BERKS CATHOLIC RACES PAST VALLEY VIEW 56-36

Well we are way past big speech time for most coaches with teams still playing in the PIAA tournament.  For Valley View and Berks Catholic both came into the PIAA 4A matchup Tuesday from entirely different directions.  BC highly favored struggled in their first round matchup. Valley View came in following an impressive win.  Legendary Berwick High hosted this matchup and despite the Valley View Cougars best efforts, Berks Catholic proved to tough.  The Saints came away with a 56-36 win Tuesday night.

Luis Garcia just played lights out all over the court for Berks Catholic.   Garcia’s 20 points led all scorers.  Keba Mitchell just controlled the paint with block after block, rebound after rebound.  Keba also had 14 points.  Jaden Duplessis had a sold effort for Valley View with 17 points.

Clearly each team had the jitters to start the game.  It was only 5-3 Cougars 6 minutes into the game.  A Casey Jack steal and awesome bounce pass assist to Tre Dabney as the quarter ended made it 10-7 BC after one.  Despite some very nice efforts by Keba Mitchell and Luis Garcia, BC cold not shake Valley View until down the stretch in quarter two.  Berks Catholic had played very well but had only a 23-13 lead at the half.

Berks Catholic never let Valley View feel they could get back into the game.  But the Cougars never let up.  Valley View  did  throw a few good runs at the Saints in quarter three.  After three quarters BC held a 39-28 lead.  The fourth quarter was all Berks Catholic.  Solid offensive sets coupled with good free throw shooting made the final Berks Catholic 56 Valley View 36.  The win for BC tied a school record for most wins in a season with 28.  The Saints now face Bethlehem Catholic Friday in the next round as a site to be determined.

McDEVITT HAS IT’S WAY WITH KUTZTOWN 59-42

Coming up from the Philadelphia Catholic League the Lancers of Bishop McDevitt.  And from Berks Country the District Three 3A runner up Kutztown Cougars.  Despite being the higher seeded team, the clear favorite coming in were the battle tested Lancers.   McDevitt ran out to a quick lead  and coasted home win a 59-42 win.

Robert Smith guided the offense and poured in 18 points for McDevitt.  Shamir Mosley and Jamil Manigo each chipped in 10.  Matt Angstadt paced Kutztown with 9.  Star Lorenz Jean-Baptiste was held in check all game by the Lancers and finished with 8.

McDevitt took control of the game from the outset.  Nice offensive sets coupled with some tenacious half court defense had the Lancers up 13-6 after one over the Cougars.  McDevitt continued to have productive possessions and Kutztown struggled to get any offensive flow.  We went to halftime McDevitt up 31-14.

Kutztown came out after halftime with renewed intensity.  Dane Fegley and Matt Angstadt picked up the offensive slack and the Cougars had cut the lead to 12 midway through the third quarter.  McDevitt never panicked and that was as close as Kutztown would get.  The Lancers led 43-28 after three and flipped the switch starting the fourth quarter.  The lead was 21 with just over two minutes left.  The reserves from both teams came in and close it out.  The final was Bishop McDevitt 59 Kutztown 42.   The Lancers are on to round two of the PIAA Tourney.  No hanging of heads for Kutztown. This fine season comes to an end, but a bright future awaits.

 

READING HIGH ELIMINATES BENSALEM 63-38

The beauty about PIAA post season basketball is the mystery surrounding the inter sectional opening round games.  Many of these teams and many of these leagues have very few points of reference to judge performances.  So  Saturday afternoon the Bensalem Owls and Reading Red Knights  faced off at the GMIS in an opening round PIAA tourney game.  A nip and tuck first half, was replaced with a Reading High runaway in in the second half.  The Red Knights cruised on to PIAA tourney round two with a 63-38 win over Bensalem.

Reading got solid play from Larry Wingo and Daniel Colter  each with 13 points.  Wesley Butler had all of his 11 points in the second half. James Lieble’s strong inside game and 12 points led Bensalem.

The first quarter was a clash of styles.  Reading was trying to get things up tempo to negate Bensalem’s height advantage.  Bensalem did their best to maximize the inside advantage.  After one Reading was up 11-10.  Reading stepped up the defensive pressure to keep up the tempo.  The constant pressure got Bensalem out of offensive rhythm and opened up the passing lanes.  The Red Knights also began to work better on the boards and held a 25-20 lead at the break.

The third quarter was all Reading.  Daniel Colter and Larry Wingo began to work a nice inside and outside game on offense.  Coupled with Bensalem going absolutely cold from the field The Red Knights began to pull away and led 41-24 after three.   With three minutes left Reading had just removed all doubt by forging a 55-32 lead. It was keep away and free throw time after that  The Red Knights just ran away and hid for a 63-38 win.  The Red Knights move on in the tourney to face C.B. West.

