Cumberland Valley Uses Well-Rounded Effort, Second Half Proficiency To Muzzle Manheim Township As Blue Streaks Run Out Of Steam

Written by: on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

 

Back in the early part of December inside this very same space, I wrote that almost every year for the Manheim Township Blue Streaks seems to eerily play out in almost the exact same format. In some ways in fact, you can nearly set your clocks to it. And wouldn’t you know it, while those words may have been typed and uttered about three weeks prior to the Christmas holiday, the 2021-22 edition of Township Basketball has fit within that very same narrative almost a perfect T.

Of course, it didn’t always appear that it would throughout much of the early part of their schedule. No, not when you point back to the Streaks’ 65-55 win on December 15th at McCaskey –arguably the toughest of all gyms inside the Lancaster-Lebanon League to walk out triumphant in following a battle that lasts roughly an hour and a half in length — for a Township win that only got the Streaks back on level ground at 2-2 overall early in the campaign, it also delivered what was one of the biggest early-season volleys that any one team could offer early on, but particularly inside the gauntlet that is always Section One. However, following that win at McCaskey that occurred just ten days before Santa came to town, Township proceeded to go 3-5 over their next eight contests, including a four-game swoon that finally ended back on the 18th of this month with a road win at Conestoga Valley, a game in which the Streaks ultimately prevailed thanks to a dizzying 26-point fourth quarter effort that ultimately stymied and stunned the Buckskins.

Ready for even more irony though? Flash back to the 2018-19 season for a moment.

Granted, while that particular year was much younger at its flashpoint in time, Manheim Township found itself at a crossroads of sorts when it trekked to Conestoga Valley to take on Central York in the War of the Roses showcase back in early January of that year as well. On that day, while Township would not only be able to get past Central York to take care of the first matter of business, the Streaks’ that quiet Saturday morning inside a less than capacity-filled Rill Gymnasium proved incredibly valuable, so much so in fact that it could largely be argued that their victory over the Panthers truly buoyed their stretch run of the campaign that ultimately culminated in a Lancaster-Lebanon League title that season on their very own floor, the first time such an event had ever happened. So of course it was reasonable as to why many of those very same feelings seemed to be conjured up yet again this year once Manheim Township left CV this time around as well with a thrilling 75-68 win in their back pocket. And sure enough, coming into this week no less, Township found itself riding a four-game winning streak that was ignited in that win over the Buckskins to help breathe some life into the Streaks’ season just when they needed it most. Now sure, while the verdict is still out as to whether this edition of the Streaks’ squad can replicate that very same success that the program was able to enjoy just three years ago now, it certainly got Manheim Township back into the L-L conversation considering it vaulted them right into a second-place tie with Cedar Crest to perhaps snatch the division’s final league tournament ticket alongside of Hempfield. Not only that, but Township’s frenetic close here of late also got the Streaks back into the District 3 discussion as well seeing as how MT found itself sitting on the #13-line heading into the week within the 6A field, just one spot away for securing that final spot as well.

That said, all of that late season mojo and momentum would certainly be magnified in spades come Monday night once the Streaks ventured across the Susquehanna River to tangle with one of the mighty Mid-Penn’s best this season, Cumberland Valley, against an Eagles squad that came in with an impressive 15-4 overall mark, including a #5 seed at this moment within the 12-team District 3-6A field. Suffice to say, if Manheim Township had any desires of prolonging their impressive winning streak, it would most certainly be put to the test and then some in this one. Yet if this game were to take on any sort of semblance regarding an assessment, rest assured that it would prove to be Cumberland Valley who would offer up a graduate level class in offensive efficiency along with a paired lab class in closing a game out in the most emphatic of ways.

