Red Knights Remain The Gold Standard As Reading Wins Consecutive District 3-6A Crowns, Fends Off Feisty Warwick Effort For Program’s 23rd Title

Written by: on Sunday, March 6th, 2022

 

You know, it’s somewhat funny in a way. By most assumptions, by the time you reach the championship round of the District 3 playoffs that ultimately concludes at the Giant Center, there largely figures to be a few names that you can expect to find there waiting for your viewing pleasure, but particularly in the 6A format, or archaic AAAA format if you will.

Harrisburg, York High, Central York, McCaskey- these are but a few of the schools that consistently have made a habit out of reaching District 3’s final stage by the time championship Saturday ultimately comes about. Of course, that is to say of course that there is notable name that is omitted from that original list – Reading High.

Simply put, while there might be a few select programs from around the district that may feel as if they have a puncher’s chance in terms of sizing their overall resume up against the one that the Red Knights have to boast, Reading’s will typically win the argument on every day that ends in Y. After all, being the state’s all-time winningest boys’ basketball program in history is certainly a good place to start. Factor in an eye-popping 22 District 3 titles to the mix –the most of any boys’ program regardless on classification level — and then sprinkle in a pair of state titles within the last five years as the cherry on top — the last of which occurred this past season — and it’s clear to see why the Reading Red Knights have routinely made good on their yearly promise of turning the Giant Center into “Geigle West.”

So, with one heavyweight already having emerged from the fog of battle to reach the 6A championship stage late on Saturday night, who would the Red Knights finding standing there in the ring opposite of them? Would it be another blueblood? Sure, if you were to go back to the mid-80’s I suppose.

To be perfectly frank here, not many bold prognosticators figured to see the Warwick Warriors be the ones to reach this stage, especially not as the #7-seed coming into the tournament. Of course, that’s not to suggest in any way that the Warriors needed to necessarily be treated as a fish out of water for this massive moment, especially not since this Warriors’ program has turned itself into arguably the best boys’ basketball franchise that the Lancaster-Lebanon League can lay claim to here over the last handful of years. However, it does go without saying that the overall histories between these two programs would never be confused with one another, or at least in terms of recent history that is. And sure, while Reading seems to make it a yearly occurrence of reaching the district title stage, the story for the opposition couldn’t have been further different considering that Saturday night’s affair would mark the Warriors’ first trip to the title round in nearly four decades. Not only that, but it would also be the program’s third trip overall to massive confines of Giant Center, and its first since the 2009-10 campaign. To put that into perspective, Reading has played for two state titles on that very same floor alone in less than half that span of time.

Granted, while historical factoids and nuggets are fantastic to have in terms of assessing historical significance, the sheer fact of that matter was that this duel wouldn’t be won simply on paper. No, especially not when you consider Warwick’s path in order to reach this very moment.

After drawing an inauspicious first round draw against their most-ardent of competition from within the L-L Section Two ranks, Lebanon, the Warriors were able to slay two Mid-Penn giants in consecutive fashion after their dispatching of the Cedars right out of the chute with a pair of road triumphs at both Cumberland Valley and Central Dauphin respectively within the span of the last eight days, two remarkable victories which put them opposite of trying to hang the biggest fish that the program has ever been able to put upon its mantle should they be able to knock off the defending state title holders in the District 3 final on Saturday night, a team that oh by the way was nationally-ranked earlier this season as if that wasn’t already enough.  

In the end though, at least on this night, while Warwick would fight with a level of vigor and valiance that most every Warriors’ backer could easily get behind with the upmost support and pride, Reading would prove as the evening unfolded as to why there is no better brand in District 3 boys’ basketball than that of what the Red Knights are able to possess.

In fact, the Red Knights’ prowess was on full display right from the initial jump. There, behind the most emphatic of starts, a breakaway one-handed dunk by Reading 6’1 junior guard, Ruben Rodgriguez, seen flying with ease through the air surely could’ve made those in the Warriors’ camp pause with trepidation considering how it was Reading’s first bucket of the evening.

Not the case though.

Sure enough, Warwick would remain unphased in the early going despite Reading’s early haymaker thrown at them. Instead of wilting and succumbing a possible Red Knights’ onslaught immediately out of the chute, the Warriors retaliated right back over the next few minutes, a feat best encapsulated by a timely 3-ball sunk by way of 5’11 senior guard, Tate Landis, as the Warriors found themselves playing with the lead at 5-4 roughly one-minute following the Rodriguez jam.

Speaking of Reading High’s all-state guard however, his first quarter dominance was certainly something for which Warwick would struggle in keeping up with, regardless of where on the floor he happened to tally his point production. And while his first authoritative bucket came via an aforementioned slam dunk got him rolling, his pair of triples in the immediate aftermath of the Landis’ trey got Reading right back out in front thanks to his timely rebuttal.

Undaunted though, the Warriors would warm to the fight as the opening stanza moved onward when factoring in a Carter Horst 3-ball as the sophomore’s triple preceded a fearless take to the cup by another Warwick underclassman, freshman Caleb Johnsen, as the red-clad group from Lititz was able to trim the Red Knights’ lead down to just a pair at 17-15 once a wildly-entertaining opening eight minutes would ultimately conclude.  

And continuing with that ever-present theme of Warwick remaining relatively unflappable, yet another Landis trey inside the first minute of the second quarter sliced the Red Knights’ cushion down to the slimmest of margins, 19-18, as the future York College Spartan was able to supplement three more points right then and there en route to his 10-point bucketing by the time the night was over with.