 

BERKS CATHOLIC ESCAPES FROM JOHN BARTRUM 47-43

Around this time of year you just never know. Opening round PIAA tourney games can be well, unpredictable? John Bartrum a relatively unknown .500 Philadelphia public league school, vs Berks Catholic, the well oiled machine from Berks County. A long and traffic delayed drive to almost a home game for the Saints. No chance for the Braves you say, well not so fast my friends. John Bartrum did not know they were an underdog. John Bartrum played a very emotional style of basketball. John Bartrum gave everything they had…but fell just short. Berks Catholic’s experience and execution proved to much down the stretch. The Saints came away with a hard fought 47-43 win over John Bartrum at the Geigle complex in Reading Friday Night

Tre Dabney led the Saints with 12 points. Off the bench, Jack Hagelbarger with 8 points and Luke Painton’s 7 were big reasons why the Saints came out on top. Khyree Lloyds had 13 for John Bartrum.

The game had a lot of action to start, but very little scoring. Halfway through the first quarter it was 6-2 Saints. BC kept up its good defense the rest of the quarter and led 12-7 after one. A key development in quarter one was Keba Mitchell picking up two fouls. Mitchell would be on the bench the entire 2nd quarter. Luke Painton picked up where Mitchell left off in quarter two. Luke and Jack Hagelbarger off the bench and Tre Dabney gave BC a spark. The Saints needed something as they were cold from the field and Bartrum was ruling the glass. The Saints led John Bartrum 24-18 at the break.

The third quarter, well lets just say it was not one of BC’s best. But lets give some credit to Bartrum The Braves 94 foot pressure defense took the Saints out of any kind of offensive rhythm. BC held a slim 26-24 lead going to the fourth. In the fourth quarter things finally began to click for both teams. Saints Coach Snip Easterly shifted to a hi-low post offensive set with Keba Mitchell down low. This paid dividends in a hurry with three Keba Mitchell slams. But Bartrum did not back down. The Braves matched BC bucket for bucket. Bartrum tied the score at 43 with :15 seconds to play. On the ensuing inbounds Bartrum inexplicably fouled BC. Luis Garcia calmly sank both ends of the one and one. 45-43 Saints :05 left Another Bartrum foul after a missed field goal. Garcia makes the front end, misses the 2nd 46-43. Bartrum got the board but a huge steal by Tre Dabney and his free throw made the final BC 47 John Bartrum 43.

Its Tuesday night time for BC in the PIAA tourney next.

READING HIGH GRINDS OUT THE DISTRICT THREE 6A TITLE

Reading High marched through Dallastown and Manheim Township to make it to the District Three 6A title game. In there way stood a solid, veteran, battle tested Chambersburg Trojan squad. Chambersburg led the game after one. Reading High turned up the defensive pressure, pulled out to a lead and had to hang on to a 46-43 triumph and the District Three 6A crown Saturday afternoon in Hershey.

Ricki Lopez led the way for the Red Knights with 10. Ricki had a key basket and free throws down the stretch to preserve the win. Xavier Starks contributed 9 “The House” Joel Torres had a game high 15 to lead the Trojans.

Clearly both teams came out tight to start. Some tough shooting and untimely turnovers by both squads kept the score down to Trojans 10 Reading 9 after one. Reading cranked up the defensive pressure in quarter two. The Red Knights forced numerous turnovers and held Chambersburg without a field goal. Reading held a 19-12 halftime lead.

Reading’s offense finally began to click after halftime. The Red Knights pulled in front by as much as 15 in the third quarter. Then the Trojans began to methodically chip away at the lead. A bucket by Readings Xavier Starks got the lead to 36-25 going to the fourth. Again in the fourth, Chambersburg slowly began to get back in the game. The Trojans were within 6 with 5:50 to play. Chambersburg kept up the charge, but Reading always seemed to have an answer. Then came a barrage of three’s by Chambersburg the Red Knights did not answer. It was a two point game with :32 left. Two key stops, a fast break bucket and free throws by Ricki Lopez got the lead to 46-40 with :16.1 left. Another three by Chambersburg’s Cade Brindle got it to 46-43 with :4.4 left. A foul, missed free throws, by Reading, foul by Reading and a missed bonus opportunity by Chambersburg all got crammed into the last four seconds. IN the end Reading came away with the District Three title 46-43.

