Exeter Stymies Manheim Township In Intriguing Nonconference Affair As Eagles Keep Unblemished Record Intact
Written by: Andy Herr on Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
Okay. Let’s just get this out of the way right now. Yes, while the season is still not even a week old, there were a few teams inside the Lancaster-Lebanon League that already found themselves at a crossroads of sorts with the year still well in its infancy. And hyperbole or not, one of those teams that likely fit into such a description were the Manheim Township Blue Streaks.
To say that the Streaks have enjoyed a meteoric rise since head coach Matt Johns came to Neffsville following successful stints as the top assistant to Ryan Butt on the Donegal bench that was then parlayed into an equally successful tenure as head coach at Columbia — a relatively short tenure which was highlighted in taking the famed and illustrious Crimson Tide program back into the state tournament — would be nothing short of an understatement. In fact, that all came to a head last year in the most perfect of settings, Manheim Township’s home gymnasium, as the Blue Streaks were able to claim the school’s first L-L League championship in a nip and tuck battle against their bitter rival from up the road in Warwick. Yet for as enjoyable and memorable as last season was, the fact of the matter was that the Streaks would need to get right back into the lab in order to concoct this year’s potion, a mixture that would be devoid of a departing senior class that included such talented ingredients as Brendan Mellott, along with the best player in school history, Tyler Crespo. That said, the Streaks still had plenty of chess pieces left to move about their board coming into this season. Certainly multi-faceted senior forward Zach Oldac would be a good place to start, a dynamic puzzle piece that can literally play any position incredibly well in the game of basketball, along with bruising big man Ben Mann, the grandson of Vince Lombardi era Green Bay Packer running back, Chuck Mercein.
But this past weekend for Township seemed to mimic that of an EKG machine with plenty of peaks and valleys. The good? Knocking off a very dangerous and capable Hazelton team on the opening night of the season. The bad? Falling to perennial District 3-6A stalwart Central York by a 56-26 final decision in the championship round of their very own tip-off tournament the very next night out. So, with a roster that is a still relatively green and inexperienced in terms of trudging through the nightly grind that only high school basketball can offer, the road ahead provided absolutely no rest for the weary considering that Township was forced to load up the bus on Tuesday night and head into Berks County to face off with the Exeter Eagles — a champion crowned in their season-opening tip-off tournament — and one of the best guards that there is to find in all of District 3, Alex Javier.
But on this night, both Javier and his backcourt partner in crime, Matt Davidheiser, would end up stealing the show for the hometown Eagles.
In the early going on Tuesday night, Manheim Township came out on fire. So much so in fact that the Blue Streaks were able to take command of the early 5-0 lead following a straight-on triple stroked home by 6’4 senior forward, Mickey Stokes. Speaking of the 3-ball however, Exeter was able to use that very same weapon against the Streaks over the course of the next few minutes as the Eagles were able to take their first lead of the night at 6-5 following back-to-back treys dialed up the aforementioned Davidheiser with 5:10 left to play in the opening quarter.
Unfortunately for Township, the hits, well the buckets really, just kept coming as Davidheiser and his Eagle teammates would continue to remain white-hot from behind the arc in the early going as Davidheiser’s third triple of the opening quarter allowed the Eagles to enjoy their largest lead of the early evening at 13-9 with 2:10 now left to play in the first. In fact, once the dust had finally settled on the opening stanza, all of Exeter’s field goals would eventually come from the land of bonus distance.
Yet for as well as Exeter had shot the rock, Township continued to remain unphased through it all as a lay-in in transition from 5’11 sophomore guard Seth Miller, courtesy of a Zach Oldac assist, allowed the Streaks to climb back to within three at 15-12 just before the first quarter horn rang out.
While nearly the totality of Exeter’s damage in the opening eight minutes had come from behind the arc as previously mentioned, the Eagles were equally just as formidible from point-blank range in the initial stages of the second quarter as well after a pair of bunnies by way Exeter senior big man Tyler Goldsborough allowed the Eagles to generate some separation from their guests as Exeter had opened up a 21-16 buffer.
