Conestoga Valley Puts It All Together As Buckskins Explode Past Oxford, Snatch Saturday Nonconference Road Win
Written by: Andy Herr on Saturday, January 22nd, 2022
At the beginning of this season, the prevailing thought across all the Lancaster-Lebanon League was that Section Two largely figured to be the most bonkers division out of the five that the conference had to offer. Sure enough, with E-Town, Lebanon, and Warwick currently seen fighting it out to determine section supremacy, along with a vastly-improved Ephrata squad added into the mix, that overarching notion that carried over from the fall has most certainly appeared to indeed ring true. Of course, that is to say that Conestoga Valley certainly figured to take part in that discussion as well.
For the Buckskins, this season has been both a mixed bag of positives and negatives with each seeming to take control of CV’s ship at various points throughout the year. As far as the positives go, just look to the opening few days of the season when the Bucks were able to storm out of the chute en route to a 3-0 record, an early season statement that came complete with CV laying claim to their very own tip-off tournament title amidst that stretch. From that point on however, the Bucks went into a bit of a swoon in losing their next five consecutive games heading before finally ending that frustrating hex nearly a month to the day when they were able to top Penn Manor back on January 11th. That said, it should be mentioned that the “I’s” have also had a significant factor into how this Buckskins’ campaign has gone about playing itself out. Beset by more than their fair share of both injuries and illnesses, CV went into their Saturday afternoon matinee at Oxford owning a 5-8 overall record, while also currently standing at 1-5 in L-L play as well.
However, with a loaded back-half of the regular season slate that comes bursting at the seams with plenty of L-L Section One and Section Two flavor left to go on the final homeward journey, the Buckskins’ excursion into southern Chester County to match wits with the Hornets largely figured to serve as a springboard into said stretch should they be able to make good on the opportunity. Well, while it may not have been a masterpiece the though way through, it most certainly was CV’s most impressive and dominating performance of the entire season yet to date.
To be sure, Conestoga Valley’s statement began extra early. Precisely speaking, the Bucks raced out in front at a 7-2 clip throughout the first 2:34 of the contest, seeing their early haymaker land by way of two consecutive Austin Wertz takes to the tin which in turn led Oxford burning a timeout given CV’s early declaration. From there, the Bucks’ lead would climb up to double digits following a smooth spot-up jumper sunk within the Hornets’ zone courtesy of junior forward, Garrett Funck, making it a 12-2 contest with the opening quarter not even yet half over. But by that time, the Buckskins’ machine was already moving in top-gear, especially considering the magnificent two-man game executed between Griffin Rishell to Austin Wertz, which would end in a trademark triple splashed in by the Buckskins’ senior sniper, upping the CV cushion to an 18-4 count with 2:30 still left to be played in the opening stanza. All told, the opening eight minutes of play likely couldn’t have gone much better as far as the Buckskins’ camp had to be concerned considering the guests were able to charge into the second quarter with the decisive 28-11 advantage at their collective backs.
Yet to their credit, Oxford wouldn’t take the Buckskins’ early punch without countering back with something of their own.
In that regard, the Hornets were able to turn to the efforts of Jayden Morales, as the junior big man was able to tally the first five Oxford points of the second frame -from both inside and outside the arc- as a Morales triple cut the CV lead in half, 32-16, just 1:20 into the start of the period. Speaking more on Morales, he would prove to be the largest Hornet of the entire day given his stellar 20-point outing that carried the load for all of the Oxford scorers on the afternoon considering that no one else was able to crack into double figures.
Unfortunately, that would prove to be about all the hosts would be able to muster from there on out as far as the opening half was concerned.
In fact, just when Oxford likely had felt as if they had been able to string some things together that could perhaps translate into a second quarter charge, Cameron Swinton was on the scene to flush those hopes emphatically with a cold-blooded triple to make it a 37-17 contest, forcing Oxford to burn yet another timeout after surrendering an additional Conestoga Valley salvo with 5:15 still left to play in the first half. Speaking of a 20-point window of separation, that would indeed hold firm throughout much of the second quarter the rest of the way, something best evidenced by a Wertz theft and finish in transition, making it a 45-25 Buckskins’ lead with just inside of two minutes left to go. Granted, while a 20-point foothold on your competition was good and all, CV continued to remain in a greedy mood from there on out. More specifically, following a pair of freebies sunk at the charity stripe thanks to Swinton with under one second left to play, the Buckskins were able to enjoy their largest lead of the day while entering the intermission with the score standing at 51-30 in their favor.
Needless to say, if Oxford had anything still left in the tank after having allowed CV to do almost whatever it wanted to do on the offensive end given the Buckskins’ 50-point performance throughout the opening 16 minutes, time was of essence for the Hornets to try and sting. In that regard, the hosts most certainly deserve the highest of praise considering that they were the ones who had emerged out of the dressing room with all the juice to start the third quarter proceedings, effectively knocking CV back on their heels somewhat. In fact, Colin Overbeck seemed to take matters into his own hands at the outset of the third period given his personal 5-0 rally to kick things off as the Oxford junior helped trim the CV lead down to a 51-35 difference just two minutes into the second half. From there, the long-ball proved to be the Hornets’ preferred method of damage as a pair of successive triples contributed from the likes of Matt Boyle and Aiden Kane respectively had helped the Hornets get into their best groove of the entire afternoon.
