Manheim Central Cures Its Early Ailment As Barons Ride Three-Point Barrage En Route To First Win Of The Season At Northern Lebanon

Written by: on Sunday, December 19th, 2021

 

It seems odd to say given that the high school basketball season is often perceived to be so long when you consider that every teams plays rough 20-games per campaign, but sometimes clubs can certainly find themselves at a bit of a crossroads early in the year. Yes, in some cases even by the time the second weekend rolls along. And in a lot of ways, Saturday afternoon’s matinee between Manheim Central and Northern Lebanon felt like exactly that.

For the visitors who made their way up to the northern region of Lebanon County for their weekend battle, the schedule right out of the chute for the Barons has been arduous to say the least. After being the lone Lancaster-Lebanon League team to sit the opening weekend out last week, Manheim Central more than made up for lost time considering that their first two shots of the season came against arguably two of the better squads that the league has to offer this season in Warwick and Lampeter-Strasburg respectively. Unfortunately, as far the bunch who wear maroon were considered, neither of those games were particularly close considering that the Barons dropped both of those contests by a combined 40-points. Regardless though, once Manheim Central likely took a step back and took inventory of themselves, there was -and is- reason to believe that the Barons can still figure to be one of the best units inside Section Three as this season continues to take shape. Of course, that is to say that breaking out of their current funk would be something desired sooner rather than later. Fair enough, but playing inside “The Snake Pit” is often one of the toughest chores that the entire L-L League can offer.

For the team that calls the small building with the mustard-colored walls its home, Northern Lebanon also seemed to look like a squad with a bit of an identity crisis early on. Sure, while the Vikings handled their business in their first game of the season by taking down Pine Grove on the road, this past Wednesday night figured to give us our first true indication of what the group from Fredericksburg may look like this season. In that game -a trip to the defending District 3-3A champion, Lancaster Catholic- the Crusaders seemed to find the cure to what ailed them early on in their campaign as Lancaster Catholic picked up their first win of the season with a commanding 20-point triumph over Northern Lebanon in the midweek.

So, needless to say, Saturday’s Section Three/Four crossover tilt between the Barons and Vikings appeared to take on the narrative of two squads looking eye-to-eye with one another in the mirror given that time -and more importantly wins- were suddenly of the essence.

Yet from the waning stages of the second quarter onward on Saturday in the nether regions of Lebanon County, it was clear that on this day at least, that Manheim Central had finally gotten itself into a comfortable groove with much of the regular season slate still left out in front of them.

Early on however, the Barons found themselves on the receiving end of a haymaker lobbed in their direction from their hosts. In fact, after just 1:30 into the contest, Northern Lebanon suddenly found themselves with ownership of a 5-0 advantage courtesy of a trademark triple dialed up by Vikings’ senior marksman, Peyton Wolfe. And while Manheim Central would proceed to battle back over the course of the next few offensive trips that came highlighted by buckets tallied by Judd Novak and an assist from Novak shortly thereafter that culminated in a Connor Fahnestock deuce underneath to slice the Vikings’ lead down to the slimmest of margins at 5-4, Northern Lebanon had no interest in letting the Barons feel all that well about themselves.

Case in point, an old-school, three-point play finished off by way of Northern Lebanon’s 6’1 physically-imposing guard, Simon Grimes, as the Grimes’ hoop plus the harm made it an 8-7 Vikings’ lead near the five-minute mark of the opening stanza. From there, Grimes continued to pace the Northern Lebanon effort by knocking down a tough floater in the lane -a bucket which pushed the Vikings’ cushion back up to three at 10-7- before the first quarter eventually expired with Manheim Central putting together a late rally to make things all square at 12-12 with the second quarter getting set to begin.

If the second quarter on Saturday afternoon could be described in its simplest of forms, it would have to be labeled as nothing more than a 3-point shooting contest. Granted, while both teams took their turns at scorching the nets from bonus distance, make no mistake about it, it would be the guests who did the brunt of the arson.

In fact, it all started off rather innocently it would have appeared once Manheim Central junior sniper, Trey Grube, poured in one of his own trademark long balls to give the Barons the lead at 17-16, a moment in time which triggered a Northern Lebanon timeout to try and stave off the Manheim Central momentum with 4:42 left to play before intermission. From there, the backcourt duel between the two small guards waged onward before swinging back in the Vikings’ favor considering Peyton Wolfe decided to retaliate right back with a trifecta of his own, pushing the larger digit back over onto the hosts’ side of the scoreboard at 19-17 following the aforementioned timeout.

But from that point on however, Manheim Central put together a rally that simply could not be matched.

Over the span of the final few minutes of the second quarter, the Barons proceeded to shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. First, a trifecta cashed in by Judd Novak -good for three more en route to his well-rounded 16-point effort on the afternoon- to answer the Wolfe bucket on the Barons’ very next offensive trip. After that, another MC 3-ball, this one from fellow senior, Collin Thompson, would follow suit as Thompson would go on to finish with a 16-point performance in his own right once the day was through. Then, to finish everything off, Novak and Grube proceeded to pour in a pair of treys in quick succession, the final two of which culminated in what end up being four consecutive Manheim Central possessions that ended with a 3-ball tricking through the bottom of the cup, a dozen-point swing in the Barons’ favor that helped send them into the locker room as owners of the 31-23 lead at the break.

 In the third quarter, Manheim Central refused to let up.

