Chances are that you’ve probably heard the postseason be referred to as the “second season.” Well, in the case of the Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers, a fresh start with a new lease on life was precisely what the doctor had ordered. And not a moment too soon either.
Aside from a minor slip up to Central Dauphin in the Lower Dauphin Tip-Off Tournament this season —- A game in which the Pioneers dropped by just two points — Lampeter-Strasburg largely appeared to be untouchable this year. This all became especially true when looking at the damage in which L-S inflicted upon fellow L-L League foes this season with the Pioneers rolling their way to an unblemished record heading into the final night of regular season play when they boarded the bus for a trip to Garden Spot.
Little did they know it at the time, but the road to New Holland had a significant curve in the road waiting for them.
After a fantastic double-overtime affair, the Pioneers unfortunately game up just short of completing what would have been a remarkable season-long achievement of finishing with a perfect 13-0 league mark on the year, falling short to the up-and-coming Spartans by virtue of a 63-57 final decision.
However, the general overarching consensus around the L-L League was that the Pioneers would surely be able to right the ship and put the regular season finale against Garden Spot behind them in the rearview mirror just in time for the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. After all, seeing L-S come up on the short-end of the stick was truly a news-making event given the fact that it had not happened since the afternoon of December 8th in that 74-72 loss to Central Dauphin.
But unfortunately for the Pioneers’ contingent, L-S would end up stubbing their toe once again, dropping a 47-44 ballgame at the hands of E-Town at home in the L-L quarterfinal round, in a game which signified L-S losing their second consecutive ballgame.
So rest assured, the Pioneers were likely bursting at the seams to right the wrongs experienced in their last two outings against Garden Spot and E-Town respectively with the District 3 tournament set to get underway on Monday night with Big Spring coming to town all the way from Newville, carrying the vaunted flag of the Mid-Penn Conference along with them. And much like L-S, the Bulldogs were sure to enter Monday night’s battle with nothing short of unbridled enthusiasm given the fact that their Monday night trip to Lampeter signified Big Spring’s fourth trip to the District 3 playoffs in the last 23 years, and their first appearance as a 5A squad.
And while they would be tested early, the Pioneers would prove not only the rest of the District 3 audience, but also themselves as well, that the L-S team from the last two ballgames should be a team left to ancient history.
While most were understandably curious as to what type of mental mindset L-S would bring to the table on Monday night given their recent shortcomings, any nervous notions were certainly put to bed early on as the Pioneers exploded out the chute in the form of a 7-0 start, highlighted by two triples cashed in by the senior duo of Chase Broderick and Pat Holmes respectively against the Bulldogs’ rangy zone defense.
Speaking of long-range shooting, Big Spring was certainly not devoid in that area as well in the early going as sophomore forward JT Kuhn was able to fire in a 3-ball for the Bulldogs, getting the visitors from Cumberland County on the scoreboard to make it a 7-3 contest in favor of L-S.
But that would only prove to the beginning of a Big Spring charge.
Despite finding themselves in the midst of an early storm that was generated by the Pioneers, Big Spring responded with an unquestioned resiliency that has come to define their team throughout the next few minutes as 5-0 rally engineered by 6’5 junior wing Gavin Pritchard allowed the Bulldogs to tie things up at 8-8 with just 1:38 left to be played in the game’s first quarter. And ironically enough, in an up-and-down first quarter that felt like it had been dominated by either side at times, both the Bulldogs and Pioneers found themselves even at 10-10 heading into the second stanza.
Yet even though it would prove to be Big Spring that would head into the second quarter with all the momentum, the Pioneers stepped up in their own right when called upon as a 5-0 retaliation authored by L-S’ Pat Holmes throughout the early minutes allowed the home crowd to exhale somewhat given the now five-point cushion in which the Pioneers were able to sit upon.
But as was to be expected in a playoff setting, Big Spring would refuse to yield any further ground over the course of the next few minutes.
While Gavin Pritchard was the one doing the bulk of the damage for the Bulldogs in the latter stages of the opening quarter, 5’11 senior guard Trevor Moyer would take the baton and run with it near the midway point of the second period as a smooth pullup jumper sunk by Moyer followed up with a steal and layup on the ensuing possession gave Big Spring its first lead of the contest at 17-15 with the noise inside the L-S gymnasium resembling that of a Bulldogs’ home game.
Now, with the game teetering dangerously on the edge of ultimately tipping over and going against the homestanding Pioneers given their recent history, it became paramount that L-S step on the gas pedal right then and there and not let up until crossing the finish line. Fortunately for the blue-clad contingent, their Pioneers would be able to do exactly that.