Granted, while sometimes prolific shooting can not only be just as contagious from one team to another, it can also be just as lethal.
While the L-L League can certainly stick its chest out as if to proclaim that they have an embarrassment of stellar shooters, perhaps there is none more prolific than that of CV’s Austin Wertz. And on Saturday, Wertz certainly did his fair share of fanning the flames in terms of the Conestoga Valley onslaught. In fact, in the waning stages of the third frame alone, the Buckskins’ senior would proceed to bury a pair of triples, the last of which made it a 70-49 CV lead with 40 seconds remaining in the quarter, adding two more en route to his game-high total of four from bonus distance throughout the entirety of Saturday. And speaking of game-high, Wertz would go on to claim those overall scoring honors as well by contributing a very impressive 25-point day at the office. Oh, and just for record-keeping purposes here, Conestoga Valley would head into the final stanza with the 70-51 cushion.
Fittingly, Wertz would pick up right where he had left off once the fourth quarter rolled around as well. Case in point, a take to the cup which made it a 74-56 Buckskins’ advantage before another Buckskin senior, Cameron Swinton, would push the CV lead back out to 20 at 78-58 following a rare four-point play with 4:15 still left to tick off the clock. Later, after he himself had the opportunity to check into the contest, Nigel Marquez made the most of his chance by coming away with three steals and layups inside the game’s final few minutes, the fitting exclamation mark that would finish off a well-rounded afternoon from nearly everyone who wore a Buckskins’ uniform given the decisive 86-61 final decision that the visitors were allowed to take back home with them by day’s end.
Granted, even though the eventual outcome of this one was never truly in doubt, it was not as if Conestoga Valley wasn’t able to take some tangible lessons out of the afternoon, lopsided result and all.
“I think it gets Austin Wertz some more minutes and DeMajh Salisbery as well. They’re both coming back off injuries,” Conestoga Valley head coach Jim Shipper eluded to following his team’s 25-point romp. “(Wertz) was out four weeks with an ankle. He came back last week, but he needs to get solid runs in to where he can get that confidence back in his ankle. To expect someone to come back and be the same athlete, same person, is asking too much. Today, I think you saw the same Austin Wertz prior to his injury,” said Shipper. Hey, not too bad when you’re still getting your wheels back under you and you flirt with nearly 30, eh?
And Saturday’s win aside, you can best believe that it too was just another step in CV’s venture onward in the right direction.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s all just part of the process,” Shipper said. “In the beginning of the year, I think our guys put the wagon before the horse a little bit. Yes, we had some nice wins, but I knew Warwick in particular was going to get better as the year went along. Chris (Christensen) does a great job over there, so it was one of those things where we got them early,” he went on to say regarding arguably his team’s best win of the season yet to date. “We’re trending in the right way, but we still have a lot to do within the process of where we want to be.”
Where CV hopes to be sooner rather than later is near the top of their section on a perennial basis, competing not only for divisional titles, but for league titles as well. Suffice to say, if any morsel of that same Buckskins’ team that took to the floor on Saturday at Oxford happens to show up years from now on a consistent enough basis, the rest of the conference would best be warned that Conestoga Valley’s ascension will likely occur far sooner than most anyone would have predicted if that all comes to fruition.
NEXT UP: While most teams typically around this part of the season will finally start to make their way onto the District 3 website to see where they currently stand in the playoff race heading into the final weeks of the regular season, don’t find fault with CV if they happen to be more in tune to their internal business rather than what may be taking place elsewhere outside the four walls of Rill Gymnasium. As far as this upcoming week in particular is concerned for CV, the Buckskins will return home on Tuesday night for their final Section One crossover tilt where a ready and motivated Cedar Crest unit will be there waiting for them, a Falcons’ group more than likely ready to take their frustrations out on someone given their pair of losses coming in successive fashion on both Friday and Saturday of this week. Then, CV’s final foray with Section Two foes will commence the very next night at Ephrata before rounding the week out against E-Town and Lebanon in back-to-back fashion on Friday and Saturday respectively.
“We still got eight games left,” Shipper said without much pause when asked the remainder of his squad’s regular season schedule following this weekend. “We have a lot to play for within those eight games. We have a lot of room for growth. We basically have a little more than 1/3rd of our season still left,” he added. “There’s no playing out the string with that many games left. We still have Lebanon twice, Ephrata twice, one more with E-Town and one more with Warwick, so that’s basically a full section schedule which makes it fun. Call it the spoiler’s role, call it whatever, we’re calling it part of the process.”
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