Almost immediately from the opening tap on Monday night, it was evident that the margin of error between either Cumberland Valley or Manheim Township was nothing if not miniscule. In fact, just when it may have appeared as if the Eagles would be able to run out and garner some separation from their opposition, such as the case with smooth pullup jumper sunk by way of 5’8 junior guard, Dylan Levis, which made it an 8-4 affair in favor of the hosts, a Sebastian Henson banked-in trifecta shortly thereafter for Township would cut the Eagles’ advantage right back down to a pair at 9-7 with inside of three minutes left to play in the opening stanza by that time. But speaking of spraying it in from beyond the arc, Henson’s shooting touch seemed to be contagious amongst his teammates given a yet another Township triple later on in the first quarter proceedings, this one tallied by 6’0 senior guard, Seth Miller, which would cut the Cumberland Valley cushion down to the slimmest of margins, 11-10, with 1:50 left to tick off the clock. However, over the course of that final minute and change within the opening stanza, CV then closed the frame out with a timely 7-2 flurry –highlighted with a 3-ball cashed in by Levis within that stretch run—as the Eagles went into the second quarter with the 18-13 advantage at their collective backs.

Yet here again though, Manheim Township had no intentions of backing down from this fight whatsoever in the second quarter as well.

With Cumberland Valley coming out in a 2-3 zone, the Streaks took their time and patience in trying to dissect what they had placed in front of them. And once they did, the Township contingent was rewarded in doing so given a Henson trey that came after the Blue Streaks’ rangy 6’2 sophomore forward was able to work himself free from the Eagles’ clutches, making it a 20-16 contest with 5:30 left to go before the halftime break. In fact, the visitors would continue chipping away at the Eagles’ cushion, including four straight points chipped in via 6’4 senior forward, Brok Oldac, which yet again got Township within a whisker at 24-22, only to then see the CV lead expand once more following a pullup jumper answered on the Eagles’ ensuing offensive trip, this one courtesy of 6’3 senior, Trey Collard, as the Eagles kept pushing Manheim Township away just when it seemed as if the Streaks had found the antidote.

However, the prevailing narrative that had suddenly enveloped the night up until that point surely grew even more frustrating for those who had come all the way from Lancaster County inside the waning stages of the first half.

Sure enough, right after a Seth Miller bucket from within the paint which had made it a 26-25 Cumberland Valley lead with 1:10 left to go before the recess, the Eagles would counter back with a rebuttal of their own, a cold-blooded one at that.

With time running out on an opening 16 minutes of action that certainly seemed to be nothing more than a fair and even fight across the board up until that point, Cumberland Valley found themselves with possession of the basketball with the second quarter rapidly drawing to a close. More specifically though, 6’0 senior guard, Spencer Titus, had the rock in his mitts with the seconds bleeding off the clock. Yet late half situation and all, the Eagles’ senior displayed nothing but pure moxie despite the magnitude of the situation only ratchetting up as Titus was able to rock his on-ball defender to sleep before rising up and drilling a back-breaking triple right before the first half horn directly in front of the Blue Streaks’ bench, a critical 3-ball which allowed Cumberland Valley to race into the halftime break with the 29-25 lead.

Suffice to say, it seemed as if Titus’ key volley lobbed right before the second quarter buzzer gave Cumberland Valley some additional juice once the third quarter rolled around as well. Case in point, a gorgeous offensive set out of the locker room that ended with an unimpeded lay-in from 6’3 senior forward, Grant Kuffa, a bucket off an early action that clearly got the hosts started off on the right foot as far as the second half was concerned. From there though, CV only kept putting their foot on the gas as a Spencer Titus run-out quickly pushed the Eagles’ lead up to a half dozen, 35-29, a mere 2:40 into the third quarter.

But here again, Township simply refused to yield.

In fact, the Streaks would all but wipe their existing deficit away entirely over the course of the next few minutes following a JT Weaver triple, a trey which cut the Cumberland Valley lead all the way down to a 35-34 count, only to then see that charge get immediately rebuked on the ensuing Cumberland Valley possession as an answer inside from 6’4 junior big man, Nolan Gilbert, kept Township at bay once more with 2:20 left to play in the third.

And while no one may have known it at the time considering how the events of the night were then unfolding, but that would be as close as Manheim Township would get for the remainder of the evening.