BERKS CATHOLIC CLAIMS ANOTHER DISTRICT THREE HOOPS TITLE

Back in November in Hershey the Berks Catholic boys faced off with the Bishop McDevitt Crusaders in football.  The Saints put forth a dominating performance and came away with a District Three title.  Fast forward to March, and it was Deja vu all over again.   Berks Catholic met Bishop McDevitt for the District Three 4A basketball title.  Once again in dominating fashion Berks Catholic came away with a decisive win 46-26 win over Bishop McDevitt.

Luis Garcia battled his way for a game high 14 points for Berks Catholic.  Keba Mitchell was also outstanding again on both ends of the floor for the Saints.

BC pulled out early and never looked back  McDevitt never led in the game.  After one BC held a 13-4 lead  The Saints were in control at the half 23-12.

BC started the 2nd half strong. The Saints extended the lead to 14 halfway through the quarter and were up 13 heading to the fourth. McDevitt could never get any offensive rhythm due in large part to an excellent defensive effort by BC. It was coronation time down the stretch The Saints marched off with a District Three 4A title and huge momentum heading into the state tourney.

 

 

 

 

Powerful Second Half Performance Propels Reading Past Manheim Township Into District 3-6A Title Game

In sports, or really just in life in general, there truly is only one way to go about attacking a giant challenge set forth in front of you. Metaphorically speaking here of course, you can’t exactly tippy-toe into the lion’s den. Instead, you have to go in full-steam ahead, throwing caution to the wind, all while carrying a big stick to help take down the beast. And while Manheim Township was not exactly faced with such a literal, dangerous example on Tuesday night inside the Giant Center, the basketball challenge that was presented to the Blue Streaks was no less daunting to say the least.

Make no mistake about it, Township’s road to the District 3-6A semifinal round was not without it’s fair share of potholes that could have easily thrown the Streaks off course. Yet through it all, Township was able to hold steady, snatching up key victories along the way that could have done nothing but improve their overall mental makeup.

After a somewhat surprising opening round exit from the L-L League tournament at the hands of Garden Spot, the Streaks were faced with the challenge of bouncing back in quick order as MT would go on to enter the District 3 bracket as the #5 seed with an opening round tester against the Buckskins of Conestoga Valley. A fellow Section 1 outfit that was able to top the Blue Streaks in the last meeting between the two back on January 18th at CV with the Bucks pulling out a nail-biting 59-56 decision.

Once the Streaks were able to take care of business and hold off the Bucks 52-39 in the opening round of district play, Manheim Township was faced with the somewhat unenviable task of squaring off with yet another Section 1 opponent, this time with Cedar Crest Falcons who were likely salivating for another chance at the Streaks after MT was able to roll into the famed “Cage” in Cornwall earlier in the season and come away with a 77-71 victory. A triumph that would serve notice to rest of Section 1 and the rest of the league for that matter that these young Blue Streaks were growing up right before our very eyes.

And this past Friday night only proved to be yet another step in MT’s maturation process as the Streaks were able to complete the season sweep on the road at Cedar Crest, besting the home-standing Falcons 67-59 to earn the right to take their shot at a Pennsylvania goliath.

By now, odds are high that you already know the story and significance behind the date of March 25, 2017 as it relates to Reading High basketball. That after all was the night when the Red Knights were able to capture that elusive first title in school history, taking down Pine Richland 64-60 in front of a capacity crowd. It was indeed an enthusiastic environment to say the least that could only be described as the night where the Giant Center had transformed itself into “Geigle West.”

And while that night will always and forever live on in the hearts and minds of those who were fortunate enough to be a part of it, it was certainly understandable as to why the Red Knights would have nothing but good memories walking back into that very building for the first time since that historic late March night.

Even still, Reading head coach Rick Perez was not about to have this 2017-18 team be labeled with some sort of “leftover” tag, but rather making sure this year’s bunch was acknowledged for deserving the opportunity to write their own history inside the beautiful arena that every District 3 player wishes to play in at some point during in their career. After all, it’s simply too hard not to appreciate and recognize the diligence, moxie and mental fortitude that goes along with following up a state title by going wire to wire as the #1 seed in District 3’s largest classification throughout the entire season, all while trying to fill the shoes of some of the best players to have ever suited up in the prestigious Red Knight uniform.

“I try not to create any external anxiety or anything like that,” Coach Perez in regards to stepping back into the Giant Center for the first time since that historic night. “You appreciate the day for what it is. We know what it is. I don’t need to mention it or harp on it with them.”

“We just appreciate being here today with this group,” Perez continued. “I want them to seize the moment…The state championship is a beautiful thing. We’ve got the rings and the t-shirts that will hopefully fit us forever if we stay in shape,” he went on to say with a chuckle. “We have to move forward and I think this team has been able to do that.”

