Dominating Defensive Performance Helps Lift Berks Catholic Into Semifinal Round As Saints Handle Northern Lebanon

When talking about the top high school athletic programs in the midstate, it is downright impossible to have any such conversation without including the Saints of Berks Catholic. No doubt about it, any list that would be devoid of having Berks Catholic mentioned would simply be incomplete at best. If nothing else, it’d certainly be fair to say that the school on located on the western banks of the Schuylkill River in Reading have not just won in a handful of sports over the last few years, they’ve downright dominated.

On the gridiron, the Saints’ achievements truly stand on their own merit. Over the course of the last half decade alone, Berks Catholic has appeared in five consecutive district title games at Hersheypark Stadium, coming away with the gold hardware the last three years, before eventually bowing out in the PIAA Western 4A Final the last two seasons. And although the Saints’ postseason football romps have come up just shy of the ultimate prize, it’s really no surprise to see that Berks Catholic has gone on to achieve remarkable success on the hardwood as well. A fact that becomes crystalized when considering what the Saints’ core group of hoopsters consists of.

Venture over to the Forino Sports Complex on a crisp fall Friday evening sometime and you’re likely to hear just a few of these very same names being blared over the loudspeaker as they game-changing plays all over the field for the Saints–Luis Garcia, Brandon George, Tre Dabney, and Terry Derr just to name a few.

The scary part about that list? That doesn’t even include everyone who makes the transition of turning in the oblong-shaped pigskin for the smooth leather of the roundball at the start of the winter months where more often times than not, Berks Catholic has gone on to enjoy the same type of success no matter what the playing surface.

Without question, the mindset and DNA of a winner is an intangible factor that teams either simply have or they don’t. And when speaking about Berks Catholic on the basketball floor, it’s become pretty apparent that the Saints have that exact moxie by the boatload. And when you add in talented ingredients such as Casey Jack and Keba Mitchell who just so happen to be among the best in Berks County to a mix of already-proven footballers, you certainly come away with a dish that is deserving of fine-dining acclaim during hoops season.

For most teams, last year for the Saints would be considered a banner year that most would celebrate and regard as the best in a generation. But as we have come to discover, this season has morphed into a mission of completing some unfinished business as far as Berks Catholic was concerned.

Yes, although Berks Catholic would come up empty in terms of capturing the Berks, District 3 or PIAA titles, the Saints did not exactly make quiet exits for each of those three tournaments during the 2106-17 campaign.

In a game that will forever go down in history as one of the greatest “tall tales” in Berks County sports history in terms of it’s almost-unthinkable circumstances surely for years and decades to come, the Reading Red Knights were able to turn the lights out on Berks Catholic both literally and figuratively as Reading went on to be crowned the king of Berks after besting the Saints 61-39 in a game that will forever be remembered as the night defined by an infamous power outage that left everyone inside Santander Arena in the dark for quite some time.

After their second-place finish in the county title game a year ago, the Saints proceeded to roar their way through the District 3 playoffs before eventually stubbing their toe against Middletown in the semifinal round by the narrowest of margins, 44-43. From there, Berks Catholic set their sights on the state tournament before their stellar season would come to an end in a second round defeat at the hands of Audenried.

But with a rejuvenated and refreshed outlook on this season, the Saints have been on a tear proving to everyone that they are most certainly out to make amends for their playoff shortcomings.

After soaring through the regular season with a 20-2 overall record and going undefeated in Berks play, Berks Catholic would make it a successful return trip to the BCIAA Tournament this year as the Saints navigated past Governor Mifflin and Conrad Weiser where they would be able to exact some payback against an old nemesis, as BC went on to unseat mighty-Reading from the throne, 51-46 in the championship game.

Ironically, for a team that was expected to be a postseason fixture yet again this year at the start of preseason practices like that of Berks Catholic, the same might not be said for their opening opponent in the 2018 District 3 4A tournament.

