Upper Perkiomen Bests Pequea Valley For Opening Round Victory In Fleetwood Tiger Classic

It’s called the Christmas break. For many, the holiday season between Christmas and New Year’s offers a reprieve from either work or school. In the basketball world, the situation is no different. While some teams choose to remain idle for the entire week, others decide to take advantage of the situation that offers a respite from the nightly grind of seeing the same familiar faces, opting instead to line up against a team that you may not necessarily be all that familiar with, in hopes that you can find a spark that will ignite your squad heading into the new calendar year. That was precisely the case for the Pequea Valley Braves on Wednesday night as they made the trip north to Fleetwood to participate in the 54th annual Fleetwood Tiger Classic. And although Pequea Valley would be looking for that aforementioned spark entering the midweek with a 2-6 overall record after having already seen the likes of Lancaster Catholic, Lancaster Mennonite, and Northern Lebanon, their task on this night would not exactly be considered a walk in the park.

Their opponent, the Upper Perkiomen Indians, entered the Fleetwood holiday tournament on a roll to say the least. After coming up short in their opening game of the season against North Penn, the Indians went on a tear, winning their last six ballgames with visions of taking the Fleetwood tourney undoubtedly on their minds as well. As far as that goal is concerned, so far so good.

It may have been a sign of things to come. Literally right from the opening tap, Upper Perk senior co-captain Ryan Kendra showed why he would be a handful all night for the Pequea Valley defense as the 6’4” guard took the opening defection from the center circle and drew a roadmap to the tin, coming away with the first score of the evening, just seconds into the contest.

But Pequea Valley has an emerging star of their own and his name is Devon Colyer. Right on cue, the 5’10” freshman point guard showed why he is one of the most promising rising stars on the Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys Basketball scene as he too drove hard to the rack and was rewarded for his efforts coming away with a deuce for his squad, good for two of his team-high 18 points on the evening.

If Kendra wasn’t doing the damage for Upper Perk this evening, matchup nightmare Will Walker was more than happy to run with the baton. Or more accurately, dunk the baton which is precisely what the Indians’ 6’7” senior forward was able to do later on in the opening stanza, extending Upper Perk’s lead to 8-4 with 4:40 left to play in the opening quarter.

Undeterred, Pequea Valley stuck to the gameplan, patiently running their offense with Upper Perk threatening to take this one over by force early on. And slowly but surely after a Devon Colyer free throw a little more than a minute after the Walker jam, PV found themselves within one at 8-7 with three minutes left in the first quarter.

But from there on out, Upper Perk was able to keep Pequea Valley in the rearview mirror the rest of the night. Immediately after the Colyer freebie, the Indians roared back with a 6-0 run, the last four of which came from Ryan Kendra, putting Upper Perk up by a touchdown at 14-7 with two minutes left to go in quarter numero uno. The Indian lead only increased from there as a pair of Will Walker free throws allowed Upper Perk to double up Pequea Valley at 18-9 as the opening quarter came to a close.

Once the second quarter got underway, it was more of the same for Upper Perk. After a quick 4-0 run authored by the Indians forced Pequea Valley to call a timeout just 40 seconds into the second quarter, the 4-0 Indian run eventually became a 7-0 Indian run before a Devon Colyer three point play finally stopped the snowball from running downhill on Pequea Valley.

However Upper Perk had one goal in mind on Wednesday night. Make it to the title game. After a pair of triples from Sean Boyle, the road to Thursday night’s final appeared to have a few less speedbumps on it as the Indians’ lead had morphed into a commanding 36-14 cushion with just two minutes left in the opening half.

To their credit however, PV was able to close the opening half with a bang as a triple knocked down by senior forward Nathan Kovalick, coupled with one just moments before the buzzer from Devon Colyer, made it a 38-20 Upper Perk lead at the intermission.

New half, same ole Upper Perk. After a pair of triples splashed home by senior guard Tyler Keyser, the Indian lead had swelled to 44-19 to start the second half. Shortly thereafter, Upper Perk continued to have some fun as a one-handed slam by Ryan Kendra, the Indians’ third dunk of the ballgame, made it a 49-22 score in their favor with 4:58 left to play in the third.

Upper Perk only continued to play relentlessly over the span of the next three minutes of game action as yet another Upper Perk blitz, this one to the tune of 5-0 forced Pequea Valley to burn another timeout, now down 53-22 with 2:02 left in the third.

And although Pequea Valley senior guard Malachi Glick was able to drive hard to the cup and come away with a bucket following the Brave timeout, another dizzying offensive display put on by Upper Perk would close the curtain on the third quarter of play as a beautiful dish from Ryan Kendra to Jon Brown underneath put the bow on a magnificent offensive set for Upper Perk, and the quarter to boot, with the Indians holding serve with the 55-24 advantage.

Pequea Valley would continue to show fight once the final quarter got underway as junior guard Dalton Temple went on his own personal 4-0 flurry to start the final eight minutes out with a bang for the Braves. But Upper Perk’s Brody Case would take it from there as the junior forward’s pullup jumper made it a 30 point Indian lead at 58-28 with just 6:10 left to play. Following suit, fellow junior forward Jake Plessl got in on the scoring party as his triple, coming on the heels of Case’s J, truly allowed Upper Perk to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Although Devon Colyer would have time for one last highlight on this night, a trifecta that made it a 65-33 Upper Perk lead with four minutes left to go, the Indians would be able to close this one out in style as a put back by freshman Riley Decker, piggybacked with a trifecta from Brody Case, put the exclamation mark on Upper Perk’s dominating opening round win over Pequea Valley by a 73-36 count.

UP NEXT: Upper Perkiomen will advance to the finals where the Indians will spar with either Brandywine Heights, a team that Upper Perk defeated by five just two weeks ago, or the host, Fleetwood. At the time of this upload, the final score from the nightcap had yet to appear across the Twitter wire.

Pequea Valley on the other hand will look to regroup 24 hours from now as the Braves will be tasked with putting tonight’s performance behind them as they will meet up with either Brandywine Heights or Fleetwood in the consolation round. After their two-day stay in Fleetwood this week, the Braves will have one more nonleague tester, and it’s a good one too, as the Braves will tangle with Kennard-Dale next Thursday night at home in Kinzers. Following that matchup, PV will jump back in Section 3 play with a roadtrip to ELCO next Friday night.

Buckskins Stymie McCaskey As Conestoga Valley Picks Up First Section 1 Victory Of The Season

When trying to handicap the 2017-18 Lancaster Lebanon Boys Basketball season as it specifically related to Section 1, it was largely agreed that it would turn out to be a three horse race with Hempfield, Manheim Township, and Cedar Crest duking it out from December through early February for supremacy in the “big boy” division of the L-L. And after last week, that largely appeared to be the narrative that would take shape. But there was a storm brewing down in Lancaster city.

It almost sounds sacrilegious when you say it out loud. McCaskey not in the mix for the league championship, much less the section championship. But after a disappointing season last year where the Red Tornado failed to make any sort of postseason tournament for what felt like the first time since the dawn of man combined with ultra-talented returning rosters from the three main aforementioned headliners, it seemed difficult to place McCaskey in the upper-echelon of Section 1 given what we knew, or thought we knew, heading into this year.

