Dallastown Turns Up The Pressure, Uses ‘Identity’ To Claim Key Nonconference Road Win At Penn Manor
Written by: Andy Herr on Sunday, January 5th, 2020
Without fail, the arrival of each and every season brings with it the ascension of several feel-good stories that can warm up even the coldest of nights during the bitter winter months. In terms of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys’ Basketball scene most specifically, perhaps the narrative that fits such a description this season was one that fans had been waiting quite some time for.
For Penn Manor fans, the Comets’ run to the 2007 District 3-AAAA title game against Harrisburg likely feels it was now eons ago. And the since the departure of talented guys like Jordan Gibbs and Brandon Widener out of the Penn Manor program, the Comets have largely been searching to find that same type of sustained success for the duration of an entire season ever since. And while the final returns obviously have yet to bear their ultimate fruit, the early signs at the very least certainly this year appear to be rather favorable in terms of Penn Manor making this a season to remember.
Over the last handful of years, Penn Manor largely has had the unfortunate prospect of residing amongst some of the best teams that have graced the L-L landscape given the recent successes of Cedar Crest, Hempfield, Manheim Township and McCaskey respectively. Needless to say, finding your footing can be rather arduous given that you are assigned with seeing those schools twice every year. However, even going back to last season for a moment, the Comets stepped up time and time again, effectively making their home gym into a house of horrors for most everyone else in the league, as Penn Manor head coach Larry Bellew more than deservingly went on to capture Section One Coach of the Year honors at the end of the Comets’ campaign.
If nothing else, Penn Manor’s success last winter seems to have paved the way for what the Comets have put on display this year as well.
Coming into their Saturday night home game against Dallastown — one of the YAIAA’s biggest power players on a consistent, yearly basis — the Comets had already snatched up a pair of tournament titles in the early season after capturing the Donegal Tip-Off Tournament, and most recently, the Solanco Holiday Tournament, all of which helped Penn Manor surge out of the gates en route to a 7-5 overall record. And while the Comets were coming into their Saturday night scrap fresh off an excruciating two-point loss to Hempfield just 24 hours prior, they were certainly more eager than to wipe that bitter taste out of their mouths should they be able to topple the Wildcats.
However, thanks in large part to a fierce defensive showing the likes that the Comets had not seen up until this point, Dallastown not only came and saw on Saturday night, but they ultimately conquered as well.
In the early going of this intriguing L-L/YAIAA clash, both teams took their shots at trading body blows against one another. In fact, the homestanding Comets were not able to claim their first lead of the night until a Jack Shipley layup in transition which put the Comets up by the slimmest of margins, 8-7, with the opening quarter nearly halfway gone.
That said, it would turn out to be a rather brief moment of playing with the lead given that Dallastown’s Leke Ogunnupe promptly responded with a gorgeous spin move inside shortly thereafter, as the Wildcats’ 6’4 senior post man gave the visitors from York County the 9-8 advantage with 2:10 left to play in the first.
As fate would have it, it would prove to be a lead that Dallastown would never relinquish.
Just 40 seconds after the Ogunnupe’s go-ahead bucket inside, Jadon Green got into the act with a man-sized bucket inside to aid the Dallastown cause, putting the Wildcats up 11-8. From there, the Penn Manor deficit would hold firm at three despite a spectacular reverse finish at the cup authored by way of Penn Manor 6’0 senior guard, Ethan Hine, effectively ushering the game into the second stanza with Dallastown owning the 13-10 cushion.
While the initial stages of the second quarter opened up with either side continuing to throw volleys back and forth against one another, such as the case when Ethan Hine broke his defender down off the dribble with a subsequent pitch to 6’5 junior forward, Brayde Erb, making it a 15-12 Dallastown affair after the Erb bucket from point-blank range, the Wildcats proceeded to gain some crucial separation as the game trudged along.
Case in point, an emphatic Michael Dickson lay-up off the break near the midway point of the second quarter — with Dickson seemingly on the verge of nearly jumping through the ceiling of Penn Manor’s East Gym in the process — propelling the navy blue-clad Wildcats out to the 19-12 lead with 4:50 left to go before the break.
After that, Dickson proceeded to take his talents out from behind the 3-point arc, firing in a confident trifecta off a superbly drawn-up Dallastown out of bounds play to allow the Wildcats to maintain their touchdown advantage at 24-17 as the second quarter wore along.
Sure enough, seven points would indeed be where the difference would remain once both sides retired to their respective dressing rooms for the halftime respite with Dallastown out in front, 26-19.
Throughout the entirety of the night, even up until the halftime recess, it was rather apparent that Dallastown had long-desired to hang their hat on the defensive end in an overall effort to make Penn Manor’s life miserable and a literal chore when it came to scoring buckets. Yet to their credit, the Comets had largely been able to weather any and all storms Dallastown had tried to throw in their direction up until that point.
The key phrase there being up until that point.
With the assistance of their seemingly limitless amounts of energy that came oozing from off their bench, Dallastown proceeded to turn up the dial defensively and then some once the third quarter got underway.
To be sure, it largely felt at times that the Wildcats had taken far more than the allotted five men with them onto the floor given their extended pressure that made Penn Manor struggle mightily to even cross the midcourt line following intermission.
