Columbia Spoils Historic Homecoming, Scores Key Section Win At Annville-Cleona In League Opener

Written by: on Saturday, December 14th, 2019

 

Chances are that when people think of Lancaster-Lebanon League basketball, they often think of the big schools. You know, the Cedar Crest’s, McCaskey’s, Manheim Township’s, and Lebanon’s of the local world. Okay. Fair enough. But failing to look past, say Section 1 or Section 2, would be an incredible disservice to the league’s overall history. In fact, if one was truly looking to take part in a real-life history lesson, being inside Annville-Cleona’s gymnasium on Friday night was the perfect classroom for the seminar entitled, “L-L Hoops 101.”

Why? Well, it’s quite simply really. You see, not only were the Columbia Crimson Tide coming to town, one of the very few schools within the L-L League that can lay claim to winning a state title, but there were also actual state champions found inside ‘The barn’ as well. The 1999 Annville-Cleona state champions to be exact.

After all, who could possibly forget the name Mark Linebaugh? The sharp-shooting point guard for A-C that parlayed his success as 1999 Pennsylvania Small School Player of the Year into a scholarship to Colgate. Without a shadow of a doubt, Linebaugh was very likely the key catalyst for plenty of literal Little Dutchmen pretending to replicate his game in driveways all over Lebanon County before the turn of the century. Speaking of not forgetting, who possibly skip over head coach Scott Pera for that matter? You know, the current head coach at Rice who perhaps most famously coached James Harden in high school out in California? Well, rest assured that those in the communities of Annville and Cleona surely haven’t forgotten that historic bunch. A feat that was best exemplified by the rousing applause that their heroes of twenty years ago were showered with when introduced to those in attendance on Friday evening.

But pomp and circumstance aside, there were important matters on the court to tend on Friday night as well.

When talking about Section 5 in the L-L League this season, Columbia and Annville-Cleona were likely two of the teams that the discussion likely centered on. And for good reason too. After all, between both the Tide and the Dutchmen, only A-C’s Deshaun Archer was found to be the lone senior moving on from either roster heading into this season. So, with an embarrassment of riches set to return and reenter the fold for both clubs this season, winning any or both of the head-to-head matchups over the course of the next few months was an assignment that took on great significance considering that both A-C and Columbia figure to jostle for at or near the top of the standings throughout the entirety of the Section 5 race this season, with each perhaps eventually going on to snag the section’s two playoff bids come league tournament time in early February.

Yet on a night while Annville-Cleona would deservingly celebrate their storied past, Columbia was there with a desire to relish in the present.

If one prevailing element had clearly taken shape after the first few minutes of action on Friday night, it was the sense that the Crimson Tide would simply not be outhustled, nor outworked. And sensing that feeling as well, Annville-Cleona was forced to burn a timeout after seeing their guests jump out to an early 4-2 lead following a put-back by way of 6’1 junior forward, Luis Cruz, a mere 1:22 into the contest.

From there however, the Crimson Tide only continued to exacerbate the lead, eventually seeing their advantage rise to half a dozen at 8-2 following a pair of free throws sunk from 6’0 sophomore guard, Kerry “Hov” Glover, before a strong and determined take to the tin by A-C’s Adam Long got the Dutchmen back within four the next trip down the floor.

Yet for as well as Columbia had played in the opening few minutes, Annville-Cleona was able to withstand the Crimson Tide’s early charge, eventually roaring back to within a point at 10-9 following a knock-down triple from 5’8 junior guard, Yadiel Cruz, with 3:15 left to play in the opening quarter. That said, the homestanding Dutchmen would be able to do even better than that, later taking the lead for the first time following a pair of free throws knocked in from 6’1 senior forward, Junior Bours, giving the Dutchmen the 15-14 lead once the first quarter eventually expired.

So, with the leading changing hands at such a rapid clip up until that point, it likely should’ve come as no surprise whatsoever to see the two squads continue with that theme over the initial few minutes of the second stanza as well.

