there was an MVP award to give out at the end of the night, Hempfield’s Javon Mitchell would’ve garnered significant attention for it as the Black Knight floor general made a handful of key plays down the stretch to help push Hempfield over the top.


His first critical play came when he was able to come down with the offensive board, keeping possession with Hempfield. The Knights’ trip fittingly ended with Mitchell having the honors as he drained a 3 ball to put Hempfield up 4 at 27-23. Even after the Mitchell bucket for Hempfield, they still could not find an answer for Taylor Funk as #33 for Central answered back with a bucket to trim the lead back down to 2 with 5:11 left to play.


With the ball in their hands, Hempfield decided to take the air out of the ball up by a deuce. Once they began to move in their set, Ryan Moffatt drove to the hole and finished to put the Red and Black back up by 4. From there, Taylor Funk continued to be a 6’9” thorn in Hempfield’s side as he fired back with 5 straight, highlighted by a triple that put the Barons up by 1 at 30-29 with 2:40 left. On the night, Funk would end up accounting for nearly 80% of the Baron scoring as he finished with a game high 27.


With time melting away and the momentum clearly on the Manheim sideline, Hempfield stepped up the defensive intensity and began throwing traps at Manheim Central in an effort to get the Barons off-kilter and get them out of their comfort zone. The decision by the Hempfield brain trust worked like a charm as three critical MC turnovers helped turn the tide.


After a steal and finish by Ryan Moffatt put Hempfield up 31-30, the second Baron turnover yielded points yet again as this time it was Bryan Karl doing the honors to suddenly put the Black Knights up by 3 at 33-30 with 90 seconds left to go. Central came back down the floor and tried for the tie, but the Baron 3 point attempt was halfway down before it ultimately rattled out with Hempfield cleaning the defensive glass and Tyler Hilton converting a pair on the other end after he was fouled to put Hempfield up by what seemed like an insurmountable 5 points very late.


To their credit, Central wasn’t done fighting as MC came right down the floor and had Kody Kegarise stop and pop from 3 to get the Barons back within 2 at 35-33 with 35.7 left to go.


After Hempfield was able to get the ball inbounds following the Kegarise’s bucket, Javon Mitchell had his turn at the stripe and he made the most of it by knocking down some clutch free throws to make it a two possession game once again with Hempfield now in control leading 37-33. The Barons came right back down the floor and tried to replicate the success they had on their last last possession, but they were not as successful this time around as Hempfield collected the defensive board and added to their lead with another free throw to go back up 5 at 38-33.


Although Central was able to score another two points, Hempfield was also up to the task as a pair of Ryan Moffatt free throws helped him earn team high honors with 12 points which put the exclamation point on a hard-fought effort by both teams with Hempfield prevailing 40-35. With the win on Monday night, Hempfield advanced to take on Lancaster Catholic in the LL semis at Penn Manor.


Lebanon Punches Ticket To LL Championship Game With 58-49 Win Over Lancaster Mennonite


It’s fair to say that it’s been a pretty good season thus far for the Lebanon Boy’s Basketball team. The Cedars rolled through the Section 1 gauntlet with just one hiccup along the way coming to an always tough Hempfield bunch. With just one league loss, Lebannon was able to lay claim to the Section title and a first round bye in the upcoming District 3 6A tournament, all while riding a 20 win season. Even with this year’s success, the first game of the postseason proved that you better come and bring it every game in the postseason no matter who you are if you want to stick around. After navigating some choppy waters on Monday night against a very game Ephrata squad that pushed the Cedars to their limit, Lebanon came out on top and found themselves just one step away from trophies and medals, but not before they had to get past the Section 3 champion Lancaster Mennonite in the LL Semifinals at nearby Cedar Crest.


While Lebanon took care of business with the teams on their block this year, the Blazers were even more dominant against their fellow Section foes as Mennonite went wire to wire through Section 3 to claim the crown. If there was one thing that could have been predicted before tipoff on Wednesday night, it was that Lancaster Mennonite would not be phased by the bright lights and big stage on the league semis. The Blazers themselves are no strangers to big games come postseason. Just last year in the LL semis, Mennonite had the ball in their hands at the end of the game with the chance to knock off Cedar Crest. Although LMH fell just short that night at Warwick last February, the Blazers ultimately regrouped and turned it right around in the District playoffs earning a trip to the Giant Center opposite of the eventual District champ Trinity in the District semis, where the Blazers came up just short in overtime.


After 32 minutes in Cornwall however, the Blazers’ opportunity to finally get past another semifinal hurdle would have to wait another day as Lebanon looked to be a mission playing with the lead nearly the entire way, turning away Lancaster Mennonite 59-48.


Lebanon’s Camryn Shaak and Shaq Ortiz were able to score the first 5 points of the ballgame for the Cedars before Mennonite came to tie things up at 5-5 following Johnathon Gillespie’s bucket from 3. After the initial draw, Lebanon began to play with a 4 point cushion as the opening quarter went along with Luis Aquino-Rios hitting a floater to make it 10-6 before Khalique Washington did his work early, sealing off his man inside, for the easy Cedar bucket to make the score 12-8.


