Cocalico Overcomes Sluggish Start, Rides Griffin’s Dominating Performance As Eagles Notch Crucial Win Over Northern Lebanon
Written by: Andy Herr on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019
Lady Momentum. If you can get her to look in your direction, she can end up being the best dancing partner that you could possibly waltz with. But, if she should scorn you, she’ll heartlessly leave you out in the cold and left wondering what as to what exactly went wrong as you sit idly by and watch her cozy up to someone else. Now, although it may be nothing more than a metaphor, momentum in the long and winding road of a high school basketball season can sometimes be the most valuable weapon you can stumble upon. Or sometimes, perhaps the most dangerous and detrimental.
Take Cocalico and Northern Lebanon for example.
After the first weekend of the regular season, things certainly appeared to be on an upward curve for both the Eagles and Vikings considering Northern Lebanon won their first game of the season — a 56-51 win over Dover in the Bermudian Springs Tip-off Tournament —– and Cocalico went on to claim an early season title and trophy after handling their business and coming away as champions at Conestoga Valley’s tip-off tourney that very same weekend after defeats of Spring Grove and the host Buckskins respectively.
Since then however, the road ahead has done an abrupt 180 for either side considering both the Vikes and Eagles came into Monday night’s Section 3/Section 4 crossover tussle while lugging around a combined 0-5 winless streak between them following their shared opening weekend successes.
That’s the thing about Lady ‘Mo though. Sometimes she comes and goes as she pleases. But, with someone having the opportunity to finally regain some positive traction before heading into daunting stretch runs just prior to the Christmas break recess, either Cocalico or Northern Lebanon could do wonders for themselves heading into their upcoming games depending on who would be able to pull out a victory on Monday night at “The Nest.”
And with Cocalico staring down the barrel at Lancaster Catholic and Octorara still yet to come this week respectively, it would prove to be the Eagles who would swoop in and pick up a critical, foundation-building win with the bulk of their season yet to come thanks to a dominating second half performance put forth against Northern Lebanon on Monday night.
In terms of the early going, both Cocalico and Northern Lebanon started things off by going blow for blow with one another. Yet it not would be until the Vikings rang up a pair of back-to-back triples, tallied by 5’11 senior guard, Alex Folmer, and 5’7 sophomore guard, Peyton Wolfe, respectively, that either side would be able to find any sort of breathing room, as the visitors from Fredericksburg exploded out to a 10-4 early lead following the two successive treys with nearly half the first quarter already have gone by.
However, the Eagles would be able to right the ship from there on out, holding Northern Lebanon scoreless the rest of the way, as a timely turnaround jumper sunk by Cocalico 6’2 sophomore guard, Trey Rios, brought the Eagles back within a pair at 10-8 just moments before the first quarter buzzer shrilled through the air.
Yet for as much as the opening stanza was largely defined by Northern Lebanon’s hot start in getting out to an early lead and keeping Cocalico at arm’s length, the initial first few minutes of the second quarter proved to be yet another case of the Eagles and Vikings trading volleys back and forth between one another. Never more was that on display than with Cocalico 5’10 sophomore guard, Brycen Flinton, stroking home a smooth pullup jumper to knot things up at 14-14, an Eagles’ deuce which came on the heels of back-to-back buckets mustered inside by Cocalico big man, Trey Griffin, to get the second quarter proceedings underway. More to come from Griffin as the night moved along. Much, much more in fact.
So, with Cocalico starting to assert themselves inside by leaning upon their clearly evident physical advantage that the Eagles’ owned inside the arc, Northern Lebanon recognized their dilemma and quickly countered by promptly knocking in a pair of 3-balls in the face of the Cocalico blitz after buckets drained by the aforementioned duo of Wolfe and Folmer respectively for the Vikes. And once the dust had finally settled on a back and forth first half of play, it would be Northern Lebanon who would go on in to the halftime break with ownership of the 22-18 advantage.
Coming out to start the second half, it appeared – at least initially — that the third quarter would quickly take the shape of the previous two quarters which had preceded it. Case in point, Nate Shirk’s offensive rebound and put-back for Northern Lebanon as the Vikings’ 5’11 junior guard kept the visitors’ lead at four early on, 26-22, with 5:04 left to play in the third frame.
From that moment on however, Trey Griffin would quickly establish himself as the best player who happened to suit up on Monday night.
After seeing Northern Lebanon essentially toy with the lead all game long up until that point, Cocalico’s 6’4 senior post man had clearly had enough of that. Needless to say, the Vikings unfortunately did not possess a chess piece of equal size and girth, as Griffin exploited any and all mismatches as the third quarter wore along. And with Griffin starting to take things over inside on both ends of the floor, including reaching a dozen points on the night following a strong bucket inside which knotted things up, Griffin decided to show off his entire weaponry by nailing a dead-on triple that was nothing but net, giving the Eagles their first lead since the first quarter at 27-26 with 3:48 left to play in the third.
Yet with Griffin quickly becoming Northern Lebanon’s kryptonite, Cocalico 6’2 junior guard, Carter Nuneville, proceeded to take the baton and become an equally damning thorn in the Vikings’ collective side as the Eagles’ floor general proceeded to net a pair of successive triples in his own right, giving the homestanding Eagles the 35-29 lead with 1:59 to play in the third quarter before Cocalico would head into the final period with the 37-30 cushion.
