Pequea Valley Hangs Tough, Rallies Past Annville-Cleona As Braves Complete Season Sweep
Written by: Andy Herr on Friday, February 12th, 2021
Every year right around this time in the world of Lancaster-Lebanon League basketball, most everyone’s attention is fully focused on the impending section title races along with the hunt for those elusive District 3 playoff berths as well. It’s certainly understandable of course. After all, who wouldn’t be intrigued by those nip and tuck divisional races that set the table for the postseason? Fair enough, but those other teams that may be playing without all the fanfare while absent of the various spotlights are no less interesting in their own ways. Just take Annville-Cleona and Pequea Valley for example.
Now sure, the wins have been hard to come by for both squads when they met up with another on Thursday night in Lebanon County for the final time in their season series. In fact, both the Braves and Dutchmen came into the evening sporting a combined 1-11 record between them, ironically with the lone win from either side coming courtesy of Pequea Valley’s 65-47 takedown of A-C back on January 19th in Kinzers. But there was more to it than that. With the wins in short supply, both sides were likely to come out swinging given the opportunity for each to have a puncher’s chance at snatching up a much-deserved and much-needed victory while still in throws of what has surely been a longer season than most for more than a few reasons to count. Even still, one could make the argument that Thursday night’s game would be instrumental in the long-term growth of each program. Why? Well, unfortunately that came coupled with a side of bad news too considering that both Pequea Valley and Annville-Cleona would be without the services of their leading scorers in Devon Colyer and Yadiel Cruz respectively, opening the door for the supporting casts of either side to rise to the occasion and perhaps become a catalyst not only on Thursday night, but for the remainder of the season and beyond as well.
And while the game would be back and forth nearly the entire way, it would prove to be the visiting Braves who would end up getting the last laugh once all was said and done.
In the early going, the offenses seemed to be stuck in neutral. With Pequea Valley as frigid from the field as the temperatures outside, the Braves struggled to put the ball through the cup. When they did, they would go on to sport a 4-0 lead over the homestanding Dutchmen with 2:15 left to play in the opening stanza following a pair of free throws sunk by junior guard, Nevin Stoltzfus. Speaking of offensive struggles, Annville-Cleona was not immune in that department either. Whether it solely be because of playing without their floor general in Cruz who was absent from the scene, or just the defense employed by Pequea Valley in the initial few minutes as well, A-C’s offensive attack seemed to be rather timid, often passing the ball around the perimeter without getting any lower than the free throw line while operating in the half court. As a result, the Dutchmen went without a field goal in the opening eight minutes, as the first quarter later concluded with Pequea Valley out in front, 5-1. As far as A-C’s points –or point–were concerned, the Dutchmen had been able to crack the goose egg on the scoreboard thanks to a free throw cashed in by 6’3 junior forward, Isaac Good, with just 37.4 ticks left to go on the first quarter clock.
When it did come time for Annville-Cleona to author their opening field goal of the contest, they certainly did so in style. On the Dutchmen’s initial offensive possession of the second quarter, A-C called upon 5’7 senior guard, Nick Malloy, with the A-C sharpshooter delivering with a timely triple to bring the hosts within a penny at 5-4. Speaking of field goal droughts, Pequea Valley was then bit by the same bug which had gotten Annville-Cleona in the opening quarter. Fortunately, as far as the Braves were concerned, the absence of points over a prolonged period was not a catastrophic event considering that a Nevin Stoltzfus steal and layup –an exchange which marked PV’s first field goal of the second quarter—put the guests up by a half dozen at 10-4 with 3:15 left before the halftime recess. That said, Annville-Cleona appeared to finally find their stride in the closing few minutes of the opening half seeing as how the Dutchmen were able to race back within a deuce shortly thereafter thanks to a bucket inside by Isaac Good, making it a 10-8 affair in favor of Pequea Valley at 1:50 mark of the second quarter, before the Braves were able to head into the half with ownership of the 13-10 advantage.
