Hempfield Blitzes Governor Mifflin As Black Knights Keep Perfect Record Intact
Written by: Andy Herr on Sunday, December 16th, 2018
Death, taxes, and the Hempfield Black Knights reloading on the hardwood. Alright, alright. Maybe that last addition isn’t exactly how the saying goes, but in reality, it isn’t exactly untrue either.
After losing what had been the last remaining pieces of a core group that had been instrumental in taking the Black Knights on long runs throughout the state playoffs the last few seasons, Hempfield largely found itself starting anew these year with a brand new cast of characters left behind to pick up the pieces. So far though, many of those fresh faces that had previously made up the supporting cast behind those remarkable state tournament teams have been able to ascend and fill into their roles masterfully, as evidenced by the 3-0 record the Black Knights were carrying into Saturday night’s affair against Governor Mifflin.
“There’s a number of those guys that have paid their dues through the years,” Hempfield head coach Danny Walck stated about his new cast of leaders. “When they were behind Ryan (Moffatt), David, (Martin-Robinson), Anthony (Alston), Teagan (Hazel), and all those other guys, they were great teammates,” said Walck. “Now they say, ‘It’s my time. How can I take care of that responsibility?’ I think they’ve showed that, have great pride in it, and I’m fortunate to be their coach.”
Perhaps the most ironic thing about Hempfield’s early season start was the fact that it had taken place entirely on the road with a 2-0 sweep through the Carlisle Tip-Off Tournament, before handling Ephrata at ease on Friday night on the Mounts’ home court. So finally on Saturday night, the unbeaten Black Knights were ready and anxious to show themselves off to their hometown fans when they welcomed the Mustangs in from Governor Mifflin.
And show off they would.
In terms of fast starts, there couldn’t have been one much better than the one Coach Walck had in mind on Saturday. The Black Knights scored on their first three possessions, all in the most dramatic of fashions with Ronnie Swantner, Adam Wernoch, and Austin Groft all tallying back-to-back-to-back triples to begin the contest, giving the home-standing Black Knights the 9-2 lead before anyone had a chance to even break a sweat.
From there, the Hempfield cushion only continued to grow larger thanks to a superb baseball pass thrown right on the money by Black Knights’ senior guard Eli Washington into the waiting hands of a streaking Brad Atkinson who put it in the cup, forcing the Mustangs to call timeout and regroup already down 13-2 with only five minutes gone by. Unfortunately for those who had made the trip down from Berks County, the Mustangs only continued to slide further and further behind after yet another fast break lay-in by Atkinson made a 17-4 Hempfield affair with the game still inside the first quarter.
But if there was a bright spot for Mifflin early on, it was most certainly found in Bryce Black. The Mustangs’ 6’1 senior guard scored seven of the Mifflin’s nine first quarter points, including a 3-ball right before the first half buzzer, whittling the Hempfield lead down to what had appeared to be a modest ten points given the quarter’s previous events.
Despite the fact that Mifflin had successfully crawled back to within ten, the Black Knights had no interest whatsoever in letting their guests get any closer than that. Sure enough, they wouldn’t.
On the Black Knights’ first trip down the floor, 6’2 junior forward Connor Elslager would get in on the action with a sweet put-back at the cup, keeping the Hempfield momentum alive and well as the second stanza got underway. From there, the Hempfield second quarter rally would only continue to grow larger as a Konnor Axe triple made it a 24-9 ballgame, putting the finishing touches on Hempfield’s 5-0 run. Yet even though Mifflin would finally answer back with timely-bucket of their own to stop the bleeding brought on by Hempfield, Axe was able to pop in yet another trifecta, as the 6’0 junior guard put Hempfield up by a commanding 16 point advantage at 27-11 with 4:10 left in the opening half.
But as Hempfield was able to show, 16 points wasn’t nearly enough. Luckily for them, Eli Washington happened to agree with those sentiments as well by pulling up and promptly draining the jumper, making it a 33-13 Hempfield lead with one minute left in the opening half. And once the quarter did ultimately expire, it would show Hempfield adding yet another deuce to their lead, going into the dressing rooms with the 35-13 advantage.
Coming out of the intermission, Hempfield appeared no worse for the wear despite the brief respite, keeping a strangle-hold on the lead for the entirety of the quarter. Within the quarter itself, nice plays were still in clear abundance as evidenced by a beautiful Ronnie Swantner dish inside thrown to Austin Groft, a dish he would throw after collecting a loose ball rebound, with Groft finishing through contact to up the Hempfield cushion to 40-17 with 4:42 left in the third frame. And in the closing moments of the quarter, 5’11 sophomore Ryan Hilton guard received his moment to shine by way of a strong take to the rack for the Black Knights, upping the Hempfield lead to 49-19 with just 30 seconds left to tick off the third quarter clock.
With the outcome of the game already largely decided once the final period was about to commence, the fourth quarter on Saturday evening served as an opportunity for the core nucleus of both Hempfield and Governor Mifflin to check into the game and get some much-deserved playing time for the duration of the evening. For evidence of that, look no further than 6’2 junior guard Hugh Pohl knocking down a free throw which put his Black Knights squad up by two dozen at 52-28. Later on, 6’0 junior guard Will Hessinger tallied a pretty floater in the lane for Hempfield to help pour more salt into the wound as the game started to wind down. But the good moments weren’t solely on the offensive end alone. No, that point was made perfectly clear after a sweet rejection, swatted away by 6’5 Hempfield senior forward Jacob Rissmiller.
On the other side, for Mifflin, perhaps one of their better players that took the court all night long came in the waning stages of the contest when 5’10 sophomore guard, Matt Gehris checked into the contest and promptly delivered with a nice handful of sweet pullup jumpers with Gehris well on his way to finishing with seven points to aid the Mustangs’ Saturday night effort.
But in a way that seemed most fitting given the way in which the game got underway, Hempfield would be able to book-end their remarkable performance against Mifflin with you guessed it, another 3-ball, with this being knocked in by 5’11 junior guard, Dylan Mellinger. And once all was said and done, the final score was pretty indicative as to what had just taken place with Hempfield handling Governor Mifflin, 61-37.
Perhaps most incredible aspect about the performance that had Hempfield had just authored? The fact that they were able to do it just after one day after taking care of an L-L League opponent. On the road no less. But truth be told, it’s a situation that Hempfield had better become accustomed to as the season continues to move along.
“It’s a different season in the fact that we have seven of these Friday/Saturday combinations,” Coach Walck stated after the game. “We played one last weekend, we had one this weekend, and it just throws the whole week in a different light as far as your practice and preparation,” said the veteran head coach.
“You have to talk about concepts,” Walck illustrated regarding the task that involves playing two games in as many days. “You’re limiting your time to scout and break it down. So, ‘What’s the concept we have to use for this team?’ What’s the concept we have to use for that team depending on their style of play?’ And being able to reference that to your guys so you can bring it up quick.”
And as far as today’s impromptu cram session went?
“I thought we had a pretty good walk-thru today and it carried over to tonight. I’m really proud of the guys.”
NEXT UP: Hempfield will now turn their attention to next week a likely bullseye circled on their back given the Black Knights’ current unblemished record. But that record will certainly get a workout this week when Hempfield travels to Warwick on Monday night, the same Warwick team that scored a huge win on Monday night on the road at rival Manheim Township. From there, Hempfield will finish the week off with two more home games against Lebanon and Conestoga Valley respectively.
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