One thing quickly became apparent once Tuesday night’s affair got underway. That being that the Blue Streaks were not simply here to be a footnote. They had arrived to play ball with the best in the area.

Aided by a strong start defensively which limited the Red Knights to several one and done opportunities to begin the contest, Township’s Brendan Mellott was able to give the Streaks the first points of the ballgame with a smooth pullup jumper 2:30 into the game.

But just as solid teams left standing at this point in the season are able to do, the Red Knights would have an immediate answer as a sweet step-back jumper popped home by 6’2” senior guard Xavier Starks of Reading knotted things up at 2-2 as both squads were starting to come to grips with all the emotions and physical surroundings that go along with playing on Pennsylvania’s grandest basketball stage.

And although Township was able to get just a little bit of breathing room at 6-2 following a bucket inside Mellott, Reading was able to counter back a few more buckets of their own to get within one of the Streaks at 8-7 with the game nearing the two minute mark of the opening period.

From there however, the Streaks truly started to ascend.

Aided by a quick 4-0 spurt by Tyler Crespo, Manheim Township’s 5’9” junior who only gets better and better with each passing game that he plays, the Blue Streaks were able to look up at large, overhanging scoreboard stationed directly above center court to see that they had suddenly laid claim to a six point lead at 14-8 with roughly one minute left in the quarter.

Yet Township would be able to continue on building their lead from there as a tough hoop inside by 6’3” sophomore Zach Oldac allowed the Streaks to double up the defending state champs by a 16-8 margin before the quarter would eventually expire with MT in front 17-10.

Once the second quarter commenced, it had appeared that Manheim Township would have an entirely different Reading team to deal with as the Red Knights came out the respite in between quarters with an inspired effort in the face of their early hole.

Never more was that on display than with RJ Dixon’s trifecta at the outset of the second stanza that could have easily become an “uh oh” moment for the Blue Streaks.

But as mentioned previously, these Streaks simply would not wilt in the face of adversity. Instead, Township was able to answer back with a Reece Sachs’ triple as the 5’9” senior guard was able to answer the Dixon bucket, calming the seas for MT in the early stages of quarter two.

However Township was able to do better than simply just answering Reading over the course of the next several minutes. They were able to push Reading away.

Aided by an impressive display of work from a host of Streaks inside the painted area throughout the entirety of the first half, yet another bunny from close range, this one cashed in by Brendan Mellott, put the Streaks up 24-15 with the Red Knights having to call timeout with 4:36 left in the first half.

Yet the Township lead only grew to double digit proportions following the second quarter Red Knight timeout as a Zach Oldac bucket, yet again inside, had the Streaks feeling anything but Blue as the MT lead swelled to 26-15 at the four minute mark of the half.

With his team needing some sort of a spark to help engineer a comeback that would hinder Manheim Township from feeling as comfortable as they currently were, Reading gave the ball and the keys to 5’11” junior guard Wesley Butler to take over the show. And as fate would have it, Butler knew exactly what to do when the opportunity presented itself.

As Township continued to play on throughout the latter stages of the first half with a lead that hovered right around the eight point window, Wesley Butler helped take Reading into the halftime break on his back as Butler was able to rattle off a much-needed late-half flurry that was capped off with a gorgeous jumper just before the horn. And although Township went into the break in possession of the 30-26 advantage, the overwhelming consensus inside the mammoth arena setting was one that an entirely different Red Knight would return to the floor for the final 16 minutes.

There was just one problem. No one had run that idea by Manheim Township.

In fact, Township wasted little time to get back into the swing of things following the intermission as Tyler Crespo dialed one up from bonus distance to start the second half, good for 3 of his team-high 15 points on the evening.

From there, the Blue Streaks would continue to play with the lead as a pair of Hilton Ridley freebies from the charity stripe increased the Township lead to five at 36-31 with the third period quickly approaching it’s midway point.

And right on cue, Reading knew that it was precisely the exact time to go about exerting their will.

All game long, Wesley Butler had proven himself to be Reading’s MVP with the rock in his hands, playing with the heart of a lion. And while he primarily did his damage by scoring with consistent acrobatic finishes in amongst the tall Township trees, his late third quarter assist to Bobby Heath proved to be one of Mr. Butler’s biggest plays of the evening.

“Wesley is experienced on this floor,” Coach Perez said glowingly of the Red Knights’ floor general afterward. “The sense of urgency really kicked in when it wasn’t for us in the beginning unfortunately but you go through these situations for a reason,” the Reading head man went on to say. “Wesley was the catalyst. He got things going offensively.”