After disappointing week last week which saw the Red Tornado drop decisions to Chester, Cedar Crest, and Harrisburg respectively, McCaskey was clearly hungry to prove that a grueling slate of games such as those would make them all the better for it as McCaskey had soared to an undefeated 2-0 week in Section 1 heading into Friday’s neighborhood scrap with Conestoga Valley as the Tornado had ascended into the top layer of the Section 1 standings, making it feel like old times had returned to Red Rose city.

Although the early season wins and losses have not been kind to the Buckskins up until this point as CV came into the end of the week just 2 up and 5 down, CV possesses arguably the best two-headed monster in all the league with the dynamic senior sibling duo of Logan and Austin Monroe leading the way. Without question, either one of the brothers could easily go off for 20 points or more on any given night. When you add firepower like that to help brought along from the young and eager supporting cast surrounding them, the Bucks were looking to make waves on Friday night by picking up their first Section 1 win of the season, snapping a three game losing skid in the process, against an old nemesis from right down the road as the Buckskins finally had the opportunity to close the book on an unforgiving gauntlet of games to start section play. A slate of games that consisted of Hempfield, Township, Cedar Crest, and just for good measure, McCaskey. Not exactly the fuzziest of welcome mats rolled out for the Buckskins to begin section play. But on Friday night in Witmer, the Bucks were able to put all of their frustrations to bed as Conestoga Valley at long last was finally able to recognize the sweet taste of victory in Section 1.

After a somewhat sloppy start for either team, both the Red Tornado and Buckskins were finally able to settle into a rhythm and trade body blows with one another as the first quarter moved along. With much of the first quarter being played within a two point window, both CV and McCaskey took their turns playing with lead. After an early Buckskin advantage, a triple by McCaskey’s Makai Ortiz put the Tornado back in front at 7-6 with 4:45 left in the opening frame.

But CV would be able to respond throughout several checkpoints in the game’s first eight minutes including with two minutes and change remaining when Logan Monroe drove hard to the rack for the bucket which put CV back in front 12-11.

It would turn out to be a quick lead however when no more than a minute later, McCaskey’s Gary Smith splashed home a trifecta to put the Tornado back in the driver’s seat at 14-12. But similar to their counterparts, this too be prove to a quick dance with the lead for McCaskey as well when a pair of free throws from CV’s Austin Monroe tied things up at 14-14 with 35 ticks left in the first.

But that was just enough time for McCaskey to offer up a response as a slicing move to the hoop by junior guard Bryam Menendez put McCaskey on top 16-14 when the first quarter horn finally sounded.

For as much of a back and forth battle the first quarter appeared to be, the early portions of the second stanza would provide an opportunity for CV to claim the lead and then build upon it. After a strong effort on the defensive end got momentum building for CV, highlighted with a block by junior forward Jalen Ransing, the Bucks saw and seized their window of opportunity.

After a fast break clinic was put on by the Monroe brothers with Austin feeding Logan, the Buckskins pushed their lead up to five at 23-18. Couple that with a Ransing bucket on a later trip and CV had suddenly jumped out to a 25-18 cushion, promptly McCaskey to burn a timeout with 3:36 left in the half.

Although McCaskey would come up empty on several trips from there on out to end the half due to cold outside shooting with CV sitting back in a zone inviting McCaskey to fire away, the Tornado were finally able to get one to go home as a triple by Ajani Simmons cut the Buckskin lead down to just three at 29-26 with a little over two minutes remaining.

But Austin Monroe would go on to close the half in style as the Bucks’ senior point guard went on his own personal 5-0 run to close the half with CV on top by double figures at 38-28.

Coming out of the recess, CV picked up right where they left off. After an Austin Monroe lay in got the second half scoring underway, a sweet reverse finish at the tin by Jordan Ransing upped the Buckskin lead to 14 at 44-30 with CV on the verge of running away with it.

But fortunately for the Red Tornado backers, they saw their team receive a jolt of energy after a couple of made baskets allowed McCaskey to initiate their full-court press which promptly gave the Buckskins fits. After some ill-timed turnovers that went against CV, a bucket by Tallian Lehr sliced the CV advantage down to six at 51-45 with 2:48 to play, forcing CV to call time in order to help stem the tide. Shortly thereafter, the situation grew even more adverse for CV when a triple by McCaskey senior Isiah Speller made it an even slimmer lead with the cushion now standing at three with CV in front 51-48.

After a desperately-needed hoop was put home by Logan Monroe inside for CV in the face of the McCaskey comeback, the Tornado rushed back with a 5-0 run of their own to tie things back up as another Ajani Simmons triple made things all square at 53-53 as the third quarter clock expired.

Although McCaskey would have solid contributions from nearly everyone across the board in the scoring department, they simply could not match the output put forth on Friday night by the Monroe brothers of CV. With Austin have game-high honors with 27 and Logan not far behind with a 25 point showing, the brothers Monroe accounted for over 50 points of their team’s offensive output. It’s a dynamic duo that CV head man Brad Herr is certainly happy to have on his fighting side each and every night. “They’re going to have to lead us,” Herr said of his two headliners. “When they’re playing well, playing together, and playing hard, they are a really tough tandem,” Herr went on to add regarding the 1-2 punch of #5 and #32.

But basketball is a team game and without the help of CV’s supporting cast, it’s hard to envision the Buckskins being able to walk away as winners on Friday night. “You have to give credit to the other guys on the roster that are finding them in space, creating opportunities for them, and giving them good outlets. I really thought it was a total team effort,” the head Buckskin went on to add before summing it all up by saying point blank, “This was the most complete game that we’ve played.”

And right on cue with the game on the line, the two brothers stepped up in the Bucks’ time of need. After a 7-0 Monroe blitz that was capped off with Logan nailing a triple from the top of key, McCaskey was forced to call another timeout now down 60-53 with 5:18 remaining.

But McCaskey rallied the troops and fought back over the span of the next few minutes and after a triple by Ajani Simmons, his fourth of the ballgame, the Red Tornado were now back to within four at 63-59 with 2:11 left go. “We took a great comeback punch from McCaskey,” Coach Herr said in the aftermath. “They hit some huge shots and give to credit to them. They didn’t quit and kept fighting.”

With McCaskey being whistled for a foul on the ensuing inbounds play, Bradley Stoltzfus walked all 94 feet to the other end with huge free throws upcoming. No nerves on this night for the sophomore however as the Buckskin guard sank two important free throws with the game on the line to expand the CV lead in crunch time. But as Coach Herr mentioned the postgame, McCaskey would not stop competing until the clock showed all zeroes. And with time still remaining, the Tornado were able to answer the two freebies with one better as a 3 ball popped by senior Gary Smith kept McCaskey in the thick of things.

Free throws. Free throws. Free throws. So many games are won and lost at the line and much to CV’s credit, foul shooting would not prove to be their demise on this night. After the Smith trifecta, it was Austin Monroe’s turn to toe the line and step up for CV squad. He was able to do exactly that as a 2-2 trip from the charity stripe put the Bucks up five at 69-64 late. But once again, another Smith triple cut the Buckskin lead down to just three at 70-67 with just 9.7 remaining.

