Elijah Terry Leads The Way With 41-Point Outburst To Help McCaskey Outlast CD East In Double-Overtime Classic

Written by: on Thursday, February 6th, 2020

 

At this stage of the game, most coaches –particularly those with teams that will enter the postseason in the upcoming days—likely feel fairly comfortable in knowing their team from top to bottom considering the regular season is now living on life support with just two more nights left to go. That said, please forgive second-year McCaskey head coach Freddy Ramos in advance if he was especially curious regarding the general mental makeup of his team heading into their Tuesday night game against Hempfield.

You see, prior to McCaskey’s welcoming of the Black Knights into arguably the most famous of houses that the Lancaster-Lebanon League can possibly offer purely in terms of basketball history, the playoff-bound Red Tornado were somewhat reeling considering that they had dropped a pair of back-to-back contests in two different counties within the span of two consecutive days, as McCaskey ended up falling short against Cedar Crest and Exeter respectively on Friday and Saturday this past week, with their game against the Falcons serving as an extremely emotional de-facto Section One championship game inside “The Falcon Cage.” And to a man, Ramos too was keen of the situation at hand.

“It was definitely a concern,” the Red Tornado head coach said regarding his team’s set of two-straight shortcomings in their most-recent outings. “Saturday morning, I just felt that the energy level was really low. Going into (Hempfield), I wanted us to just not be so tense. Honestly, you know what I did? I put on a North Carolina/Duke game on from 2016 and had the guys lounging a little bit before film, so we didn’t have a chance to get nervous in the moment at all. If anything, I think it relaxed us.”

Well, the experiment must have worked considering that the Red Tornado responded with a resounding bounce-back effort against their archrivals from Landisville, stymieing Hempfield in a 77-40 final decision over the Black Knights on the final night of L-L League play. However, there would be absolutely no rest for the weary just 24 hours later when the CD East Panthers rolled into Lancaster, a squad clearly on the prowl for hunting down the final spot in the District 3-6A playoff field, especially given the fact that the Panthers had already stunned the mighty Harrisburg Cougars –the current #10-seed in the 6A field– on road Tuesday night.

So, with the atmosphere inside Shultz Transportation Gymnasium already figuring to be lathered in a dense-coat of intensity reminiscent to that of a playoff environment, the Red Tornado found themselves with the opportunity to make good one more solid and stern test prior to their start of postseason play which will get underway in earnest this upcoming Monday night when McCaskey makes the trip just a few streets away to tangle with Section Four champion, Lancaster Catholic, in the quarterfinal round of the L-L League tournament.

In the end though, Wednesday night proved to one that the coaches, players, nor fans, likely won’t soon forget.

Truthfully, those that had made the trek into Tornado Alley on Wednesday night should have figured this would be a night unlike any other considering that just moments after the teams came out onto the floor for pregame warmups, all those in the gymnasium were asked to evacuate and congregate outside for roughly 15 minutes as school personnel addressed the fire alarm that had prompted the mass exodus. Thankfully, after determining that there was no true and immediate threat, the patrons were able to come back inside shortly thereafter, eventually being treated to a game for the ages.

In the early going, CD East figured to come out with their hair figuratively on fire considering the Panthers’ rather precarious District 3-6A positioning coming into the evening. Sure enough, the visitors from the state’s capital city ended up taking a 13-6 lead through the first half of the opening quarter, thanks in large part to an ultra-fast CD East start that had largely been fueled by way of talented junior forward, Izaiah Bowen-Perrin.

However, the Red Tornado would be able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off following the Panthers’ early blitzkrieg as a pair of McCaskey triples pumped in by Isaiah Thomas and Jonathan Byrd respectively later gave the homestanding Tornado their first lead of the night at 18-17 in the waning moments of the game’s opening eight minutes. From there, with time still winding down, an Elijah Terry fast-break bucket in transition helped put McCaskey up by three at 20-17, only to see a CD East trifecta splashed in by junior guard, Amir Jackson, assisting the Panthers in clawing back even with their hosts at 20-20 just moments before the first quarter horn.

In the early stages of the second frame, Makai Ortiz-Gray took his turn at manning the controls for the Red Tornado ship as the rangy, 6’1 senior forward proceeded to rattle off his own 4-0 run to start the second quarter proceedings, ushering McCaskey out to the 24-20 lead.

But as would prove to be the case all night long, CD East simply refused to budge the entire way.