When trying to prognosticate and project each year in Lancaster Lebanon League Boys’ Basketball, there are inevitably your prohibitive favorites that you can take to the bank along with a certain few that exceed the preseason expectations set forth by the general public and surprise the masses. When touching on this year’s edition of the Northern Lebanon Vikings, the latter is more apt the description.

Yet in many ways, we probably should have seen this coming. Bolstered by a nine man senior class that has paid their dues and then some over the course of their careers, the Vikings have shown themselves to be the most-talked-about squads in the L-L this season.

But make no mistake about it, this group of Vikings has been more than just a feel-good story. These Vikings have consistently shown the ability to rise up and bite even the best of them.

When talking about L-L Section 3 basketball, the conversation more often times than not is centered around two main programs—Lancaster Mennonite and Lancaster Catholic. And while it is generally apropos to do that given the way that both programs tend to rise to the up above the fray on an annual basis, let’s just say that both the Blazers and Crusaders have to be overjoyed in knowing that they do not have to gas up the bus and venture north to Fredericksburg any time soon.

While the Vikes started out this season with a bang by racking up the wins in bunches, it still somewhat felt like Northern Lebanon was playing amidst the drone of persistent naysayers. But those very same skeptics were forced to be silent following the night of January 9th. That would prove to be the moment where NL would put the rest of the league on notice.

On a night that may have seemed like any other, the Vikings welcomed the Blazers from Lancaster Mennonite to their impenetrable den, coming away with a dramatic 63-62 triumph that kept the Vikes unbeaten in Section 3 play up until that point as NL would then be tripped up on the road at Lancaster Catholic the very next night. A game that would prove to stick in the Vikings’ craw for the remainder of the season.

To their credit, the aforementioned setback to Lancaster Catholic did nothing to deter NL’s hot start as the Vikings went on to post victories in seven of their next eight contests which set up Northern Lebanon v Lancaster Catholic Part II.

In a game that was defined by it’s palpable levels of pregame excitement and anticipation, the Vikings and Crusaders proceeded to battle it out over the course of the next 32 minutes and then some inside the renowned yellow walls of Northern Lebanon’s cozy confines.

In the end, it would come down to a Johnny Besecker trifecta over several outstretched arms of Northern Lebanon defenders just as final seconds ticked off the clock, still much to the chagrin of those in Viking Country as the Crusaders made it a happy bus ride home to Lancaster city with the 55-54 thrilling victory in their possession.

But all was not lost for Northern Lebanon following their last second loss to Catholic. No, far from it in fact.

Although the Vikes went on to drop their last two regular season games against Mennonite and ELCO respectively, Northern Lebanon’s body of work was solid enough for the Vikings to earn their first trip to L-L League Playoffs for the first time in four seasons for an opening round game at Hempfield. Once there, the Vikings would give Section 1 champ Black Knights all they could handle in the early going before eventually running out of steam against the solid all-around weapons maintained by one of the best 6A teams in all of District 3. A remarkable achievement of reaching the league tournament that was certainly deserving of praise and recognition no matter what the outcome would decide that night in Landisville.

Immediately following their abrupt exit from the L-L tourney, the Vikings were then able to right the ship and exact some revenge in their own right against fellow Lebanon County foe ELCO as the Vikes were able to climb out of a seven point halftime deficit, topping their rivals from Myerstown by a 74-65 count, in front of a raucous sell-out crowd in Fredericksburg.

And with it, Northern Lebanon was able to latch onto their underdog collar yet again as the Vikings made their second trip of the year across the Berks County line, this time of the upmost significance, for a Thursday night date with the high-flying display known as Berks Catholic in the second round of districts.

At center court of Berks Catholic’s gymnasium floor lies a painted caricature of a Saint Bernard’s likeness. And ironically enough, that would prove to be a fitting indication of how the opening quarter would play out as the Saints began the game by hounding their guests relentlessly on defensive end.

The Saints wasted little time in taking command of the scoreboard as Berks Catholic opened up the game with a quick 4-0 spurt following a nice move inside by 6’4” senior center Keba Mitchell only to see Alex Yeager answer back with an early triple for Northern Lebanon which cut the lead down to one at 4-3 just two minutes into the contest.