Tight game, ultra-important free throw shooting. This time CV called upon junior guard Joe Cardina to deliver the goods just prior the Christmas holiday and fortunately for the Buckskins, he was able to do exactly that as 1-2 trip from the line gave CV the now monumental four point gap with just under 10 ticks left to go.

Need proof as to just how critical that free throw was? McCaskey came right down the floor and saw Ajani Simmons ring home another 3 ball which made it a 71-70 ballgame with just 1.2 left to play. From there, CV was able to squirm away on the ensuing inbounds play without getting fouled in the last second, giving CV the much-deserved and badly-needed victory after a rough patch over the course of the last week.

After such a grueling span of games that saw the Bucks come up short in all of their Section 1 games to this point, including a 36 point setback to Cedar Crest on their home floor on Wednesday night, the resiliency displayed by CV to step up, especially when the seas got rough on Friday night cannot be overstated. “I felt a lot better about our enthusiasm tonight,” Coach Herr said of his team’s bounceback. “The togetherness that we demonstrated, the energy coming off the bench, and our language was much more positive tonight. We weren’t really happy with our performance earlier this week. To put it mildly, we addressed that in practice last night. I think the attitudes have really improved in a very short span of time for us.”

They say pressure can either make diamonds or burst pipes. Well, as far this test was concerned, CV was able to handle Friday’s night adversity with flying colors. “I think that’s good for us at this point,” CV’s 11th year head coach said of his team navigating a rocky road after some recent hard luck. “We need to know that we can face adversity and overcome it.” Mission accomplished.

NEXT UP: CV will now take a couple days off to celebrate the Christmas holiday before rounding everyone back up and heading north to do battle in the annual Wyomissing Holiday Tournament. In the opening contest, the Bucks will tangle with an Exeter squad that already tripped them up earlier this season in the opening round of Exeter’s tip off tourney. “I think we’re looking forward to having another chance there,” Coach Herr said of the CV’s opening round opponent up at Wyo. “They’re a tough squad and we want another chance.”

Once section plays resumes at the start of January, CV will square off with the likes of Lebanon, Penn Manor, and Warwick. And with tonight’s win already in their backpocket, this victory could serve as a catalyst for CV turning things around heading into the back half of their remaining schedule.

“We talked before the game that the only two things that we can control are our effort and our attitude. We did that tonight. I think we’re in a position where if we continue with that and maintain positive traction, we can get on a streak here and put ourselves in a good position coming out of the first section round.”

McCaskey now will look to regain their winning ways when the Tornado host their annual Hagelgans & Veronis Classic held at McCaskey over the 27th and 28th. Following that, McCaskey will meet up with Route 30 rival Coatesville before the Red Tornado reenter Section 1 competition with a home date against Warwick.

Vikings Continue To Pillage As Northern Lebanon Knocks Off Columbia

Alright LLhoops.com readers, time for a little pop quiz. For this one we will need your complete and total honesty. Ready? Here we go. Please raise your hand if you would have predicted that on the eve of the last section game before Christmas the Northern Lebanon Vikings Boys Basketball team would be undefeated in Section play, let alone being a double overtime decision away from a totally unblemished record. All finished? Well, chances are that unless you are firmly entrenched in the Vikings camp or were being 100% honest, that hand was not raised. Yet here they are.

Preseason prognostications aside, there is one rock-solid lesson that we have learned up to this point this season. And that is that the actual games on the court are what separates the pretenders from the contenders. Take notes because it’s a seminar that the Northern Lebanon Vikings are illuminating for everyone.

On Wednesday night, the hot-starting Vikes played host a Columbia squad fresh off an impressive win of their own over another upstart Lebanon County club in Annville-Cleona on Monday evening. A Tide team that by way just so happened to qualify for the state playoffs last year. But this is a different year, a different night, and more importantly, a much different group of Vikings.

Although Northern Lebanon would score the first bucket of the night, the Crimson Tide struck back with a vengeance. Columbia would see Northern Lebanon’s early hoop and retaliate with an 11-0 run to go in front in the blink of an eye. The run was fittingly ignited by Columbia’s star senior point guard Meleik Crenshaw who chipped in the first five to Tide flurry as the Vikes found themselves down 11-2 with 5:24 left in the first quarter, calling a timeout to regroup.

Although an Alex Yeager bucket would finally stop the dry-spell for NL, Columbia’s Matt McCleary was there with the answer as the sophomore’s hoop inside pushed Columbia’s lead back up over the ten point bubble with the Tide now in front 15-4 before a Jaden Neal floater made an even bigger dent on the scoreboard as Columbia suddenly found themselves firmly in the driver’s seat leading 17-6.

Although Northern Lebanon found themselves in a deep hole early, the Vikings continued to stick with it and slowly but surely NL had rejoined the race, climbing back to within ten as the first quarter expired with Columbia in the lead at 17-10.

In the first quarter, Columbia’s offense was operating at a high level getting buckets inside and also from behind the arc as well. However once the second quarter got underway, the Crimson Tide offense was grinded to a halt by a 2-3 zone slapped on by Northern Lebanon. With the Tide being diligent on the offensive end trying to solve the puzzling Northern Lebanon defensive scheme, the Vikings made good on their opportunity to strike as back to back triples from Alex Yeager and Thomas Folmer respectively sliced the Tide lead down to just one point at 17-16, forcing a Columbia timeout with 4:32 left in the half.

You want proof as to just how daunting the Vikings’ zone was? How’s this for dominance? Before a kiss off the glass by talented freshman big man Daivon Edmond, Columbia’s scoring dry spell was finally over. But the damage had already been done as Northern Lebanon had pitched a shutout over Columbia for the first 5:30 minutes of the second frame.

But for all the scoring woes that had besmirched Columbia in the initial few minutes of the quarter, both the Tide and Vikings were about to trade volleys back and forth for the remainder of the half.

The blitzkrieg began with Caleb Light tossing in a triple, good for three of his game-high 26 on the night, to knot things back up at 19 apiece before Matt McCleary had the response with two 3 balls of his own to put Columbia back in front which sent the teams into the intermission with Columbia in possession of the 27-22 halftime lead.

Coming out of the break, Northern Lebanon came out firing on all cylinders. After a Caleb Light triple got the scoring party started and a Henry Hubbard drive to the tin followed suit, the Vikings had rattled off a quick 5-0 blitz to tie the game back up at 27-27 in the early stages of the third quarter.

Although the Tide would counter with a nice dump down feed to Davion Edwards inside to go back in front, Northern Lebanon reclaimed their first lead of the game since 2-0 when Hubbard buried a trey to put the Vikes in front 30-29 with five minutes left to go in the third. From there, Northern Lebanon was able to expand upon their lead as the Vikings began to show their toughness, absolutely owning the offensive glass, including one possession in which Northern Lebanon tracked down at least four offensive boards before settling down and reorganizing into another offensive set. And after a steal and finish on the defensive end by NL’s Caleb Light which made it a 36-31 ballgame in Northern Lebanon’s favor, the Vikes were then able to carry that momentum through the remainder of the third quarter and into the final stanza with NL in front 38-32.

With the game still very much up for grabs, Columbia needed to mount a response in order to quell the Northern Lebanon storm that was brewing. Unfortunately for the visitors, cold-shooting began to plague the Crimson Tide as Columbia was unable to generate any sort of momentum with easy buckets as Northern Lebanon only improved upon their lead.