All told, the Gilbert bunny inside would kick off a 10-0 Cumberland Valley salvo to end the third frame, a key stretch that while certainly proved costly to Manheim Township’s aspirations on this night in particular, may very well end up being the key factor in any of their desired postseason aspirations being fulfilled or not too.

Regardless, even if going into the final eight minutes while down by a 44-35 margin wasn’t already enough for the Blue Streaks to try and deal with once the fourth quarter rolled around on Monday night, certainly giving up a prolonged Cumberland Valley possession to start the stanza -which the Streaks would begrudgingly do with an easy Titus layup from point blank range — the Eagles’ lead would then swell into double figures at 46-35 with Township being forced to call a timeout with 5:39 left to play. Speaking of the Cumberland Valley senior guard most specifically, he would go on to finish the evening by capturing team-high scoring honors amidst a well-balanced effort from nearly all the Eagles’ troops as Titus wound up with a 13-point outing.  

Yet from then on, Cumberland Valley was finally able to slam the door on Township once and for all.

Roughly a minute after Manheim Township had called timeout to try and right the ship, the Streaks remained scoreless. On top of that, the CV cushion only continued to get exacerbated outward as a theft and layup by you guessed it, Spencer Titus, pushed the Eagles’ lead out to a 15-point difference, 50-35, with 4:37 left to play. Later, with the outcome all but decided by that time, Titus proceeded to show off his all-around basketball savvy by promptly taking a charge to expel any last gasp that Township had in the tank at that point in time, an exclamation point effort with 2:42 left to go that only continued to stymie the Streaks. Yet finally, after a free throw sunk at the charity stripe thanks to Manheim Township 6’0 sophomore forward, Bennett Parmer, with 2:07 remaining at last gave the Streaks their first points since the waning stages of the third frame. This time though, the hill was then far too steep to summit considering Cumberland Valley had built themselves a more than sturdy 52-36 foundation with time running out at this stage of the contest.

Even still, Cumberland Valley’s Tristan Hatcher wanted to insert himself into the mix as well heading down the final stretch.

Well, luckily for the Eagles’ 5’9 junior guard, he was able to do precisely that as Hatcher’s coast-to-coast reverse layup at the tin in the waning moments created undoubtedly the loudest decibels of the evening found inside “The Dome” with the minutes then in short supply. But short supply or not, Manheim Township was certainly searching for any sort of momentum they could perhaps take with them heading out of Monday night before they embark on the final portion of their regular season slate.

For that, perhaps the Streaks can point to a Quinn Snyder floater in the lane inside the final minute of play, a bucket by the Township 6’1 junior that formally concluded the Streaks’ nearly ten-minute long scoring drought from the field. Simply put, that very same jaunt through the basketball equivalent of the Sahara proved to largely be the determining factor in the end-result here as Cumberland Valley was successfully able to thwart a pesky Manheim Township road effort with a 56-38 final decision that went in favor of the homestanding Eagles.

 

NEXT UP: In some ways, this too is now crazy for the Blue Streaks. Yes, while it is accurate that they certainly brought themselves back into the forefront of postseason discussion with their most recent stretch of play prior to Monday night, it is also true that their setback at the hands of Cumberland Valley made whatever margin for error that Manheim Township may have had all but nonexistent now. However, that’s not to say that the Streaks can’t control their own destiny of sorts. In fact, both the L-L and District 3 playoff berths which the Streaks are currently chasing are still there in front of them. Well, whether its good news or bad news coming out of a game like this, the Streaks’ next opponent is their most archest of rivals, Hempfield, as the Blue Streaks will not only look to stay within the fight for both of those of playoff bids in Landisville on Wednesday night, they will also seek to avenge a resounding 45-26 Black Knights’ victory which Hempfield was able to post in Neffsville back on December 21st. From there, Township will head to Penn Manor on Thursday night before heading right back into the Mid-Penn dungeon on Saturday night with a test at Central Dauphin, all before rounding out the season with what could prove to be the end-all, be-all game for that final Section One playoff spot when Cedar Crest comes calling for a key game at Manheim Township next Tuesday night.

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