But from that point on however, Berks Catholic was deemed clear for takeoff.

Aided by a persistent, tenacious level of defense that led to more than it’s fair share of Northern Lebanon turnovers, the Saints proceeded to string off a 8-0 run which made it 12-3 in favor of the home-standing Saints at the 3:50 mark of the opening period as the Vikings were forced to call a timeout and adjust in the face of the early Berks Catholic salvo.

Yet once Northern Lebanon was able to find their footing and settle into a groove offensively, the Vikings started chipping away at BC’s advantage.

Aided by a 3 ball that was splashed home by 5’11” senior guard Caleb Light, the Vikes had cut the deficit in half at 12-6 before a knockdown jumper stuck by Alex Yeager got NL within four at 12-8 as the Vikes closed the books on the opening quarter of play with a 5-0 blitz.

Once the second quarter got underway, the Vikings were able to cut it to within three at 14-11 following another jumper by Caleb Light who would go on to finish with team-high scoring honors for the Vikes by posting a 14 point performance.

After his early second quarter jumper, Light helped cut the margin down to just one at 14-13 following a pair of freebies from the charity stripe at the 5:20 mark, helping serve notice to Berks Catholic that Northern Lebanon was here for the fight.

And just as they had all season long, the Vikings just kept pushing and pushing as they would eventually meet Berks Catholic on the scoreboard at 16-16 at the five minute mark thanks to a Cameron Gensler trifecta before the 6’2” senior big man would go on to convert from the free throw line shortly thereafter to give NL their first lead of the night at 17-16.

But unfortunately for those who made the trek from Lebanon County, that brief, fleeting moment would prove to be NL’s first and only lead for the remainder of the contest.

Ignited by the adversity of which they were facing, Berks Catholic responded with a championship-like rebuttal as the Saints went on to close the half with a scintillating late-half volley.

Sparked by a floater in the lane that was converted by BC senior forward Tre Dabney, Keba Mitchell went on to record his first highlight-reel play of the night as BC’s towering senior center rose above the crowd huddled around the rim anticipating a rebound as Mitchell plucked the ball out of the air and finished above the fray with an emphatic two-handed put-back dunk which clearly put momentum on Berks Catholic’s bench near the conclusion of the first half.

When all was said and done, the Saints were able to shut Northern Lebanon out for the remainder of the quarter as Berks Catholic bounded into the dressing room with a noticeable extra pep in their step as BC went into the break leading 26-17.

Although the first half clearly did not end the way Northern Lebanon had originally intended, the first few minutes of the final half allowed the Vikings to have the opportunity to find some momentum and perhaps inch back closer to their hosts on this night.

However Berks Catholic would have none of that. In fact, not only were the Saints able to continue keeping NL at arm’s length, they able to expand upon their lead even further from there on.

It didn’t take Berks Catholic very long to regain the same traction that they enjoyed at the end of the opening sixteen minutes. No, in fact it only took just a few seconds to be precise as a sweet back door layup scooped up and in by BC’s Luis Garcia on the Saints’ opening possession helped set the tone for the next few minutes which would clearly be defined by Berks Catholic’s hot-start.

After the early Garcia bucket, BC’s leading scorer for the night, 6’4 senior guard Casey Jack, got in on the action as well with a strong take to the tin that was followed up with a steal and lay in on Northern Lebanon’s ensuing offensive possession that helped open the floodgates as the Vikings were forced to call another timeout, now facing a 34-17 hole right out of the chute.

However Northern Lebanon’s second half thirst would not be quenched until near midway through the third quarter as an Alex Yeager jumped finally gave relief to the Vikings as Yeager’s bucket made it a 34-19 ballgame with 4:30 left in the third frame.

But even that proved to be too close for comfort as far as BC was concerned as the Saints would later see their lead swell to 20 points after an old-fashioned three point play authored by Casey Jack along the baseline with the free throw added on top gave the Saints a 42-22 lead with one minute left on the third quarter clock before the clock would eventually expire with Berks Catholic in command, leading Northern Lebanon 42-24.