Despite the fact that the Tide were not able to turn things around by way of their offense, their high-intensity brand of defense helped pave the way for a late charge. And after a pair of Jaden Neal buckets, the last of which came off the defense, the Tide had inched their way back into it as the home-standing Vikings owned the slim five point lead at 42-37 with three minutes left to go.

However as mentioned earlier, this is a different group of Vikings this year. Never was that more apparent than when in the face of danger with Columbia mounting a possible late-game comeback effort, the senior leadership of Alex Yeager prevailed as the 5’11” Northern Lebanon guard attacked the rim and came away with a much-needed bucket to calm the seas with Columbia knocking on the door. But the Tide refused to away and after a pair of Jaden Neal freebies from the charity stripe, Columbia had once again trimmed Northern Lebanon’s lead down to size at 44-41.

But just as Yeager was able to step up in crunch-time with a big bucket from the field, he was equally up to the task from the free throw line as well as a pair of Yeager free throws coupled with a big bucket by big man Cameron Gensler made it a now commanding Viking advantage with the game headed down the home stretch.

Unphased, Columbia kept pushing and pushing and was finally rewarded with a timely trifecta from sophomore marksman Matt McCleary to trim NL’s lead down to five at 49-44 with just 50.2 seconds left to go. After the McCleary 3 ball, Columbia’s fullcourt press continued to pay dividends as a 5 second call whistled against the Vikings on the ensuing inbounds gave the ball back to Columbia with the opportunity to cut even further into the Northern Lebanon lead.

But that would not come to pass as the Tide was turned away leading to another pair of free throws on the other end, these from fellow senior Caleb Light who added to his sensational night, to put Northern Lebanon up 52-46.

With the ball back and one last chance, Columbia need to score. And fast. But it was not to be on this night. After a costly Tide turnover, the early-season legend of the Northern Lebanon Vikings only continued to grow as more late game free throw shooting helped the Vikings close this one out, giving the Vikes a huge leg up in the Section 3 race by virtue of their 56-48 victory over Columbia.

NEXT UP: With their win in the midweek, Northern Lebanon remains unbeaten in Section 3 play with the likes of traditional heavyweights Lancaster Catholic and Lancaster Mennonite. The Vikes will now look to ride their tidal wave of momentum all the way down to Kinzers on Friday night as Northern Lebanon preps for battle with Pequea Valley. After Friday night, Northern Lebanon will return home to Fredericksburg when they host their annual holiday tournament next week. Admittedly, it’s a tourney that gets more and more intriguing with each Viking victory and it could all possibly lead up to a tasty Section 1 vs Section 3 battle in the finals between Penn Manor and Northern Lebanon.

The road does not get any easier for Columbia after Wednesday night. Now sitting at 1-2 in the Section 3 standings, the Tide will go back into battle on Friday night with an excursion into Lancaster city to tangle with longtime rival Lancaster Catholic who also has an unblemished Section 3 mark. Once section play returns after the turn of the calendar year, Columbia will square off with Lebanon Catholic back on The Hill.

Hempfield Turns Away Spring-Ford In Saturday Afternoon Affair

Don’t be taken by surprise if the most popular phrase uttered around Landisville this winter is “What can you do for an encore?” The question of course being asked about the Hempfield Black Knights boys basketball program. A task that may seem easier said than done when you consider that the Knights were able to advance all the way to the Elite Eight of the PIAA playoffs last year in the inaugural year of the 6A classification. And although graduation saw the loss of some key members of last year’s squad, the core nucleus of that team is returning for yet another season and thus far, the early returns have yielded nothing but positive results as Hempfield had roared out of the gates to an undefeated record. On Saturday, fresh off a victory over Conestoga Valley, the Black Knights went back to work by welcoming a tough bunch of Rams from Spring-Ford. And once again, the beat continued on with Hempfield notching yet another victory.

Despite the long bus ride coming out of Royersford, the Rams got off to a quick start putting Hempfield behind the 8 ball. After a pair of Robert Bobeck free throws, Spring-Ford was in command with the 8-4 advantage with just three minutes of game action having gone by. Their early “commanding” lead was short-lived however as senior guard Anthony Alston, who had a monster game contributing 17 points to the winning effort, scored back to back lay ins to put Hempfield back in front 11-10.

Held scoreless until the waning moment of the first quarter, Hempfield’s prolific senior forward Ryan Moffatt, tallied his first bucket of the contest with a tough bucket inside to put the Black Knights up 13-12, but that lead too was not one to stand the test of time as a triple by Spring-Ford’s Ryan Hagan gave the lead right back to the visiting Rams as the quarter expired with Spring-Ford in front 15-13.

Spring-Ford and Hagan were able to continue to their hot start as the junior point guard splashed another trey to start the second frame with fellow junior Noah Baker following suit to increase the Spring-Ford lead to 20-13, leading to a Hempfield timeout.

Whatever message that was relayed by Hempfield head coach Danny Walck in the timeout seemed to provide the right medicine as the Black Knights responded by going on to surpass the Rams throughout the remainder of the second quarter. Coming out the break, Moffatt was able to chip in two more to his game-high total off 22 points with a sweet Euro-step move to bring the Black Knights within 5 at 20-15 before Elijah Washington contributed a hoop of his own before the Knights and Rams were eventually deadlocked at 20-20 with 4:35 left in the half.

Hempfield then continued to head back across the pond to find their offense as yet another Euro-step move to the tin, one of several displayed by a handful of Black Knights in the first half with these honors going to junior guard Elijah Washington, put Hempfield back in front at 24-21 which was the score at the break once the last remaining minute ticked off the clock.

After a back and forth start between the two squads to begin the second half, Hempfield was able to get the first type of separation on the scoreboard in the third quarter when Ryan Moffatt was able to finish through contact to give the Knights the 31-27 lead in the early portions of the third stanza.

Although getting in a third quarter hole, this tough crew of Rams refused to back down from this Saturday afternoon fight. After a Ryan Hagan floater in the lane, good for two of his 12 points on the afternoon, things were again all square at 31-31 with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. But when the going got on tough on this day, Hempfield called on Ryan Moffatt to carry the load who was more than willing and able to do the job.

After a hard-charging drive to the cup, Moffatt stepped outside and promptly knocked down a 3 ball from behind the arc which saw the Hempfield lead swell to 40-33 with the third quarter starting to wind down. Hempfield would then see their lead grow to an eight point margin following a stick-back by senior forward Donovan Green, but Spring-Ford continued to stick around, refusing to go down easy as evidenced by a trifecta by senior guard Nestor Diaz which brought the Rams back within 3 at 42-39 when the third quarter clock hit zeros.

When the fourth quarter began, Spring-Ford rattled off a 4-0 run which was capped off by a tough bucket in the paint by Noah Baker, Spring-Ford’s leading scorer on the afternoon who chipped in 17 points, put the Rams back in front 43-42. But the seesaw battle raged on from there as a nifty reverse lay in by Anthony Alston put the Black Knights back in the driver seat at 44-43, wrapping up an exciting first minute of action in the final frame.

Following a three point play by Ryan Moffatt shortly thereafter, it appeared that Hempfield may have finally found the final answer to the Spring-Ford riddle as Moffatt put Hempfield back in front 47-45 with 5:43 left to play. But that only turned out to be wishful thinking.