In fact, just when McCaskey had started to get themselves into a rhythm by establishing their largest lead of the early evening, the Panthers only then proceeded to punch right back as 5-0 run tallied by CD East’s Aymr Fox had landed across the Tornado’s collective brow, giving the lead right back to the black-clad Panthers at 30-28 with 4:15 left to go before the half. From there, after weathering the storm that was an Elijah Terry flurry –something that largely proved to be a blizzard by the time the final buzzer later sounded—CD East was able to maintain their grip on the lead as another 3-ball cashed in Amyr Fox helped push the Panthers’ lead back up to four at 42-38 with one minute to go before the break, before CD East was able to improve their standing just ever so slightly over the final minute as the Panthers then headed off into the intermission with the 43-38 lead.

After a wildly entertaining first half of play, it was clear that neither team had been able to generate much in terms of separation from their competition. And it was for that very reason alone that would make the first few minutes of the third quarter on Wednesday night loom large for whichever side would eventually be able to push their opposition away, at least to arm’s length.

In that regard, place a big check mark next to CD East’s name.

Coming out the halftime break, the Panthers were quickly able to flirt with a double-digit lead thanks to a smooth, pullup jumper knocked down by Amir Jackson, upping the Panthers’ lead to 47-38 in the initial stages.

Yet again though, here came the Red Tornado rolling back into the thick of things like that of an F5 befitting of their very namesake.

In fact, after a pair of freebies knocked in at the charity stripe by Makai Ortiz-Gray, a sensational display of McCaskey transition offense that had culminated in an Elijah Terry dime to a streaking Samir Gordon at the cup, got the Tornado back within a point at 47-46 as the third quarter reached its halfway point. And when he wasn’t busying tabulating assists next to his name in the scorebook, Elijah Terry certainly did the yeoman’s work in terms of scoring the rock all game long, many of which were buckets that had swayed momentum back over in favor of the Red Tornado’s direction. For that, look no further than Terry’s step-back jumper that was so sweet that it should have come with a cavity warning, putting McCaskey back in front, 49-47.

Granted, while McCaskey clearly had been riding the wave of momentum up until that point in the third frame, here came CD East yet again with their own valiant charge.

To accomplish that, the Panthers proceeded to hand the ball off to Amyr Fox and let him take over. Good decision too all things being considered, as Fox proceeded to tally four-straight Panther points, propelling the guests back out to the four-point advantage at 53-49. Throughout the contest, Amyr Fox would be a force to be reckoned with the entire way through considering his 32-point night of work to aid the CD East cause. And thanks to his late third quarter charge, CD East was able to head into the final frame while maintaining the 55-51 lead.

Unfortunately for McCaskey’s sake, Fox only to bite them once the fourth quarter got underway as well.

In fact, shortly following another Fox triple which had ignited yet another CD East salvo, the Panthers proceeded to impose their will inside against the undersized Tornado as a pair of buckets from within the paint by big man Aaron Jones allowed the Panthers to flirt with double figures once again at 64-56, with the Red Tornado now officially entering a “danger zone” of sorts if they wished to pull this one out of the fire over the course of the final few minutes.

And much in the same vein as the impromptu fire alarm that had gotten the evening started, McCaskey would prove to heed this warning as well.

With the game now starting to teeter outside of their control, Makai Ortiz-Gray stepped up to the plate and came away with a gigantic three-point play –good for three more en route to his 20-point performance—helping the Tornado get back within a half dozen at 67-61 with 3:20 left to play. From there, with the McCaskey snowball truly rolling downhill at an alarming pace, the hosts would then pull back even at 70-70 thanks a steal and layup by 6’0 senior guard, Isaiah Thomas, exactly two minutes later.

That said, CD East would be able to quell the rising tide that was the McCaskey onslaught over the next few trips considering that the Panthers ran off a 6-2 run with the game still well up for grabs, punctuated with a successful 2-2 trip to the foul line by junior guard, Shawn Lewis, pushing the Panthers out to the 76-72 lead with just 33.9 seconds left to go.

Ironically, for a team that seemingly had been able to score the rock at will throughout much of the game, especially in the face of oncoming Red Tornado runs, the Panthers would be held scoreless from there on out as a fearless take to the tin by Elijah Terry when coupled with a tough-as-nails bucket inside by 6’2 junior forward, Samir Gordon, with 10.1 seconds left, allowed the Tornado to erase the gap within the blink of an eye, as CD East and McCaskey suddenly found themselves heading into a deserving period of extra time while all tied up at 76-76.

Fittingly, as had been the case throughout the entire night, both sides would only continue to throw jabs against one another in the overtime session as well.

Case in point, just moments after an Isaiah Thomas bucket off the tip, CD East would then come right down the floor and answer back with a triple fired in by Jaiden Baltimore, putting the Panthers back in command just mere seconds into overtime.