Providing a spark which in turn spurred on his fellow Red Knights.

“Guys like Bobby Heath and Xavier Starks had an awesome defensive game here today. Once one guy gets going, what’s important is our program is not just who’s leading, but who are the followers?”

And right on cue with his team trailing 36-33 with the clock hovering near the three minute mark of the third, Reading’s diminutive but feisty 5’11” junior point guard was able to penetrate through the lane and kick it out to Heath standing all by his lonesome on the wing as the 5’10” senior was able to tie the game up at 36-36 off the sweet Butler dish leading to the trifecta.

Fittingly, Butler would continue to play with great ferociousness by popping a J shortly thereafter to give the Red Knights their first lead of the ballgame at 38-36 with two minutes left to play in the third.

But Butler would not be finished with his stellar third quarter play as Reading’s sensational point guard was able to tally one more bucket before the third quarter horn which helped send Reading into the final eight minutes in possession of the 42-39 lead.

Yet once again, Manheim Township would continue to be unphased by the locomotion of Reading momentum that was charging hard in their direction. Never more was that on display than with Tyler Crespo being able to hustle down a loose carom, collecting the offensive rebound and proceeding to rise and fire from behind the arc, slicing Reading’s lead down to 44-42 with a critical 3 ball with 6:30 left to play.

But MT would only continue to hang around and pester the Red Knights before a gigantic take to the cup by 6’0” senior forward Larry Wingo improved Reading’s lead to 49-45 with just over three minutes left to play.

The Blue Streak deficit would then continue to remain at four following a successful trip to the line by MT’s Hilton Ridley as the 6’2” junior guard was able to knock down both of his attempts, making it a 51-47 ballgame with just over three minutes left to go.

But unfortunately for those that had made the trip north from Neffsville, that would prove to be all the closer their beloved Blue Streaks would get for the remainder of the night as empty trips besmirched Township late with Reading offering no relief at the other end with sensational free throw shooting down the stretch to help close things out as the Red Knights were able to advance on the District 3 6A final, dispatching a Manheim Township team that very likely could end up in Hershey yet again next season, 57-49 on Tuesday night at Giant Center.

Without question, the 2016-17 Reading Red Knights Boys’ Basketball team will likely forever go down in history as the best to ever do it at the “Castle on the Hill.” However in an interesting twist of irony, the 2017-18 bunch has the opportunity on Saturday afternoon to accomplish something that their historic predecessors were not able to accomplish—bringing home a District title trophy. It’s an achievement that is certainly not lost on Red Knight head man Rick Perez.

“I’m proud of them,” Perez said proudly regarding this year’s team. “They seized the moment. They’ve been here before and they’ve learned from some great people. This is their opportunity and Saturday is their day. I just hope that we can come out and put forth the best effort.”

NEXT UP: As mentioned, Reading will now have prepare for a very impressive Chambersburg ball club in the title fight on Saturday afternoon. It’s a Trojan crew that likely will be geared up and ready to compete given the fact that Chambersburg has already knocked off last year’s finalists in Harrisburg and Hempfield on their road to Saturday.

For Township, the Streaks must now regroup and refocus for a Thursday night tussle with a longtime rival Hempfield in the District 3-6A Third Place Game which will go a long way in determining possible roadtrips or lack thereof for the upcoming PIAA state tournament which gets underway next weekend.

Yet even in defeat late Tuesday night, Manheim Township head man Matt Johns was able to come away with some positives from the game given the fight he saw out of his Blue Streaks.

“You never know,” Johns said in regards to how his team would exactly handle bright lights and big stage that just so happened to go along with the opportunity to knock off the defending state champs in a playoff setting. “(Reading) has been here in this situation a ton of times…You never know what’s going to happen when the lights are on and it’s an 8:30 game and they’ve had all day to think about it.”

“That’s the beauty and the curse of basketball,” Johns went on to add. “You don’t know what’s going to happen when you go out there. So the fact that we stepped up to that moment, came out and went toe-to-toe with them, I’m really pleased.”

BERKS CATHOLIC ADVANCES TO THE DISTRICT THREE 4A FINAL

Turning back the clock one year ago, the Berks Catholic Saints were dejected following a District Three Semi Final loss at the hands of the Middletown Raiders.  Don’t ever think that those thoughts of defeat ever left the Saints minds.  Berks Catholic maybe came out a bit to emotional in a rematch with Middletown Monday night.  Once the Saints settled down, there was no stopping them.  A dominating second half performance propelled Berks Catholic to a 51-33 win over Middletown. The Saints now play for the District Three 4A title Thursday Night in Hershey.