Ironically, while their proficiency from beyond the arc was the greatest catalyst as to why they had now found themselves with the lead by the time halftime rolled along, a gorgeous offensive set to begin the third frame that ended with a Collin Thompson bucket from point-blank range helped keep momentum firmly in the Barons’ corner. And yet while Northern Lebanon would continue to hang around as the third quarter trudged along, something best seen with a hard-earned, second-effort bucket inside put home from 6’0 junior forward, James Voight, to trim the Central lead down inside single digits at 36-28 with three minutes left to play in the third, the Barons continued to keep the Vikings at arms’ length as the quarter moved along. Truth be told, while Northern Lebanon would get to within eight following the Voight bunny inside, the Barons just as quickly moved the gap back up to a dozen at 42-30 following a Logan Hostetter bucket inside, the same score which would remain intact once the fourth quarter got set to begin.

Maybe it was just something about the even-numbered quarters on Saturday that made Manheim Central feel more at ease, but rest assured they certainly tore into their hosts in both the second and fourth quarters respectively from beyond the arc.

Sure enough, right of the chute to begin the final act, a pair of trifectas sunk by Trey Grube and Collin Thompson helped set the stage for the Barons to coast home. But even if they weren’t spraying it in from long range, MC, well Judd Novak perhaps, felt just at home playing inside the paint given his sweet pullup jumper later on in the quarter which made it a 51-32 affair before promptly following that up with a clean rejection down on the other end, helping serve notice that the Vikings’ window of opportunity had effectively been slammed shut.

Lastly, in the game’s waning moments, Trey Grube would fittingly put the final bow on the Barons’ performance with a steal and finish through contact that culminated in a successful three-point play to help push the Manheim Central lead up to 55-40 with 3:25 remaining. Fitting because on the day, Grube would be the one to walk away with game-high scoring honors by chipping in a very solid 24-point days’ worth of work that helped send the Barons home a winner for the very first time this season with a 64-40 final triumph once the final buzzer rang out on Saturday afternoon at Northern Lebanon.

If we’re speaking candidly here, it would’ve been easy for those on the Barons’ ship to feel as if it had been taking on water after the first two games of Manheim Central’s season thus far. After all, for a group that entered the season being billed as perhaps the greatest threat to keep Lampeter-Strasburg from capturing a Section Three title this season, the final scores of their first two games could most certainly leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Rest assured though, Manheim Central head coach Charlie Fisher wasn’t about to let his guys feel all that downtrodden about themselves.

“So, Warwick is our neighbor. It’s a quick drive, a lot of mutual friends that we know, and we beat them two years ago… I couldn’t get over just how loud the gym was. It got to us and we got a little shell-shocked,” Fisher admitted harkening back to the Barons’ season-opening opponent earlier this week. “Then you play L-S. L-S is really, really, really, really good. They’re smooth and they can score,” Fisher then said of his team’s next opponent following the Warwick contest. “I thought we played better against L-S. I thought we had some glimpses of stretches, like four and five-minute stretches, where we looked we had some continuity and some type of an idea of what we want to do. We talked about, ‘What’s our identity?’ We talked about having to respond and having to find that win in a place that’s not easy to play in (Northern Lebanon). We just talked about playing within ourselves and do what we gotta do to get a win.”

In terms of Saturday’s win itself, that too was of the Barons’ most urgent concern despite their season not even being a week-old in totality as of yet.

“It was. 100 percent,” Fisher said without hesitation when asked if Saturday’s game against Northern Lebanon could have been labeled as being of the “must win” category. “After the L-S game, we said, ‘Saturday is our championship.’ It was. We came in against a Northern Lebanon team that I thought did some good things against Lancaster Catholic for a while and had a good win against Pine Grove,” added Fisher. “We knew what their strengths were. We knew we had to come out and couldn’t sleepwalk through the game.”

Well, suffice to say, the Barons’ answered their collective alarm clocks with the upmost urgency when speaking in regards to Saturday’s performance given their 24-point triumph on the road.

 

NEXT UP: For the Manheim Central contingent, it’s right back on the road -both literally and figuratively- when the Barons will flirt with the Maryland state line on Monday night when they trek down to the state’s southern-most high school, Kennard-Dale, for a critical nonleague matchup against the Rams in Fawn Grove before returning to league action on Tuesday night against Garden Spot for another crucial game in terms of the overall divisional landscape. In fact, that game against the Spartans will also be “on the road” in some ways considering the Barons will be forced to play all their home games this year on the outskirts of town at Doe Run Elementary School given the construction that is currently taking place on the Manheim Central High School campus. And once they reach Tuesday evening, it be the Barons’ first game this season where they haven’t traveled on a school bus to get there. Not exactly the kindest of schedules to start the season to say the least.   

Yet if they play much in the same way which did on Saturday, there’s ample reason to believe that this will indeed be a ballclub to keep an eye on as the season begins to mold into form.

“We want inside/out,” Fisher said of how he would like his team to play every time out. “Sometimes we get in habits of staying outside on the perimeter, not even looking to shoot, just where our motions are going, kind of our natural instincts,” he added. “We want guys to get touches and we want the ball to move around. We have a good mix of bench guys and starters. I think what’s been helpful is that each guy we go to off the bench offers something different, so we’re able to get different looks and we’re able to different things.”

Then, as far as Northern Lebanon is concerned, they too will be staring down the barrel of a game of the upmost importance when they return to action on Tuesday night with a rivalry game against the ELCO Raiders, a group from within Section Four through the first week of the season that appears to be ripe for the challenge in terms of battling for divisional supremacy. Suffice to say, the Vikings can’t allow Saturday’s setback to somehow morph into what would then be a three-game league losing skid by the time the Christmas break rolls along.  

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