Nuneville Steals The Show As Cocalico Outslugs Manheim Central In Section Three Heavyweight Bout
Written by: Andy Herr on Saturday, January 9th, 2021
Alright. Let’s face it. The past couple months have been anything but what anyone in their right mind would consider “normal.” And with so much of life as we used to know it being turned on its head for a variety of different reasons, even the age-old tradition of leather basketballs pounding against the hardwood floors of gym across the nation in the winter months was also suddenly put into grave danger. However, even if ends up being for just a brief snapshot in time, the governing body of the commonwealth’s high school sports association formally gave the green light to effectively tip things off in a literal manner after months and months of meetings upon meetings with constant deliberation and discussion of playing games while in the middle of the global pandemic.
And so, even while some things were different, most notably the advent of every soul inside the premises, including the players, wearing a mask at all times, along with the fact the attendees were literally on a de facto guest list at the entry doors, there was a prevailing semblance of calm and normalcy Friday night across the Lancaster-Lebanon when teams returned to action. And never more so did that feel to ring true than when Cocalico and Manheim Central, two bitter rivals who are expected to be among the cream of the crop within Section Three this season, got the season underway in earnest against one another. Oh yeah, if that wasn’t already enough, don’t forget the fact that both matchups between the Barons and Eagles last season were decided with both teams pulling off a buzzer-beating victory on their home floor just one year ago. Needless to say, if anything could help break the fever of the general feeling of malaise and monotony that we’ve all been experiencing in their own sort of way of late, surely seeing Cocalico and Manheim Central duke it out on the floor could perhaps help do the trick. Well, let’s just say it was indeed exactly what the doctor had prescribed.
Granted, for two teams that each other and their opposing respective tendencies like the back of their very own hands, a nip and tuck affair figured to be in order. Sure enough, that played out in the truest sense of the word as the visitors from Denver traded buckets back and forth with the homestanding Barons in the opening few minutes before a lay-in by Manheim Central senior guard, Cam Eberly, gave the Barons their first lead of the ballgame at 6-5 with 4:55 left to go in the first. But for just as quickly as Central was able to command the scoreboard, the Eagles came right back with a beautiful hi-lo set from Trey Rios to Carson Nash, as the junior to senior connection put Cocalico back in front at 8-7 following the completion of Nash’s three-point play. And while the Barons would once again storm back in front following a bucket inside courtesy of 6’3 senior big man, Wyatt Becker, which put Central up by a penny at 11-10 with 1:20 left in the first, the Eagles rallied right back as a floater by Cocalico senior guard, Carter Nuneville, helped push Cocalico into the second frame with ownership of the 14-11 advantage. Spoiler alert, but much more to come from Nuneville later.
In the second quarter, Cocalico seemed to pick up on the good mojo they had enjoyed at the close of the first frame as a dead-eye corner trey knocked down by junior guard, Nick Spangler, gave the Eagles the 17-13 cushion with just a minute and change having ticked off the second quarter clock. However, for just as quickly as Cocalico seemed to rush out the early gap, the Barons proceeded to reel their adversaries right back in after two back-to-back buckets inside tallied by Becker which trimmed Cocalico’s lead down to just a point at 18-17 with now 5:35 left before the halftime break.
So, with the inside game helping serve as the catalyst for inching the Barons ever so closer to overtaking the lead, it was then a trademark triple cashed in by Manheim Central’s sniper sophomore guard, Trey Grube, which put Central back in front at 22-20 nearly two minutes later.
However, just as he proved to be all night long, Carter Nuneville would prove to be the biggest thorn in the Barons’ collective side from start to finish.
Shortly in the aftermath of Grube’s go-ahead trifecta, Nuneville promptly responded with two deep bombs in his own right to retaliate right back, shots which were met with nothing but cotton, in the waning few minutes of the first half to help send Cocalico into the halftime break while also enjoying the 27-24 advantage.