Shortly thereafter, both sides took their shot of volleying runs back and forth against one another.
Having the honors first would be the Blue Streaks as a 3-ball cashed in from Seth Miller, good for 3 of his game-high 26-point night, had suddenly propelled Township back onto level footing at 21-21 as Exeter would burn a timeout to help calm the waters with 5:53 left to play before the half.
From there, Alex Javier would proceed to go on his own personal 5-0 salvo, a Jason Garvin corner triple would soon follow suit, all before the Exeter haymaker would eventually be completed with a resounding exclamation mark following the old-school three-point play capped by Davidheiser. And all of a sudden, Exeter’s lead had suddenly been pushed up to a dozen at 36-24 with 3:45 still left before the halftime recess.
So, needing to grab any sort of momentum with the tide starting to lean heavily in Exeter’s favor, Township needed something to answer back with. And fast. Well, fortunately for the folks who had braved and rain and traveled northward from Lancaster County, their patience was rewarded in the form of a 4-0 flurry right before the break as the Exeter lead would be chopped down to an 11-point margin heading into intermission at 40-29.
In short, if Tuesday night’s contest could be summed up in one simple phrase, it would go a little something like this: Whenever Manheim Township would land a punch, Exeter would land one right back, but the Eagles’ metaphoric form of fisticuffs seemed to sting just a little bit more by comparison. And with that in mind, Exeter would eventually race out to a 10-point lead at 45-35 midway through the third quarter following a strong take to the rack courtesy of Matt Davidheiser, good for two of his team-high 25 points on the evening.
Yet here again, here came the Blue Streaks roaring right back.
Sure enough, after a 3-ball dialed up 5’9 junior guard Zach Hartz, the Eagles’ lead was trimmed all the way back down to five points at 45-40 with 2:30 left to play in the third. But once again, the counterpunch authored by Exeter allowed the Eagles to see their lead swell back up to double figures at 52-42 following a three-point play punctuated by Matt Davidheiser as just 46 seconds now stood between Exeter and a sizable lead heading into the final quarter. And whether or not you would considerable a 54-42 advantage ‘sizable,’ that was precisely the margin of difference between the two squads once the fourth quarter got underway.
Ironically enough, the same old themes that were witnessed earlier in the contest seemed to be playing themselves out once again during the opening moments of the final period as well.
Case in point, Exeter jumping out to a 63-53 lead following back-to-back buckets chipped in by Tyler Goldsborough, only to see that lead eventually evaporate into a much smaller four-point cushion following a sweet corner trey fired in from sharp-shooting Seth Miller which made it a 67-63 Exeter lead with 1:48 left to play.
Needless to say, the game at this juncture was still hanging in jeopardy. So, if you were part of the Eagles’ braintrust, it would make sense to have the ball wind up in the hands of either Alex Javier or Matt Davidheiser. Fortunately for them, that scenario would indeed play out true to form as Javier found himself toeing the charity stripe, knocking down the offering of freebies, propelling Exeter out to a 70-64 lead with 1:20 remaining.
Yet for as well and efficient as Exeter had played all game long on the offensive end, it would be their handiwork on the defensive side of the floor that would allow the Eagles to drive the final nail in the Streaks’ coffin heading down the stretch. For proof of that, one only need to look at Tyler Goldsborough’s rejection of a would-be Township shot, preserving Exeter’s 71-66 lead with under one-minute left in regulation and subsequent foul which sent the Eagles down to the other end for more free throws.
That said, Manheim Township would be able to score one more time before the night was over, courtesy of a Zach Oldac bucket, but it was far too little too late as the Exeter would go on to finish things off with a 72-68 victory on Tuesday night.
NEXT UP: After falling to a somewhat surprising 1-2 mark following their Tuesday road trip up to Exeter, the Blue Streaks must now set their sights on another game away from home, albeit much, much closer, as Township will make the five-mile journey up PA Route 501 to play unbeaten Warwick in the lone regular season matchup between the two schools that duked it out for the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championship last winter.
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