Solanco Fights Til The End Before Succumbing To DeAngelo, Sun Valley In Season Finale

In many ways, it’s fair to say that Saturday afternoon in the Lancaster Lebanon League basketball community was date that many had been anticipating for quite some time. And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you know full-well by now that Saturday officially marked the beginning of postseason play as Manheim Township and Garden Spot help raise the curtain on this year’s playoffs in the LL play-in game held at Hempfield.

However there was still one other squad in the league that had some unfinished business left to attend to. That being the Solanco Golden Mules.

While a great majority of LL teams that did not survive to play into the second season have likely already had discussions about when the dreaded uniform return day will be, Solanco saved one of their stiffest challenges yet to date in the final contest of the season as the Mules went on an hour long bus ride before unloading and then squaring off against the Sun Valley Vanguards of the Chest-Mont League. A school which is nestled in the quiet town of Aston, just a stone’s throw north of the Pennsylvania high school hoops hotbed of Chester.

Despite the fact that the Golden Mules came into the weekend sporting just a 4-16 overall record, Solanco was coming off their first Section 2 victory of the year last week when the Mules were able to knock off Manheim Central before giving aforementioned Garden Spot plenty of fits their last time out before ultimately falling to the Spartans by a 59-42 count. And with that late added burst of momentum in tow, Solanco was eager to end the year with an exclamation mark if they could upset the playoff-bound Vanguards hailing from the District 1 ranks.

But their opposition would be anything but a leisurely stroll through suburban Philadelphia with Sun Valley coming into Saturday with even more momentum than their counterparts considering the Vanguards were winners of their last five contests, including a 70-61 victory over future LL member Octorara on Friday evening.

Once the game got underway, things couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for the Golden Mules if they would have scripted it themselves. With Sun Valley opening the contest by employing a 2-3 zone defensively, 6’1” senior guard Aaron Constein was able to rise and fire, knocking down a trifecta on the Mules’ opening possession of the ballgame.

And although Sun Valley 5’10” senior guard Shair Brown Morris would counter that with a 4-0 run of his own, Solanco would be able to regain control of the scoreboard following yet another triple, this one cashed in by 5’10” junior guard Dawson Kreider, as Solanco surged back in front 6-4 in the early going.

Once again however, Solanco would have to continue to deal with the exploits of Brown Morris over the course of the next several minutes as the Vanguards’ floor general was able to pilot another personal advance, this one of the 5-0 variety, as Sun Valley charged back to the lead at 10-6 with five minutes still left to tick off the first quarter clock.

But the back and forth battle would only continue to rage on from there as Solanco would answer the Brown Morris salvo with a 5-0 blitz of their own which was capped off by an Aaron Constein 3 ball, putting the Golden Mules back on top 11-10 at the 4:15 mark of the opening quarter of play.

The Solanco lead would only improve from there as another 3 ball, this one splashed in by 6’ senior guard Jon Rush, gave the Mules their fourth triple of the opening quarter while simultaneously increasing Solanco’s lead to four at 14-10.

And although Solanco would see their sliced down to just one following a Shair Brown Morris triple, the Golden Mules were able to play with the lead for the remainder of the opening quarter as a sweet dish inside from the senior connection of Aaron Constein to Braden Redcay gave the Mules the 18-15 advantage just before the first quarter horn rang out.

Fortunately for Sun Valley, their knight in shining armor donning the #14 jersey would then proceed to check into the contest at the onset of the second quarter and help carry the Vanguards across the finish line the rest of the way.

His name is Vinny DeAngelo. And if Solanco didn’t know his name at the beginning of Saturday afternoon, they certainly knew of it after. After giving way to a senior-laden lineup which more than held their own in the opening quarter of action, DeAngelo wasted little to no time taking the game over.

In fact, it took all of 1:10 off the second quarter clock before Solanco would quickly see their lead vanish after a 5-0 DeAngelo blitzkrieg which knotted things up at 20-20, forcing the Golden Mules to call and try and muster an answer.

Unfortunately for those that traveled east on US Route 1 from Quarryville on Saturday, that would prove to be the closest Solanco would stay within the Vanguards for the remainder of the game.

Over the span of the next two minutes, Sun Valley would promptly go from being in a tie ballgame to leading by a touchdown as a steal and runout by 6’1” junior forward Lance Stone put the Vanguards in charge at 28-21 at the 3:12 mark of the second quarter, forcing Solanco to call yet another timeout to stop the bleeding.

Yet just as they would throughout the entirety of the contest, Solanco simply refused to quietly go back home on this rainy Saturday afternoon.

After a pair of Vinny DeAngelo freebies from the line gave Sun Valley a double digit lead at 31-21 following the Solanco timeout, the Golden Mules continued to scrap and claw their way back to within single figures as an old fashioned three point play put up and in by Aaron Constein cut Sun Valley’s lead to 33-24 with just one minute left in the first half. On the day, Constein would go on to close the book on his all-star caliber season and Golden Mule career by netting a team-high 24 points.

But just when it had appeared that Solanco would be able to go into the intermission with the game still within shouting distance, Mr. DeAngelo continued to have alternative plans for his guests as the stellar 6’2” junior guard continued to show why his is one of the better players in the greater Philadelphia area by collecting an offensive rebound and having the presence of mind to come down with it and score the goal just before the halftime buzzer, sending Sun Valley into the break with the 37-26 advantage.

Once the third quarter got underway, it was apparent that the underlying game of cat and mouse being played between Solanco and Sun Valley would only rage on into the second half as well.

With Sun Valley continuing to own a double digit lead, Solanco’s Jack Boomsma was there to say not so fast as the 6’2” Golden Mule senior tallied a tough bucket inside to draw Solanco back within single figures, cutting the Vanguard lead to 39-30 at the 4:10 mark of the third.

But yet again, Sun Valley would have none of that.

Following the Boomsma bucket, Sun Valley’s rangy 6’4” wing in Marvin Freeman stopped and popped from bonus distance, putting the Vanguards up by a dozen at 42-30.

And although Sun Valley would continue to enjoy a double figure lead following a tough, gritty drive to the cup by Vinny DeAngelo, Austin Daniels was able to check into the game and deliver a 3 ball to aid the Mules’ cause as the 5’11” senior guard trimmed the Sun Valley advantage to a 44-36 count after his immediate trifecta in the waning minutes of the third period.

When the third quarter clock finally did expire, it would show Sun Valley continuing to hold serve, leading Solanco 48-38 heading into the final eight minutes of the Mules’ season.

But just as he had all game long, Vinny DeAngelo refused to yield anything to the visiting Golden Mules. Aided by his 5-0 spurt to begin the final quarter, the Vanguards increased their lead to a baker’s dozen at 53-40 just 1:10 into the fourth as DeAngelo was well on his way to claiming game-high scoring honors by posting a marvelous 31 point effort.

And although Solanco would mount one last charge after back to back triples cashed in by Aaron Constein and Jon Rush respectively, Marvin Freeman was there to put the exclamation mark on the afternoon for Sun Valley as the Vanguards’ matchup nightmare completed the transition opportunity with a two-handed throwdown in the face of the final Solanco advance.

However to their credit, Solanco continued to play all 32 minutes without giving an inch as evidenced by the late game triples dialed up Austin Daniels and Zach Wiker respectively as the Golden Mules went down swinging to Sun Valley, 65-56.

Coming into the contest, it was evident that third year Solanco head coach Scott Long knew that Saturday’s game would be one of Solanco’s stiffest challenges yet to date given the length and pure talent that Sun Valley possesses across the board this season. “They would be a team that would be right there with everyone else. They’re just as good as an Ephrata, L-S, or Garden Spot,” Long stated when describing the Vanguards in comparison to other LL Section 2 heavyweights this season. “They’re so tough because they have that elite level guard who can just make a play. We struggled with him,” Long admitted when referencing Vinny DeAngelo’s 31 point outburst. “They’re definitely one of the better teams we’ve seen.”

NEXT UP: Not only did the final buzzer on Saturday afternoon indicate the end of Solanco’s valiant effort against the home-standing Vanguards, it also marked end of the road for Solanco this season. And although the Golden Mules finished the year with a 4-17 overall record, Coach Long was still quick to point out that even despite the win/loss record, there were still positives from this year that he will be able to take away from this team for years to come.

“Our win at Gettysburg was a fun one,” Long said looking back on the year that was. “We go away for the holidays and go to Gettysburg to play in their holiday tournament. It was just a fun game because the end was back and forth and we actually hit a shot at the buzzer to win the game, so that was a fun one.”

Wins and losses aside, it’s also crystal clear that Coach Long will remember this year’s senior class fondly for the upstanding individuals they were away from the hardwood as well. “Our senior group that’s graduating, they’re all great kids,” Long detailed regarding the upcoming 2018 graduates. “They’re fun to be around, they’re respectful kids, and they work hard. Even tonight, they were down by about ten at half and they fought their tails off.” A feature of this year’s edition of Golden Mule basketball that goes well beyond just Saturday afternoon. “I was happy with how they continued to play even though they weren’t getting the results they wanted,” the Solanco head man said regarding his team’s resiliency in 2017-18. “I think that’s a life skill that translates further than just basketball.”

And even despite what may have appeared to be a long winter on the surface this year down in Quarryville, it was impossible to ignore the optimism in Coach Long’s voice as he knows what is brewing for the future of his program next year and beyond. “We’ll bring back some experience so that’s exciting,” Long explained regarding what lies ahead for Golden Mule hoops. “Our JV team finished with a winning record so we’re really excited about them… I think just getting that group on the court more knowing there’s some pieces there that are good players, that really energizes our whole staff.” And with a revamping of the entire LL landscape next season, don’t forget about the Golden Mules. If you do, you’ll likely regret it.

With their victory over Solanco on Saturday afternoon, Sun Valley advances on to play in the District 1 tournament, earning the right to play a home game as the #6 seed in the 5A bracket opposite of #11 seeded Marple Newtown in a Wednesday night opening round game with a tip time set for 7pm in Aston. Should the Vanguards advance past the Fightin’ Tigers in the midweek, they may very well have a date with the most historic program in all the state next weekend as the Chester Clippers will tangle with Academy Park in the game opposite them in their bracket. And with players such as Vinny DeAngelo, Shair Brown Morris, Marvin Freeman, and Issac Kennon leading the way, don’t be surprised to see Sun Valley continue to hang around longer than some may anticipate as the Vanguards possess all the tools to be a serious threat in the District 1 tournament.

Manheim Township Holds Off Furious Lebanon Charge, Surge Into Playoffs On Five Game Win Streak

 (Tyler Crespo Starred In The Streaks’ Win Over Lebanon With 37 Points)

 

 

As an athlete, there are just certain nights that you will never forget. As a high school athlete in particular, one night you’ll remember forever is the final home game of your career. A final curtain calls which includes all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it to simply be known as “Senior Night.” And for a talented group of Lebanon Cedar seniors that helped take their city on a handful of memorable postseason rides the last few seasons, Wednesday night offered the last chance for those special Cedar seniors to put on the home garb one last time as Lebanon was set to close the book on their 2017-18 campaign against playoff-bound Manheim Township.

For Manheim Township, Wednesday night really just served as another night at the office. Coming off a feisty rivalry game on the road at rival Warwick just 48 hours earlier, the Streaks were tasked with yet another daunting turnaround as MT trekked northward to tangle with the Cedars in the final section game of the year in LL Boys Basketball.

If anything, Township was hoping to carry over just a morsel of their performance that they enjoyed against the Cedars in the first meeting of the season. A victory which went the way of the Blue Streaks in the form of a 75-40 knockout decision. And while MT was hoping for a victory first and foremost in the midweek against Lebanon, the Streaks were also looking to make the final in-game touchups before Saturday afternoon as the Streaks are set to help raise the curtain on this year’s postseason in the LL Tournament play-in game against Garden Spot.

However as Township soon discovered, the second time around would not be nearly as easy.

All things considered, the game couldn’t have started off much better for the Streaks. Aided by an early Tyler Crespo 3 ball, a sign of things yet to come, MT exploded out of the chute to take a commanding 7-0 lead over their hosts in the early stages of Thursday night’s affair.