Over the few minutes however, the pendulum had swung back in favor of McCaskey’s bench as the Red Tornado then found themselves up by the 86-83 count following yet another Isaiah Thomas layup, good for another pair in his final 17-point outing. And while the glimmer of hope in terms of putting away the Panthers once and for all had appear to be there, the door was just as quickly shut in McCaskey’s face in emphatic fashion on the Panthers’ ensuing offensive possession as a bucket inside by way of Aaron Jones sliced the McCaskey lead back down to the slimmest of margins at 86-85. Then, on their very next trip down the floor, the man of the hour, McCaskey’s Elijah Terry, proceeded to toe the stripe and calmly cash in on both of his free throw attempts, upping the Tornado lead back to three at 88-85. And once all was said and done at the end of this wild night, Elijah Terry would end up stealing the show by offering up arguably the best performance of any L-L League player throughout the entirety of this season given his cut-stopping, momentum-stealing buckets at the most critical of junctures, all of which helped him claim ownership of a transcendent 41-point performance.

But the Panthers weren’t done fighting there. No, especially not when Amyr Fox, CD East’s star, came right down the floor and peppered in a game-saving triple in his own right on the Panthers’ final possession of the first overtime to make things all square yet again, as McCaskey and CD East then found themselves preparing to go for yet another four-minute stretch with the score still knotted up at 88-88 and double-overtime upcoming.

At the onset of the second overtime, Elijah Terry only continued to sizzle.

In fact, following yet another take to the tin which had put McCaskey back in front at 92-90, the 5’11 senior point guard then came out of nowhere from his help-side position defensively on the Panthers’ ensuing offensive trip to negate a would-be CD East shot at the cup with a tremendous block, allowing the Tornado to dodge a bullet that would have warded off the current McCaskey momentum swing.

Then, thanks to an absolutely fearless kiss off the glass courtesy of 5’8 freshman guard, Jonathan Byrd, the Red Tornado found themselves with the Titanic-sized four-point lead at 96-92 with time starting to wind down. Even still, the Titanic is more famous for sinking above all else, something that McCaskey’s lead seemed to replicate shortly thereafter as an enormous CD East triple fired in by Jaiden Baltimore quickly sliced the McCaskey lead back down to one at 96-95 with 1:57 still to play.

From there, CD East would draw even yet again over the course of the final minute and change as another Panther deuce inside —this one chipped in Amir Jackson to help aid in his 23-point performance—helped CD East draw back even at 97-97.

Yet in a way that nearly every game of this magnitude that is nip and tuck the entire way through, free shooting figured to perhaps be the greatest determining factor as to who would go on to prevail at the end of this epic Mid-Penn/L-L game of tug of war.

Well, fortunately for those that found themselves with a rooting interest in McCaskey’s effort –particularly the Manheim Township Blue Streaks who just so happened to be in attendance– McCaskey’s Samir Gordon would proceed to knock in what would eventually become the game-deciding free throw as the junior forward’s 1-2 split with 13.3 seconds left in double-overtime would prove to be all the Red Tornado would require the rest of the way home as CD East’s final offensive trip came up begging, giving McCaskey the epic double-overtime win, 100-99.

“Going into today, the plan was for us to be in a defensive battle, but of course that wasn’t the case,” an excited Freddy Ramos said with a mile-wide grin after seeing his team survive a heavyweight bout, all while reaching triple-digits against CD East. “It was more a message of staying focused and a having fun. Honestly,” Ramos then said of the what he told his troops with the game on the line once inside the fourth quarter and overtime sessions respectively.

“That keeps us a little bit loose. Sometimes, we almost shake ourselves in moments like this,” Ramos added. “Today, the gym was really active and in all those (late-game) situations that we work on, I wish I could tell you that we execute out here the way we work on them in practice,” Ramos added with another dose of good humor before concluding, “But we’re familiar with the moment. In moments like that, I think it’s not so much X’s and O’s. It’s more of, ‘Relax. We’ve been here. Make good decisions.’”

“This was a championship that we played in,” Ramos continued. “We needed the opportunity to win to host a district game. I wanted our guys to understand that this means more to us than anybody else out there. And on the other hand, to understand that this team coming to play against us, this means a lot to them to as well with them trying to stay alive.”

“CD East has been playing excellent ball,” said Ramos while continuing the laud the competition his team had just beaten. “I’ve seen a ton of their action, especially here recently. What we experienced tonight is what that team has playing night in and night out.”

 

NEXT UP: Well, how in the world can they possibly top that? Fortunately for McCaskey, the Tornado will now receive a well-deserved respite from game competition following their regular season finale over the next few days before the latest chapter in arguably the L-L’s most historic rivalry when they travel just a few blocks away to take on Lancaster Catholic in the league quarterfinals on Monday night.

“Our mindset has been that we’ve already started the playoffs,” said Ramos. “We just finished a two-game season yesterday and today. Now we’re onto the next one which is a three-game season we’re working on. It’s definitely next man up, next game up for us.”

 

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