Remember that earlier theme of 3-point shooting? Let’s just say that it greatly came to the aid of the Pioneers from that point on for the rest of the evening.
After calling timeout in order to regroup while in the face of the current Big Spring onslaught, Chase Broderick proved himself to be his typical sharpshooting self by draining two key trifectas to close the first half, helping send the Pioneers into the locker room while riding the dramatic wave of momentum in the form of a 9-0 run into recess as L-S found themselves up 26-17 at the break.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the brief intermission did not appear to do much of anything in terms of cooling off the hot-shooting Pioneers.
Right out the gates, the fearsome L-S backcourt duo of junior guard Seth Beers and Chase Broderick arrived on the scene to pour more salt into the Bulldogs’ open wound, exacerbating matters by dialing up two more triples respectively, forcing Big Spring to call timeout once again as the Bulldogs now found themselves down 34-17 with 5:07 left to play in the third quarter. And if you’re keeping track at home, yes, that was in fact a 19-0 salvo that had been generated by the Pioneers.
And while JT Kuhn was ultimately able to stop the bleeding for Big Spring by rifling in a triple of his own to stop the L-S run, Chase Broderick was up to his old tricks once again by prompting rattling in two more 3-balls in consecutive fashion to up the Lampeter-Strasburg advantage to 40-22 with 2:40 left to play in the third. On the night, Broderick would prove to be a one man wrecking crew from behind the arc as the L-S senior guard would go on to finish the evening by bucketing a game-high 18 points, all of which remarkably came from bonus distance.
The ironic thing about time still being left up on the third quarter clock at that point? It only meant more than enough time for someone else in a Pioneer uniform to step up and put on a show.
So, with most of the L-S senior class already serving as the shining light in various forms throughout most of the night up until that point, it only seemed fitting that Zack Kingsley was the one to close the third frame out with an exclamation point in his own right as the Pioneers’ senior guard finished the quarter on a 5-0 run all by his lonesome, ushering L-S into the final act with the commanding 45-24 advantage.
Yet even despite the fact that Big Spring was now placed deep inside of a hole in which it had appeared they may not be able to claw out from, no one seemed to tell that to Trevor Moyer as the Bulldogs’ guard was force to be reckoned with in the final eight minutes, scoring in a variety of ways for Big Spring in the final quarter, ultimately getting the visitors back near a ten-point deficit as the quarter trudged along, as the senior guard finished the evening by posting an 11-point effort to aid the Bulldogs’ cause.
But in the end however, the outside shooting prowess authored by L-S was far too great on this night, as the Pioneers advanced on the second round of the District 3-5A tournament after taking care of Big Spring, 50-37.
“I don’t know, maybe a little bit,” an energized and recharged Lampeter-Strasburg head coach Ed Berryman said following his team’s victory when asked if his troops may have felt any nervousness after surrendering an early lead to Big Spring given the events of the Pioneers’ previous two outings. “But then we settled in after that.”
“I don’t think we were playing our best basketball towards the end of the season and now I think it’s starting to kick back in,” Berryman said. “It was good to see the ball go through the basket.”
And as far as the week that was while living in the reality of that pesky two-game losing skid heading into the evening? Oh yeah. One can rest easy knowing that the Pioneers certainly made the most of that newfound opportunity to grow and improve. And not just on the court either, but in between the ears as well.
“I’ve tried to do a little bit more with some motivational information to try and talk to the kids about how people go through tough times,” the third-year L-S head man offered. “It was only a two-game losing streak. That’s not that tough. Let’s stay together and keep working.”
“That was pretty much the message,” said Berryman. “It was good for them to get that win tonight.”
As far as on the court work?
“We’ll do some drills where we have a little more contact in order to get a little bit stronger. That’s what you’re going to see from here on out is some bigger teams, some stronger teams, and we’re going to have to match their toughness. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
“A lot of it too is getting down to fundamentals,” Berryman went on to add. “Taking care of the basketball, making the right pass, making the right decision. Sometimes we didn’t make that ‘right’ decision early on. That’s what we’ve been trying to work on.”
NEXT UP: With their win against Big Spring now behind them, the Pioneers will have the opportunity to play another game in their friendly confines on Thursday night when they welcome Muhlenberg down from Berks County as the Muhls emerged victorious after a dramatic 67-66 overtime affair against Milton Hershey on Monday night.
For Big Spring, the Bulldogs will now look to regroup as they move on the state play-in bracket in a matchup against the aforementioned Spartans of Milton Hershey on Thursday night as well.