Junior Luis Garcia led the way for Berks Catholic with 15 points  Tre Dabney chipped in 11 and the score book does not tell you how the inside presence of Keba Mitchell influences a game.  Ryan Hughes 11 points paced Middletown.

The game had a rather sluggish start as both teams let emotions get the best of them. Better than halfway through quarter one BC was only up 6-5.  The Saints found a bit of offensive rhythm that included a great ball fake, then SLAM move by Keba Mitchel.  The Saints led 15-8 after one.  In quarter two the emotions really started to run high and Middletown creeped back in the game.  When the horn sounded for halftime BC was only up 23-21. Unfortunately for the Saints, Mitchell picked up his third foul  as the half came to a close.

BC came out playing with confidence in the second half.  Coupled with hard luck shooting by Middletown BC pulled out to a 35-27 lead after three.  The fourth quarter was a methodical march toward a win by BC,  The Saints led by 14 hallway through the quarter and finished off Middletown for a 51-33 final score.

BC will next face parochial District Three foe Bishop McDevitt in the 4A final  The Crusaders had a tussle with Kennard-Dale but pulled away at the end 62-53.

 

Hempfield Secures Sweet Return To Chocolatetown As Black Knights Upend Wilson In District 3-6A Quarterfinal Victory

The good thing about playoff basketball is that it can you give matchups like L-S and Hempfield as was the case last Wednesday when the Pioneers and Black Knights squared off in the most-anticipated game of the season for the right to advance to the L-L title game opposite of Lancaster Catholic.

The bad thing about playoff basketball is that it can give you matchups like L-S and Hempfield. Why the change in tone in just one small paragraph? Easy. One team would emerge victorious while another remarkable team would be left standing along the side of the road after an unfortunate and immediate exit from the league playoffs at the conclusion of 32 minutes with both teams emptying the tank, giving it everything they possibly could.

As it relates to this specific example, the team that just so happened to come up on the short end of the stick last week would be Hempfield as the Black Knights battled tooth and nail before eventually running out of time against the eventual league champion Pioneers, 47-45 after fighting back from an early 19 point hole.

It would prove to be a loss that the Black Knights would want to make amends for sooner rather than later.

“Matter of fact coming back, there was a big conversation amongst the staff of ‘Should we bring them back into the gym?”’ Hempfield head coach Danny Walck said when describing the bus ride home from Millersville last Wednesday night. “We decided that on Thursday we needed to get back in the gym and we needed to talk about ‘What have we learned?’ If you learn from an experience like that, as hard as it is and as emotional as it is, then you haven’t failed,” Coach Walck went on to illuminate. “But if we hadn’t learned anything, then we would have failed.”

And so, with a nine day cram session in front of them, Hempfield was eager to prove that they had studied properly from the lessons that the setback to L-S taught them as they set forth on their journey to make a return trip to District 3 6A championship as the Black Knights welcomed Wilson to Landisville for a quarterfinal matchup between two heavyweights. A matchup between two programs that ooze toughness and define the word “gritty” to the nth degree.

Although the excitement that preceded the game was tempered somewhat by a frigid start that besmirched both teams shooting the rock at the beginning of the contest, Hempfield’s Ryan Moffatt would be the first to break the scoring seal on Friday evening as the 6’5” all-star senior forward stuck a 3 ball to give the home-standing Black Knights the 3-0 advantage just two minutes into the contest.

And with the Black Knights’ backline D resembling that of an impenetrable brick wall, the visitors from West Lawn were simply unable to find the living easy against the stingy Black Knight defense from point blank range, coming away with nothing but one and done opportunities with Hempfield being able to build upon their lead as a result as was evidenced by an Anthony Alston layup in transition which made it a touchdown advantage for Hempfield as Wilson was forced to call a timeout and regroup, still scoreless to that point, trailing 7-0 with 3:34 left in the opening stanza.

But fortunately for those that had made the trip down from Berks County, the Bulldogs were able to find their man with the plan as sensational freshman guard Stevie Mitchell proceeded to bring the Dawgs back within a deuce following his own personal 5-0 run out of the timeout as Mitchell was able to single-handedly cut into Hempfield’s cushion at 7-5 with three minutes still left in the first.

However with momentum start to tilt in the direction of the visitors, Hempfield’s bruising senior forward, David Martin-Robinson, was able to put a stop to that as the incoming Temple Owl football signee was able to smash home his first of the three dunks on the night with an emphatic tomahawk flush which made it a 10-6 Black Knight lead nearing the final minute of the opening period.