Spring-Ford continued to display why they will likely be a headache for other teams in the Liberty League this season as a baseline bucket by Harrison Pierce cut the Hempfield lead down to slimmest out of margins at 50-49.

Needing to stop another possible Spring-Ford rally, Hempfield found their man in Elijah Washington as his take to the rack pushed the Black Knight lead up to 3 at 52-49, forcing a Spring-Ford timeout with 2:43 left to go. That’s the when Hempfield was able to put this one in the bag.

After another bucket by who else, Ryan Moffatt, the Black Knight senior star showed off his basketball IQ by stealing the inbounds pass to effectively steal the wind out of the Spring-Ford sails.

One of the key factors that separates a good team from a great team is their ability to finish teams off from the foul line, specifically with the game on the line heading down the final furlong. And on Saturday, Hempfield was able to show why they fit into the description of the latter adjective as the Black Knights were able to seal it from the stripe with the key cog being Teagan Hazel.

With the Black Knights leading 54-49 with just over one minute left, the senior forward went to line and proceeded to calmly knock down the pair of free throws placed before him, then following that up with another 2-2 trip from the line to give Hempfield the separation that was needed to send them home a winner. Drew Groft was then able to put a bow on the Hempfield victory as the senior guard drove to hole for a lay in in the final minute which put the finishing touches on this 67-55 Black Knight triumph over a hard-nosed Spring-Ford crew.

NEXT UP: Hempfield, as does the rest of the L-L League, now begin preparations for the first week of a Monday, Wednesday, Friday section schedule. The Black Knights’ week will consist of trips to Penn Manor and Warwick sandwiched between a monster game back at home against longtime rival and fellow unbeaten, Manheim Township.

Spring-Ford will look to regroup from Saturday’s battle as the Rams welcome the Warriors from Methacton for a home date on Tuesday evening.

L-S Starts Fast, Cruises Past Donegal To Go 1-0 In Section Play

Although the 2017-18 high school hoops season only became a week old on Friday night, it has not been without its share of early headlines. Perhaps none nearly as eye-catching across the LLhoops landscape than that of the Donegal Indians. Starting off a season 3-0 may seem like old hat to some programs year in and year out, but this year’s impressive beginning is especially memorable considering what the school from Mount Joy has endured the last handful of seasons on the hardwood. Ever since that memorable playoff ride of 2013 that included victories over the likes of Allentown Central Catholic and Neumann-Goretti, the last team to beat Neumann Goretti in the state playoffs as a matter of fact, the winters have likely seemed a little longer and a little colder for Indians hoops fans ever since with wins not being nearly as plentiful. But all that has appeared to change after a sensational start to this season that has breathed new life to a program eager for its chance to break back out and challenge once again for section supremacy. And the Indians would get their shot right out of the gate as Donegal navigated the tricky roadways on a slick and icy Friday evening around the county for a matchup against the L-S Pioneers. An L-S program that seems to always be in the running for section title races, district playoff spots, and yes, state playoff appearances on an annual basis with this year appearing to be no different in Lampeter.

Although Donegal’s hot start to this season would be the narrative entering the evening, it would prove to be L-S who would define starting fast within the actual contest. The Pioneers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after a 3 ball was cashed in by L-S’ Jordan Sweger before Andrew Stwalley was able to counter with one of his own which put Donegal on the board all while cutting the Pioneer lead down to size at just two. From that point on however, L-S ran away with it. Both literally and figuratively.

Aided by a barrage of triples and a superb display of transition offense from the likes of Chase Broderick and Jordan Sweger, the Pioneers proceeded to blitz their guests, jumping out to a quick 12-3 lead, forcing Donegal to call time with half the quarter left to go.

But unfortunately the timeout would not provide the relief that it was originally intended for as the Pioneers went on to rattle off a separate 5-0 scoring punch that was capped off by a triple in the corner from Seth Beers which made it a commanding 17-3 Pioneer advantage.

To their credit, Donegal continued to scrap and claw their way back into things as a triple from Donegal star senior guard Avery Walker stopped the powerful Pioneer charge before three more Donegal points, all racked up from the charity stripe by Stwalley, trimmed the L-S lead down to just ten at 19-9. After the Stwalley freebies however, L-S was there to answer as yet another triple, this one from junior marksman Chase Broderick, announced the Pioneer retaliation and allowed L-S to go on and enjoy a 23-12 lead after the first quarter.

Even a change in quarters did nothing to cool off L-S’ blistering-hot shooting touch early on. Once the second stanza got underway, it was senior guard Isaac Beers who stepped out behind the arc and promptly splashed home a triple of his own to put L-S up by two touchdowns at 28-14 with 6:20 left to go in the half. And although L-S largely relied upon the performance of their guards in the opening quarter, the second quarter also saw the emergence of Ryan Smith, L-S’ ultra-talented 6’10” senior center. Shortly after the Beers’ triple, Smith found himself around the tin, seemingly plucking the ball out of thin air to tally an offensive rebound, but also proceeding to lay it up and in for the putback which made it a 31-14 Pioneer advantage.

The inside out game of L-S continued on as the second quarter progressed with Broderick getting loose for yet another trifecta, only to be followed by teammate Marc Wilson from close range as the Pioneer senior who battled hard all night inside, collected an offensive board and putback to only increase the L-S advantage. Fortunately for Donegal however, Avery Walker was on the scene to make sure that the Pioneers did not get too far out in front as Walker sunk a triple from the top of the key to answer the Wilson stickback as Donegal found themselves now within a dozen at 39-27 going into the halftime intermission.

Although L-S was not able to start nearly as fast as they had in the previous two quarters, Donegal was not able to either as the Indians were held scoreless in the second half until a pair of free throws converted at the line by senior Michael Lyons with 5:13 left in the third made it a 41-29 contest in favor of L-S. Despite their slow start in the second half, the Pioneers began to find their footing as the third quarter progressed when Seth Beers collected a steal and raced all the way to the other end for the finish to put the Pioneers up 48-34 with 2:45 now showing on the third quarter clock.

The L-S lead only continued to grow from there as yet another tough battle won inside by Marc Wilson was good enough for more high-percentage Pioneer points as a Wilson stickback pushed the L-S lead out to 50-34, leading to a Donegal timeout.

Following the timeout, Avery Walker responded with a pair of buckets to keep Donegal within shouting distance but Donegal was still down by 14 at 52-38 as the game moved into the fourth quarter.

In the early stages of the final frame it had appeared that perhaps Donegal was on the verge of creating something to spark a late-game comeback when a steal and drive to the cup by Michael Lyons got the Indians off to a fine start. But once again however, L-S would have a rebuttal. Once more, another 3 ball, this one from Ryan Smith who both defined the L-S inside/outside game to a T in just that snapshot, stepped beyond the arc to rain down another Pioneer 3 ball to up the L-S lead to 55-41 as the final quarter trudged along.

Although Donegal would climb back to within a baker’s dozen later on at 57-44 following an Avery Walker trey, L-S would go on to close this section opener out in style.