For proof of that, simply cite the Kane Bowers theft and layup in transition, a bucket which gave Dallastown the 33-21 lead with three minutes gone by in the third quarter, as the Wildcats’ wiry 6’1 junior guard helped set the tone for the duration of the evening.
And with their defense now operating at peak proficiency, it only seemed natural to have their offense follow suit. Well, that is precisely what transpired when Dallastown 6’2 senior guard, Roman Owens, proceeded to pump in back-to-back triples, pushing the Wildcats’ lead up to 18 at 39-21, all seemingly within the blink of an eye, with three minutes and change left to tick off the third quarter clock. On the night, Owens would go on to pace a well-rounded Dallastown effort en route to capturing game-high scoring honors with a 15-point showing, a dozen of which came from behind the 3-point line.
So, with nearly everything starting to work in their favor, Dallastown then began to reestablish their dominance inside once more, such as the case when Jadon Green tallied a deuce inside, officially making it a 20-point Dallastown buffer at 41-21 with 2:25 left in the third as Penn Manor was forced to call yet another impromptu timeout in wake of the Wildcats’ latest salvo.
That said, the hole would later grow deeper for the Comets to try and work themselves out of given Dallastown’s eventual 47-22 lead with the game getting set to head into its final eight minutes.
Yet even when Penn Manor tried their best to conjure up some good vibes and find some rhythm offensively, such as the case when Penn Manor 5’10 senior guard, Joel Modesto, fired in a trifecta to start the fourth quarter proceedings, Dallastown would quickly retaliate with one of their own as yet another back-breaking Roman Owens’ triple gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the night at 50-25.
Yet even the outcome of the game appearing to be nothing more than an official foregone conclusion at that point, there was still time for those left in uniform to muster up some of their own signature plays.
For that, the Comets turned to the efforts of Aleer Gonzalez, as the Comets’ 5’8 sophomore guard calmly sunk a confident spot-up jumper amidst yet another ongoing Dallastown blitz, trimming the Wildcats’ lead to 54-27.
As far as the Dallastown contingent was then concerned, the Wildcats looked to Kurt Dallmeyer who promptly came up aces as the 5’11 junior guard finished with things off with a scintillating take to the tin, giving the Dallastown bench even more reason to yet again be jubilant before the night was over and done with.
Yet once it was, it had proved to be dominant second half showing from the guests by way of the York Adams League, including a 21-3 victory of the third quarter, as Dallastown secured the second in their pair of well-earned wins in the span of two successive days after a 56-29 final triumph over Penn Manor late Saturday night.
Suffice to say, Dallastown head coach Mike Grassel, a 2002 Elizabethtown High School graduate, was understandably quite proud of not only had his team achieved on the court of late, but perhaps most especially in the way they did so.
“We’ve seen it in spurts,” Grassel said regarding how his team played on Saturday evening. “That effort that we came out with (tonight) was unacceptable and I think our guys know it. They (his players) told me that they have a switch,” he said with a chuckle. “I just need the switch to be on all the time.”
“Our identity is us playing hard like that for an extended period of time,” added Grassel. “That’s what they like to do. If they want to do what they like to do, we have to play defense in order to do it. No one is just going to let us dunk and let us get out in transition by not playing any defense unless we give up 100 points,” he quipped.
Again, as mentioned, Saturday’s victory over Penn Manor marked two wins in as many days for the Wildcats. That too gave credence as to why their triumph over the Comets made this one of the better wins to be added onto Dallastown’s resume thus far.
“I mean, that was tough for (Penn Manor),” Grassel went on to say in the postgame. “They come off a rivalry game against Hempfield, but (Penn Manor head coach Larry Bellew) does a heck of a job with the Comets.”
“Honestly, we’re just trying to pluck one at a time,” Dallastown’s head man continued. “Northeastern was a big win for us early, but every game for us in our division is big. We’re one game back now with three teams tied for first ahead of us. That Northeastern win was probably our ‘signature win’ in the third game of the season, but we’re looking to add some more to that. This one is another feather in the cap.”
And if Dallastown is eventually able to establish their footing the rest of the way and go on to capture a handful of playoff bids in the respective tournaments for which they could possibly qualify, the Wildcats can likely lean on some of the same elements they put together on Saturday night in Millersville.
“It’s a culture thing,” Grassel said illuminating his team’s general bounciness coupled with their persistent bench energy. “It’s something we work on. Pete Capobianco, who got in and we were trying to get a bucket for at the end, is a Division 1 baseball player, but he’s one of the best teammates that you could ever have. He kind of does his thing leading the bench and those guys follow. We’ve shown them on film that the more engaged they are on the bench, usually the better they do when come into the game.”
“It’s something we’ve worked on,” said Grassel. “I’d rather have to calm them down than have to be hyping them up. If they want to do their claps and it’s all within good fun and it’s cheering for our team and not being negative, that’s what high school sports is all about.”
NEXT UP: After their back-to-back losses now coming on Friday and Saturday night, Penn Manor must now quickly steer the ship back on course if the Comets want to make good on snatching up a District 3 playoff bid this season with nearly the entirety of the Section One slate still left out in front of them. First up in that regard comes a pair of challenging, yet equally getable back-to-back home games against the two teams that appear to be headlining the Section One field this season when the Comets welcome McCaskey and Cedar Crest to the friendly confines on Tuesday and Friday respectively.
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