Yet Mr. Mitchell would prove to have other ideas regarding Hempfield being able to run away and hide as the freshman played well beyond his years throughout his first eight minutes of a District 3 playoff road game as the Bulldogs’ special 6’1” freshman guard was able to put up nine points, helping narrow Hempfield’s lead down to 12-10 at the conclusion of the quarter with a late jumper popped in the lane.

Once the second frame got underway however, Hempfield was not only able to play with the lead, they were able to build upon it.

Aided by a sweet baseline J stroked home by David Martin-Robinson which put the Black Knights up by a half dozen at 16-10 just 1:20 into the quarter, Martin-Robinson was able to take his game out from beyond the 3 point arc by burying a trifecta which made it a 19-10 Black Knight lead, effectively serving as the exclamation point of Hempfield’s initial second quarter punch.

Yet even though Wilson was able to cut back into the Hempfield lead after a pair of Stevie Mitchell freebies from the charity stripe made it a 19-14 ballgame, the Black Knights would have an answer for that as a trademark, patient, Hempfield offensive possession ended with success as a sweet David Martin-Robinson dish to Ryan Moffatt standing alone in the corner upped the Black Knight lead to eight as Moffatt sunk a 3 ball from the corner pocket.

From there, Hempfield would see their lead swell to double digit proportions as an Adam Wernoch layup in transition gave the Knights a 24-14 lead with Wilson having to call another timeout, in the midst of yet another scoring drought at the 3:38 mark of the opening half.

And just like they were able to do following their first timeout of the ballgame, Wilson was able to author another rebuttal to the early Hempfield salvo.

Aided by solid contributions put forth by 6’4” senior forward Josh Figura, the Bulldogs were able to close the gap down to five at 24-19, only to see Hempfield’s dynamic two-headed monster switch roles at the conclusion of the first half as a Ryan Moffatt laser to David Martin-Robinson inside just before the second quarter horn sent Hempfield into the intermission with the 26-19 advantage.

Coming out of the halftime break, one thing quickly became apparent–Hempfield had discussed that a return trip to Hershey’ Giant Center was just sixteen minutes away. And with an added jolt of enthusiasm in their step, the Black Knights were able to push Wilson down an even greater hole to climb out of.

You things were bound to get off to a good start when 6’1” senior guard Anthony Alston was able to drain a floater in the lane on the Black Knights’ opening possession of the half which helped set the tone over the ensuing few minutes.

It all would eventually culminate with a strong take to the rack by David Martin-Robinson who would go on to finish with team-high scoring honors by posting a yeoman’s 20 point night of work, putting the final punctuation on Hempfield’s 6-0 sprint out of the gates, as the Black Knights saw their lead grow to 32-19 at the 5:10 checkpoint of the third frame.

From there however, Wilson’s Logan Horst was able to counter that with a blitzkreig of his own as the 6’1” senior forward rattled off the game’s next five points, trimming the Hempfield lead down to eight at 32-24 with just over three minutes left remaining on the third quarter clock.

But Hempfield would go on to play the role of unaccommodating hosts from there as the Black Knights would not let the ‘Dawgs get any closer over the next few minutes, as evidenced by a 4-0 Black Knight march which was sparked by an Elijah Washington take to the tin before being capped off in the most dramatic of fashion thanks to a steal and subsequent thunderous dunk by David Martin-Robinson as the Black Knights went back up by a dozen at 36-24.

And although Wilson would scrape and claw their way back into things by scoring the next three, Hempfield’s Teagan Hazel was there for the offensive board and stick-back, pushing the Black Knights back up over the double digit hill, making it a 38-27 lead with just 1:20 left in the third.

As it would turn out, Hazel’s bucket would help write the preface for the final few minutes of the quarter as Hempfield proceeded to push Wilson away even further as the third quarter continued to wind down.

In amongst that very stretch included a steal and nifty Euro-step finish by Elijah Washington before a Ryan Moffatt tip in, coming just before the third quarter horn, would increase the Hempfield lead to a dozen at 42-30 heading into the final eight minutes.

However with the chocolate so close they could almost taste it, Hempfield wasn’t about to show any signs of stopping.

Never was that more apparent than with Elijah Washington’s back door cut within the flow of the Hempfield offense as the 5’11” junior guard’s bucket from close range put the Knights up by a baker’s dozen at 45-32 with Hempfield just six minutes away from formally booking that trip back to Hershey.

But that would prove to be more than enough time for Hempfield, in particular David Martin-Robinson, to offer one last signature moment in his final career game at Buchannan Gymnasium as the do-it-all Black Knight senior threw down one last highlight-reel dunk of the night, dramatically making it a 50-38 Hempfield lead with just 2:20 left to go.

