Ask any head coach if he or she has a favorite team that they’ve enjoyed coaching over the years more so than any other and chances are that you’re likely to get anything but a clear and concise answer for a response. For most, that’s certainly understandable considering the task would be akin to asking them to pick their favorite noodle out of a bowl of spaghetti. So forgive Kennard Dale head coach Jake Roupe if the smile stays on his face just a little while longer when asked about his 2017-18 Ram squad. After all, the 2008 Kennard Dale grad has grown up alongside this bunch. Both literally and figuratively.
Coming into this season, it’d be fair to say that the basketball scene in Fawn Grove had seen a somber time or two. It certainly did not help matters that the Rams entered this season by lugging a seven year old monkey around on their backs considering that was precisely how many long seasons it had been since Kennard Dale ended the year with more wins than loses in their season ledger. And although they are called the Rams, they have certainly gone ahead and bucked that trend this season, taking the school just north of the Maryland state line to heights that they have not experienced in over 25 years.
When looking to determine what goes into making a successful team, no matter what the sport and no matter what the level of play, there is always that one secret sauce that holds them all together. Chemistry.
And while many teams may try and go about finding that elusive tie that binds in some cliché form or fashion shortly before the season that inevitably falls apart at the first sign of adversity, there is simply nothing phony about Kennard Dale’s close-knit bond. It’s ever-present and it always has been since their junior high days. Certainly doesn’t hurt matters when you’ve just so happened to have one singular voice lead you into battle over that span of time for good measure.
“When I got out of high school and went to college I decided I wanted to come help out,” Coach Roupe said recalling his humble beginnings in the coaching ranks. But little did he or anyone else know at the time that it would be only be the start of a decade-long journey that the coach and present-day Kennard Dale Rams would embark on together.
“I started volunteering when I was 19 and then I started coaching AAU ‘ball when the seniors now were in 5th grade for the York Thunder,” Roupe went on to detail. And whether it was just the stars coming together to align perfectly or some sort of mystical higher power at work, Coach Roupe and his band of Rams moved along up the ladder together. Literally every step of the way.
“I got the 7th & 8th grade job when they were in 7th and 8th grade and then I got the JV job when they became 9th graders, then their junior year is when I got the varsity job,” the Ram boss said prior to Monday’s District 3 4A semifinal game against high-powered Bishop McDevitt.
And for a coach that has seen it all with this senior-laden group, don’t bother coloring Coach Roupe surprised that his Rams have made it this far.
“I did,” Roupe replied without hesitation when pressed if he pictured this core group ever ascending to these type of heights. “I’ve had some high expectations for this group for a while,” Roupe went on to say. “I don’t like to get ahead of myself, I take it one game at a time, but I always told them that the sky’s the limit from the start. I said ‘Why Not?’ ‘Why can’t we be that team?’
Sure enough, here they were. And when you spend just a few minutes with the young KD head coach, it’s easy to understand why he was able to predict from such an early age what everyone else is seeing come to light in the present-day.
“They just all buy in,” Coach Roupe when on to detail regarding the unselfishness of this year’s Ram squad. “We always preach to ‘dominate your role.’ Everyone on the team knows their role and they dominate it. If the last guy on the bench’s role is to go nuts when we hit a big shot, that’s his role and he dominates it. They’re enjoying it, they’re having fun and they’re all best friends. That’s the best part. They just like being together.”
As fate would have it, this group of Rams would continue to enjoy each other’s company regardless of the outcome on Monday night as this year’s squad became the first KD squad to earn the right to play on into the state tournament since 1996. An occasion that Coach Roupe decided to mark in the most appropriate of ways given the timeframe—by “frosting his tips.”
“Heck, Justin Timberlake and the (Super Bowl) halftime show, I figured ‘why not?’ I did it to just give them another incentive and they responded,” Troupe said with a laugh when detailing his zany idea which quite possibly could turn clocks back to the mid 90’s once he actually applies the hair dye before March 9th. And while you won’t mistake him for going out on tour with Timberlake and the rest of N*Sync to sing “I Drive Myself Crazy”, his admitted favorite song from the 90’s pop group, you most certainly will see him at practice pushing all the buttons and concocting all the potions to figure out how these Rams can perhaps go on what they hope turns into a long postseason run. A run that included Monday’s night game against a very dangerous and under-seeded Bishop McDevitt squad.