But with Trey Griffin acting as the key catalyst that was helping push the Cocalico snowball downhill, it seemed only fitting that he would be the one to finish with one of the smoothest plays of the night — a gorgeous reverse finish at the cup on the Eagles’ first offensive possession of the fourth quarter — as Griffin’s early hoop had allowed the Cocalico lead to suddenly flirt with double digits. From there, Griffin only continued to resemble a man possessed, snatching down an offensive rebound before going up and finishing through traffic, raising the Eagles’ lead to a dozen at 43-31 with just six minutes left to go.
Suffice to say, Cocalico could smell the blood leaking from their counterparts that was now floating about in the water. So, with the opportunity being at its most ripe, Cocalico 6’0 senior guard, Tyler Cloud, immediately fired in a 3-ball, giving the Eagles their largest lead of the night up until that point at 48-33.
But it wasn’t all offense mind you.
No, not when you consider that Cocalico 6’0 senior guard, Ronald Zahm, later gave up his body to help the team by taking a charge down on the defensive end for what had seemed to be the cherry on top.
Well, not quite.
With everything now clearly working for the Eagles heading down the final stretch, it seemed only fitting that Cocalico student section favorite, Moses Madison, would not only check into the game, he would then go on to author the loudest roar of the night. Sure enough, the 5’8 senior guard drove to the rack fearlessly, scoring a late-game deuce that was obviously the ultimate highlight for the entire Cocalico bench all night long given the manner in which all the Eagles jumped out and reveled in their teammate’s success with the game now starting to draw to a close.
And while Northern Lebanon would go on to finish things off with a bucket just before the final buzzer, it would far too little, far too late, as Cocalico was ultimately able to close things out with an ultra-important victory against a very dangerous Northern Lebanon outfit on Monday night, 55-38.
As mentioned earlier, while a Monday night date with Northern Lebanon was an affair that could have easily been glossed over and not caught the general public’s eye considering it was a contest amidst a schedule that already been littered with a sprinkling of postponements thanks to some predicted and ultimately failed winter weather in the mid-state, rest assured it was indeed a key game in a season that is still just in its infancy for a Cocalico squad that has dreams of playing in all and all forms of the postseason this year. If you need proof, just ask Eagles’ head man, Seth Sigman.
“You never want to say ‘must win’ in game five of the season, but you also don’t want to drop it, which we did last year against Northern Lebanon, and now our backs are against the wall in terms of the league playoffs and things like that if you start off in a big hole,” said Sigman of the situation facing his team heading into Monday evening.
“We say this to our guys many times, ‘Every win is important.’ You can never take one for granted because of what happened to us last year where it came down to the last game of the season and we had to win our last three games to get into districts. If we would’ve lost one, we wouldn’t have gotten in,” Sigman said of the magnitude of Monday when harkening back to last season. “Every win is important. Every game is important. We try and preach that to our guys.”
“Yeah,” the Cocalico head man said with laugh likely fueled somewhat with an underlying feeling of relief, “We needed to get this one tonight and we did.”
Speaking of “his guys,” no one wearing a Cocalico uniform on Monday night was as effective as the one donning #40, Trey Griffin. And while seeing his game-high 25-point effort in the boxscore might come as a surprise to some, those firmly entrenched in the Eagles’ camp knew a performance such as the one authored against Northern Lebanon by their physically-imposing post presence was just a ticking time bomb that had been ready to go off for quite some time now.
“When he’s aggressive and posts hard, there’s not many guys that can stop him in high school basketball,” said Sigman of Griffin. “He’s got really good feet and really good hands. Again, when he posts hard, there’s not much that people can do.”
“We made a concerted effort to get him the ball inside tonight. We didn’t really do it that well in the first half which is why (Northern Lebanon) was winning all of the first half pretty much,” Sigman added. “But when he gives effort like he did in the second half….Rebounding. Every rebound he was around, he got both hands on. When (Griffin) goes up with two hands, nobody is taking it from him. Nobody’s getting it.”
“He can run. He can jump. He’s athletic. He’s a load down to handle down there. That’s what we were expecting. That’s what we’ve wanted.”
NEXT UP: Following their takedown of Northern Lebanon, Cocalico now sets their sights on a key two-game swing to close out the week which will go a very long way in determining how exactly the Eagles’ season will ultimately take shape this year as the gang from Denver prepares for Lancaster Catholic on Wednesday before a game back at home on Friday against Octorara for a stingy pair of games against two of the stronger teams that make up an already deep Section 4 talent pool.
“I think the fact that we played really well in the second half will definitely build some momentum for us,” Sigman in how he hopes his squad will parlay Monday night into the rest of the week. “We scored inside a ton and our guards didn’t really shoot it very well tonight. If we can get a little of both, inside and outside scoring, we’re tough to deal with.”
“Lancaster Catholic has some big guys that can match up inside with us, so we’re going to need our guards to make some shots too. We made some timely 3’s tonight, but we didn’t make as many as we typically make,” he added. “We gotta have the bigs play well and the guards play well in the same game. That’s what we’re shooting for.”
For Northern Lebanon on the other hand, the Vikings must now prepare for a tricky Garden Spot team on Wednesday on a one-day prep before embarking on the longest possible bus ride that the Lancaster-Lebanon League has to offer when the Vikes set sail for Quarryville on Friday night and a date with Solanco in hopes of ending their pesky losing skid and possibly ending the week out on a winning streak should they be able to trip up the Spartans and Golden Mules in successive fashion before Christmas break.
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