Sure enough, the Tide would later regain the lead following a nice baseball pass from Glover to a streaking Ryan Redding, as the 5’11 junior promptly tallied the Columbia deuce, making it a 20-19 affair with 5:38 to play before the intermission as A-C called yet another timeout to regroup and realign the troops. Then, over the course of the next couple few minutes, the Dutchmen would be able to retake the lead following a dead-on triple splashed in Yadiel Cruz, giving Annville-Cleona the slim 23-22 cushion. And with the frequency of ownership of the lead shifting in a manner which could only be best described somewhere along the lines of frantic, the action on the court seemed to replicate that in the truest sense of the word as neither team quite settled into a comfortable groove throughout the final few minutes of the first half. Yet when the clock did hit all zeroes, it showed the Crimson Tide will the advantage by just a pair, 26-24.

Suffice to say, the game up until that point had been played within essentially a four-point window. Incredibly, that would indeed remain the case nearly two minutes into the third frame when the Columbia lead would continue to hold firm at four following a jumper tallied by 6’1 junior swingman, Michael Poole Jr, giving the Crimson Tide the lead at 30-26 with 1:45 having ticked off the third quarter clock. And once again, the Dutchmen had refused to yield back any further distance, eventually plotting their way back to within a point at 32-31 following a 3-ball popped by 5’7 senior guard, Adam Long.

However, the next few minutes would later spell doom for the Dutchmen.

Over the final 2:15 of the third quarter, the Crimson Tide proceeded to rattle off a back-breaking 10-1 salvo to gain their precious separation. The proceedings started off with Poole Jr initiating the damage with a cool and collected jumper immediately following the aforementioned Long triple, which was quickly followed up Poole Jr calling his own number yet again, finishing at the rim after winning his battle when placed in isolation. From there, Hov Glover was able to get in on the act by finishing with a determined take at the rack, upping the Crimson Tide cushion to eight at 40-32 before a Luis Cruz second-chance bunny at the cup just prior to the third quarter horn blasting out gave Columbia the ten-point lead at 42-32 heading into the final eight minutes.

If Annville-Cleona had any aspirations whatsoever of eventually clawing back into the thick of things and making a game of it heading into the final few minutes, the Dutchmen needed to kick-start their rally immediately. Whether it would ultimately be determined to be fast enough would remain to be seen, however Andrew Long certainly did his part in order to help the matter, earning and capitalizing on the traditional three-point play, getting the Dutchmen within a touchdown at 44-37 with 5:10 left to play.

Yet when speaking of the three-point play, the Dutchmen would later find themselves on the exact opposite end of things after witnessing Columbia’s Luis Cruz make the most of his old-fashioned opportunity for an exchange which increased the Crimson Tide lead into double figures once again at 48-37 with 3:50 left to go.

But to their credit, A-C would continue to force the issue, eventually clawing back to within eight at 48-40 following a 3-3 trip to the charity stripe from Andrew Long after being fouled on the long-range attempt with three minutes and change remaining.

Speaking of fouls, foul trouble was quickly becoming a pesky storyline for the Tide to try and contend with heading down the stretch with a roster that was already minus to two starters in Matt McCleary and Robert Footman due to sickness and injury respectively. So, with someone needed to take the reins and help steer the Crimson Tide home on Friday night, Columbia had found their secret sauce in Daejzon Giles as the 6’1 freshman proceeded to check into the contest and offer up big minutes, particularly on the defensive end. But as a freshman deserving of a place on the varsity roster, having a well-rounded game likely wouldn’t be something all that unexpected. Sure enough, Giles was able to prove exactly that by promptly sinking a smooth spot up jumper following Andrew Long trip to the foul line for an enormous bucket to stem the tide in favor of the Tide down the final stretch run.

And while the Dutchmen would close the gap back down to as few as nine following a Caden Horning follow which made it a 56-47 ballgame with 40.5 remaining, the damage already had been done as Columbia went on to claim a win which could prove crucial later in the season by virtue of a 59-50 final triumph over Annville-Cleona.

To be perfectly frank, although the season only turned a week old on Friday night, it has already been quite a tumultuous journey for the Crimson Tide. Aside from the much more obvious ups and downs of the early season perhaps best evidenced the Columbia’s 1-3 overall record heading into the night, the Crimson Tide camp was tasked with seeing their leader go through his own personal battles as head coach Kerry Glover was seriously injured in a car accident just this fall.