Fortunately for the home-standing Cedars, their spectacular junior forward was there to pick up the slack as Sincere Scott would then author a 4-0 rebuttal of his own to get the Cedars back within three at 7-4. From there, the Cedars were able to get the deficit down to the slimmest of margins as a Jahlil Young kiss off the glass made it a one point 7-6 advantage in favor of Township.

But just as he would all game long, Tyler Crespo proved to be a serious thorn in Lebanon’s side. The 5’11” junior guard would see the early Cedar charge and respond by splashing his second and third triples of the first quarter to increase the MT lead to 13-9, creating some early game breathing room between themselves and the Cedars.

Yet Lebanon refused to go away in its final game of the season. After the back to back Crespo triples, the Cedars bounced back with a 6-2 march of their own to tie things up in the final meeting between the two Section 1 foes, 15-15 at the three minute mark of the opening quarter.

Unfortunately for Lebanon, it would only be a case of bad déjà vu from that point on as Crespo fired in another pair of back to back bombs to give Township a six point lead at 23-17, only to see Lebanon’s Josh Kauffman answer back with a trifecta to cut the MT lead down to three at 23-20 once the first quarter clock finally expired.

The back and forth battle only continued to rage on once the second quarter got underway. In fact, the Cedars were able to close the gap down to within a point at 29-28 following a transition layup from Jahlil Young, but then proceeded to watch Township rattle off the next eight as a triple in the corner drilled by MT senior guard Tommy Mann put Township in front 37-28 at the 2:45 mark of the second stanza.

And then just as he had all game long to that point, Tyler Crespo again dialed up a bomb from long range as the starting point guard buried his sixth triple of the half to give the Blue Streaks the 40-28 advantage with the first half winding down.

But yet before the clock hit triple zeroes, Lebanon was able to mount a bit of a rally as a 5-0 Sincere Scott flurry got the Cedars within a touchdown at 40-33 with just 1:35 left to go in the opening half. Once the clock did ultimately run out, the Manheim Township cushion would sit at seven as the Streaks raced into the halftime break in front 42-35, aided significantly by a dazzling 20 point first half performance constructed by Tyler Crespo.

Once the second half got underway, the 3 ball continued to come to the aid of Manheim Township. And surprise, surprise—this time it was not from Mr. Crespo.

Instead, it was Zach Oldac’s turn to show off his all-around game as the 6’3” sophomore forward knocked one down from bonus distance as Oldac would go on to claim the silver medal in terms of Blue Streak scoring honors, finishing the evening with a solid 16 point outing.

Although Oldac would be credited with the first big Blue Streak bucket to start the final half, You Know Who was still lurking around to pour in some more points to his already spectacular night.

Following the 3 ball that was cashed in by Oldac, Crespo got loose his seventh, yes seventh, trifecta of the game, adding to the Blue Streak lead which now stood at 51-37 at the 5:45 mark of the third.

And although Lebanon would be able to get it back to ten at 51-41 following a bucket underneath by Mr. Everything for the Cedars, Luis Aquino Rios, Township would go on to outscore Lebanon 13-7 the rest of the way as a Tyler Crespo floater just before the horn helped usher Township into the final eight minutes of the regular season on top of Lebanon 64-48.

But just when it seemed that Township would be able to run away and hide the rest of the way, Lebanon refused to give an inch to the invaders from Neffsville. A late game Cedar charge that Township would be forced to withstand that in many ways, served as the perfect microcosm to describe their stick-to-itiveness down the final furlong of the regular season.

It all began with what seemed like a harmless albeit strong, physical hoop inside by Luis Aquino Rios to cut the Township lead down to 68-52 with 5:30 left to play. From there, a 3 ball cashed in by 5’8” senior guard Jessy Martinez followed suit and after a strong take to the rack by 6’1” senior forward Felix Kortright, the Cedars had suddenly closed the gap back down to ten at 68-58 with now 3:30 left to go.

However just when the waters seemed to get a little choppy, much in the same vein that they did on Tuesday night as the Streaks waged a war against Warwick, Township continued to have the answer sheet for the questions posed of them as Township navigated past the ensuing Cedar press, coming away with critical late game buckets inside by Zach Oldac and Brendan Mellott respectively to keep Lebanon at bay with the Cedar snowball starting to roll downhill.

But the Cedars did not go down without a fight. After a pair of free throws by Aquino Rios, fellow senior Josh Kauffman was able to hit from bonus distance to slice the Township lead down to just a mind-boggling four as the Cedars seemingly came out of nowhere to make things very interesting with time slowly ticking away.

And once again right on cue, Township was able to get past the intense Cedar D as a Hilton Ridley bunny from point blank range was followed up by a pair of Tyler Crespo freebies at the charity stripe to put MT back up by seven at 77-70.

Needless to say, Tyler Crespo was a one man wrecking crew for Township as the Streaks’ all-league guard turned in one the best nights of work the LL has this seen this season, finishing with 37 points, 21 of which came from behind the arc.

However Lebanon wasn’t done yet. Not by a longshot.

Needing to score with time of the essence, the Cedars turned to their marvelous senior guard Luis Aquino Rios to help lead them home. And luckily for the Red and Blue clad faithful, he was nearly able to do exactly that, finishing off a sweet spin move while attacking the tin to cut the Township lead down to size at 79-74 with just 16.9 left to go.

On the night, Aquino Rios finished off his remarkable Cedar career in style, dropping a team-high 30 points on the Blue Streaks Thursday night.

Incredibly, the tension didn’t end there. Following a 1-2 trip to the foul line on the ensuing Township offensive possession, Sincere Scott was able to rise and fire from 3, connecting on his third and final triple of the evening. On the evening, Scott fell just short of Aquino Rios in the Cedar scoring department, as Sincere Scott closed the book on his stellar junior campaign with a 27 point night of work.

From there, Township was again able to break the Cedar 94 foot press one last time, sending junior forward Tyler Vicidomini to the stripe with the game on the line. And with the poise and collectiveness of a battle-hardened senior, Vicidomini proceeded to knock down both, making for a happy ride back to Neffsville as Manheim Township roared into the postseason by knocking off a very game Lebanon squad, 82-77 on the Cedars’ home floor.

NEXT UP: With the regular season now behind them, Township turns their attention to Garden Spot in the opening round LL play-in game on Saturday afternoon at Hempfield with a tip time set for 2pm. And for going up against a guard-heavy attack that the Spartans like to employ with their lightning-quick trigger men leading the way, the last two ballgames likely could not have served as a better precursor for Manheim Township as far as what they expect to see this weekend against the Section 2 third place finishers from New Holland.

“These two teams as much as possible have prepared us to get ready for Garden Spot,” Manheim Township head coach Matt Johns said when describing the Streaks last two opponents in Warwick and Lebanon respectively. “Garden Spot has very, very good guards. They’re slashers and they’re shooters so from that perspective, this is significantly better than practice time for that.”

And while some may view the end of the regular season as mad dash to the finish line, the Streaks have taken the role more of endurance runners down the final stretch run. “We couldn’t relax. We couldn’t rest in the last week,” Johns added when describing Township’s closing arguments concerning the regular season slate. “We’ve had to stay sharp. Not only last week were we playing for league seeding, but we were playing for district seeding all this week. Thus to continue to play, I’m glad we needed to stay sharp. I’m glad we didn’t coast our way into the playoffs.”

Overall, it’s a Blue Streaks outfit that Coach Johns appears to be quite content with heading into postseason play. “I like what we’re doing on the offensive end,” the Township head man said of his team’s propensity to fill it up. “I think we’re really hard to guard. We scored against a 2-3 zone today, we scored against a diamond and one, we scored against man to man, and we scored against the press,” Johns detailed while hoping that Thursday’s showcase can be parlayed into future offensive performances from here. Even still, it was a night that was not without it’s flaws.

“I didn’t like our turnovers against the press,” Johns stated in the postgame. “I think part of that is a reflection of (Lebanon) going to the press so late and there’s a little bit of a mental relaxation there but they continued to play really, really hard and they pushed the pace,” Johns added praising the Cedars.

As far as the other end of the court is concerned?

“Defensively we’re still a work in progress,” the MT boss explained. “There are times where I think we look really, really tough and all of a sudden we give up a spurt… We didn’t rebound as well as we normally do. I think part of that is that they were so guard and perimeter-oriented that players were all over the place. I thought in the second half that our guards did a better job of coming down in and I know Hilton Ridley pulled a couple down, Zach Oldac pulled some down, and Ty Crespo pulled a couple off the ground. That’s what we need. We need gang rebounding against those perimeter-oriented teams.”

Lo and behold, Township’s next opponent is one that just so happens to fit such a description. And it’s a team that has MT’s undivided attention. “I think they’re really good,” Johns said previewing Garden Spot. “Their guards are really tough. There were times where I’m watching them last night (against Solanco) saying ‘Man, how are we going to guard that?’ They have some good actions going on,” Johns said of the task at hand in terms of slowing down Spot’s offensive weaponry. “I think it’s going to be a good game. I’ve been impressed with the job that Ryan (Trupe) has been doing with them.”

While Township lives on to play on other day, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Cedars. And although Thursday night’s affair marked the end of the line for a bevy of talented seniors who have left behind an indelible mark on the historic Lebanon Boys Basketball program, the Cedars certainly have an ace up their sleeve heading into next season.

Pound for pound, Sincere Scott is the most talented all-around player in the entire Lancaster Lebanon League. And anytime you can return firepower of that caliber when coupled with a cat-quick backcourt the likes of speed demons Jahlil Young and Leighton Rivera, the Cedars certainly appear to be more than just a threat in the new and improved LL Section 2 beginning next year.

Manheim Township Passes Another Test, Topples Warwick To Sweep Season Series

There’s simply no denying it. There’s just something different in the air when rivals get together that can make things a little more shall we say, “hectic.” If you need validation, look no further than the first Warwick and Manheim Township game contested this year for proof of that.

Yes indeed. The last time that Warriors and Streaks met on the hardwood just four weeks ago, the two backyard neighbors played an all-time classic, trading haymakers with one another until the Township prevailed as the last one standing in the ring as the Blue Streaks went on to claim the first battle in The 501 War with a dramatic 89-85 four overtime battle royale. And while both the Warriors and Blue Streaks had their work cut out for them as far as replicating anything close to the duel that the two waged back on January 12th, they both would be up for the challenge one more time as Township loaded the bus for their shortest ride of the season, venturing into Lititz for the Warriors’ final game of the season. A final game which the Warriors knew full well would likely be their sweetest of all victories during the 2017-18 campaign should they be able to hand Township a loss before riding off into the offseason sunset.

While Warwick was prepping for their final performance of the season, the same could not be said for Manheim Township. Not by a long shot.

You see, the Streaks on the other hand were just entering the formative stages of a busy week set to kick off with Township slated to play three games in a four day span, the last of which will be Friday’s LL League playoff play-in game against a team still yet to determined hailing from the Section 2 ranks.

And while these next door neighbors didn’t quite play over the span of four overtimes on Tuesday night, they were still able to deliver one more instant classic.

For Warwick, much of their success this season has been driven by their propensity to light it up from bonus distance. After just five seconds into the contest on Tuesday, Warwick was up to their usual tricks yet again. Clayton Mohler, the Warriors’ 5’11” senior guard was the one who got the party started as Mohler buried a trifecta before the patrons even had a chance to get into their seats, putting Warwick up 3-0 after the early strike.

But Township would be undeterred in the face of Warwick’s early swing as the Blue Streaks answered right back by going on an 8-0 flurry which was capped off by a pair of Tyler Crespo freebies from the charity stripe which put the visitors from Neffsville back in front 8-3 right around the 6 minute mark of the opening period.

Despite the fact that Warwick found themselves in an early game hole, they knew the remedy to cure their ills. And lo and behold, their trusty 3 point barrage helped them survive the early Township salvo.

This time, it was another senior, 5’11” senior guard Dylan Zoccolo who mixed himself in the fray as the crowd-favorite donning #0 drilled a straight-on trifecta to cut the MT lead down to just a deuce at 8-6 with the home crowd now fully electrified.