In the first half, far and away the biggest damage that Nuneville was able to inflict was from beyond the arc. Ironically, through the opening few minutes of the third quarter on Friday evening, it was his muscle inside which helped illustrate as to why he figures to have a seat at the table when discussing the L-L League’s most valuable players this season.
In said action, Cocalico’s 6’3 matchup nightmare proceeded to find himself near the tin for a pair of hard-earned deuces inside, upping Cocalico’s lead to 31-28 out of the chute, prompting Manheim Central to burn a timeout just two minutes into the third frame.
By this point, it became rather obvious that Cocalico’s most dangerous weapon was displaying all the tools in his already vast toolkit, so it became only natural to see arguably Manheim Central’s most prized asset take his turn at trying to make his mark in his own right.
Well, that just so happened to be the case as Trey Grube proceeded to sink yet another of his two signature 3 ball’s, slicing Cocalico’s lead back down to a pair at 33-31, only to then bear witness to guess who, Carter Nuneville, fire in yet another dagger from long range, good for 3 more en route to his game-high 24-point performance, to help quell the Barons’ mounting charge shortly thereafter. Finally, once all had finally settled in a frantic third quarter of play, Cocalico still maintained their existing lead, 38-34.
Up until the final stanza, the general overall narrative of the evening seemed to have the feeling of Cocalico doing just enough to keep Manheim Central far enough at bay, but never anything strong enough to really put the final nail in the Barons’ coffin once and for all. Sure enough, that same feeling seemed to come up once again at the onset of the final period as the Eagles quickly jumped out to a touchdown cushion following a triple dialed up by Trey Rios, making it a 41-34 Cocalico affair with 6:50 left in the contest as the Barons called yet another timeout to help stem the tide.
And stem the tide they would as a bucket at the cup authored by 6’0 junior guard, Judd Novak, capped off the Barons’ impromptu 5-0 blitz, cutting a sizable hole into Cocalico’s lead at 41-39 with now 5:40 left to play.
But they weren’t satisfied with just getting close. No, not when you consider that 5’9 senior guard, Logan Shull, pumped in an enormous triple to push the Barons back in front at 42-41, putting the cherry on top of MC’s impromptu 8-0 lead-stealing salvo.
So, if you suddenly found yourself in Cocalico head coach Seth Sigman’s blue Nike sneakers, where would you turn to help bail you out of jail on the road against your rival? Give the rock to Carter Nuneville and let him do this thing? Novel concept.
Right on the heels of Shull’s timely trifecta, Nuneville took matters into his own hands both literally and figuratively by capping off an enormous old-school, three-point play to give the lead right back to Cocalico at 44-42 with 3:10 left to go. From there, the Eagles went with the new school approach regarding getting three points in one fell swoop as a back-breaking triple knocked down by 5’11 junior guard, Brycen Flinton, right in front of the Eagles’ bench, helped pour more salt into the Barons’ open wound with the hill getting ever so steeper for the hosts to try and climb out of.
Now, with Nuneville primarily having ownership of being the one to help score, it seemed only fitting to see him get into the act via the assist column as the senior guard’s crisp dish inside to a waiting Carson Nash helped put Cocalico back up by seven at 49-42 with time winding down.
Key phrase there winding down. Not over by any stretch.
So, with Cocalico trying to play the role of defender by not letting Central get any closer than need be, the Eagles promptly proceeded to go ice cold at the charity stripe at the most inopportune time, quickly see their dry spell result in two straight successful takes to the rack by way of Central’s Judd Novak, slicing the visitor’s lead down to just three at 49-46.
Then, with yet another chance to perhaps to put this one away once and for all, yet another empty trip to the foul line resulted in a Manheim Central defensive rebound with one final chance to take this one to overtime with just 7.9 seconds left to play. But alas, as far as the Barons’ fans were concerned, that would be all the further that Manheim Central would end up getting as MC’s final two chances from beyond the arc in the waning seconds came up empty, giving Cocalico a monstrous divisional win against their arch rivals, 49-46.