As mentioned, Casey Jack would go on to finish with game-high scoring honors for the Saints with a 17 point night at the office.

New quarter, same ole’ Saints.

Yes, Berks Catholic was able to continue laying their foot on the accelerator as yet another Luis Garcia backdoor move, good for 2 of his 14 on the night, made it a 20 point bulge in favor of BC once again at 48-28 at the 4:30 mark of the final period.

And although Michigan Daub would be able snatch his first points of the evening by knocking down a pretty baseline jumper almost immediately after the Garcia bunny from close range, it remained a 20 point lead in favor of the home team as the Saints were on the precipice of officially securing their ticket to the District 3 4A semifinal round as BC looked out over their perch with a 50-30 advantage.

Yet to their credit, Northern Lebanon played every last second over the course of the 32 minutes for which they were guaranteed as evidenced by Spencer Mullins checking into the contest and delivering solid minutes. An effort that would eventually be rewarded with a nice post move inside which made it a 52-34 ballgame which would also happen to be the score at the conclusion of the contest as Berks Catholic made good on their quest to advance to the Monday night semifinal round at Penn Manor, handling their business over a gritty Northern Lebanon squad.

“Give them a lot of credit,” Northern Lebanon head coach Chris George said after his team’s defeat at the hands of Berks Catholic. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the area. We knew it. We preached it to them the last few days… We did a nice job in spots being patient and at other times we just didn’t,” George added bluntly. “Almost all their points came off turnovers in the first half. It’s a backbreaker. Offensively just to be sloppy like that really hurt us.”

NEXT UP: Although Northern Lebanon’s quest for a District title came to an end against Berks Catholic, the Vikings still have a chance to qualify for the state tournament. Something that should not get lost in the shuffle even despite the sting of Thursday’s setback.

“Obviously the ELCO win was really big for us at home and big from the program,” Coach George detailed regarding the week that was for the Vikings. “This was a really good experience for us, playing games like this for our program, George went on to say. “Our program hasn’t been in this spot for a long time so you just try to focus on the positive of tonight… I think you can take a lot of positives from today.”

For Berks Catholic, the redemption tour continues on as the Saints look forward to an anticipated rematch with Middletown in the semifinal round, just like one year ago as the Saints and Blue Raiders begin their preparations in earnest for one another with tipoff set for 6:30pm at Penn Manor High School in Millersville on Monday night.

WILSON WL IMPRESSIVELY OVER CARLISLE 70-49

Most coaches will tell you that they want there team peaking going into the tournament.  Well for Wilson, this team looks to be peaking at just the right time.  A tough first quarter turned into an almost flawless three quarters of basketball. The Bulldogs scored the most points all season in route to a 70-49 victory over Carlisle Tuesday night in West Lawn.

Stevie Mitchell sparked the offense for Wilson.  Off the bench Mitchell had a game high 19 points and had several key assists.  Bryce Calloway was solid with 11 and a great sign for the Bulldogs Evin Timochencko had 10 points and ran the floor effectively. Carlisle’s Ki Barnes got off to a hot start and finished with 16.

The first quarter was all Carlisle.  Great offensive movement, running the fast break well and hot shooting had the Wilson home crowd in a gasp  It was 19-11 Herd after one.  And when Wilson in bounded the ball in quarter two, everything changed. Wilson began to run it ‘s offense with extreme purpose and precision.  If Wilson didn’t make a shot, the Bulldogs got the rebound and scored. Carlisle’s basket suddenly had a lid on it and when they missed Wilson made sure there were no second chances. By Halftime Wilson had broken away and led the Herd spirit  by eight 30-22.