Without question, the play of the night came shortly thereafter when Jordan Swegar went behind the back in midair for a sensational move for another Pioneer deuce in the waning minutes. Sure, the move itself was pretty sweet, but it took on a whole different dynamic considering Swegar was forced to exit the game just a few minutes prior after suffering a scary spill hard onto the deck after hustling to secure a defensive board.
It then seemed only fitting that the Pioneers were able to close this one much in the same the same way they started it as a fast break layup in transition from Seth Beers to Chase Broderick put L-S up by 19 at 67-48 before Cam Niemeyer offered up the last highlight of the night with a steal and finish at the tin to put the finishing touches on L-S’ impressive victory to start Section 2 play 1-0 as the Pioneers bested Donegal 73-52.

NEXT UP: L-S is back at it again on Saturday evening as the Pioneers rekindle their current out of league series with Octorara. A phrase that will go by the wayside of course when Octorara fully comes on board next year. After Saturday’s tilt against the Braves from Atglen, the Pioneers will reenter Section 2 play against E-Town, Solanco, and Garden Spot respectively before going off to play in the Middletown Holiday Tournament.

Although Donegal suffered their first loss of the season on Friday night, it is important that the Indians put this one in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible heading into next week with a schedule that features dates with Manheim Central, Garden Spot, and Ephrata before the holiday break. If nothing else, it is apparent that this is a different Donegal basketball team. One that seems rejuvenated and eager to take on the likes of Section 2 on a nightly basis. Starting with the talented and scrappy backcourt of Avery Walker and Elijah Swanigan coupled with key cogs such as Michael Lyons and Andrew Stwalley, the pieces seem to be in place for Donegal to be a team that can be heard from all winter long.

Cedar Crest Overcomes Sluggish Start, Takes Down McCaskey For Key Section 1 Victory

It wasn’t all that long ago that seeing Cedar Crest and McCaskey on the nightly basketball slate wouldn’t have garnered much attention. But those days are long gone. For years, the McCaskey Red Tornado dominated the Section 1 landscape taking down nearly all comers. But for the last handful of seasons, the Cedar Crest Falcons refused to abide by that narrative and have dared to challenge the throne. And not only have the Falcons risen up to challenge the mighty Red Tornado, the two programs have gone on to trade volleys with one another for Section and League supremacy. Needless to say, a Cedar Crest and McCaskey game that now appears on the schedule has become appointment viewing. And on Thursday evening, the Falcons just so happened to be headed southbound to renew acquaintances with their old friends in Lancaster city.

In terms of drawing up a perfect start, it was hard to imagine one better than what the Red Tornado illustrated in the game’s opening minutes. After a steal by Cedar Crest’s Dylan Miller promptly led to an assist to Jaiden Melendez just a few seconds into the contest, the Red Tornado came roaring back. Fueled by a Bryan Menendez triple that started the scoring, McCaskey ripped off a 14-0 onslaught that capped off by a reverse finish at the tin by senior forward Eddie Simmons, forcing Cedar Crest to call time down 14-2 with 2:51 left in the opening quarter.

Trying the figure out the best way to go about attacking McCaskey’s zone, Cedar Crest found relief from their scoring drought in the foul line as a pair of free throws from senior guard Blake Thomson got the Falcons within ten at 14-4 just 30 seconds after the timeout. But McCaskey was able to remain on their sizzling start as a trifecta rained down from senior guard Isiah Speller put the Red Tornado lead past the ten point mark at 17-6.

Despite starting off colder than the temperatures outside Shultz Transportation Gymnasium, the foundation had been laid for Cedar Crest’s comeback as a three point play by veteran senior forward Cole Laney got the Falcons back under that aforementioned ten point gap at 17-9 as the first quarter came to a close.

From there, Cedar Crest erased their early game struggles in almost the blink of an eye. After a 3 ball from Jaiden Melendez coupled with a floater in the lane by Blake Thomson, the Falcons found themselves back within three already at 17-14 with just 1:15 having gone off the second quarter clock.

Cedar Crest would eventually go on to take the lead as a jumper from junior guard Brody Dunlop gave the Falcons their first lead since the opening seconds of the contest at 19-17. Although McCaskey would rally to tie things up at 19 apiece, the Falcons found separation from their hosts after a pair of triples from Logan Horn and Dylan Miller respectively as Cedar Crest went into the halftime break leading 27-24.

For as much as the first two quarters could be seen as separate entities making up a back and forth affair, the third quarter in and of itself illuminated that theme in spades. Coming out of the break, the Tornado proceeded to go on a 6-0 run that was capped off with Isiah Speller floater in the lane returned the lead back to McCaskey’s favor at 28-27. But from there, a Jaiden Melendez triple, one of his four on the evening, gave the lead back to Cedar Crest at 30-28, only to see the trading of honors continue as a Makai Ortiz 3 ball put the Red Tornado back in front shortly thereafter at 33-32.

The downtown shooting display from McCaskey continued on as Isiah Speller splashed home one of his four triples on the evening to put McCaskey back on the upper hand of the seesaw at 36-35 with 3:35 left to be played in the third quarter. But from that point on, Cedar Crest was able to take the lead and run with it.

Cole Laney would be the one to put Cedar Crest over the edge as his triple, good for 3 of his 13 point effort, saw the energy translate on the defensive end as well as a Laney rejection down on other end eventually led to a pair of Blake Thomson freebies from the charity stripe to make it a 40-36 Falcon advantage before Cedar Crest would see the third quarter expire with the 42-37 lead in their favor.

Although the deficit was just five facing McCaskey when the final quarter got underway, the Falcons slowly but surely were able to pull away and with it, any hopes of a final McCaskey flurry as the fourth quarter marched on. After a tough hoop inside was registered by Cole Laney which made it a 48-39 ballgame, a Blake Thomson hoop plus the harm seemed to really take the wind out of the McCaskey sails as Thomson went on to make the free throw that would follow to put the Falcons on top 51-39 with 5:03 left to go.

Although McCaskey would respond with the next four points, the last of which came courtesy of a Brian McKenzie jumper, Cedar Crest would go on to close the game out from charity stripe as a plentiful handful of freebies from Logan Horn helped the Falcons cruise home down the stretch and remain unbeaten at 4-0 with hard-fought 61-46 victory at McCaskey.

Although any win in Section 1 is considered so precious, Thursday’s night battle at McCaskey took on extra significance considering the Falcons will tip the ball off again on Friday afternoon opposite of the York Bearcats. Oh yeah by the way, on the very floor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Without question, the type of circumstance that could make even the most veteran of head coaches antsy. “This was one of the games that scared me,” Cedar Crest head coach Tommy Smith admitted afterwards. “I knew the kids were so excited about what they have tomorrow, but we had good focus coming in. The first quarter didn’t go our way, but shots just didn’t fall.” And despite what could have turned out to be a point of no return given a deep hole to McCaskey on their home floor, Cedar Crest did not flinch. Even with aspirations of playing on the same floor graced by NBA Hall of Famers in just a matter of hours. Playing with that level of focus, Smith and the Falcons are sure to be pleased with the results not only in the short term, but the long term as well. “Knowing what’s ahead of them tomorrow and the way handled themselves tonight I was very proud of them.”