However, from there on out as far as the second stanza was concerned, Reading High was able to make their first successful incision into Warwick’s balloon of good mojo.

Granted, while the Warriors were able to withstand most every effort that Reading seemed to throw at them up until that point, finding yourself sitting on shore with the ever-impending Red Knights’ wave rapidly approaching is a dangerous position to try and reside. And as fate would have it, a pair of Joey Chapman buckets in successive fashion –wearing the #21 uniform of injured fellow Red Knights’ senior, Daniel Alcantara – put Reading up by a 28-20 count with 3:30 left before the halftime intermission. From there, the Red Knights were able to obtain their largest of the evening up until that point by way of a take to the cup from 5’11 junior guard, Myles Grey, making it a 12-point Reading High cushion, 35-23, which is exactly where things would remain once the final minute and change eventually ticked off the first half clock.

Yet even despite the brand-new half of play that followed a bit of a break, Reading continued to do what they do best – keeping their foot firmly down upon the accelerator.

For that, it would be easy to reference Myles Grey’s five consecutive points tallied coming out of the locker room, an exchange which put Reading up what appeared to be a decisive 40-25 difference just 1:10 into the third quarter of play.

But no matter how hard they may have tried, Warwick’s outright refusal at allowing Reading to simply run away and hide was just as much on display here as well.

While the flurry may have started off rather innocently with four straight points chipped in by way of 6’0 senior guard, Avery Sapp, the Warriors found themselves back within single digits at 40-31 with 4:32 left to play in the third courtesy of Sapp’s contributions. However, Warwick only continued to keep right on charging over the next few minutes as a pair of Caleb Johnsen freebies sunk at the foul stripe whittled the Red Knights’ cushion down to a relatively mundane five-point difference, 41-36, with 2:45 left in the period at that time. And speaking of Warwick’s 6’2 freshman forward, rest assured that he undoubtedly played well-beyond his youth considering his 10-point effort at the end of the outing.

However, that would turn out to be all the closer that the Warriors would get for the remainder of the evening.

In a manner eerily similar and reminiscent of that from his first quarter exploits, Reading’s Ruben Rodriguez proved himself as to why he would serve as the Red Knights’ key catalyst as the third frame started to wind down.

Even putting his game-high 23-point performance aside for just a moment, his ability to shine just when his team needed him most was most assuredly as pivotal to the Reading’s entire body of work on Saturday night. With that in mind, the junior’s take to the tin which had upped the Red Knights’ lead to a 47-36 separation with over one-minute left to play in the quarter lit the fuse before his mic drop of a 3-ball –kissed of the glass just prior to the third quarter horn sounding– sent Reading into the final stanza with ownership of the 50-36 lead.

Inside the final frame, Reading was finally able to extinguish the Warwick flames with a sound and methodical matter of precision. Of course, a lot of that needs to be credited to another pair of Joey Chapman buckets from inside the paint, making it a 20-point game in favor of the cast from the state’s largest public high school, 56-36, with just 5:49 remaining. Speaking of a pair of deuces, two more Red Knights’ bunnies which were added shortly thereafter courtesy of physically-imposing 6’2 senior forward, Xavier Davis, buckets which seemed to serve as the proverbial nail in the coffin. However, the true punctuation would come in much the same vain as the way the contest began– a breakaway Ruben Rodgriguez one-handed dunk to cap things off in style for Reading as the Red Knights went on to enjoy the fruits of their labor over the final three minutes of the contest before eventually seeing the final buzzer ring out following their 68-43 triumph over Warwick on Saturday night, a victory which would signify the school’s 23rd District 3 title in its storied and proud history.

Of course, while the spoils of victory would indeed go to Reading on this night –and rightfully so given the way in which their intensity and determination for capturing the crown seemed to be on full display right from jump street – assuming that the final score was a true indication of just how much of a runaway effort it was posted by the Red Knights would serve as nothing if not a massive miscalculation.

“We talked before the game about the ride we’ve been on here and how much we’ve had to give,” Warwick head coach Chris Christensen admitted after having emerged from his team’s locker after having received their silver medals. “The (energy) tank might not have been able to get filled the whole way today, but we played hard. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We knew things had to go really well and go the right way for us today to get it done,” he added. “We made it real interesting. It got away from us there, but I’m just really proud of our guys.”

Granted, while this loss will sting for a bit as far as the Warriors are concerned, the team’s ride throughout the postseason this year will certainly be hard, if not downright impossible to truly encapsulate and duplicate considering that Warwick needed to beat both the #2 and #3 seeds prior to Saturday night –on each team’s respective home floors — in order to reach the grand finale.

“We talked about the ride you’ve taken your community on, everyone that’s had your back and supported you for the last two weeks and how much that meant to us,” Christensen went on to share of a message relayed to his bunch in the postmortem. “That’s, that’s the standard program right there in terms of 6A basketball in the state,” he continued while nodding down the hallway corridor to where Reading High could be heard celebrating. “We knew what we were up against. We made it real interesting there for a bit. We weren’t great, but I’m just proud of what we were able to do.”

 

 

 

Follow LLhoops on Twitter @LLhoops


Leave a Reply



Sponsors

Scores:

April 5
LL Boys Senior All Star game
127-115  🙂

 

Archives

Contact us

Webmaster
Dell Jackson
Webmaster@llhoops.com

LLhoops Recent Tweets