Dominant Second Half Performance Catapults Lampeter-Strasburg Past Cocalico As Pioneers Keep Unblemished Section Three Record Intact

Written by: on Saturday, February 1st, 2020

 

With just one calendar week remaining in this year’s Lancaster-Lebanon League high school basketball regular season, it’s uncommon –almost rare as a matter of fact—to see the league tournament field already filled out and largely compiled heading into the final night of league-play this coming Tuesday. And in an ironic twist of fate, Section Three’s two entrants into the bracket, Lampeter-Strasburg and Cocalico, would just so happen to face off against one another on the penultimate night of the L-L slate. Yet while both teams will be dancing come this time next week for the league playoffs, it would prove to be the Pioneers who would end up leaving an indelible mark upon the league-wide audience at the end of 32 minutes on Friday night.

As one might have expected coming into the game, both L-S and Cocalico took their turns at trading body blows against one another in the opening moments of Friday night’s affair. But arguably no one wearing either shade of blue came out the gates to a more torrid start than Seth Beers considering the Pioneers’ 5’11 senior floor general came out scorching, scoring L-S’ first seven points of the game to help the visitors from Lampeter draw even with their hosts at 7-7 just three minutes into the contest.

And while Cocalico would just as quickly counter right back with 3-ball sunk by their own rising star in 6’2 junior guard, Carter Nuneville, helping the homestanding Eagles regain the 10-7 lead, yet another Pioneers’ triple, this one cashed in by way of 6’2 junior guard, Austin Stoltzfus, helped propel L-S into the second stanza with the 15-12 lead after a back-and-forth battle between the two sides had raged throughout the opening eight minutes of play.

Speaking of back-and-forth, that continued to be the prevailing theme once the game got into the second quarter.

That said, the second stanza could arguably be better descried a game of runs between the two sides. Case in point, an impromptu L-S rally which came courtesy of a pair of back-to-back buckets tallied inside by 6’5 senior forward, Aaron Rockensock, putting the Pioneers up by the 19-14 count with the second frame still well in its infancy.

Yet here again though came the Cocalico Eagles swooping right in to steal L-S’ early mojo.

After bearing witness to a smooth Nuneville jumper which had helped ignite the Cocalico rally, the Eagles would eventually pull back even thanks to a timely triple dialed up by 5’10 senior guard, Kibson Elmore, making it a 19-19 affair with 3:50 to still left to play before the half. Then, shortly thereafter, Cocalico would regain the lead thanks to a magnificent offensive out-of-bounds set drawn up the Eagles’ bench, resulting in a sneaky lob thrown to Carter Nuneville as the junior guard gave Cocalico the 21-19 lead.

But just when Cocalico likely had to be feeling good about themselves –and rightfully so given the way they had been fighting up until that point— the Pioneers proceeded to author a rally throughout the remainder of the night for which the Eagles simply could not match.

In fact, the Pioneers’ blitz truthfully carried over across the halftime intermission considering L-S was able to close the first half on a 5-0 run, sending the guests into the nearby locker room with ownership of the 24-21 cushion.

The thing was, while one L-S team went into the locker room on Friday night at the half against Cocalico, an entirely different, more focused Pioneers team had reemerged coming out of the recess. And in many ways, the opening possession of the second half could have helped serve as a microcosm for how the duration of the night would eventually unfold.

On said possession, a prolonged L-S offensive trip, one that came packed with all the trimmings of the Pioneers hustling and diving after loose balls –complete with a healthy dose of offensive rebounds added in just for good measure– the 1:30-long offensive series would then end with an emphatic 3-ball capped off by Austin Stoltzfus, putting the Pios up by a half dozen at 27-21.

From there though, L-S simply would not and could not be stopped.

Shortly following the timely Stoltzfus bomb which had helped raise the curtain on the second half, Seth Beers proceeded to pick up right where he had left off in the first half with an absolutely gorgeous 3-ball off a curl-cut, giving the Pioneers the double-digit lead at 32-21 just three minutes into the third frame. From there, the Pioneers only continued building upon their lead as a fast-break bucket in transition from 5’11 senior guard, Darin Landis, forced Cocalico into burning a timeout while down 34-21 with 4:34 left in the third.