Even though Township now found themselves with an unrelenting Warwick team now right on their heels, the Streaks stuck to the gameplan and were rewarded for doing so as a corner 3 knocked down by junior guard Brendan Mellott allowed the Streaks to then double up Warwick 12-6 at the 4:35 mark of the opening stanza.

But yet again, Mr. Zoccolo would have something to say about that. In fact, it would prove to be a little dose of déjà vu as Zoccolo fired in another trifecta which again cut the deficit down to just two at 16-14 with the opening quarter now quickly winding down, just outside of one minute remaining.

When the first quarter finally did expire, it showed the visiting Blue Streaks in front by a half dozen, 20-14.

If the Warriors were to pull off the upset on this Tuesday night, the 3 point game needed to remain an ally all the way throughout. Check and mate as far as the first quarter was concerned and while you’re at it, just go ahead and tally another check mark next to the second quarter box as well. Need proof? How about Colby Martin’s corner trey which got Warwick back within four at 22-18 just 45 seconds into the second period.

From there, the 3 ball remained soaking-wet for Warwick as Dylan Zoccolo was able to knock down his third triple of the half to slice the MT lead down to four before going on to have a sweet dish to freshman Joey McCracken on a later offensive trip in transition to get the home-standing Warriors within a bucket at 27-25 near the midway point of the quarter.

But from that point on, Township was able to seize control. Playing behind a physical, dominating, and just plain bruising front line, the Blue Streaks were able to not only increase their lead, but also push Warwick back to arm’s length as well. In fact, the MT cushion grew to as many as eight following a Cameron Mulcavage bucket, his first of the contest to that point, as MT’s 6’4” senior forward put the Streaks in front 33-25 with the second quarter now under the 3 minute checkpoint.

From there, the Township advantage would swell to double digit proportions as a theft and subsequent lay in by MT’s Hilton Ridley put the Blue Streaks in command 35-25 with the game now fast approaching intermission. When the game did reach that halftime break, the newly installed WHS scoreboards showed Township on top of Warwick 37-27 as the Streaks were able to put the finishing touches on a 10-2 blitz to close the opening half.

Yet even though Warwick was able to get the game back inside single figures in the early going of the second half, Township’s Tyler Crespo was there to say “not so fast” as the 5’9” junior guard splashed a corner 3 in front of the Warwick student section to push the MT lead back up to ten at 41-31.

From that point on however, the third quarter was dominated by one figure in particular. Warwick’s 6’5” senior big man Nate Martin.

On the ensuing possession following the Greiner triple, Martin showed off his offensive repertoire by promptly stepping out from behind the 3 point arc to bury the triple which gave the Warwick fans a new and refreshed jolt of energy. But Martin simply wasn’t simply done there. In fact, the outgoing senior donning #32 continued on a torrid pace in his final high school game by going on to author the last six Warrior third quarter points to set the mood and create the tension for the final eight minutes with Township holding on to the slim 44-41 advantage.

Once the fourth quarter got underway, an impromptu 3 point shooting contest suddenly broke out. First to the stage was Warwick’s Colby Martin as the junior guard splashed home one of his three triples on the evening to get the Warriors back within a bucket at 46-44 at the 6:51 mark. From there, junior guard Will Greiner was able to offer the rebuttal for Township only to see yet another junior, this time Warwick’s Ryan Shirk, come back with one his own as the back and forth battle only intensified.

And although Township seemed to always have the answer to whatever Warwick could throw at them, things undoubtedly got a little tense as Nate Martin was able to continue his stellar swan song with a nifty hook in the lane to knot things up between the two rivals at 52-52.

From there, things got even a little more hairy for MT as Ryan Shirk got loose from the perimeter once again as the 6’2” junior guard immediately pumped in another 3, this one giving the lead back to Warwick at 56-54. A lead which Warwick had not enjoyed since the opening quarter of play.

If you’re sensing a theme here of juniors perhaps stealing one of the leading roles on senior night, you’d be correct in your assumptions. In fact, it was another junior, Township’s Brendan Mellott, who would counter the late Warwick run with a 4-0 charge of his own to give the lead back to the Streaks with the game most definitely up for grabs with time ticking down.

Ironically, for as much as damage as Ryan Shirk was inflicting on the Streaks from behind the arc, the Warrior junior guard then stepped inside the 3 point arc to offer his next masterpiece as Shirk was rewarded with the hoop plus the harm with the game now inside the 2:00 minute mark as Shirk proceeded to knock down the freebie that comes with it as the Warriors were able to surge back in front 59-58 following Shirk’s old-fashioned three point play at the 1:39 mark of the final quarter.

Another moment, another sensational junior stepping onto center stage.

With all the momentum now sitting firmly on the Warwick bench, Township turned to their heady and battle-tested guard Tyler Crespo to help show them the way. And wouldn’t you know it, Crespo was able to do exactly that.

With his team trailing late, Crespo put his head and drove hard to the tin where he came away with the go-ahead bucket to make it 60-59 Blue Streaks with Warwick needing an answer.

And they nearly got it right away as a nice baseline drive by the Warriors had everything but the finish as the Warwick lay in danced on the rim before ultimately falling victim to gravity before it could go through the nylon net as Township took over once again following the defensive board.

However as fate would have it, Warwick would have a few more chances.

After Township was able to snag the defensive rebound, the Streaks walked down to the other end before coming up empty on the front end of the 1-1, giving the ball back to Warwick. And although Warwick go back and look for their safety blanket to work it’s magic just one more time, the 3 point shot was nothing but unrequited love down the stretch as the late Warrior try on a potential game-winning 3 went begging with MT being able to secure yet another defensive board, walking down to the other end yet again for free throws with just a handful of seconds left to play.

From there, Township junior Tyler Vicidomini was able to close things out in style as the 6’6” big man proceeded to calmly knock down 2-2 from the charity stripe, finishing with a team-high 14 points on the night, to put the Streaks up by 3, 62-59 with Warwick having to travel the length of the floor.

And although they would certainly give it a valiant effort, the last chance heave from Warwick was just off the mark, giving the hard-fought victory to Manheim Township as the Blue Streaks moved to 1-0 to start their busy week, besting the Warriors 62-59.

Sometimes in losses such as the one that Warwick experienced on Tuesday night, the pill can be extremely bitter to swallow. But as far as Warwick third year head coach Chris Christensen is concerned, there were certainly positives that will make this a memorable senior night for quite some time no matter what the outcome. “Even in a loss, I thought it was a pretty special night for some people,” Christensen said after the white-knuckle affair. “Having Nate Martin be able to score like that and for Dylan (Zoccolo) to come in knock down 3 threes in the first half, it was fun.” Just two of the six special seniors that have left their own unique, positive imprint on the Warwick hoops program.

“It’s tough. You’re going to miss people,” Christensen reiterated on Tuesday night. “Obviously it’s not the win you wanted at the end of the year but there’s a bigger picture to it. To see guys and how much they’ve grown for three years, it’s pretty special no matter what happens.”

NEXT UP: For Manheim Township, it’s time for another bus ride. This time the Blue Streaks will head northward again, albeit for a much longer trip as MT is tentatively scheduled to do battle with Lebanon on the Cedars’ senior night on Wednesday night despite a pesky winter storm lurking in the distance. But no matter what day the Streaks ultimately line up against the Cedars, it will only mark the halfway point of a busy week that’s only just beginning as the Streaks have a date in the aforementioned LL play in game tentatively scheduled for Friday evening.

Tuesday night on the other hand marked the end of the line for Warwick. And although the Warriors were only able to come away with just six victories in the 2017-18 campaign, the gang from Lititz without question put fear into their opponents this season, especially with their ability to light it up from deep. Just part of the reason that Coach Christensen is clearly enthusiastic about the next chapter yet to be written in Warwick Boys Basketball.

“We bring back a lot of guys with a lot scoring and a lot of experience,” the head Warrior said listing the positives when evaluating the long-range forecast of his program. “I know they’re excited. We’ve talked a little bit about goals and what needs to be done in the offseason,” Christensen went on to add. “We have big goals for next season with the new section… I think you’re going to see something from the Warwick Warriors next year.”

Donegal Shuts Down Daniel Boone As Indians Postseason Dreams Remain Afloat Heading Into Critical Final Game

Last year when the Donegal Indians met the Daniel Boone Blazers on the basketball court, both programs were desperately itching for a win to help close out frustrating seasons in which the wins were hard to come by. Hit the fast forward button to 364 days later and the story is a little bit different. At least as far as Donegal is concerned.

Aided by a veteran group and a new blood transfusion if you will in the form of longtime LL head coach Kevin Dolan who took over the head chair this season after an absence away from the game last year, and the Indians have seen a remarkably dramatic transformation in such a short span of time.

How dramatic you ask? Well, after a year in which Donegal came away victorious just one time, the Indians have done an about face already posting 10 victories this season, with their last being of great importance as Friday night’s win over Solanco saw the Indians climb into the #16 slot. Why is the number 16 so sweet to the Indians? 16 just so happens to be the last ticket into the dance of the District 3 5A field.

And with the season coming down the final furlong, every game is to be treated like precious gold for those specific teams that are right on the edge. It just so happened that Donegal’s next assignment following the crucial Solanco victory would come just a few hours later when the Daniel Boone Blazers came calling from the eastern edge of Berks County for a Saturday afternoon tussle against the home-standing Indians.

It didn’t take long for Donegal to demonstrate that the good vibes they had earned from Friday night’s triumph were still alive and well once again the very next day. Case in point, Donegal’s underrated senior floor leader Elijah Swanigan getting loose and burying a corner 3 within the first 30 seconds to give Donegal the early 3-0 advantage.

But Daniel Boone would come roaring back following the Swanigan trey as the Blazers proceeded to score the game’s next 5 points and after a 3 ball knocked down by Boone’s Carson Zuber, Donegal’s early lead had quickly evaporated as the Blazers had climbed into the lead at 5-3 at the 5:25 mark of the opening quarter.

But if there was a key catalyst behind Donegal’s performance on Saturday afternoon, it was undoubtedly their defense shouldering the load. Midway through the first period, Donegal slapped the press game on the visiting Blazers and a quicker, more frenetic pace was generated as a result. Yet even though Donegal was making Boone play much faster than the Blazers would have liked, Boone stuck to the script and would go on to regain the lead following a take to the tin by Zuber to make it a 9-7 affair in favor of the visitors from Birdsboro.

In fact, the Daniel Boone lead would only grow from there as the Blazer lead would swell to as many as 5 before an Abdalla Ibrahim triple quickly put a stop to that as the 6’3” senior got the Indians back within a pair at 14-12 before the Blazers would go on to close the first quarter with the 16-12 lead.

As mentioned, Donegal’s calling card on Saturday was far and away their defense. And while the Indian D was air-tight for much of the contest, it was particularly stifling in the second quarter. How stifling you ask? Let’s just say it’s pretty rare to pitch a shutout in high school basketball. But it would be an accomplishment that Donegal would be able to claim in the second frame on Saturday afternoon.

And while Donegal was getting it done in spades down on the defensive end, the Indians’ offense was far from pedestrian in it’s own right as evidenced by Avery Walker’s two handed monstrous throwdown which got the home crowd into a frenzy as the wiry 6’ senior guard scored Donegal’s first field goal, albeit very late in the second quarter, to give the lead back to the Indians at 17-16 before the Indians would go on to add one more just before the horn to go into the locker room with the 19-16 advantage.

New half, same Donegal defense. In fact, Daniel Boone was unable to receive any respite from their field goal drought until the 3:15 mark of the third quarter as Dylan Walker was able to finish with a floater in the lane to cut the Donegal lead down to a sizeable 5 points considering the offensive woes that the Blazers had been experiencing against the active Donegal defense for a quarter plus.

But just when it appeared that Daniel Boone might be able to rid themselves of the frustration that beset them to that point in the contest, Avery Walker was on the scene to answer right back as the all-star caliber senior guard had the rebuttal in the form of a 3 ball on the ensuing Donegal offensive trip as the Indian lead had quickly built itself back up to an 8 point advantage.