And although Wilson’s superb freshman phenom Stevie Mitchell would go on sink two more free throws from the foul line which got the Bulldogs back within ten at 50-40, his 23 point effort would prove not to be enough on this night as a Drew Groft free throw down the final stretch proved to be a fitting conclusion as the 6’ senior forward helped send Hempfield back to Giant Center with a 59-49 wire to wire victory over the always-scrappy Bulldogs from Wilson.

A Wilson team that would make even the most-seasoned of coaches a little timid to see in their bracket.

“They’re so well-coached,” Coach Walck said praising his team’s opposition on Friday night. “They’re so deliberate that if they get a lead on you, it can be single digits but it feels like double digits because they’re so disciplined on the offensive end,” Hempfield’s head man went on to say of the Bulldogs and their signature offense. “You don’t want to find yourself trailing (Wilson) because then you have major problems. We said that we have to start fast and finish strong and we were able to accomplish that.”

NEXT UP: From here, the dream of playing at the palatial Giant Center becomes a reality once again for Hempfield as the Black Knights made good on snagging their second consecutive trip the District 3 semifinal round with their Friday night triumph over Wilson after effectively regathering themselves following the sharp sting of last week’s L-S defeat.

An achievement certainly not lost on the Hempfield head coach.

“I’m just really thrilled for this group of seniors because they’ve invested so much,” Coach Walck went on to add in the glow following Friday night’s victory. “As a coach, you know what these guys have done… I have no eligibility left but I can still come back and coach another one. They can’t go back and play that again so I’m just really thrilled for them. Very thrilled for them.”

And while Hempfield will eventually have to also put this one aside while making preparations for their semifinal round opponent in Chambersburg, a team that emerged victorious over District 3 blueblood Harrisburg on Friday evening, this group of Black Knights have shown their ability to be quick and studious learners—an invaluable trait that makes up only the best of teams this time of year. So it really should be no coincidence that here the Black Knights stand once again on the precipice of making it back to back appearances in the district finals as Hempfield readies for a 7pm tipoff on Tuesday against the Trojans of Chambersburg inside Giant Center. A task that is certainly holding serve at the very top of the Black Knights’ To Do list.

Although Wilson fell short of making their goal of playing in the Giant Center this season, make no mistake about it, there is still plenty of meat on the bone for the Bulldogs left to chew this year. On Tuesday night, Wilson will get right back at it when they meet the aforementioned Cougars of Harrisburg in a consolation semifinal game with state playoff ramifications with a tip time set for 5pm inside Milton Hershey’s beautiful Spartan Center.

READING HIGH TURNS AWAY DALLASTOWN 83-71

The reward for the Dallastown Wildcats coming back from an 18 point deficit to win Wednesday night over Central York, a trip to the Geigle to face Reading High.  Clearly the Wildcats and their fans were not intimidated at all facing the defending 6A State Champs on their home floor .  Despite falling behind by as much as 20 in the first half ,Dallastown never let up.  The Wildcats fought and clawed back to within seven of Reading High in quarter four. In the end, the Red Knights depth, talent and crowd proved to be to much to overcome. Reading High came out with an 83-71 victory Friday night.

Ricki Lopez playing in his final game at the Geigle Complex led the way for Reading High with 22  I was also very impressed with Ricky’s team leadership all game long. Xavier Starks had another solid game with 13. 12 each for RJ Dixon and Larry WIngo.  Dallastown’s agent Zero Braden Caldwell had 20.  Da’Trail Alberts pumped in 16 from every angle and distance for the Wildcats.  Will Burton had a very impressive 11 points.

Reading High poured it on Dallastown from the opening tip.  Ricki Lopez worked the inside and the Reading D forced the Wildcats into some early turnovers.  After one Reading was up 25-11.  Briefly in quarter two the red Knights moved out to a 20 point lead, that’s when Dallastown got mad.  The Wildcats starting playing the pressure D, 94 foot game Reading is known for and things began to change.  Reading got a late hoop just before half to  push the lead to 46-32 at the break.

The intensity and emotion of the game and crowd really picked up in the second half. Despite everything, Reading still maintained its composure and held off the Wildcats by 13 64-51 after three. It was fever pitch time in quarter four.  The Geigle was a fan mad house when Dallastown closed the gap to 7 ,70-63 with 3:32 left.  But this was as close as the Wildcats got.  Reading played solidly down the stretch and pulled away for an 83-71 gut check win.

The Red Knights move on to the Giant Center in Hershey next Tuesday at 8:30  Manhiem Twp. will be the next opponent.