Lebanon would later up their lead to half a dozen when Aquino-Rios dished it off inside to Felix Kortright-Roman to put things at 14-8, but Mennonite came right down the floor and got it back to within 4 with a Cole Forte spot up jumper along the baseline for the Blazers with 1:30 to go in the first. Lebanon would later tack on another point from the line inside the last 90 seconds to head into the second quarter with the 15-10 lead.


After a Dante Vargas bucket got things going early on in the second quarter for Lebanon to put the Cedars up by a touchdown at 17-10, Mennonite came roaring back with a 6-0 run to get back within 1 at 17-16 after a Timmy Stefanosky bucket and a pair of hoops from Javan Terry.


That would turn out to be the closest Mennonite would get the rest of the night. After LMH was able to flirt with the lead, Lebanon senior guard Dante Vargas was there to slam the door as the Cedar marksman fired off 4 treys to close the half, accounting for 5 total in the first half, to send Lebanon into the break with the 31-25 lead.


The Cedars came out on a torrid start to start the second half as well. Luis Aquino-Rios pumped in the first 4 for Lebanon to get things going before Mennonite’s Richie Rosas put a stop to the Lebanon blitz with a trey to get LMH back within single digits at 35-28 with 1:20 gone by in the third. Lebanon was then able to get back over the 10 point hill as a two free throws from Aquino-Rios followed an earlier pair from Shaq Ortiz as Lebanon made it 41-30. The Cedars were then able to get back to scoring from the field as a Khalique Washington deuce inside swelled the Cedar lead to 13 at 43-30.


Just as he had in Q2, Dante Vargas was there to put the capper on this quarter as well as the senior guard for the Cedars who led all scorers with 24, finished off a scoop shot at the tin to put Lebanon up 45-34 heading into the fourth.
The Cedars only improved upon their lead as the final frame got underway. A Khalique Washington dime to Aquino-Rios put the Cedars up by 14 with just 1:30 having gone off the fourth quarter clock before a Sabu Pereyra follow off of a missed Cedar shot put Lebanon up 52-36, now inside the 4 minute mark.


Mennonite was then able to claw back to 12 after a Javan Terry hoop inside, but Lebanon was able to pull away via the foul line down the final furlong to prevail 59-48 and clinch a berth in the LL finals against Lancaster Catholic.
Worth The Wait.

 

Lancaster Catholic Defeats Lebanon For First LL Championship Since 2003.


The banners hanging inside gyms tell stories. Sure, they may appear to have the façade of nothing more than a year gone by on the calendar but that would be doing them a great disservice. These proud pieces of shall we say interior décor, help spark the memories that inspire the tall tales of great teams and players gone by. Walk into any gym within the Lancaster Lebanon League and it really is no different.


On one hand you might walk into the gym on the corner Juliette and Frances in Lancaster city, look up and see the year 2003 bathed in purple and yellow and remember a team that was the undisputed state champion going 35-0. A team that to this day keeps the names of Testa, Purvis, and Shedleski just as prevalent around the Red Rose city as they were nearly 15 years ago.


Head northward to the Cedars’ house and you’ll see the year 1978 displayed proudly and remember that time when a junior big man took an entire community on a ride all the way to the state finals. A big man that was so talented, he was selected in front of the one referred to as “The Greatest of All Time” in the NBA Draft.


Needless to say, Lancaster Catholic and Lebanon both have storied histories on the hardwood. Although we have a long ways to go as far as seeing the exploits of the 2017 Cedar and Crusader squads during the state tournament, the tie that binds this year’s teams with those historic squads referenced above is that they were both able to call themselves league champions.


Despite all their previous successes, both have been without an LL championship for quite some time. For the Crusaders, LL glory last came from the aforementioned 2003 team, with Lebanon ironically following suit with their last title coming in 2004. Someone’s drought would finally come to an end on Friday night at Manheim Township when Lancaster Catholic and Lebanon took to the court to see who was deserving of the right to have their own story displayed on a banner for all time. As it turned it out, both sides will remember this one for a long, long time.


Lebanon and Lancaster Catholic started the game off trading buckets with one another as the Cedars and Crusaders found themselves tied at 4-4 following a Chad Wenger drive for Catholic that knotted things up. From that point on however, Catholic mounted a charge as a Sean Landis hoop inside gave Catholic the 6-4 lead before Mark Cannon fired off 4 straight for the Crusader crew as LC saw their lead grow to 10-6 at the 3 minute mark of the opening quarter.


With Lebanon trying to go back to their bread and butter of the outside shooting game, the Cedars were coming up with neither bread nor butter as they were chilly from behind the arc. Given the opposition’s cold shooting, Catholic needed to pounce and they did just that as another Sean Landis deuce inside put Catholic up by a half dozen at 12-6 with just under a minute to go in the first. Camryn Shaak, arguably the best 3 point shooter in the LL this season, was then able to slice LC’s lead in half with a trey before the first clock expired with the score showing Catholic on top 12-9.