In the third quarter Wilson kept up the pressure, but Carlisle held there own  Wilson only increased the lead slightly to 39-29 after three.  IN the fourth quarter, well that’s when the track meet broke out.  Up and down the floor both teams went in a no holds barred, leave nothing in the tank fourth quarter.  Wilson scored almost as many points in the fourth quarter as they did an entire overtime game with Berks Catholic.  The Bulldogs took advantage of some less than stellar Carlisle defense to run off with the 70-49 victory.

.WIlson moves on in the winners section of the PIAA District Three Tourney.  The Bulldogs are off  to Hempfield Friday night.

 

HERSHEY ESCAPES FROM EXETER TWP. 54-50

PIAA District Three post season games, regardless of the sport, always feature some very non-traditional inter conference matchups  Such was the case Monday when Exeter Twp traveled to play Hershey.  Hershey had a strong consistent year that featured a conference crown.  Exeter Twp. an up and down season coming off a blow out loss in the Berks County Tourney.  On paper this was a one sided matchup. In reality it was a hard fought nip and tuck battle.  Hershey got the better of the matchups down the stretch and defeated Exeter Twp 54-50 Monday night.

The game marked two milestones for Hershey.  Head Coach Paul Blackburn notched his 300th career win.  And standout Jake Wilson scored his 1,000th point.  Wilson also led the Trojans in scoring Monday night with 17.  Hershey also played some stellar defense and held Exeter’s leading scorer Alex Javier to only eight points.  The Eagles Anthony Wise stepped up and put down 15 points to lead the Exeter scoring.

Exeter Twp came out extremely fired up.  The Eagles scored the first nine points and kept the Trojans as bay for most of the first quarter.  This despite their big man Riley Dobraniecki being forced to the bench early with two quick fouls .  Despite that the Eagles led 17-11 after one.  Hershey turned up the defensive pressure in quarter two.  The Trojans forced some Exeter mistakes and turned them into points.  The Eagles hung in there until the half and were still up 23-20 at the break

The entire third quarter was a series of  Hershey runs, followed by Exeter answer’s  The Eagles maintained a slim 38-34 lead after three.  Fueled by a pressing, ball hawking defense Hershey finally got past the Eagles.  Exeter’s RIley Dobraniecki saddled with foul trouble all night fouled out with 2:25 left.  Shortly after the disqualification  Hershey began to move inside and took the lead.  The Trojans  took control down the stretch and came away with the 54-50 win.

Hershey now (20-4) goes up against #3 seed Northeastern (23-2) on Thursday in PIAA District Three quarterfinal action in York.

BERKS CATHOLIC CAPTURES BCIAA TITLE FOR ESTERLY’S 700TH WIN

Four straight years Berks Catholic and Reading High have faced off for the BCIAA Boys Hoop Title.  The first three went the way of the Red Knights.  Wednesday night at the Santander Arena in Reading, BC jumped out quickly and hung on late to win the Berks County Basketball Tourney 51-46 over Reading High.  The victory marked the 700th career win for Berks Catholic Head Coach Snip Esterly.

Tre Dabney had a huge night for the Saints.  Tre had a game high 18 points and led the stellar defensive effort by Berks Catholic.  Luis Garcia had 10 points and 9 each for Keba Mitchell and Casey Jack.  Reading High was led by Xavier Starks 14 points.

After a jittery start by both teams, Berks Catholic set the tempo of the game in quarter one.  The Saints D kept the red Knights in check and led 14-4 after one.  Reading picked up the intensity in quarter two.  The Red Knights pressure D forced some BC turnovers to close the gap, but at the break it was Berks Catholic 21 Reading High 13.

Starting quarter three Reading moved the intensity up another notch.  It was turning into a Red Knight tempo and game but BC still hung on to a 36-30 lead after three.  Quarter four was just a free for all.  Both teams letting it all hang out and leaving nothing in the tank.  BC managed to pull out to a ten point lead with 4:44 left.  Then the Red Knights came storming back.  The BC lead was only two with 2:24 left.  Again and again BC took the best the Red Knights had to offer and held there own from the field and free throw line despite star Keba Mitchell fouling  out.  The Saints prevailed in the end to capture the title 51-46.