And while Rams headed into their last film study session to prep for Monday evening’s game, little did they know that they really were about to receive a history lesson.
“I didn’t show them film from now,” Roupe said with a smirk. “I showed them the ‘92 (District 3 quarterfinal) game against Bishop McDevitt and Kennard Dale. They didn’t know I was doing that. That’s what we watched before we came here,” the Kennard Dale coach said revealing his plans. “Kennard Dale was the home team because they had the better record but they were the underdog and Kennard Dale ended up winning by four…It was cool because some of the guys that were on that team are some of our girls’ coaches now so after the girls’ practice, they all came in and watched it too.”
And so with some clearly evident positive vibes that Kennard Dale had packed into their duffle bags shortly before their departure to Penn Manor High School on Monday night, the Rams were out to repeat history when they squared off with one of the bluest of blue-bloods in the area, Bishop McDevitt, for the right to go on to the Giant Center and the District 3 4A title game.
However once the game got underway, it became apparent from the get-go that both teams would have to settle down and find their rhythm as both the Rams and Crusaders were plagued by an icy start in terms of shooting the rock.
However once they did get into a groove, it was fittingly Kennard Dale’s Adam Freese who had the honors of knocking down the first field goal of the contest as the 6’4” all-star senior guard got the Rams within one at 3-2 early near the midpoint of the opening quarter before Bishop McDevitt’s Davon Lee would go on to show why he is one of the best players in all of District 3 as the 6’ sophomore promptly responded by knocking down a triple to answer the Freese bucket in the early going.
Over the next few minutes however, McDevitt only continued to press their foot down to the floorboard.
Aided by a nice bucket inside by 6’3” sophomore forward Jake Kelly, the Crusader lead had suddenly ballooned to a half dozen at 10-4 at the 2:30 mark of the opening period, putting a damper on what Kennard Dale had hoped would be a better start.
But from there, Kennard Dale would respond with a vengeance.
In fact immediately following the Kelly deuce, the Rams retaliated with an answer as a sweet dish from 6’2” senior guard Craig Potts to a cutting Carter Day got KD back within four as the freshman who would play well-beyond his years all night long made it a 10-6 ballgame in the waning stages of the first quarter.
Shortly thereafter, the Crusaders would see their lead be sliced down to slimmest of margins as nice hoop inside by 5’11” sophomore forward Wyatt McCleary got the Rams within one at 10-9 before the quarter would expire with McDevitt in front 12-9.
However the brief intermission in between quarters would do nothing to slow down the hard-charging Crusaders as Kennard Dale soon discovered.
Besmirched by an early 8-2 salvo which was capped off by Davon Lee bucket at the cup for the Crusaders, the Ram deficit had suddenly swelled to 20-11 with Kennard Dale being forced to call a timeout with 4:57 left in the opening half.
And although the McDevitt would continue to roll on after the timeout with yet another bucket, Kennard Dale began to fight back once more.
Thanks in large part to a Donnell Williams jumper which provided some much-needed relief to the Rams who were wandering around in a desert inside the early stages of the second stanza, Williams’ bucket proved to be the very spark that the Rams would need for the next few minutes of the first half in order to make a run at McDevitt.
From there, Adam Freese was able to pop a corner 3 ball with fellow senior guard Joey Thomas following suit as the Rams had scratched and clawed their way back into the thick of things with McDevitt’s lead now standing at 24-19 with the gym erupting with a roar that could have been heard all the way back to Fawn Grove.
Yet before the first half clock finally did expire, Bishop McDevitt had enough time to rattle off a 5-0 jaunt to close the first sixteen minutes as the Crusaders went into the break, holding serve with a double digit lead which stood at 29-19.
And although McDevitt would only continue to sizzle once they came out of the dressing room, thanks a sweet turnaround jumper that was put home by guess-who, Davon Lee, the Crusaders continued to keep the Rams at arm’s length over the course of the next few minutes.
But with Kennard Dale looking up at the scoreboard and quickly coming to the realization that an answer was not only important, but that it was essential, the Rams began to charge.