NEXT UP: As mentioned Cedar Crest will take a quick detour out of LL League play for the trip down to Philadelphia to take on York at the Wells Fargo Center. A once in a lifetime opportunity that Coach Smith is excited to share with his Falcon squad. “It’s something special for these kids,” Smith went on to add now that the moment had finally arrived. “Ever since I found out, I’ve been excited about it, and just so excited for these kids. Give them credit. They haven’t looked ahead too much. What an incredible opportunity these guys have tomorrow.”

McCaskey will now take Friday night off since the Cedar Crest game was moved up for logistical purposes, but the Tornado will return to action for a Saturday afternoon road scrap with fellow powerhouse Harrisburg. Once next week begins, the Tornado will be looking at dates with Lebanon, Penn Manor, and Conestoga Valley inside Section 1 respectively before the holiday break.

Wildcats Feast On Bears Turnovers As Dallastown Scores Early Season Road Win At E-Town

If last season were to be summed up in one phrase for E-Town Basketball after posting a 5-21 overall record, the term would be “learning experience.” Although the record in 2016- 17 was not what everyone was hoping to have in Bear Country, all was certainly not lost last year in Elizabethtown. With a young core of players having gone through the wars of the nightly two month grind that is LL Boys Basketball and with much of the same supporting cast returning from last year’s scrappy ballclub, the hope this season is that the band is able to reunite and produce the same type of hits that have made this one of the most successful basketball programs in the league for the better part of the last decade. Although the final verdict will have yet to be read for some time, the early returns are in and it appears that this group of Bears have proven to be astute students in terms of what they took away from last year’s lessons as the Bears were able to post an impressive 7-1 record in the Spooky Nook Summer League (yes, the sometimes blasphemous term “summer league”) and split a pair of games in last weekend’s Manheim Township Tip Off Tournament, with the Bears scoring 82 points in their victory over Red Land. All of those experiences helped lead into Wednesday night’s home opener against the Dallastown Wildcats.

In the early stages, it appeared that E-Town had picked up right where they left on Saturday as the Bears blitzed their guests almost immediately as junior standout Larry Locker drove baseline and attacked the basket to break the scoring seal just 15 seconds into the contest before the E-Town lead would swell to an 8-0 advantage after an Amos Kollie steal and finish, forcing Dallastown to burn an early timeout to stave off E-Town’s hot start. Although Nike McGlynn was ultimately able to put Dallastown on the board with a follow for the Wildcats’ first points of the evening with 4:20 left in the opening quarter, the Bear advantage only continued to grow as a Larry Locker trifecta put E-Town up by a dozen at 16-4 just one minute later.

And although E-Town would see their dissipate somewhat following a Braden Caldwell jumper from the top of the key which made it a 16-8 ballgame for Dallastown, the hometown Bears were able to push it back up to a ten point advantage when the first quarter clock expired as Locker found himself on the receiving end off two wonderful assists from his teammates for back to back buckets to make it a 20-10 Bear lead after the first eight minutes.

For as much as E-Town dominated the first stanza, Dallastown was able to reverse the narrative in the second quarter. And then some.

Dallastown’s fiery second quarter start was ignited by Will Barton as the Wildcats’ senior guard rattled off six straight points in the blink of an eye to cut E-Town’s once sizeable lead down to just three at 22-19 with 6:40 left in the half.

Inspired by their work on the defensive end, the Wildcats continued to press on. Literally. Dallastown was able to translate their pesky defense into steals and scores throughout the entirety of the second frame. Using that same formula, the Wildcats were able to officially come all the way back following a Max Teyral lay in which gave Dallastown their first lead of the night at 23-22.

Although E-Town would eventually go back in front following a pair of Ryan Parise freebies at the line following a technical foul whistled against Dallastown, the Wildcats stayed on the attack and were rewarded for their efforts. After a Kyle Richardson bucket made it a 27-24 Wildcat lead, D-Town only saw their lead grow from there as an offensive board and putback by senior guard Max Teyral made it a 33-26 lead in favor of the visitors from York County.

In a quarter that was written by the Dallastown defense, it seemed only fitting that their signature highlight of the half was senior center Justin Atwood coming out of a different stratosphere to negate an E-Town shot and block it so hard against the backboard that it could have likely bounced its way back to Dallastown undeterred. Nevertheless, a steal and coast to coast finish by Teyral helped officially put a bow on the first half with Dallastown heading into the intermission leading 39-27. A quarter that Dallastown was able to win 27-7.

Coming out of the break, E-Town’s Dylan Sweger took matters into his own hands. The 6’2” junior responded to Dallastown’s challenge by splashing in two triples to start the second half. But Dallastown continued to keep E-Town at an arm’s length for much of the third frame.

Sophomore starting guard Ryan Parise was able to get the Bears back within single digits following a drive to the rack plus the foul, but the Dallastown lead went back up to ten shortly thereafter following a turnaround jumper from Justin Atwood.

Playing within that window, the Dallastown lead grew to as many as a dozen and shrunk to as few as eight following a pair of free throws by E-Town’s Cade Robinson. But at the end of the quarter however, it was a ten point lead that Dallastown would carry with them into the final quarter following a magnificent dish from Kyle Richardson to Kobe Green inside just before the horn to make it a 56-46 Wildcat lead.

Once the fourth quarter got underway, it appeared that E-Town had regained their footing that they enjoyed in the first quarter of action, inspiring visions of a possible comeback. After a pair of Larry Locker buckets, good for 4 of his game high 22 point outburst, the Bears had trimmed Dallastown’s lead down to just seven at 59-52 with 5:38 still left to play.

The wind would go out of the E-Town sails at least temporarily however following the implementation of a full court extended zone defense from Dallastown which did its job forcing an E-Town turnover, ultimately have it culminate in a Will Barton two-handed flush to make it a 61-52 D-Town cushion with 4:33 left to play.

Unphased, E-Town kept clawing away at the Dallastown lead and after a pair of Parise freebies, E-Town found themselves down just five at 61-56 with an eternity yet to play, but in all reality just 4:10. Dallastown would continue to have an answer for whatever E-Town threw at them as a bucket and foul from Will Barton gave him 2 of his team high 14 points, but more importantly, an increase to Dallastown’s lead at 64-56 with 3:41 left to go.

From there, Dallastown was able to work their delay game like a charm, chewing up precious time all while keeping the ball away from E-Town, and any hopes of a comeback on this night. Couple that with empty trips from E-Town once the Bears did get their mitts on it, and Dallastown went on to close the game out at the foul line and walk away into the snowy night with a 71-62 road win over Elizabethtown.

NEXT UP: With their victory on Wednesday night, the Dallastown Wildcats picked up some key mojo heading into a highly anticipated game with one of the best in all of District 3 regardless of classification, the high-flying Northeastern Bobcats on Friday.

Although it was a disappointing loss for E-Town, especially the way in which the game began, the blessing (and the curse sometimes) of basketball is that the next game is never too far off in the distance. For the Bears, the distance comes into full view on Friday night as the Bears will head east to tangle with one of the preseason favorites in Section 2, the Ephrata Mounts.