Both Berks Catholic and Reading High have first round bye’s and will open at home in the District Three tourney next week.

READING HIGH AND BERKS CATHOLIC ADVANCE TO BERKS CO. FINAL

All year long the talk in Berks County basketball has been, is it Reading High or is it going to be Berks Catholic this year.  Well you now  have your wish.   At  Santander Arena Wednesday night, Reading High and Berks Catholic won impressively and will face off for  the Berks County Basketball Tourney Title.   Reading dispatched Exeter 54-26 and Berks Catholic made it three victories this year over Conrad Weiser 53-33.

Reading’s balanced scoring attack was led by Ricki Lopez with 12 and Wesley Butler with 10.  Luis Garcia was the man for Berks Catholic with 16 points , Keba Mitchell had 12 and Tre Dabney 9 for the Saints.

BERKS CATHOLIC WITHSTANDS GOVERNOR MIFFLIN 59-49

Berks Catholic is clearly one of the favorites in the BCIAA Boys basketball tournament.  There quarterfinal matchup was with  a lower seeded Governor Mifflin team playing its best basketball of the season.  The Saints moved out quickly and then held off a spirited Mifflin rally to defeat the Mustangs 59-49 Friday night.

A strong second half by Kyran Mitchell made him the Saints leading scorer with 17.  Casey Jack had 13 and once again a strong inside effort by Keba Mitchell controlled the glass.   Mifflin Senior Casey Klahr had quite a night in his final Mifflin game.  Casey’s 24 points came from all over the floor and kept the Mustangs in the game throughout.

Before you even got settled in your seat Berks Catholic pulled out to a ten point advantage. When the Saints Luis Garcia drained a three to end the first quarter it was 23-6 BC on top.  Berks Catholic extended the lead to 18 in quarter two before Mifflin seemed to gain some momentum.  A mini run going into the half made the score BC 29 Mifflin 18

Mifflin kept the momentum going coming out of the half.  The Mustangs closed it to 32-26 at the 4:44 mark of quarter three, but  that’s as close as Mifflin would get.  BC led 39-31 after three.  Keba Mitchell stepped it up in quarter four with a block and a slam on back to back possessions to ignite the Saints once again.  The BC lead moved out to 13 with 4:28 left.  Mifflin never stopped battling, but came up short as the Saints withstood the Mustang stampede 59-49.

That’s (21-2) for Berks Catholic  and on to the BCIAA Semi finals at Santander Arena Monday vs Conrad Weiser in Boys game one.  An up and down year for Governor Mifflin ends with the Mustangs finishing at (9-14).

CONRAD WEISER TAKES DOWN KUTZTOWN 62-50

Growing up in Indiana I learned to enjoy the post season tournaments that match up big schools vs small schools, county vs city and the schools that rarely schedule one another.  These games are filled with emotion.  It is great for the teams, coaches and most importantly the fans. Such was the case at Exeter High School Friday  night at a doubleheader of quarterfinal matchups.  In game one, it was a Berks II runner up Conrad Weiser vs  Berks III champ Kutztown.  Balanced scoring by the Scouts and keeping Cougars Lorencz Jean-Baptiste in check translated to a 62-50 victory Friday night.

Scoring from all over the floor and leading Weiser was Alex McKenzie with 16 points. Solid performances were turned in by Nathan Dobb who had 15 and Alex Drukenmiller with 12.  Jean-Baptiste still managed 21 hard earned points to lead Kutztown.  Dane Fegley had a good shooting night with 15 points.

Dane Fegley started out hot from behind the arc for Kutztown.  The Cougars jumped out fast and led after one 15-8. Then  Alex McKenzie and the Scouts began to chip away at the lead in quarter two.  An Alex Druckenmiller three with a minute in the half gave the Scouts there first lead and at the break it was Conrad Weiser 27 Kutztown 25.