All night long, Carter Day proved to be worth his weight in gold as the diminutive freshman point guard played with the savvy of a grizzled senior, but most especially when the Rams were looking for answers as for who would step up to the plate in Kennard Dale’s time of need. And while aided by five straight points that were chipped in by Mr. Day, the Rams had quietly crept back into things with the scoreboard showing McDevitt in front 35-25.
But he wasn’t done there.
No, from there Day only continued shine by cashing in a pullup jumper to get the Rams within a half dozen at 37-31 only to see Joey Thomas follow that up with a trifecta to suddenly get Kennard Dale back within three at 37-34 with McDevitt now sitting in a precarious position.
When Bishop McDevitt needs a bucket, it’s fair to say that the Crusaders have plenty of weapons for which they can hand the keys of the offense over to with anyone more than capable of helping drive them to the Promised Land. Well, the in latter stages of the third quarter, Davon Lee took his turn in the driver’s seat and right on cue, the sophomore guard proceeded to shift the McDevitt machine into top-gear.
With the Crusaders needing some sort of an answer to quiet an already boisterous and raucous Penn Manor gymnasium that was heavily in favor of the Yellow and Blue colors of Kennard Dale, Mr. Lee responded with a man-sized take to the rack which got McDevitt some much-needed breathing room at 39-34 with 1:30 left in the third, silencing the crowd for the time being.
Yet Kennard Dale would refuse to go quietly into the night as the Rams were able to creep back within three at 39-36 once the third quarter clock did ultimately run out.
Although Bishop McDevitt had been able to play with the lead for the entirety of the night up until that point, it quickly became apparent that Kennard Dale was not anywhere close to raising the white flag. And with persistence being the name of the game all night long for Kennard Dale, the Rams’ patience paid off with an early fourth quarter blitz that knocked McDevitt back on their heels with the game now clearly up for grabs.
The snowball immediately got rolling downhill on KD’s first possession of the quarter as a Craig Potts take to the tin got the Rams within a point before an offensive rebound and stick-back by Donnell Williams gave Kennard Dale their first lead of the ballgame at 40-39 with 6:30 left to go as the atmosphere inside the Penn Manor gym had finally reached it’s crescendo with the decibel level rising to 747-like proportions.
But by now you probably have an idea who answer the dinner bell for Bishop McDevitt in their time of need. If you guessed Davon Lee, you’d be absolutely correct.
Undaunted by Kennard Dale’s sudden surge of momentum, the gutty sophomore guard was able to drive with fearlessness to the tin, collecting a gigantic 2 of his 18 game-high points on the evening, giving the lead back to the Crusaders.
From there, another sophomore would take his turn at center stage as Jake Kelly was able to deliver a big bucket in his own right to help extend the McDevitt lead to 47-42 with just 4:40 left to go.
Yet while Bishop McDevitt had survived one Kennard Dale tidal wave that had come on shore, they surely had to expect that they would see yet another one swell before the game was truly put to rest, especially with Adam Freese being held scoreless to that point in the second half.
And sure enough, Freese was able to step back into the limelight with a pair of free throws successfully cashed in at the line which made it a 49-46 ballgame with four minutes left to go. But the southpaw was just getting started as Freese proceeded to stick a timely 3 ball which got the Rams within two at 51-49 shortly thereafter with 3:32 left showing on the clock.
However that would prove to be the point where the Kennard Dale train would run out of steam as the Bishop McDevitt was able to pass yet another test that Kennard Dale threw at them by ripping off a 4-0 run in the face of even more adversity down the stretch. A run that was capped off with a Jaraud Smith bucket which made it a 55-49 contest with the game now inside of three minutes left to go.
And although Carter Day would continue his impressive play by converting 2-2 from the line en route to a team-high 15 points which eventually made it a 58-51 ballgame with 57 seconds left, Bishop McDevitt would go on to turn away a very game Kennard Dale team 62-53, advancing to the District 3 4A title game.
Even despite the fact that Monday night did not include another happy chapter in Kennard Dale’s storybook season, Coach Roupe was certainly proud and had every reason to be given the fight his team showed over the course of 32 minutes by going chin-to-chin with one of the better programs in all of District 3.