From there, Donegal would see their lead increase to double digits as a pair of freebies knocked down at the charity stripe by way of senior guard Elijah Swanigan gave Donegal the 30-20 lead before the Blazers would counter that with a 4-0 blitz authored by Dylan Walker as the Blazers had climbed back to within half a dozen at 30-24 with the game set to head into the final eight minutes.

Despite the fact that Donegal’s effort on the defensive end had largely been the difference to that point in the ballgame, things did seem to get somewhat skittish start in the opening stages of the fourth quarter as Chaunce Johnson was able to work himself off a curl cut for a sweet knockdown jumper to get Boone within four at 30-26 within the first minute of the final period.

But from there out, Donegal would be able to weather the storm as the Indians proceeded to finish the game off with a 17-10 run the rest of the way and keep the Blazers at bay, thanks to in large part to their performance from the free throw line as Donegal would go on to finish off Daniel Boone, keeping their playoff hopes alive by virtue of their 47-36 triumph on Saturday afternoon.

NEXT UP: As is the case with most teams in their position this late in the season, the stakes only intensify from here for Donegal. And while the Indians were able to receive a boost to their overall district seed following their win on Saturday, jumping into the #15 slot at the time of posting on Saturday night, everything comes to a head for the Indians on Tuesday evening as they welcome rival E-Town into town for a monster game in both the LL and District playoff races.

For both E-Town and Donegal, Tuesday night means everything. As mentioned, the top 16 teams earn a bid to the District 3 5A postseason tournament. Donegal just so happens to maintain the #15 line, while E-Town is currently holding serve at #17. And just for an added dash of heat, the Bears also have an LL playoff tournament invite hanging in the balance going into Tuesday’s contest as well. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of drama, rivalries, and some good ole’ fashion high stakes high school hoops, Mount Joy is the place to be at 7:30pm on Tuesday evening.

For Daniel Boone, the Blazers will look to regroup as they make plans for their game of the season, finishing off with the Eagles of Exeter.

Raiders Take The Hill As ELCO Knocks Off Columbia, Keeps District Playoff Hopes Alive

When high school hoops teams look up and see that the calendar has finally flipped to February, odds are that they find themselves in one of two scenarios. The first being optimistic about closing the season out on a high note while hoping to build momentum for the next season, while others are fortunate enough to experience the exact opposite. For a select few, they are able to earn the right to scrap and claw their way into possible postseason berths as the remaining games dwindle down to a very small handful. For the 2017-18 ELCO Raiders, they are fortunate to find themselves in the latter.

In many ways, if one were to look at this season’s schedule dating back to the preseason, chances are that many would have thought that the February 2nd contest which saw ELCO traveling to Columbia would have playoff implications. And while you would have indeed be right, you may expected the roles to have been reversed.

Last season for the Columbia Crimson Tide was certainly one to go down in the annals of the historic 100 year old program. In 2017, the Tide was able to hit for the cycle. They were able to make the L-L playoffs, the District 3 playoffs, and ultimately the PIAA state playoffs. And although the Tide came up short in each one of those tournaments last winter, excitement remained at a fever-pitch just east of the mighty Susquehanna this winter as a bevy of returning talent was poised to come back to the Hill and take the Tide on yet another memorable ride to the postseason and beyond. But unfortunately for Columbia’s rabid and die-hard fanbase, this year would not turn out to have the same type of memorable magic behind it.

Yet even despite the fact that Columbia came into weekend sporting just a 7-11 overall record, the Tide still had plenty left in the tank to play for on Friday evening. First and foremost, Columbia had immediate aspirations of getting one of their signature home wins inside arguably the LL’s toughest gym as the Tide had yet to knockoff a Section 3 team with a .500 record or above so far this year inside the Tide’s venerable loudhouse. And while focused on the immediate here and now, Columbia also held out hope that the remaining games left on their schedule would bode well for next season and beyond as the Tide welcomes a young and talented underclassmen bunch into the fray of a revamped LL League starting next season.

As far as the ELCO Raiders were concerned, Friday night’s game proved that there was no time like the present. Coming into Friday night, the Raiders were dancing on the proverbial razor’s edge as it related to the District 3 playoffs. 10 up and 10 down record wise, ELCO found themselves just on the outside cut line of the 4A playoffs, trailing the #10 seed by a few measly percentage points. So needless to say, every opportunity the rest of the way is of the upmost importance concerning a trip to the playoffs for a crop of young Raiders who have left their mark on Section 3 this year to be sure. And once again on Friday night, ELCO used a tried and true formula to help keep their playoff hopes alive.

It’s no secret by now. These Raiders can fill it up from deep. Look no further than Friday high atop Columbia.

Although Columbia opened up the game by employing a zone defensively against ELCO, the Raiders still found the open holes. And while albeit playing at a surgical-like pace because the Tide’s 2-3 zone, the ball was certainly not “sticky” as the Raiders peppered the ball around the perimeter looking for the open looks. And sure enough, the Raiders had jumped out to a 6-2 lead over their hosts as a corner trey knocked down by Raider freshman Braden Bohannon gave ELCO its second triple of the contest at the 3:40 mark of the opening quarter. But they weren’t done yet. Not by a long shot.

The ELCO would eventually grow to 5 following yet another trifecta, this one from sophomore guard Bryce Colletti, which made it a 9-4 score in favor of the visitors from Myerstown. And even though Columbia’s super freshman Daivon Edmond would answer back with a tough bucket inside for the Tide, ELCO would counter back with another rebuttal from behind the arc as it became Blake Weary’s turn to knock down a trey as the senior guard allowed ELCO to double up Columbia 12-6 at the two minute mark of the opening quarter.

From there, the Raiders only continued to sizzle from bonus distance as yet another Bohannon 3 ball made it a 17-6 ELCO lead before the Raiders eventually put a bow on their dominating opening eight minutes, leading Columbia 19-6 after the first period.

Needing to find some sort of a spark while facing an early game hole that ELCO had thrown them in, Columbia was in need of an answer. And fast. Luckily for the Tide, they were able to find just that as Columbia opened up the second quarter with a quick 4-0 run within the first 50 seconds of the second stanza to get back within single digits at 19-10.

But from there, ELCO would have yet another answer as the Raiders promptly rattled off a 5-0 run of their own courtesy of the hoop plus the harm put up and in by Asher Kemble which was appropriately followed up with another triple from Braden Bohannon as the Raiders suddenly looked up and saw themselves in front by two touchdowns at 24-10 at the 5:45 mark of the second quarter.

Despite the fact that Columbia would continue to fight and scrap their way back under ten following an offensive rebound and subsequent 3 ball pumped in by Ajor Sawyer of the Tide, ELCO would then fight fire with fire as the Raiders proceeded to rip off a 6-0 run right back, courtesy of two triples splashed in Bryce Colleti and Evan Huey respectively which pushed the Raider lead back up to 14 at 34-20 before the first half would eventually expire with ELCO out in front 34-25.

Once the first half was finally all said and done, the stat sheet would show that the Raiders were able to fire in 8 triples throughout the game’s first 16 minutes. Well, they didn’t exactly show any signs of stopping in the second half either as a Blake Weary triple in the opening minute of the third quarter, good for the Raiders’ 10th of the ballgame, made it a 37-27 ELCO advantage in the early going of the third frame.

But yet again, Columbia was able to come roaring back. Thanks to a 5-0 run authored by 5’10” senior guard Dorian Grimes, the Crimson Tide had climbed back to within 5, seemingly within the blink of an eye as the Raiders were now firmly pushed up against the ropes.

Luckily for ELCO however, the Raiders were able to find the remedy from an old friend in their time of need. That of course being the 3 point shot.

Following the timeout, ELCO was able to dial up two more long balls as the Raiders rattled off a 10-0 emphatic answer, aided by their 10th and 11th triples of the contest as the game moved into the fourth quarter with ELCO in front and firmly in command, 47-32.

But the Raiders weren’t satisfied just yet. No, in fact the Raiders only continued to remain white-hot to start the final stanza as a 5-0 ELCO run opened the floodgates for the final eight minutes. And if you’re keeping track at home by now, ELCO’s 3 point tally had now reached a dozen following a Blake Weary trifecta as the Raiders were off and running down the homeward mile.

From there, ELCO continued to steal the show as a Ryan Woelfling triple later on in the fourth made it a 61-35 contest in favor of the visitors as the 5’10” senior guard gave the Raiders a cool baker’s dozen from behind the arc as ELCO’s only continued to set the nets ablaze.

And although Columbia would continue to show positive flashes of what is yet to come with a determined and hard-nosed effort put forth by ultra-talented freshman big man Daivon Edmond, the damage in this one had already been done as ELCO and Mitchell Gray proceeded to close things out as the 5’10” sophomore guard had a nice take to the cup late in the contest as the Raiders were able to travel home with another win in their pocket, beating Columbia 66-46 high atop The Hill.

NEXT UP: While ELCO has to first and foremost take care of their own business on Tuesday night against Northern Lebanon, forgive them if there may be a wondering eye or two in the crowd next week scouring the Twitter wire for updates on the teams that surround them in the District 3 4A standings. And if ELCO is able to get the nod into the postseason regardless of who they draw in the opening round, it’s a game and seminal moment for years to come for ELCO Raider hoops. If they are able to get into the dance this year, it would be vital as this young group would have the opportunity to gain some valuable postseason experience and all the hype and hoopla that surrounds it. After all, there’s no time like the present as the postseason is a place where ELCO appears destined to go in the next few years to come.

For Columbia, the end of this season is all about finishing things out the right way with a road win over Pequea Valley in their final game of the season coming up on Tuesday evening in Kinzers. And while this season has undoubtedly been disappointing for the Crimson Tide who had arrived to the preseason with so many high hopes, the future still appears to be on solid ground with talent such as Daivon Edmond, Nyeem Taylor, and Matt McCleary eager to take the next step in 2018-19, with countless others working their way up through the Crimson Tide pipeline. And hopefully they are able to turn things around next year because after all, the LL is a heck of a lot more fun when the Columbia Crimson Tide gets the whole town a rockin’, traveling near and far to watch their beloved program battle it out for section supremacy and a District 3 playoff spot in the process.

Crespo Hits Career Milestone As Manheim Township Regains Its Mojo In Saturday Afternoon Victory Over Governor Mifflin

The last time that the Manheim Township Blue Streaks and Governor Mifflin Mustangs hooked up on the basketball court, the result had seismic-like repercussions. On the late Saturday afternoon of January 28th last year, the Blue Streaks trekked northward to tangle with the then #1 ranked team in District 3 6A. It was a game that would turn out to be a signature moment in Township’s 2016-17 campaign as the Streaks lead for 31 of 32 minutes en route to a dramatic 65-63 victory over the hard-charging Mustangs on Mifflin’s home floor.

On Saturday afternoon, the two squads would renew acquaintances once more with a win being arguably just as valuable for Township again this season as the Streaks. Why? Well first and foremost, the Saturday matinée provided the Streaks with the opportunity to make good on reversing the disappointment of their last two outings. Games in which MT saw fourth quarter leads evaporate before ultimately ending in bitter defeats in back to back fashion. And while Manheim Township was looking to regain some momentum heading into what they hope is another postseason run in Neffsville, Saturday’s game would also offer up some historical business to take care of. That of course being getting one of the better players in program history, junior guard Tyler Crespo, over the 1,000 career point plateau. And just as fate would have it, the Streaks would make it an afternoon to remember as MT was able to accomplish both objectives once the final buzzer sounded.

Once the game got underway, it became very clear that Township had arrived with the intention to quickly wipe away the sting from Friday evening’s setback against Cedar Crest as the Streaks jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead following a pair of free throws from Tyler Crespo at the 5:30 mark of the opening quarter.

Although Mifflin would finally be able to erase the goose egg on their side of the scoreboard after a nice flip inside by junior forward Bryce Black, Township would proceed to double-up their guests from Shillington as a powerful move inside by sophomore forward Zach Oldac put the Streaks in the driver’s seat at 8-4 midway through the opening period. But Governor Mifflin had other intentions as opposed to being just being a sideshow to the Township festivities on Saturday.