Ironically, to use the word “normal” again, the Eagles’ win on Friday night would’ve not only been cause for immediate celebration in normal circumstances, but it also would’ve likely provided for an introspective roadmap at how their key victory would eventually play out for the remainder of the season. However, just given the very nature of how the 2020-21 will be in flux on literally a day-to-day basis, it was not something lost on Cocalico head coach Seth Sigman.
“It’s our first game of the season, it happens to be against a team that we know is very good and is going to be there at the end as far as section champs and competing for that, and it’s one of our biggest rivals if not our biggest rival,” Sigman said afterwards following his team’s triumph. “Listen, this year, every win is important because we could be shut down tomorrow. You just have no idea. In a normal year, yes, that’s an enormous win because we know we’re a game up as far as standings and whatever, but we don’t know how important it’s going to end up being because we don’t know what’s going to happen two weeks from now,” he went on to say. “We love playing Central. It’s a great rivalry. It’s obviously nicer when you win, but as far as whatever’s going to happen towards the end of the season playoff-wise, there’s soooo much still yet to take place. It’s the first game of the year. Everyone’s going to get better. Everyone’s who playing tonight basically feels like it’s a scrimmage because we’ve only had four practices and now we’re playing.”
Also, perhaps even more important to note regarding the Eagles’ massive win on opening night was the fact that they had done so without the services of arguably the most important piece in their entire rotation, 6’8 junior big man, Augie Gerhart. Nonetheless, the rest of the Eagles’ supporting cast ending up pulling their collective weight and then some.
“The guys that we put on the floor tonight, we trust them,” Sigman said of his troops. “We know they’re going to make mistakes, but Carter (Nuneville) made mistakes tonight and he’s our leading scorer. You’re just going to have to play through some of that. Would we be better if we have our 6’8 guy that can shoot 3’s and dribble? Yeah, that adds a dynamic that we don’t have without (Gerhart), but sometimes it’s nice to go small and have four guards out there who can handle pressure at the end of the game like you saw tonight. There’s pluses and minuses to all of it, but we didn’t come into tonight thinking, ‘Well, we’re just biding our time until the cast comes off,’ or anything like that. We know we can still compete and play hard and do some things a little differently than maybe we thought coming into the season, but we’re very confident in everybody that we put out there that they can get the job done.”
And the one who authored the bulk of Cocalico’s damage, Carter Nuneville, was certainly not immune from being the beneficiary of receiving his coach’s praises afterwards either.
“Some of it he (Nuneville) just decided on his own to take over,” said Sigman. “The one time in transition he comes down and I’m getting ready to call a set and I’m just starting to yell it and he takes a step-back and hits a deep three and I’m like, ‘Alright. What am I gonna say to that?’ Am I gonna tell him not to shoot that? Of course not. He’s a great player. He’s been a starting since he was a freshman. This was his seventh game against Manheim Central, so he’s seen it and been through it all.”
“We trust him,” the Eagles’ head man said in closing. “He’s a nightmare matchup. He’s a 6’3 point guard, so if you put on a big on him, he’s going by them. You put a guard on him and we’ll throw him on the block and say, ‘Go ahead.’ It’s doesn’t always work and sometimes we turn it over trying to get it to him, but it’s high school basketball. He’s a damn good high school basketball player.”
NEXT UP: From here, even despite being playing in the midst of a highly truncated season, Cocalico will actually have the opportunity to enjoy the merits of their victory over Manheim Central for the rest of the upcoming week as the Eagles are not slated to return to competitive action again until next Friday night evening when they travel to New Holland to tangle with Garden Spot in yet another landmark game inside the loaded battlefield that is Section Three this season.
For Manheim Central, returning to the floor as soon as possible may just end up being what the Barons need most to help wipe away the stinging taste of Friday night’s setback. Fortunately for them, that just so happens to be the case when they travel to up to Berks County for a nonleague clash against Fleetwood on Saturday afternoon before returning to their home floor for yet another nonleague tilt on Monday night against Red Land of the mighty Mid-Penn Conference.
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