Cocalico Grinds Out Blue Collar Victory Over Unbeaten Exeter

Although this year’s high school basketball season is still in its infancy, it’s safe to say that the Cocalico Eagles did not get off to the type of start they were hoping for thus far. Although the Eagles entered their home opener on Tuesday still winless, a closer look at Cocalico’s early season slate helps to tell the story of the gauntlet that was the Hershey Tip Off Tournament right out of the starting blocks. Although the Eagles came up short in both contests, losses to Hershey and Allentown Allen are certainly nothing to sneeze at. If Allen sounds like a familiar name, it should. Remember for a moment that the Canaries were knocked off in the opening round of states last year. A victory that helped propel the Black Knights to their memorable run through the state tournament. But with lessons learned from the opening week of the season with an added bolt of energy from playing on their home floor, Cocalico welcomed the Exeter Eagles down from Berks County for a midweek tussle. An Exeter squad that has already earned the right to be called a champion this young season as the Eagles laid claim to their own tip off tournament this past weekend.

Early on, it was apparent that this was a Cocalico outfit that was out to make amends for last weekend. The Eagles quickly jumped on top of their guests early on by running out to a 7-0 lead after a Connor Mack putback, his second bucket of the early going, as Exeter was forced to burn a timeout with 4:48 left in the opening quarter. Exeter was finally able to get on the board following the timeout as a Wes Murray lay in off the fast break gave the Eagles their first points of the ballgame. The junior forward for Exeter continued to have the hot hand over the few minutes as Murray went on to tally Exeter’s first six points of the ballgame, the last of which made it a 9-6 Cocalico lead with 2:20 to go in the opening frame.

From that point on however, the first quarter was dominated by the hometown Eagles. Inspired by a charge taken on the defensive end by senior forward Tyler Keppley, Cocalico saw their lead swell to 14-6, with three free throws from Nick Lucky being critical during that stretch. But the highlight of the quarter, and really the game for that matter, came in the last few seconds of the opening frame a ¾ court shot by sophomore guard Alex Javier found the bottom of the cup which brought Exeter within five at 14-9 once the first quarter expired.

The Cocalico lead was then cut down to four in the opening stages of the second stanza as freshman guard Anthony Wise was able to splash home a triple for Exeter with just 1:30 gone by with the score now reading 16-12. After a nice spin move in the paint by Cocalico big man Trey Griffin, Cocalico was able to get some breathing room on the scoreboard with the score now 18-12 in favor of the home team.

But Exeter was not about to let Cocalico run away and hide on this frigid night. Much in the same way that the Tyler Keppley charge taken in the first quarter seemed to inspire the Cocalico troops, a charge taken by Exeter’s junior center Anthony Zabala seemed to do the same for the visitors from Reiffton midway through the second quarter as well. Following the Zabala charge, Alex Javier went on to score five of the next seven Exeter points to make it a two point ballgame with Cocalico in front 23-21. Javier would continue on his remarkable first half performance as a jumper by the heady Exeter guard kept it at a two point margin when the opening half came to a close with Cocalico hanging on to the narrow 25-23 advantage.

Coming out of the break, Cocalico turned to their ace in the hole, Aidan Trynosky, as the sensational senior guard delivered with a trademark triple to get the second half scoring underway for Cocalico. From there, Cocalico’s lead only continued to grow as a ferocious battle inside won by Cocalico saw the possession ultimately end in a Connor Mack bucket which increased Cocalico’s lead to 34-27. The Eagle lead would then grow to double digits as a Nick Lucky trifecta made the scoreboard read 37-27 in favor of Cocalico with 4:30 left in the third, forcing Exeter to call a timeout.

As time would go on to show, the timeout called by Exeter did its job and promptly slowed down the Cocalico onslaught. After an Alex Javier 3 ball and a beautiful display of running the floor by Exeter big man Anthony Zabala, the Eagles of Exeter found themselves within seven at 39-32 with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Cocalico lead would end up being sliced down to as few as three later on as a nifty reverse finish at the tin by Exeter’s Joe Rohrbach made it a 39-36 contest in favor of Cocalico as the fourth quarter was set to begin.

After a somewhat slow start to get the fourth and final quarter underway, Cocalico’s Brad Heck was finally able to break the scoring seal as a turnaround jumper with a kiss off the glass put Cocalico back up by five with 5:30 left to go at 41-36. Once again however, Exeter was not about raise the white flag as two buckets back to back by the Eagles’ Riley Dobraniecki, his first points of the contest, trimmed Cocalico’s lead down to the slimmest of margins as 41-40 with four minutes left to go.

But Dobraniecki was not finished. Although the senior center brought Exeter back into the thick of it with a handful of buckets from the field, it was a free throw just after that that knotted things up at 41-41 with 3:07 left in the ballgame.

Now playing on a level playing field in terms of the scoreboard for the first time since the opening tip, Exeter was determined to play from the head pilot’s chair. And they were able to do just that shortly thereafter as a steal by Alex Javier ended in a trip to the foul line down on the other end as the sophomore guard proceeded to calmly knock down the pair, giving Exeter their first lead of the contest at 43-41 with just 1:49 left to go.

Luckily for the hometown patrons from Denver, their Eagle squad wasn’t through fighting on this night. With momentum clearly on Exeter’s side following the clutch free throws from Javier, Cocalico did not flinch as a Connor Mack jumper was not only good for 2 of his team high 12 points, it knotted the score back up at 43-43 with time ticking away.

With Exeter unable to manufacture anything on their ensuing possession, Cocalico had the ball back in their hands with the chance for a walkoff victory. Although it wasn’t necessarily a picture-perfect walkoff, it proved to be dramatic nonetheless as Nick Lucky drove to the cup with great determination, getting fouled in the act where the senior guard saw the first freebie crawl through the net before a timeout was called with one more remaining coming out of the break. Although Lucky’s second free throw would not have the same similar fate as the first, Connor Mack was there to save the day for Cocalico as the junior guard ran down the loose ball, securing the offensive rebound, where he would receive his turn to go to the line after getting fouled by the pursuing Exeter troops. And although this free throw would not find the bottom of the cup either, a deflection by freshman Carter Nuneville saw the ball find its way back into the hands of senior Nick Lucky. This trip to the charity stripe would prove to be more successful than the previous excursions for Cocalico as Lucky was able to knock down the pair, giving the homestanding Eagles the 46-43 cushion with .4 seconds remaining.

Exeter would have one last gasp, however the long baseball pass down the floor would be tipped away, giving Cocalico their first victory of the season 46-43 over Exeter.

Although any victory is appreciated during the rigors of the nightly grind of high school hoops, few come much sweeter than the first one of the season. Particularly after a tough pair of games to start off the season. And despite Cocalico’s 0-2 start, it’s clear that Cocalico head coach Seth Sigman enjoys this year’s team and what they can bring to the table. “We’re scrappy, which I love, and we play hard,” Sigman offered after the game. “Our scoring was spread out tonight which is a good thing for us too. Nick (Lucky) and Connor (Mack) scored for us and we got some timely baskets from other guys too,” the head man went on to add before stating matter of factly, “That is a big step we have to take this year in order to be where we want to be come February.”

NEXT UP: Cocalico will try to turn one win into two on Wednesday night as the Eagles make the trek up 222 to pay a visit to the Wilson Bulldogs before opening up Section 2 play against Garden Spot on Friday night back home in the Eagles Nest.

Exeter will have off for the rest of the week before the Eagles get their next chance to regroup against their fourth Lancaster Lebanon League team in as many games as the Eagles will play host to Warwick in a Saturday afternoon matinee.