Never was that more apparent than with Mifflin’s ensuing response as the Mustangs proceeded to rip off the game’s next five points, a run which was capped off with a trifecta dialed up by senior forward Casey Khlar to give Mifflin their first lead of the ballgame at 9-8 inside the three minute mark of the opening quarter. In fact, Mifflin would be able to continue on their march as a steal and lay in by Bryce Black put the ‘Stangs up 11-8 before a nice up and under counter move by Township’s Cameron Mulcavage put the Streaks back within one at 11-10 as the senior forward closed the book on the game’s opening stanza.

As the second quarter began to take shape, one thing quickly became apparent. Neither team would be able to gain much in terms of separation on the scoreboard. And while Mifflin was able to produce a six point lead at 22-16 following a trey popped in by senior guard Darius Copeland in the early portion of the second quarter, the Streaks were able to reel the Mustangs back in as a triple put home by MT junior guard Will Greiner got the Streaks back within three at 22-19 with the game now under the four minute mark of the second period. But Township wasn’t done there.

With all eyes on Mr. Crespo in terms of when he would finally be able to accomplish his historic achievement, the smooth junior guard showed off his all around game as he later rifled a sweet dish through traffic into the waiting hands of fellow junior Tyler Vicidomini who was able to lay it up and in to get the Streaks within a point at 22-21 with 2:45 left to go in the second.

Once the second quarter clock did finally expire, it showed things all square between these two solid 6A programs with the Blue Streaks and Mustangs all knotted up at the intermission, 26-26.

For a first half that was defined by tight play with neither being able to run away and hide, the game was certainly there for the taking once the second half got underway. And when it did, it would be the hometown Blue Streaks that would land the first punch.

Aided by a strong bucket inside by Vicidomini, the Streaks had gone on to reclaim the lead at 28-26 before eventually seeing their lead swell to five following a triple pumped in by Zach Oldac which gave the Streaks the 35-30 advantage at the 3:40 mark of the third quarter. From there, Township would be able to go up by a touchdown after another tough bucket inside by Oldac to put Township in front 39-32. On the afternoon, Oldac would prove to be a critical piece of the Township puzzle as the 6’3” sophomore forward would go on to finish with an impressive 14 point outing.

But once again, Mifflin would refuse to go away quietly. Case in point, the Mustangs rallying to cut the deficit down to just a deuce following an old fashioned three point play put home by junior forward Niggel Brown which made it a 41-39 contest in Township’s favor at the conclusion of the third frame.

But now the stage was set for history. With the Streaks trailing 42-40 and the game now inside the early fourth quarter, Tyler Crespo saw his opportunity to pounce. And pounce he did as the courageous and battle-tested 5’9” do-everything MT guard drove along the baseline before finishing with an acrobatic reverse to put the game into a 42-42 tie but more importantly, joining an exclusive list of Blue Streaks who have a career point total where a comma was needed.

And with Governor Mifflin now having gone cold from the field, the Blue Streaks as a whole saw their opportunity to strike.

Following the historic Crespo bucket, the Streaks went on to post a critical 7-1 run over the next several minutes as a pair of free throws from the master of ceremonies himself put the Streaks on top and firmly in charge at 49-43 with just 2:30 left to go.

From there, a Brendan Mellott knockdown jumper would push the Streaks over the 50 point mark as the junior guard’s bucket made it a 51-44 Township lead with time now running out on the Mustangs.

And in a game that was defined by Township’s young talent, it seemed only appropriate that a sophomore would have the final say in this one as Zach Oldac went on to knock down two more freebies from the free throw stripe before an emphatic rejection down on the defensive end which effectively put a bow on Township’s big afternoon as the Streaks went on to close things out from there by posting a 53-46 victory over the upset-minded Mustangs from Governor Mifflin.

As mentioned, Township came into Saturday afternoon looking for some much-needed momentum here down the final stretch with the Streaks angling for a definite District 3 playoff appearance and in all likelihood, a spot in the league playoffs as well. An accomplishment that Manheim Township head coach Matt Johns knew was of the upmost importance. “It certainly wasn’t pretty but after struggling in the fourth quarter in two consecutive games, it gave us an opportunity to go out and not just practice what we’ve been talking about, but to perform in some tight situations,” Johns said after the game on Saturday. “I thought our guys put a nice little blur on in the fourth where we got some stops in a row when we needed them and some scores in a row when we needed them.” And after two straight games in which that largely had been MT’s Achilles’ heel, Saturday afternoon appeared to have been exactly what the doctor ordered for Township both in the short and long term for a core of young Blue Streaks who are eager to make a splash on this year’s postseason scene. A task in which they are more than capable of accomplishing.

NEXT UP: As far as the short term is concerned, Township will look to get back to their winning ways within Section 1 as the Streaks will go back into the lab to tinker and fine-tune some things heading into their Tuesday night contest against Penn Manor. And while the Streaks will find themselves dancing in the postseason in just a few weeks, Coach Johns knows that there is still plenty left to improve upon before that time comes. “Defense, defense, defense,” Johns said stressing what is at the top of MT’s To Do list. “The other part of is, we have to recognize when is it time to score and when is it time to play the clock game more. I thought at the 2:00 minute mark we did a little bit better job at that. That’s the biggest thing we need to work on. Our defense on penetration and then making good decisions when we’re ahead.”

The road doesn’t exactly get any easier for Governor Mifflin following Saturday’s setback to Manheim Township. From here, the Mustangs will look to regroup and fast as a grueling end of season slate is about to commence. A final stretch run that includes bitter rival Wilson, defending state champion Reading, and up and coming Muhlenberg as the proverbial cherry on top. A run that is exactly is not exactly for the faint of heart, but one that the Mustangs are likely up to the challenge for.

E-Town Is Able To Stave Off Solanco In Tight Battle Between Two Up And Coming Programs

Let’s face it. As a true competitor, there is simply nothing better than the thrill of victory. Perhaps the only thing that could make a win even sweeter would be emerging triumphant to break a long and frustrating losing streak. And ironically for both the E-Town Bears and Solanco Golden Mules, Thursday night provided the opportunity to do exactly that.

For Solanco, Thursday’s night victory over Lancaster County Christian in the “Clash for a Cause” game held at Lancaster Bible College saw the Mules pick up their third victory of the season, besting the Lions from the school formally known as Living Word by the score of 53-40. A win which gave the Mules a much-deserved jolt of momentum here down the final furlong of the season.

Yet the story would be a little more different for E-Town on Thursday night. Instead of playing a full 32 minute game against neighboring Donegal, the Bears were faced with the unique and unusual task of resuming a game that was already in progress, as their game against the Indians from a weeks back had to be put on the shelf due to the condensation left behind from a muggy January night which turned the Bears’ new home floor into a skating rink, making it unfit to continue on. “It was so strange,” E-Town head coach Rocky Parise of the circumstances surrounding Thursday evening. “We showed up, there was no Star Spangled Banner, and we started at 6:30 so we actually warmed up like it was a normal game. We literally just picked the game up. It was our ball on the end line and it was 37-28 with 5:52 left in the third and then we just started playing.” Once they did, E-Town was able to come away with the 64-47 victory over their guests from Mount Joy.

When they started playing on Friday night against Solanco, the vibes that the Bears picked up from the impromptu Donegal game were evident as the Bears started off hot, jumping their hosts early to get out to a 6-2 start following a pair of Larry Locker free throws.

But Solanco too would soon display some of their newly-gained momentum as the Mules responded by ripping off a 5-0 run of their to take the lead at 7-6 following a Joey Gote bucket inside before seeing their lead swell to three following another bucket by the Mules’ junior big man which put Solanco up 9-6.

From there, the Golden Mule lead would jump to four following a trifecta splashed in by junior guard Dawson Kreider which made it a 14-10 Solanco advantage before Ryan Sweger would counter with a trey of his own for E-Town to trim the early Golden Mule cushion down to a point, making it a 14-13 ballgame with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.

It would take E-Town all of one minute to overtake the lead in the back and forth battle of the first quarter as an Elijah Eberly bucket in transition put the Bears back in front 15-14 at the 1:30 mark of the opening quarter. Dylan Sweger would be able to only improve the E-Town lead from there as his second trifecta of the opening stanza made it 18-16 Bears advantage before the first quarter would go on to expire with E-Town on top 22-18.

But the early going of the second frame went the way of Solanco. The Mules opened the quarter by rattling off a quick 4-0 charge which was capped off by a Jack Boomsma bucket inside as the 6’2” Solanco senior knotted things back up at 22-22 within the quarter’s first 30 seconds. The Golden Mule flurry only continued on from there as a triple knocked down by Solanco sharpshooter Jon Rush saw the Mules go up by half a dozen at 28-22 at the 4:18 mark of the second quarter.

But E-Town would be able to strike back by ending the second quarter on a 9-2 run as the Ryan Parise 3 ball just before the first half horn sent the teams into the dressing rooms at a 31-31 stalemate after an exciting first half of action between these programs on the rise.

Yet just as Solanco was able to open up the second quarter on a quick run, the visitors from E-Town would do the same to open the third stanza as the Bears rattled off the first six points of the third with an Elijah Eberly in the paint to put the exclamation mark on the Bears’ early second half punch as the 6’2” sophomore put E-Town in front 37-31, forcing Solanco to burn a timeout at the 4:53 mark of the third period.

To their credit, Solanco would be able to regroup and retaliate from there as a Jay Boyle bucket inside would end the E-Town run before a step-in trey popped by Dawson Kreider sliced the Bear lead down to the slimmest of margins at 39-38 at the 2:20 mark of the third quarter.

And although a beautiful set play designed for Larry Locker off a backside screen ended in a pretty alley-oop the towering E-Town big man, a Jon Rush trifecta just before the third quarter buzzer closed the Golden Mule deficit down to two at 43-41 with the game ripe for the final stanza.

Despite the fact that Solanco started off in a hole to begin the fourth quarter, the Golden Mules would quickly answer back as Joey Gote was able to continue his impressive night of work with yet another bucket inside to make things all square at 45-45. But Solanco would see their tie quickly go by the boards as Ryan Parise splashed a cold-blooded 3 on the ensuing possession to give the lead back to the Bears at 48-45 with 4:39 left to play.

Although the gap was small, Solanco would have trouble navigating past the stifling E-Town defense for the remainder of the contest as Larry Locker was able rise through the night sky for an emphatic block that rattled the glass and quite possibly Solanco’s desire to go back inside against the Bears’ rim protector midway through the fourth quarter.

Down on the offensive end, Amos Kollie was later able to push the E-Town lead up to six with a strong, determined take to the cup which gave the Bears’ the 51-45 lead with 1:40 left and time quickly running out on Solanco’s aspirations of picking up their first Section 2 win of the season.

Although the Golden Mules would be able to come back within shouting distance at four following a pair of Aaron Constein free throws, Larry Locker would go on to counter with a pair of his own as the Bears’ junior big man ended the game with high scoring honors by posting a 20 point outing.

From there, Ryan Parise would go on to keep the E-Town advantage at six following a pair of freebies of his own to keep Solanco at bay down 55-49 with 34.8 left to go. On the night, Parise would go on to have an impressive showing in his own right as the heady sophomore guard finished the game with 19 points.

Even despite the hole and time quickly running out, Solanco would have the opportunity for some late game magic trailing by four at 55-51 with the ball back in their hands. But the Claws in #Clawball were out in full force in the game’s final quarter as evidenced by Ryan Parise’s steal on the Golden Mule offensive trip which closed the book on Solanco’s upset bid once and for all as E-Town would go on to prevail 59-51.

Sure, E-Town was able to get credit for the odd circumstances that surrounded the abbreviated Donegal game the night prior, but the Solanco game on Friday night gave truly the young Bears the full, 32 minute complete game opportunity to wash away some the frustration that came coupled with the six game losing streak that preceded the Donegal game.

“It feels good,” Coach Parise admitted after his team’s triumph over Solanco. “We feel like we’ve doing all the right things. We finally cracked that .500 marked at 6-5 and then we had our six game skid to send it back to 6-11.”