“I said I am 100% absolutely proud of you,” Roupe said when speaking about the postgame message he delivered to his troops. “They played with heart, they played with toughness and they played with class.” Characteristics that stand the test of time, far longer than any score will, that any coach can certainly be proud of even while dealing with the most painful of defeats. And while Kennard Dale would have no doubt loved to punch their ticket to Hersheypark to play in Thursday night’s title game, it was and always be a special night that will be remembered forever as the night where nearly all of southern York County traveled up to Millersville to support their team and help push their team over the top to victory. Something that very nearly were able to do. Together.
NEXT UP: From here, Bishop McDevitt will get right back at it on Thursday night as the Crusaders match up with Berks Catholic at the Giant Center for District 3 4A gold with a tip time set for 7:00 at the palatial confines in Hershey as the Saints from BC advanced after besting Middletown in the game just prior on Monday night at Penn Manor. It’s sure to be a heavyweight fight arguably two of the best teams that District 3 has to offer regardless of classification.
For Kennard Dale on the other hand, the Rams will have to rise up off the canvas as the Rams prepare to battle Middletown in a PIAA state qualifier to determine who will enter the PIAA’s as the #3 and #4 seeds respectively come the start of the tournament next Friday night when the Rams and Blue Raiders duke it out at West York at 7:00 this Wednesday evening.
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.
District 3 – LL teams schedule –so far
(3rd place game): Lancaster Mennonite vs Steel High at Lebanon, 6:30
(Consolation Semis): Lancaster Catholic vs Littlestown at East Pennsboro, 6:00
(Consolation Semis): Northern Lebanon vs Boiling Springs at Lebanon, 5:00
(Consolation Semis): L-S vs Garden Spot at Warwick, 6:00
(9th Place Bracket): Ephrata vs Shippensburg at East Pennsboro, 7:30
Hempfield vs Chambersburg at Giant Center, 7pm
Manheim Township vs Reading at Giant Center, 8:30pm
(Consolation Semifinal) Cedar Crest vs Dallastown at Hershey, 7:30pm
3A- top 4- LMHS is in the PIAA
4A—top 5 teams – Lanc Cath or NL must win 2 more to get into the PIAA tournament
5A- top 10- LS, Spot, and Ephrata are in the PIAA tou8rnament
6A- top 6 teams – Hempfield, TWp are in …Crest must win vs Dallastown to qualify
A look back…
“Oof” was a word used on the twitter sites to describe the LL’s performances on last Thursday. The LL boys went 1-6- with the only win being a come from behind victory by Ephrata, playing in the playback game.
LL Scores from Thursday:
Lancaster Mennonite 48 Kutztown 49
Bishop McDevitt 47 Lancaster Catholic 43
Northern Lebanon 34 Berks Catholic 52
Lower Dauphin 49 (OT) L-S 46
Garden Spot 66 Milton Hershey 90
Northern York 43 Ephrata 46
Donegal 49 New Oxford, 56
LMHS lost to top seeded Kutztown. LS lost in OT to a gritty Lower Dauphin team. Lancaster Cath. was beaten at home by Mike Gaffey-coached, Bishop McDevitt. Northern Lebanon hung with Berks Catholic for about a ½. Spot was run out of the gym by a top seeded team, Milton Hershey. Donegal’s season ended at 12-12 with a loss to New Oxford, although the Indians did comeback late in that game. All in all the LL played tough in most of the games, but not quite good enough to claim slots in Hershey.
LLhoops was at the LS game. The Pioneers led 20-16 at the half. LD employed a 2-3 zone trying to make things difficult for Ryan Smith, 6’10” center. Normally the Pioneers adjust and pop some three balls, but they weren’t connecting (LS had 6 but 5 in the this half). Patrick Holmes had 17 pts for the Pioneers – all in the first half. Smith scored more in the second half and finished with 16. LD had balanced scoring and nailed 9/11 foul shots in the OT to earn its way to Hershey. Click here for audio wrap.
Andy Herr and Bruce Badgley doubled teamed the Berks Cath/NL game. Click here for Andy’s wrap. Bruce has all his media files on his twitter site.
The Big boys saved the day for LL boys teams playing in Hershey.
TWP defeated a shirt handed Cedar Crest team at Crest to move on in the tournament. The Streaks play Reading HS in the Semis at the Giant Center Tuesday. Reading claimed the top seed in the tournament. The Steaks have displayed a lot of grit as they seem to bounce back from tough losses and then re-focus quickly (Hempfield, Crest, Spot losses all followed by wins the next game). TWP lost a tough game in the LL playin’ game to Spot, providing the Streaks with time to work on the little things. Coach Johns spent the time “working on our game”. The Streaks held down Conestoga Valley in the first round 6A game 52-39.