The third quarter saw the Scouts  extend the lead to as much as eight points.  Kutztown battled back and going to the 4th it was 40-38 Conrad Weiser.  The Scouts moved out quickly in the 4th, but the Cougars were within two 49-47 with five minutes left.  The Cougars went cold at just at the wrong time.  Weiser made some key free throws down the stretch and pulled away at the end for a 62-50 victory.

Conrad Weiser (15-8) moves on to face Berks Catholic in a BCIAA semi final matchup Monday night at the Santander Arena.  Kutztown is now (19-3) and awaits the draw for the District Three playoffs.

 

GOVERNOR MIFFLIN IMPRESSIVELY OVER MUHLENBERG 69-44

It all came down to the final regular season Berks I game for Muhlenberg and Governor Mifflin.  Both teams have had up and down seasons.  The victor of Tuesday  nights matchup would move on to play in the BCIAA basketball tournament.  The Mustangs moved out quickly and played high quality basketball all night long.  Governor Mifflin defeated Muhlenberg 69-44 and qualify for Berks League post season tournament.

Two Mifflin Seniors had outstanding performances on Senior night.  Ben Walmer hit from everywhere on the floor and poured in 24 points.  Casey Klahr getting back into the swing of the offense for the Mustangs had 18.  Bryce Black was a rebounding machine and contributed 11.  Makai Washington did everything he could for Muhlenberg.  Washington had 5 three pointers in his 22 points.

It was a good opening quarter for the Mustangs.  Mifflin led by as many as 13 points but the Mules rallied late to make it 18-10 after one.  Jahmere Evans got saddled with three early fouls.  Evans foul truble would be a huge blow to the Mules all night long.  Mifflin ran quality offensive sets in quarter two while the Mules had difficulty without Evans.  As the quarter progressed the turnovers mounted for Muhlenberg, and so did the deficit.  By halftime it was Governor Mifflin 39 Muhlenberg 18.

Mifflin would have an answer with each Muhlenberg run in quarter three.  The Mustangs extended the lead to 54-30 after three.  The fourth quarter was not much more than a game of keep away.  Governor Mifflin rolled past Muhlenberg 69-44.

Governor Mifflin (9-13) has earned a spot in the Berks Tourney that begins Friday. Muhlenberg made great strides under first year Head Coach Ty Nesby .  The Mules set a team record for made three pointers this year and finished with a record of (9-13)

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXETER GETS PAST MUHLENBERG 70-64

Back on January 18th Muhlenberg handed Exeter a 54-48 defeat across town at the Mules home floor.  Now it was Exeter’s turn to play host.  On the heels of a two game win streak Muhlenberg was playing for their post season lives in Berks County and District 3.  IN one of the most entertaining games I have covered all year, Exeter came back from a six pint halftime deficit to beat Muhlenberg 70-64.

In a game of great plays and  outstanding performances Exeter’s Alex Javier stood out.  Alex led all scorers with  21 points.  Riley Dobraniecky and Anthony Wise chipped in 12 a piece for the Eagles.  Jahmere Evans was fearless all night long for Muhlenberg. He and Dre Kipp paced Muhlenberg each with 19 points.

Things got started quickly in the first quarter. Clearly Muhlenberg wanted to play up tempo and Exeter said lets do this.  Sharpe passing, fast breaks and aggressive offense by both teams had Muhlenberg on top 19-15 after one.  In quarter two. the Mules showed some flash.  Fast breaking, three pointers and fearless inside moves had the Mules on top by six at the break,

There was no backing down by Exeter after the break.  The Eagles got out on the fast break and got hot from beyond the arc in quarter three.  They blew past Muhlenberg with a 19-8 quarter and held 53-48 lead into the fourth.  Muhlenberg gave it a valiant effort in the final quarter.  The MulesTgot to within three with 2:22 left but no closer.  Exeter hung on for a whole lotta fun 70-64 win.

The12-8 Eagles of Exeter still has Sch. Valley and  Daniel Boone on the schedule before the Berks County Tourney opens next week.  Muhlenberg now 9-12 has a win or go home matchup with Governor Mifflin Monday to make the Berks County Tourney field.