But make no mistake about it. E-Town had their fair share of chances to come away with a handful of victories during that aforementioned six game slide. Something that would have given this season an entirely different dynamic. “In three of those six games we had eight point leads in the fourth quarter,” Parise detailed on Friday night. “I think it’s just a matter of us growing up and learning how to be mature and having good possessions at the end of games. We’re getting better at it.”

And once they do, look out. You’ve officially been put on notice L-L League. This will be a team to reckon with for years to come.

NEXT UP: Although this is the time of the year that most coaches, players, and fans are seen scouring the District 3 standings page every hour on the hour to see where their team stands in the playoff pecking order, it doesn’t appear that may necessarily be the case over at E-Town. Instead, the Bears seem to have a firm handle on where they stand while maintaining a true business-like approach to things the rest of the way.

“We’re not really focused on that,” Parise stated in regards to hoping and wishing for outcomes for outcomes that are outside of their control as it relates to a possible postseason bid. “We’re focused on Garden Spot now and we were focused on Solanco today. We’re at this point now where we’re playing for us and whatever happens, happens. We’re striving to go 11-11. For a team that was 5-17 last year and while we’re still somewhat young, to show that type of growth really could build some confidence.”

As coach mentioned in the postgame, next up on the docket for the Bears are the Spartans from Garden Spot. Following the game against GS, the Bears will finish off the homeward mile with matches against Cocalico and Donegal respectively. And as Coach Parise stated, finishing strong would do wonders for this cast of Bears. And with such a core group of returning talent coming back aided by another summer’s worth of productive work and gains, the Bears are likely to be on the rise next season. And who knows? Maybe it all translates to playing this time next year for district and possible league playoff seedings.

Although Solanco has experienced a tough year thus far that has still left them winless within the rigorous neighborhood known as Section 2, the Golden Mules are truly not all that far off. Aided by a restructuring of sections next year thanks to some newly added L-L members that will help breathe some new life into things, Solanco will look to lean on a young and steadily rising core of young talent to carry the baton next year for Mule hoops. Some talent of which has already gained some invaluable experience handling the nightly wars of Section 2. A list that includes but is certainly not limited to Dawson Kreider, Zed Baker, Joey Gote, and Carson Kilgore. You want a darkhorse, or “darkmule” if you will for next year that will turn some heads already? Sign me up for the Golden Mules.

Northern Lebanon Shows Grit, Outslugs Manheim Central In Intersectional Thriller

(Northern Lebanon’s Thomas Folmer Dribbles Up The Court Against Lancaster Catholic Earlier This Season)

For most high school hoops fans, there is simply is nothing that matches the excitement and intensity of playoff basketball. And while some may feel like they will have to continue waiting patiently until the night of February 9th when the L-L Tournament officially tips off for good, there are still ample opportunities to see many playoff hopefuls scrap and claw their way into securing bids over the next two weeks in head to head matchups. Case in point, Thursday night’s tussle between Manheim Central and Northern Lebanon.

To those that have been following along closely this season, not much needs to be said regarding Section 2. The division is absolutely brutal. And while it may be an excruciating grind on a nightly basis, the Manheim Central Barons have suddenly found themselves running amongst the lead dogs within the Section 2 standings, likely making it seem like just another winter in Manheim for this newly-minted “basketball town” with postseason hoops again on the brain.

For Northern Lebanon the story may read a little different if you are on the outside. But for those with a deep-rooted connection to the program, this season was identified as one to possibly remember for a long, long time in Fredericksburg behind a bevy of senior leaders while albeit coming off some difficult seasons in recent memory. Just ask Northern Lebanon head coach Chris George. “Obviously we have nine seniors here so this was the year for sure that we were looking to take some big steps,” George said of his 2017-18 squad. “We thought the last couple years we took a few missteps that cost us the playoffs so with not getting quite where we wanted the last couple years you start thinking, ‘This was the year we were looking to take the big step, but we didn’t take the medium steps to get there.”’

But even while returning a laundry list of veterans who were eager to make their imprint on the program this season, the injury bug can rise up and bite anyone at a moment’s notice. And it just so happened to strike the Vikings earlier this season, just badly enough to muddy the picture somewhat for the Vikes. But instead, Northern Lebanon was able to make lemonade out of lemons given the situation as several Vikings saw their opportunity to step up in the spotlight. And step up they did.

“When Michigan (Daub) was out for half the season and Cam (Gensler) missed our first week, the injuries started to pile up and you’re thinking ‘Man, this is gonna be tough.’ But whoever got in, Josh Bowers, Christian Trader, Thomas Folmer, stepped up big time. Whoever’s been in has just stepped up for us,” the head Viking went on to add regarding the depth and unselfishness of this year’s cast.

And through it all, the Vikings have persevered and stayed the course to become the darlings of Lancaster-Lebanon Boys’ Basketball this season. But even NL’s gaudy 13-4 overall record and 9-1 Section 3 mark was simply not enough to suffice just yet as the Vikings were out to knock off an old friend in Manheim Central when the Barons came calling to renew the series between these two former Section 3 foes on Thursday night.

Once the game itself got underway, it prove to be Northern Lebanon who would throw the first volley. Aided by two early triples from Alex Yeager and Caleb Light respectively, the Vikes jumped their guests early, racing out to the quick 6-2 start.

Yet even though the Barons would be able to get things back within a point following a Chase Marquette triple which made it a 6-5 contest in Northern Lebanon’s favor, the Vikings proceeded to run away once more as a 5-0 Viking blitz ensued, capped off by the traditional three point play courtesy of Caleb Light at the 3:30 mark of the first quarter.

But Manheim Central would refuse to yield as a Cameron Sell triple which came on the heels of a diligent Baron possession to say the least, sliced the Viking lead in half with NL now in front 11-8 with two minutes in change remaining in the first quarter before the buzzer finally sounded after the first eight minutes with Northern Lebanon being able to cling to the 11-10 advantage.

However just as Northern Lebanon was able to quickly pounce on Central at the outset of the contest, the Barons quickly returned the favor on their hosts to start the second stanza. The Barons were able to lay claim to their first lead of the ballgame following the old-fashioned three point play authored by 6’2” senior guard Connor Hostetter which put the Barons in front 13-11 just 20 seconds into the second quarter. From there, the Baron run would eventually swell to six as yet another three point play, this one by junior guard Evan Hosler, increased the Baron lead to five at 16-11 at the 5:10 mark of the first half.

And just as good teams do in the face of adversity, Northern Lebanon continued to fight and refused to give even an inch. Following the early Baron flurry, Northern Lebanon stuck to it and eventually raced back to tie the Barons at 18-18 following a 5-0 personal run by the Viking’s talented senior big man, Cam Gensler.

Despite the fact Cameron Sell would be able to immediately answer right back with a triple of his own which gave the lead back to the visitors from Manheim, Gensler was far from done being an enforcer on the night as 6’2” center ended the half by scoring the Vikings’ final nine, closing the book on a first half defined by defense with Northern Lebanon in front 22-21.

As far as the third quarter was concerned, let’s just say it was your cup of tea if defense is your flavor of choice. Between the two teams, both the Vikings and Barons went on to make a combined two field goals in the third quarter of play, helping set the stage a dramatic final quarter which was about to take place.

Ironically, Northern Lebanon’s lone field goal was tallied by Mr. Gensler, crediting him with an 11-0 run, carrying over from the second to fourth quarters. Needless to say, he was a key cog in the Northern Lebanon equation on Thursday night. “Against any team that doesn’t have a lot of size, he’s really the focal point of our offense,” Coach George said of his dominating bruiser who patrols the paint. “We knew tonight that Cam was a big focus for us and in all honesty, we probably just didn’t get him the ball enough. I’m not sure he touched the ball that much in the third quarter and he needs to. Central did a nice job though, give them credit. They were doubling, they were on the weak-side help, so we had to play off that.”

Although the offensive fireworks were in short supply during the third quarter, both teams wasted little time trading blows with one another once the game got inside the final period. Especially Manheim Central.

Sparked by a corner trey splashed in by Cameron Sell, the Barons were able to tie things back up at 26-26 at the 5:10 mark of the final quarter before Central proceeded to regain the lead following yet another trifecta by Cameron Sell, this one putting the Barons in front 29-28 before the advantage eventually grew to four at 32-28 following a three point play put home by Connor Hostetter which put MC up by a couple of possessions at 32-28 with just 3:40 left to play.

However if you’re sensing a theme here from Northern Lebanon whether it be Thursday night’s game or just the season at large, you’re not overthinking it. This Viking team simply contains a tough-nosed, all business mental mindset that is obvious to even the untrained eye.

Once again, down by three late proved to be no matter for Northern Lebanon as a cold-blooded Alex Yeager triple from the top of the key with the clock winding down sent the game into overtime after Central’s last second three bounced off the back rim, allowing the Barons and Vikings to play an additional four minutes of ball.

And just as he had at the end of regulation, Alex Yeager continued to have the hot hand for the Vikes in the extra session. The 5’11” senior proceeded to rattle off a 4-0 run of his own in the overtime which knocked Manheim Central back on their heels with the Vikings getting out in front 37-33 with 2:30 showing on the overtime clock.

Although Central would find an answer in the form of a Connor Hostetter drive to the rack which cut the Baron deficit down to two, a crucial Caleb Light drive to the tin would ensue as the Vikings reclaimed their four point advantage with time quickly running out on Manheim Central.

Yet just like their counterparts had displayed at various checkpoints throughout the game, Manheim Central would also answer the proverbial dinner bell with their backs against the wall. And right on cue, the Barons came out firing as a 3 ball popped by Jake Novak closed the gap to the slimmest of margins with MC now trailing 39-38 with just over one minute remaining in extra time.

From there, Michigan Daub would go on to toe the line, still held scoreless til that point in the contest. A somewhat tough ask with the game on the line. But the senior would prove to deliver as Daub split the pair with 57.7 remaining with MC going down to the other end of the floor and coming up empty after a missed 3, now sending Henry Hubbard to the line to repeat the task for Northern Lebanon. And just like his fellow senior teammate before him, Hubbard was able to go 1-2 from the stripe as well. An impressive accomplishment considering neither Daub nor Hubbard had entered their names into the scoring column yet to that point.

But it wouldn’t be so easy getting rid of Manheim Central on this night. No, the Barons would proceed to come right down the floor and counter with a Chase Marquette tip in to close the gap to within a point at 41-40 with 13.7 left to go.

This time another senior would walk the length of the floor with critical late free throws upcoming. It would be none other than Cameron Gensler. And just like any senior with the game on the line, he was able to deliver in spades as his 2-2 trip to the line pushed Northern Lebanon’s lead to 43-40 with the Barons having time one last try.

Ironically, the same player that sent the game into extra time would be the one to stop it from going any further as Alex Yeager was able to rise up and deflect the last ditch Baron three point attempt, giving Northern Lebanon the dramatic and intense 43-40 triumph over Manheim Central.

But this was a win that was perhaps a little extra sweeter than some of the others given the stakes. “We told our kids, that is the #2 team in Section 2. They’re playing all the big boys tough and in Section 2 there is no rest,” George said regarding the pregame message as it related to the Barons.

And yet, there was still that vivid recollection of the last time a team from higher than L-L Section 3 came into the Vikings’ loud house. “Penn Manor came in here and beat us. That was frustrating,” George went on to add regarding the homecourt defeat that Northern Lebanon suffered in the title game of their holiday tournament just one month ago. “I know we were down about it, but Penn Manor played really well and we didn’t. We told our guys look, that was frustrating, but we need to show a little bit better against the Section 1 and Section 2 teams.” As far as Thursday night was concerned, mission accomplished.

NEXT UP: With Thursday’s dip in the out of division pool, the Vikes jump right back in on Friday night as they entertain Pequea Valley before starting off a grueling three game stretch to close the regular season. A stretch which by the way, includes likely the other two league playoff-bound teams in Lancaster Catholic and Lancaster Mennonite.

“It’s Mennonite and Catholic. It’s one of those weeks,” Coach George said looking out onto the horizon. But let’s not forget, this is the same Northern Lebanon team which sent shockwaves across the L-L landscape they butted heads with the Blazers from Lancaster Mennonite earlier this season, coming away with a victory. The same goal which Coach George hopes is attainable as his Vikings prepare for the final stretch run. “All we can say is that we put ourselves in a really good spot. We took care of business to put ourselves in a position where we have a shot here.”