Coach Johns gave us some insights to their preparation this week.
“Taking on the defending state champs is quite a challenge but all you can do is prepare for the teams put in front of you. We are going to prepare for this no differently than we have for every other game this year. We want to limit their strengths, look for ways to score, and embrace the moment. At this point in the season we are all what we are; all coaches are just working to bring out a great version of ourselves for at least 32 minutes.”
Hempfield beat an up-coming Wilson team for the second time this season 59-49. Check out Andy’s wrap.
Coach Walck was quoted by Andy Herr after that game:
“I’m just really thrilled for this group of seniors because they’ve invested so much …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.”
So….the LL has 2 teams playing Tuesday at the Giant Center. Of course, Andy and I will be providing updates and commentary during and after the games.
We are still working on the main page issues.
Scores/Schedule page will be updated after the games Monday and Tuesday- too many what ifs and “ya’ all” know how we handle that—not well.
Hit me—at 160k and climbing 🙂
Page views and sessions are slowing down a bit as we have fewer teams left playing.
We had over 40k “impressions” on the twitter site during the LL championship.
Jerry Shenks ratings—always interesting to see how a W/L effects teams. Jerry usually updates every Sunday/Monday.
We ran into our unofficial editor and UNC lover, Bob Swavely at TWP last week.
All team pages updated 🙂
Congratulations to Spots Jordan Shewbridge. He joins an exclusive list of 1000 point scorers at Spot. He Joins AC’s Noah Wenger, Hempfield’s Ryan Moffatt, and TWP’s Tyler Crespo.
Jordan passed the mark in the district 3 game vs. Dover Most district 3 games are not stopped with a 1000 pt scorer, although Mike Bullock (@thebullp_n) cited one game that he witnessed that did.
Commentary on NCAA..
Kind of torn here. I believe that allegations are just that….but can Arizona get to the bottom of the issue before NCAA’s? It took them (NCAA) years to decided UNC issue (not guilty), not as long with Louisville (lost title and games)….What a mess—IF Arizona is stripped of wins this year but plays in the NCAA tournament and wins a bunch of games? …. Crazy Bill Walton stated he just wanted to “ride his bike” and not be associated with the game…There will be a lot of talk this next few weeks – although I’m not sure anything can get settled before the NCAA tournament.
Most Penn State fans can relate to the feeling that the NCAA seems to punish schools because of individuals breaking laws.
If payments were discussed and provided, then Arizona will probably fire the coach and suspend the player….and take a hit this season.
If the FBI does not provide the tapes, then what? It is an ongoing investigation (sound familiar?).
I’m not sure paying players from the school will solve anything. How much is too much? Top QB goes to the team with the highest bid? Player quits team A to go to team B because they pay more?
However, we will all continue to watch the NCAA tournament. Yes? Thought so.
ESPN dropping UNC, Duke, and others in the report. Looks like a meal money issue with some of the schools mentioned. I’m not sure that is up there with 100k bribes. I’m not making excuses for the Dukies or UNC, but the point is there are rules and then there are BIG rules. It will play out and you can bet that UNC/Dukes of the world will be under the microscope more than others.
District 3 at the Giant Center
I usually sit with LNP’s Mike Gross (@MikeGrossLNP) at the districts. He usually does a neat wrap of the week in his weekly column at the end of the tournament. “kaBoom” will be mentioned a few times this week.
John Walk (@JWalkLNP) continues to impress with his muti-tasking at games.
We also get to to talk with the referees supervisor at the games- always good to get some interpretation.
BLARGE—wow, did we learn some things this week. We received some feedback from LL refs, coaches and media on “Blarge”. I personally have never seen it called, but now I know its on the books. Long-time rules interpreter for the LL, Mel Newcomer, explained it well to me before a game he was working. I asked him how many times he called it- “once in 42 years of reffing”. It’s good to learn new rules, but I’m hoping to not see any BLARGES the next few weeks 🙂
Enjoy the last week of the District 3 tournament!…and UNC/Duke # 2 March 3rd (picts to follow)
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.