“We’re a little bit behind where I’d like to be right now even though it is the beginning of the season because I have everyone back from last year,” Glover admitted following his team’s road win on Friday night. “Unfortunately, I was in an accident and it interrupted our offseason a little bit and threw some things off track,” he went on to add. “But they’re starting to pick it back up, getting in better shape conditioning-wise and just mentally as well. My JV coach (Elijah Cooper) was doing things while I was in the hospital and everything, but they respond to me a little differently. I just have that edge on them, so they’re starting to come around.”

Speaking of coming around, obviously the sooner the better in that regard, especially when considering the lofty goals that those outside of the program have put on the Tide and their veteran-heavy roster this season. Yet outside noise aside, it’s clear that this group has their noses to the grindstone.

“Honestly, this is now Year 4 for me here at Columbia and it’s always been that way. They (his players) just don’t pay attention to all that,” said Glover of his team’s wherewithal of outside chatter. “They don’t pay attention to like, where they fit in the section, where they fit in terms of districts, they just play ball. It’s kind of a good thing, but then you’re also just kind of playing and you don’t have that sense of urgency because it’s just like it’s another game. I have a few guys that are used to winning and competing at a high level in terms of basketball,” Glover added. “Those are the guys that have goals of, ‘We want to win our section. We want to win a district championship game.’ Things like that.”

And there’s certainly plenty of fine-tuning left to do with the majority of the season still in front of them. Namely playing with a controlled sense of aggression for starters.

“They struggle with playing at a faster tempo, but still being under control,” Columbia’s head man said while cognizant of his team’s propensity and desire to play at warp speed. “That’s the thing I was trying to explain tonight. Like, ‘I want you guys to push it, but if you don’t have anything, don’t force anything. Don’t go 1 on 4.’”

“But,” Glover added, “If they’re the guy that crosses the three-point line with the basketball and they have a little momentum, they shouldn’t stop until they get to the basket. I’m just trying to coach them through that. Once they understand speed and tempo and are still patient, they’ll get it.”

All things being equal, even with the trials and tribulations that always come attached at the hip given such a long season, for someone who has gone through so much in his personal life the past few months, being with his squad inside of a gym somewhere is far better than any medical prescription that a doctor could write for Glover.

“I missed it,” he said without hesitation knowing his status for this year was still up in the air just a short time ago. “I missed those guys. Just my first time walking into the gym and seeing their faces because they had no idea with where I was at in terms of my recovery. It’s still a long process, but I’m just glad to be here. (Columbia’s players) didn’t think I was going to be here, but I couldn’t let them guys down. This is definitely my medicine.”

And perhaps if nothing else, seeing their leader go through his own visible struggles can serve as a reminder for his players to keep pushing through whatever their own version of adversity might look like.

“They’re mentally tougher than they were last year,” said Glover of his troops currently. “The only statement I made to them was, ‘I’m not going to make any excuses. We’re behind. We need to catch up. On the flip side, if I can persevere and I can be here through this, you guys can work your butts off through a practice when you feel like you have a headache, or you’re exhausted because like tomorrow (Saturday) for example, early morning, 8am practice after having three games this week, just fight through it.’”

 

NEXT UP: Speaking of fighting through it, that’s exactly what Columbia will try and do once again next week with the Tide facing another three-game gauntlet against the likes of a surprising Lancaster Country Day outfit on Monday, following that up with Lebanon Catholic on Wednesday, before wrapping things up with a rapidly-improving Pequea Valley squad that boasts the league’s most unheralded superstar, Devon Colyer.

For Annville-Cleona, the Dutchmen can’t spend much time licking their wounds following Friday’s setback to the Tide if they hope to be able to run with the lead pack in Section 5 for most of this season. While A-C will remain at home at the friendly confines on Monday night when they take on the aforementioned Braves from Pequea Valley, the Dutchmen will then proceed to go on the road to close the week out with a pair of tough road dates against Lancaster Mennonite and Lancaster Country Day respectively.

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