“Our goal needs to be at least get one of them,” George added regarding the upcoming Catholic and Mennonite contests. “The nice thing is, we control our destiny. If we beat both teams, then you put yourself in a spot to take the section.” And after a season in which they have defied the odds, why stop now?

As far as the Barons are concerned, the road to securing an L-L playoff spot in the landmine-filled Section 2 standings will be anything but a cakewalk. On Friday night, Manheim Central will travel to section rival Cocalico with the Eagles likely awaiting payback for the first game of the season between the two. A game in which Central essentially came out nowhere to win going away over in Manheim. After the Friday night trip to Denver, the Barons line up against arguably the best team in the entire league, L-S, before two other absolutely critical matchups against Garden Spot and Ephrata respectively as everyone looks to cross the finish line first in the mad dash known as Section 2.

Total Team Effort Allows Lancaster Catholic To Hold Back Annville Cleona In Battle Between Two Former State Champions

A league championship and a district championship. For most programs, those two accomplishments rarely ever come together as a package deal. But sure enough, they did last year for Lancaster Catholic.

In fact, the Crusaders have seemed to make a habit of literally putting the two together considering Catholic was able to capture both L-L and District 3 gold along the way before winning the ultimate prize, the PIAA championship in 2003. And although last year’s Crusader team would fall short of matching their former brethren after dropping an opening round state game against a dramatically under-seeded West Philadelphia Speedboys outfit, the questions had swirled throughout the offseason as to how the Crusaders would be able to pick up the pieces after losing such a talented and valuable senior class. A senior class which led them to heights the program had not seen in over a decade. But if this year’s Lancaster Catholic team is any indication, “reload” is simply not a term that exists in the Crusaders’ vocabulary.

Sure, things might not have gotten to the quickest of starts given the fact that the Crusaders dropped their third game of the season on the road at L-S. But as we have seen throughout the duration of the season to this point, Lampeter-Strasburg can make as strong a case as anyone as to why they are the best team in the L-L League. And based on Lancaster Catholic’s response since the early season loss in Lampeter, it appears to be a matchup that we may very well see again in just a few weeks as both teams are on a beeline toward the league playoffs.

Coming into Tuesday’s night matchup against Annville Cleona, the Crusaders had been playing like they were on a mission. How’s this for a resume? Unbeaten in L-L Section 3 and sitting atop of the District 3 4A standings with a 16-2 overall record. So yeah, it hasn’t been so much of a rebuild. Try reload this year in Lancaster city.

Ironically, their opponent on this night would look up into the rafters at Lancaster Catholic and not be intimidated in the least by a certain banner that read “State Champions.” No, because Annville Cleona need only go back to their own gym to look up see one that reads the same. And although this year’s A-C team may not resemble that infamous 1999 squad, the Dutchmen have been anything but an easy out for anyone who matches up with them on the schedule.

In fact, Annville’s season started off in similar fashion as Lancaster Catholic’s, if not better. Following an early season championship that was earned in the Hamburg Tip Off Tournament, the Dutchmen continued their scintillating start by besting Tulpehocken to jump out a quick 3-0 start. From there, A-C went on to claim victories over fellow Section 3 combatants Pequea Valley, Lebanon Catholic, and Columbia, a state tournament team from last year with a lot of talent returning, before heading into Tuesday night’s scrap with Lancaster Catholic with a 7-9 overall record. Yet even though A-C was sitting below the .500 mark, the Dutchmen were still hanging right around the cutline of the District 3 3A standings, making the Tuesday roadtrip into Lancaster of the upmost importance if the Dutchmen were to return home with a signature win.

However it quickly became apparent that Lancaster Catholic would have none of that.

With both teams starting off ice cold from the field, any sort of initial run to start the contest would likely do wonders for either one of the two squads. Well, check and mate to the Crusaders.

After a pair of free throws got Lancaster Catholic on the board, the first field goal of the game was put home by Catholic’s Johnny Besecker as the 5’11” junior guard was able to finish through contact while adding the free throw on top of it to put the Crusaders in front 5-0 with 1:30 gone by in the first quarter.

However the shooting must have been contagious in the gym from there as evidenced by Annville’s Ryan Mathews quickly answering back with a traditional three pointer of his own to close the gap down to two and get A-C on the board. From there on out however, it quickly became a Lancaster Catholic firestorm.

After Besecker was able to counter back with a triple of his own, an RJ Van Tash run out pushed the Crusader lead up to 10-3, forcing Annville Cleona to burn their first timeout of the ballgame with 5:42 left in the first. But things did not get much better for the Dutchmen following the timeout.

In fact, the 5-0 run following the Mathews triple ballooned itself into a 10-0 run with A-C being forced to call yet another timeout, now looking up and staring at a big hole to the tune of 15-3 with now 4:01 left in the first period.

Fortunately for Annville Cleona, this timeout would yield more positive results. After the quick break, A-C’s Roarke Miller was finally able to put a stop the Lancaster Catholic flurry as the 6’0” senior guard drilled a step in jumper along the baseline which preceded a Dashaun Archer trifecta as the Dutchmen had suddenly closed the gap to within single digits at 18-7. But that would turn out to be all the closer Annville would get for the remainder of the first quarter and even the game.

Over the course of the next several minutes, Lancaster Catholic began to create their separation with buckets on the offensive end which were undeniably driven by stellar work turned in on the defensive end. With A-C being besmirched by the turnover bug thanks to the frantic style of defense employed by Lancaster Catholic in the opening stanza, the Crusader lead would swell to a dozen following an old fashioned three point play authored by Andrew Miklos as the sophomore guard put Catholic on top 22-10 which was the score when the first quarter clock finally expired with the Dutchmen being held to just four first quarter field goals in the opening eight minutes.

The second quarter only proved to be more the same for Lancaster Catholic. Stellar defense to compliment an offense which appeared to be humming along nicely. In fact, the Crusaders were able to have both work hand in hand as LC jumped out to a 6-0 run to start the second stanza as a Denzel Kabasele dunk fittingly put a bow on the quick Catholic surge.

And just like in the first quarter, Annville would have a hard time going against the stingy Catholic D. Although it took longer than originally anticipated, a Donald Friday 3 ball finally quenched A-C’s thirst by closing the books on the Lancaster Catholic run albeit with the Crusaders firmly in command as evidenced by the 28-13 score in their favor at the 4:40 mark of the second quarter.

And although it was a totally team effort defensively for Lancaster Catholic, one cannot simply overlook the presence that David Kamwanga played in all of it. If Kamwanga was not rising up to block a Dutchmen shot, he was certainly altering them as countless A-C bunnies from close range went begging in the face of Catholic’s imposing 6’6 sophomore rim-protector. But Kamwanga wasn’t just a one-trick pony on this night. Down on the offensive end, Kamwanga was seen doing damage there too as his spot up jumper in the lane at the 2:30 mark made it a 32-13 Lancaster Catholic lead.

From there, his front court partner in crime was able to unleash his own wrath as a spot jumper by 6’4” junior forward Dwayne Caine followed suit as the Crusader lead had suddenly exploded to a mystifying 20 point gap by virtue of the 34-14 count. But Catholic wasn’t satisfied just there. No, the Crusader lead would eventually expand to 24 at the halftime break as a Denzel Kabasele baseline drive just before the horn sent Catholic into the dressing room in possession of the 40-16 advantage.

However to their credit, Annville Cleona came out and began to show everyone the same types of signs that have made them a serious threat to those that have lined up against them all season. Although Noah Myers was held scoreless during the first half, the 6’5 senior center wasted no time in showing why he is one the best big men in the entire L-L League by stepping out from behind the arc to bury an early trey to cut into the Lancaster Catholic lead down somewhat at 42-21 two minutes into the third.

Following the Myers 3 ball, Annville was then able to take their game inside as a determined drive to the cup was finished off nicely through contact by sophomore guard Andrew Long before Ben Miller would go on to have the final honors with the ensuing free throw with Long being forced to exit due to a cut on his arm earned during the fray.

Annville Cleona only continued to keep playing hard from there as a nice floater was put up and in by A-C’s Donald Friday, cutting the Catholic lead down to 20 at 46-26 at the three minute in the third. On the night, Friday had indeed come early for Annville Cleona as the 6’ senior guard was able to wrap up team-high scoring honors with a 13 point outing.

However Dwayne Caine wasn’t about to let A-C have all the fun in the third quarter. With the third quarter clock now ticking under one minute, the junior forward took off in transition and suddenly looked he had found a trampoline amongst the floor as the talented junior quickly exploded into midair before throwing down a thunderous one-handed tomahawk jam to put a bow on the third quarter of play. A quarter which saw the Crusaders head into the fourth leading 48-28.

And just like they were able to do at the onset of the second quarter, a quick Lancaster Catholic charge defined the early going of the final period. Although Catholic’s second quarter flurry would be to the tune of a half dozen, this early surge was of the 5-0 variety as a Connor Engle runout in transition got the Crusaders off and running. Literally.

Now the nice part of about playing with such a big lead, aside from the fact that it aides coaches from avoiding a few extra gray hairs, is the fact that those who sacrifice for your team day in and day out that may not necessarily get the headlines are rewarded with their opportunity to step on the floor and show what they can do. And as far as Lancaster Catholic is concerned, there appears to be anything but a drop off all the way throughout the supporting cast.

The first to make his imprint on the game would be Brendan Bowen as the 6’ senior guard became the beneficiary of a nice inbounds play under the basket for the easy deuce before Bowen would go on to finish the evening with another bucket, tallying 4 points the victorious Crusader effort when all was said and done.

Next, the spotlight shined bright for 5’10” junior guard Andy Santiago. Santiago checked into the game and promptly sank a nice floater in the lane to push the Crusader lead up to 64-37 with three minutes and change remaining in the contest. On the night, Santiago too would go on to finish with a 4 point night at the office to finish alongside Bowen in the scoring column.

And just like Bowen and Santiago before him, Trey Wells checked in and got his name in the scorebook as well as the sophomore center played physical under the rim before getting fouled and going to stripe where he would knock one down to join an eye-popping 13 Crusaders in the scoring column who all chipped in something to the victorious Crusader effort. The very definition of a true team outing.

And although Lancaster Catholic would go on to finish this one out, Annville Cleona still had time for one last highlight as senior guard Christian Hernandez entered the contest and proved to be money from behind the arc by drilling a trifecta down the stretch before the Crusaders went on to close this one out over their guests from Annville-Cleona, 69-42.

NEXT UP: As far as Lancaster Catholic is concerned, just continue rowing the boat in the same direction. With their win on Tuesday night over Annville, the Crusaders continue to remain unblemished in section play as they begin to see the finish line in sight amidst their second tour through Section 3 this season. From here, the Lancaster Catholic will begin preparations for Columbia on Friday night atop the Hill for one the L-L’s best rivalries inside arguably the league’s best setting. Rest assured, the records can surely be tossed out for the hour or so that the Crusaders and Crimson Tide do battle at Columbia. After their Friday night slugfest, Catholic will look off onto the horizon and see other top dogs in Section 3 waiting for them on the other side in Northern Lebanon and Lancaster Mennonite respectively with a matchup against Lebanon Catholic squeezed in the middle. Get ready Crusader Nation. It appears that another lengthy postseason run could again be in the works.

As mentioned, Annville Cleona came in with high hopes of possibly stealing a landmark victory to help bolster their district playoff resume. And although those chances took a significant hit on Tuesday night, all is not lost for the Dutchmen. Starting on Friday night, Annville will begin their final push against a dangerous ELCO team before finishing off with Mennonite, Pequea Valley, and Lebanon Catholic in that order. If they can finish strong, the Dutchmen can be assured of two things. A fighting chance to sneak into the postseason party, but more importantly, sending this veteran crop of senior Dutchmen out the right way. As winners.

Colyer, Pequea Valley Stand Tall As Braves Tame Beavers

Every night in the L-L League has it’s fair share of big games. To most, one would assume that these are the type of games that pit section leaders against those near the top of the standings as they battle it out down the final furlong for division supremacy. Sure, those games are “big” on their own merit, but there are others that are just as intriguing if you know where to look. Case in point, Monday night’s Section 3 battle between Lebanon Catholic and Pequea Valley.