While the offense for Annville-Cleona had been hard to come by in the first half on Thursday night, there did appear to be one constant who the Dutchmen could turn to. That of course being Isaac Good. While being able to use his towering, rangy 6’3 frame to his benefit against the far more undersized Braves, Good was able to end up netting a team-high 14-point scoring outburst to lead the A-C charge. And when speaking of the services of their junior forward, the Dutchmen continued to lean on his efforts in the second half as well. The good news there was that Good ended up delivering the goods as his three-point play at the 3:40 mark of the third quarter gave Annville-Cleona their first lead of the evening, 17-16. That said, the A-C momentum was rather short-lived seeing as how Nevin Stoltzfus was able to rally his troops over the course of the next two minutes and change, coming up with a personal 5-0 charge to put Pequea Valley back in front at 23-21, which is where things would remain heading into the final quarter.
Fittingly, as if to be in a track meet, the baton –or rather the lead– was handed over between either side in the final eight minutes on Thursday. Case in point, a pair of back-to-back takes to the rack by way of Nick Malloy, putting Annville-Cleona back on top at 25-23. Then, the Dutchmen were able to see their cushion bubble up to three points following a timely trey dialed up by 6’0 junior guard, Simon Domencic, upping the advantage to 30-27 with roughly three minutes left to go. But that three-point buffer would evaporate rather quickly seeing as how PV’s Josh Jarvis would retaliate right back with a determined take to the rack on the ensuing Pequea Valley offensive possession, closing the Braves’ deficit back within a point at 30-29. Then, with the Annville-Cleona hanging on by the slimmest of margins, 32-31, Pequea Valley’s Tony Lazar was able to pepper in an absolutely cold-blooded triple with 1:30 left off a sweet half court set, putting the Braves back in front at 34-32.
Unfortunately, as far as hometown contingent was concerned, that would be the last Dutchmen lead for the remainder of the night.
With the game now inside of a minute left in regulation, an A-C go-ahead trifecta came up begging, sending Pequea Valley down to the other end of the floor needing to cash in on some free throws if the Braves were to prevail victorious just a few seconds later. Well, that appeared to be a task easier said than done seeing as how the Braves came up short on the front-end of a 1-and-1 attempt with just 7.8 seconds to go, leaving the door open just ajar for the Dutchmen to come barging in. But it was not to be as A-C’s hectic final possession ultimately ended with the Dutchmen failing to get off a final shot in time, giving Pequea Valley the hard-fought 34-32 triumph on the road in Annville.
NEXT UP: Suffice to say, the win over Annville-Cleona was most certainly a win to be savored by the Braves’ troops seeing as how it was only their second win of an already drastically-shortened season for Pequea Valley. Yet for as many as games as PV has gone without up until this point in time, the Braves will certainly face a back-loaded slate to close the 2020-21 campaign. First up on that agenda comes a home date with the Section Five champion, the Columbia Crimson Tide, on Friday night. From there, the grind continues for the Braves when they tangle with Lancaster Mennonite on Saturday morning before suiting up for their third game in four days when welcome the Kutztown Cougars into town on Monday night as well.
Granted, while Annville-Cleona was surely frustrated with how agonizingly close they had come against Pequea Valley on Thursday night, there were signs in amongst the span of the preceding 32 minutes which the Dutchmen can take away and build upon. Chief among them, recognizing they appear to possess a formidable size mismatch against the likes of Section Five competition inside in utilizing Isaac Good to their advantage. From there, the Dutchmen’s second leading scorer on Thursday night was another underclassman, Simon Domencic, presenting A-C with a capable outside shooter for next year as well. And overall, while A-C would undoubtedly like to have the services of Yadiel Cruz return into the fold next year as well, his senior status means that A-C will be looking for a new floor general to lead the offense next year. Albeit a small sample size, A-C was forced to gain some valuable, varsity minutes on Thursday night in the search for who will end up being the one to take over command of the Dutchmen’s ship.
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