Fortunately for the Eagles, their third quarter hex would eventually conclude following an old-fashioned three-point play thanks to 6’3 junior forward, Carson Nash, giving Cocalico their first points of the second half, albeit with the third quarter clock already past its midway point. Yet not even Nash’s bucket inside would be able to do much in terms slowing down the persistent L-S attack as an NBA-range 3-ball stroked home by Seth Beers, good for 3 more en route to his game-high 23-point effort, forced Cocalico into burning another timeout while now staring at a 43-24 deficit with only a handful of seconds left before the start of the final quarter. And once the fourth quarter did get underway, the two scoreboards hanging high above “The Eagle’s Nest” showed L-S with decisive ownership of the 45-24 lead.

So, with the bulk of the damage already proving to be more than enough for the Pioneers to return home with a victory on Friday evening, the table had been set for the L-S starters to pave the way for their fellow brethren to check into the contest. And as if to be right on cue, a spectacular dipsy-do finish at the cup by way of Seth Beers which had upped the Pioneers’ lead to 51-24, helped set the stage for the dramatic events that were still yet to unfold.

While this season has seen its fair share of ups and downs put forth from Lampeter-Strasburg this year as a whole, you’d be hard-pressed to find a much better storyline that had taken shape for the Pioneers all year long than when senior big man, Mike DelGrande, checked into the contest in the waning moments on Friday night.

After going up and snatching the offensive rebound while getting fouled in the process, DelGrande then found himself toeing the charity stripe with the opportunity to secure the first points of this, his senior campaign. And as only a senior can do, DelGrande proceeded to make good on the offering, promptly sending his teammates and adjoining student section sitting just behind the Pioneers’ bench to their feet as a means to express their approval and support for their fellow senior classmate.

Yet that wasn’t it either.

No, not when 5’10 sophomore guard, Isaiah Parido, proceeded to check into the contest and come up with what was arguably the sweetest block of the entire night as Parido’s clean rejection a would-be Eagles’ shot fitting helped put the bow on L-S’ final rejection of Cocalico on this night, 55-29.

Chances are that you’ve probably heard about second half turnarounds. Fair enough, but have you have ever heard of one where one eventual playoff team holds another playoff-bound team to just single-digits, on their home floor no less? Well, sure enough, that was the type of effort that L-S put forth in the final 16 minutes on the road Friday night.

“Yeah, I’d like to think I have a magic potion, but I don’t,” Lampeter-Strasburg head coach Ed Berryman said with a laugh after assessing what he saw out of his team in the second half against Cocalico. “The kids just really decided, together, that they were going to get stops,” Berryman said. “Grayden Petersheim played like a mad man out there on the floor, really got us going and then we turned up that intensity. I just said to them, ‘Look what you can do. You can do it,’” Berryman added.

As mentioned, while this year has been more reminiscent of a roller coaster when compared side-by-side to some seasons of L-S’ most recent past, Friday night was almost a perfect metaphor for the Pioneers’ season considering they ended up handling their business in an emphatic way just a few days after seeing their perfect league record go up in smoke in a home loss to Lancaster Catholic earlier this week. An achievement clearly not lost on the Pioneers’ head man.

“It’s good to know that we can flip that switch,” said Berryman regarding his team’s ability to rally back after hard times experienced earlier in the year. “We’ve won some close games, some tight games, which I think will be beneficial for us in the future,” he added. “You know, Catholic played really, really well that game and they kicked our butt. (Lancaster Catholic) is a really good team,” he remarked going back to his team’s most recent setback. “I told (his players) after that game, ‘Let’s put this away. We want to finish the section and win the section. Let’s just focus on (Cocalico).’”

Needless to say, mission accomplished.

 

NEXT UP: After handling their business against Cocalico, L-S will now prepare for a Monday night makeup game at backyard rival, Conestoga Valley, before hoping to make good a possible sweep through Section Three competition this season when the Pioneers return home for senior night festivities against Garden Spot. And as for that possible sweep over their fellow divisional competition? “That would be icing on the cake,” said the fourth-year L-S head coach without much hesitation.

For Cocalico, the Eagles now truly find themselves in a unique situation following their defeat against L-S along with some other external factors being at play. Yes, while Cocalico will play in the L-L League tournament next Friday night against Lancaster Mennonite at a site still yet to be determined, the Eagles must now take care of business in their final two regular season games against Manheim Central and Exeter respectively if Cocalico does not want to find themselves in the precarious position of depending on any outside help in terms of snatching up one of those final few bids in the upcoming District 3-5A tournament.

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