Lebanon was faced with some tough-sledding in the opening stages of the second quarter as Lancaster Catholic’s was more than pesky defensively with active hands getting deflections and steals. Not to be overlooked was their strong presence inside as the Crusaders lived large in the paint to start the contest with numerous hoops in the paint, along with a strong performance on the glass. Even with that said, Lebanon remained undeterred and kept grinding away as they were able it to within 1 at 14-13 courtesy of a Dante Vargas 3 in transition with 5:43 to go in the half which forced Catholic to burn a timeout to halt the Cedar momentum.


Out of the timeout, an impromptu 3 point shooting contest ensued. First it was Chad Wenger knocking it down from deep to put Catholic back up 4, but not to be outdone, Shaak got loose again and he made the Crusaders pay with a big time trey to answer back to get Lebanon back within a point.
Remember that frigid Lebanon shooting that took place in the early going? Well that storyline appeared to go out the window as Shaq Ortiz took his turn with the long range shooting game and came up cash to put the Cedars up at 19-17 with 4:30 to go in the half.


Lancaster Catholic would later go on to retake the lead by way of a 5-0 run to close the half as a 3 ball from Danny Bomberger and a bucket underneath by Sean Landis accounted for the scoring with the Crusaders in possession of the 24-21 lead when play resumed.


Catholic would see their lead grow to 5 once the second half got underway thanks to a pair of Chad Wenger freebies from the stripe made it 28-23 Catholic with 1:30 having gone off the clock. It was time for someone from Lebanon to step up to the plate. Calling Khalique Washington.


The Cedar big man ripped off six straight points for Lebanon with the last coming off a beautiful penetrate and pitch from Shaq Ortiz, as a deafening roar came from the Cedar faithful with their team now leading 29-28 before Ortiz himself got in the scoring mix with a field goal to give Lebanon the 3 point bulge at 31-28. Now, it was time to call Noah Thomas to center stage.


With the game seemingly at a tipping point, the 6’4” senior checked into the game and delivered extremely valuable minutes. With 3 minutes left on the third quarter clock, Thomas tallied a bucket inside to cut into Lebanon’s lead and then followed it up by erasing a Cedar shot on the other end. The resulting possession that came from Thomas’ rejection was a pair of Sean Landis free throws, but Thomas was not done making his imprint on the game. The next time down the floor defensively, Thomas bravely gave himself up for the charge which now saw momentum wearing purple.
The two teams would go on to trade the lead via free throws with Catholic leading by the slimmest of margins at 34-33 when the third quarter finally came to a conclusion.


After a Miles McCaskey steal and finish put the Crusaders up by 3 with 6:23 to play, Lebanon refused to go away and later took the lead back after a Khalique Washington offensive stick-back to put the Cedars up by a bucket at 38-36. It was then Lancaster Catholic’s time to rally as LC used two gigantic 3s from the senior guard tandem of Mark Cannon and Chad Wenger to regain the lead at 42-38, forcing Lebanon to call time.


Out of the Cedar timeout, Shaq Ortiz attacked the basket and came with a big bucket in his own right as his deuce chopped Catholic’s lead in half to 42-40. Undaunted by playing in front of what felt like a partisan Cedar crowd, Catholic fearlessly answered back with two big time free throws from Miles McCaskey, coupled with a Jon Ware to Sean Landis feed inside to put the Crusaders up by 6 at 46-40.


Needing to respond to the late Crusader charge, Khalique Washington, who was more or less dared to shoot from beyond the foul line by the sagging Catholic defense all night, took the challenge to heart and capitalized with an enormous 3 in the corner to keep the Cedars in it at 46-43 with 1:51 to go.
Nearly 50 seconds later, Lebanon got back to with a point when Ortiz again scored inside to make it 46-45 Crusaders, before Luis Aquino-Rios toed the stripe and became Mr. Clutch by sinking two go-ahead free throws to put the Cedars up 47-46.


In a championship game that had certainly lived up to the billing to that point, it seemed only fitting that late game heroics were still on the horizon. With the Cedars now in control of the scoreboard, Catholic absolutely, positively needed to score with time of the essence. Time to bring someone else to the stage. Calling Sean Landis.
The 6’5” Crusader big man was a force inside all night for Catholic and luckily for the fans who traveled up 501, their senior leader still had time for one last bucket in the lane to put the Crusaders up inside of a minute, with LC now so close to the gold they could taste it.


Lebanon came down and was patient getting into their offensive set, but when they tried to get something started with under 10 seconds, the ball was poked away ultimately rolling into the mitts of Sean Landis who was fouled and sent to the line with just 1.5 left to go. After going 1-2, Lebanon called time and had time for one last heave. Even though Catholic put a defender on the ball, Lebanon was able to get it inbounded, but their last second heave from the timeline bounced off the top of the backboard which signaled the start of a celebration 14 years in the making as Lancaster Catholic had once again reached the summit of Lancaster Lebanon League basketball by virtue of a dramatic 49-47 battle between two fantastic teams.


This Week’s Starting Five
Khalique Washington (Lebanon)
Taylor Funk (Manheim Central)
Noah Thomas (Lancaster Catholic)
Javon Mitchell (Hempfield)
Dante Vargas (Lebanon)