On the surface, many may have disregarded the early week game between the Beavers and Braves as just another “run of the mill” Section 3 contest. But there’s more to the story than just purely wins and losses here.

There’s no denying it. Lebanon Catholic is a much improved ballclub from even last year. Relying on an unheralded and underappreciated senior class spearheaded by the efforts of Kyle Kauffman, Hummy Valerio, and Nate Hatzfield, the Beavers certainly pass the eye test in terms of their heart, fight, and a willingness and desire to compete for all 32 minutes, even while playing with one of the shortest hands in the entire Lancaster-Lebanon League.

Although the wins haven’t come easy for the Beavers this year, especially when strictly within the 3 standings, some may have scoffed at that notion considering Lebanon Catholic entered Monday night’s showdown in Kinzers still winless against their divisional foes. But this is a year of building a foundation. A foundation that appears to be being built on solid ground with the leadership and vision set forth by construction foreman, turned basketball coach, Wee Sanchez. And even despite the fact that Lebanon Catholic entered the night with a goose egg in their Section 3 win total, the Beavers had to certainly be liking their chances as they traveled down to eastern Lancaster County to line up against a Pequea Valley squad which they played to just a ten point difference in the initial matchup between the two combatants back in December.

For Pequea Valley, the narrative appeared to be nearly identical. Playing for their third coach in as many seasons, the Braves have experienced a tough year on the hardwood in their own right. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the school located amongst the quiet, rolling countryside. No, far from it.

In fact, in the early going this season it appeared that PV was here to make waves. The Braves won their first game of the season in the Tulpehocken Tip Off Tournament to earn the right to play for a championship in just their second night of action. A feat that not even some of the best teams in L-L League can say for themselves this season. Although Pequea Valley would come up short in the championship title game of the Tulpy Tip-Off Tournament, walking home with the silver medal in tow, it seemed that Pequea Valley would be a name to be reckoned with as the season progressed.

But just like their counterparts on Monday evening, the wins have proven to be hard to come by this year for the Braves from Pequea. Coming into the night with just one Section 3 win during this campaign, ironically against Lebanon Catholic, the Braves were undeniably anxious to taste victory once more when the Beavers came calling.

Although Lebanon Catholic would take an early lead once the game got underway following a 3 ball that was string music from senior forward Kyle Kauffman, Pequea Valley struck back with a vengeance. Following the Kaffman trey, the Braves proceeded to rattle off the game’s next eight points a step in triple dialed up by PV’s sensational freshman guard Devon Colyer made it an 11-3 Brave lead at the 4:20 mark of the first quarter.

Thankfully for the Beavers who hail from Lebanon City, senior Nate Hatzfield was on the scene to provide assistance in weathering the early PV storm as the senior forward scored a tough bucket inside, finishing through contact, to extinguish the early Pequea Valley onslaught and make it an 11-5 ballgame in PV’s favor at the 3:22 mark of the opening quarter.

But Pequea Valley would have an answer for that as well as the Braves proceeded to author a 4-0 run almost immediately after which was capped off by a sweet dish from senior forward Luke Purcell to freshman Devon Colyer standing in the corner for a trey which upped the PV lead to 15-5 with just over two minutes remaining in the game’s opening stanza. Once the first quarter did finally expire, Pequea Valley would be able to do one better on the point total as the Braves closed the curtain on a dominating first quarter performance, ascending to the 16-5 advantage.

Yet for as much as Pequea Valley seemed to control the game’s first eight minutes, the second quarter was anything but a one-sided affair. Even though Pequea Valley’s Luke Purcell was able to drain a triple to get things started for the Braves once inside the second quarter, a change in defense would prove to be exactly what the doctor ordered for Lebanon Catholic.

With the Beavers employing a halfcourt trap right at the timeline, turnovers quickly beset Pequea Valley. Aided by two over and back calls whistled against Pequea Valley, Lebanon Catholic, or more precisely Kyle Kauffman was able to find the offensive rhythm as the senior promptly canned back to back triples to narrow PV’s lead down to five at 20-15 with just two minutes gone by in the second quarter of play. But the Beavers weren’t done there.

Now deciding to pick up the defensive effort full court style by throwing a 1-2-2 at the home-standing Braves, the Beavers had quickly put the brakes on the high-flying Pequea Valley offense while simultaneously igniting their own as a trifecta was then dialed up by electrifying senior guard Hummy Valerio which got Lebanon Catholic within a deuce at 22-20 later on in the second frame.
Ultimately, the Pequea Valley lead would then be cut down to as low as one following a 3 ball popped in by Valerio which made it a 24-23 contest at the 4:40 checkpoint of the half, prompting the Braves to call a timeout. From there out on however, Pequea Valley was able to get some much-needed breathing room with Lebanon Catholic eagerly awaiting to claim their first lead of the contest.

Coming out of the timeout, the Braves proceeded to rattle off a 7-0 scoring flurry which was punctuated by a 2-2 trip to the charity stripe by senior guard Malachi Glick, giving Pequea Valley the touchdown advantage at 30-23 with 2:30 left to play in the opening half.

The late half Pequea Valley surge would later be put to a stop by Mark Gates of Lebanon Catholic as the 5’8” freshman guard ended the Brave rally with a 2-2 trip to the line in his own right, getting the Beavers within five at 30-25 with the half winding down. But the Beavers weren’t satisfied being just within shouting distance of Pequea Valley.

Following the successful free throws in by the Lebanon Catholic freshman, a senior would help carry them into the intermission as a strong hoop inside by Nate Hatzfield got the Beavers within three at 31-28 with just over one minute remaining on the first half clock.

When the clock finally did run dry on the game’s opening half, it would show Pequea Valley holding onto the slim two point cushion at 31-29 at the halftime break following a wonderful display of basketball between two teams desperate and hungry for a victory who were clearly putting it all on the line.

They often say in basketball that the first few minutes to start a half are wherein lies big determining factors one way or another that help decide the outcome of a game. Well if that is indeed the case, one only needs to look at Pequea Valley’s performance to start the second half on Monday against Lebanon Catholic for proof of that.

The Braves proceeded to come out of the dressing room and immediately blitz the Beavers to the tune of a 4-0 run to up their lead to a half dozen, allowing them to get some more separation between themselves and their guests in the infant stages of the second half.

As it turned out, that separation would prove to be valuable as Lebanon Catholic came knocking on the door once again following another Hummy Valerio triple, good for 3 of his team-high 24 points on the evening, to get the Beavs’ within three at 35-32 in the early going of the third. But from there however, Pequea Valley would deadbolt the door and nail it shut.
Following the key Valerio 3 ball which moved momentum over to the Beavers’ bench, Pequea Valley was able to rip the momentum right back as an 8-2 Brave march followed suit which was capped off by a nice drive along the baseline by Luke Purcell who would go on to finish with an impressive 17 point outing in his own right.

As mentioned previously, this is a Lebanon Catholic team that will not simply waive the white flag at the first sign of adversity. No, as most teams soon discover, these Beavers are here for the long haul. And they were yet again on Monday night.

Following the third quarter Pequea Valley charge, Lebanon Catholic continued to scratch and claw their way back into the thick of things as a sweet 3 ball shot nailed by junior guard Devin Root narrowed the PV lead down to half a dozen at 45-39 with four minutes still left to go in the third period.

However immediately following the Root triple, a technical foul was issued against Lebanon Catholic which helped turn the tide of the game once and for all. Aided by a 3-0 spark which was ignited by freshman Devon Colyer, Pequea Valley was finally able to garner that much-needed separation that would help them pull out section victory numero dos on the season.

In fact, the Pequea Valley lead would swell to the double digit plateau before a Kyle Kauffman triple in the waning stages of the third helped get Lebanon Catholic back within a puncher’s chance of breaking that double digit ceiling, as the Kaufmann trifecta made it a 53-42 ballgame as the third quarter was officially put to a close. On the evening Kyle Kauffman would once again prove to be a member of the dynamic 1-2 Beaver punch along with Hummy Valerio as the two senior stars combined for a total of 46 points with Kauffman chipping in 22 respectively.

Even despite the fact that Lebanon Catholic would be able to get back within single digits following a deuce early on in the fourth quarter, that heady freshman who plays well beyond his years would once again prove to be the Beavers kryptonite as Devon Colyer promptly helped Pequea Valley navigate the somewhat rocky fourth quarter waters with a corner 3 which sent PV back over the ten point hill, making it a 56-44 contest with roughly two minutes gone by in the final quarter. But if you think he was done there, you’d be mistaken.

Following a nice block defensively on shot rejected by Luke Purcell who continued to enjoy his magnificent game for Pequea Valley, a fast break transition runout ensued with Colyer having the honors at the other end by tallying an easy lay in at the cup for 2 of his game-high 27 point outburst. And hey, just for good measure, PV’s promising star for years to come later stepped out behind the arc and buried a triple to send the Braves over the 70 point mark as the Colyer dagger made it a 72-54 ballgame with three minutes left to go.

Yet on a night where Lebanon Catholic displayed so much heart and fight, it wouldn’t seem right if this was how it were to end. Luckily, it wasn’t.

With the game clock ticking down, Lebanon Catholic’s Andrew McCafferty checked into the ballgame and immediately responded by proving to be an unquestioned bright spot for the Beavers as the 6’4” junior forward got into the scoring column by draining two freebies at the line and not to mention getting some floor burn as well by diving after loose 50/50 balls.

But in the end however, it would prove to be Pequea Valley who had all the answers for whatever questions Lebanon Catholic would be able to throw at them as the Braves held off an improved Beaver bunch with the 80-61 victory over their compatriots from Lebanon Catholic.

NEXT UP: With their victory over Lebanon Catholic on Monday night, Pequea Valley will now quickly look to turn one win into two as the Braves prepare for the ultra-impressive crew from Northern Lebanon on Tuesday night. But win or lose on Monday night, Tuesday night, Friday night, or any left on the schedule this season, the remainder of this year will hinge on two main factors.
First and foremost, sending the senior class of Malachi Glick, Ryan Lockhart, Ryan Smith, Luke Purcell, and Nathan Kovalick deservedly out as winners as this season winds down. And from there, relying on said senior class to help build the foundation and set the example for future Braves hoopsters for years to come both on and off the court. A foundation which may one day help rediscover the road to Hershey’s Giant Center for a District 3 playoff appearance. The same road by the way which Pequea Valley was able locate and traverse just one short decade ago.

Secondly, helping build and establish a winning culture and attitude that will help be the DNA that will define Pequea Valley and enable the Braves rise up and fight amongst the best of the best in their section each and every year. The good news is, they have an awfully good piece to start with.

If you have yet to see Devon Colyer yet to play, I suggest you do so soon. After all, tickets and space at Pequea Valley’s cozy gym will likely be hard to come by in just a few years. Playing with the poise and leadership of a starting point guard who looks like they should be walking across a stage at a graduation in just a few months, PV’s star freshman will look to be one of the top returning players in the league each and every season for years to come. And when you’re looking to make noise, what better to have at your disposal than a lead singer who can help shape the direction of the band.

For Lebanon Catholic, the search for finding that elusive Section 3 win does not get any easier as the Beavers make plans to face off with Lebanon County foe ELCO Tuesday night on top of Assumption Hill. Although it remains unclear as to whether or not Lebanon Catholic will be able to crack into the winning column in section play this year, it should not in any way be any sort of smudge on the resumes of this year’s senior class. For years, this core group has had to endure long nights and even longer bus rides that have not always been fruitful in terms of wins and losses. Yet nonetheless they have continued to suit up each and every night and wear that Beaver uniform like the badge of honor it deserves to be recognized as.

And even though this year’s Beaver senior class may not leave with the type of wins that their fellow competitors around the L-L will be able to boast about when their careers are through, these Beavers have learned valuable real life skills such as determination, persistence, and handling adversity yet continuing to come work each and every day. Lessons that extend well beyond just a handful of 32 minute basketball games during the winter months that each will be all the better for experiencing.