Shamrocks’ Second Quarter Blitz Proves Lethal As Trinity Races Past Annville-Cleona In District 3-3A Opening Round Playoff Win
Written by: Andy Herr on Monday, February 17th, 2020
In sports, the saying seems to go a little something like this. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.” In that regard, rest assured that Annville-Cleona’s assignment on Monday night in the opening round of the District 3-3A tournament would ring true rather loudly with that very statement in mind.
Coming into this season, much of the focus within the landscape of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Five race revolved around the Dutchmen and whether or not this would end up being the year in which A-C would finally gain some traction and footing within the league’s power structure once again given the fact that the Dutchmen lost only player off their roster from last year’s team. However, A-C struggled to get out of the chute cleanly this season before ultimately righting the ship down the stretch magnificently and tearing off an impressive 4-1 showing in their final five regular season games to claim the last seed into the dance as the Dutchmen made the cut as the #8 entrant into the 3A field.
Their prize? Well, perhaps “prize” isn’t quite the correct terminology to use when referencing the Trinity Shamrocks.
In terms of Central Pennsylvania high school basketball bluebloods, few traditions run as deep as the Shamrocks’ collective history over the years. Over the last few years –last year most specifically— not only has Trinity maintained their footing as the former 2A’s best boys’ program, now turned 3A, they have also raised their threshold and have morphed into one of the best teams in the entire commonwealth given the fact that Trinity reached the PIAA-3A championship game last March, falling to Lincoln Park in a thrilling 72-71 final decision at the nearby Giant Center.
The key takeaway in that game however? Surely the fact that Trinity freshman guard, Chance Westry, had put together an absolutely transcendent performance en route to a 40-point showing on the state’s biggest stage. Sure enough, with that performance against Lincoln Park –and truthfully the entirety of his first scholastic season for that matter— when coupled with his work on the summer’s AAU circuit, Westry has quickly risen to become one of the most highly sought-after prospects to come out of the mid-state in quite some time given his #27 ranking in the entire class of 2020 rankings per 247sports.com.
And if having one of the best players in the country wasn’t already enough, consider the fact that Trinity as an entire collective group went on to follow up their state championship run with yet another run through the meat-grinder that is the Mid-Penn regular season, coming away with an 18-3 record to their name once the dust had finally settled.
So, whether or not those on the outside of the Dutchmen’s locker room walls considered them to have much of a shot when going up against a goliath the likes of Trinity, Annville-Cleona –a proud program and state champion in their own right– was sure to be eager at having the opportunity to take down perhaps the state’s best team in the entire 3A classification system, sending seismic shockwaves around the state should they be able to spring the monumental upset on the Shamrocks’ home floor on Monday night.
But on this night, it became perfectly clear as to why the Shamrocks are more than deserving as being tabbed the #3 ranked team in the entire state as far as the 3A classification level is concerned per the fresh release of statewide ranking that were just issued on Monday afternoon.
Despite the fact that Trinity would eventually be able to take care of the Dutchmen as the night steadily moved along, it certainly didn’t start out that way mind you. In fact, Annville-Cleona ended up taking the first lead of the night by way of a 3-ball popped by 6’2 senior forward, Josh Speraw, putting the visitors from Lebanon County up by the 3-0 count very early on. Yet as Annville-Cleona would find out on the very next Trinity possession, countering the weaponry contained within the Shamrocks’ deep arsenal is certainly far easier said than done.
On said trip, the Shamrocks wasted very little time in terms of allowing Annville-Cleona to enjoy their short-lived lead as trifecta pumped in by 6’3 senior guard, Aley Zangari, made things all square at 3-3 with nearly two minutes having gone by in the opening quarter up until that point.
From that point on however, Trinity would refuse to look out their rearview mirror for the rest of the evening.
To be sure, the Dutchmen’s boat had started to take on water shortly thereafter as a runout by Zangari then allowed the Shamrocks to double-up their hosts at 10-5, forcing Annville-Cleona to burn an impromptu timeout at the 4:32 mark of the opening quarter.
Unfortunately, as far as A-C was concerned, the early timeout would not do much in terms of slowing down the Shamrocks’ onslaught.
Following A-C’s early timeout taken to stop the bleeding, a pair of back-to-back steals and finishes by Marcus Beckett and Chance Westry respectively –with Westry’s coming by way of an emphatic one-handed tomahawk dunk—allowed the Shamrocks to flirt with a double-digit lead at 14-5, before a timely triple splashed in A-C senior guard, Adam Long, sliced the Trinity lead back down to eight at 16-8 with 2:20 left to play in the first. And while a pair of back-to-back buckets at the cup by Marcus Beckett in the immediate aftermath of Long’s 3-ball allowed the Shamrocks to enjoy their lead once more at a dozen, two triples fired in by A-C’s band of brothers, Andrew and Adam Long, sliced the Trinity lead back down to six at 20-14 within the blink of an eye before the Shamrocks ended the quarter with one more deuce, racing into the second stanza with ownership of the 22-14 advantage over the red-clad Dutchmen.
The second quarter though would be where Trinity would truly make their hay on Monday evening.
For as well as Annville-Cleona had competed throughout the opening eight minutes of their District 3-3A lid-lifter against Trinity, the Shamrocks used their dramatic advantage length in tandem with their pure skill to ultimately put the Dutchmen away once and for all. And truth be told, it really only took one -minute worth of game time for that to become apparent.
After just 60 seconds had elapsed off the second quarter clock on Monday evening, the Shamrocks had exploded out of the gates en route to an 8-0 blitzkrieg that was capped off by a magnificent mix of inside/outside action as yet another Chance Westry dunk –his second of the early evening— was quickly followed up with a gorgeous 3-point bomb cashed in by 5’10 senior guard, Ben Patten, upping the Shamrocks’ lead to 30-14 before A-C likely knew what had hit them.
Truthfully though, Trinity was only just getting started.
Following the early second quarter salvo, the Shamrocks steadily and consistently kept pouring even more salt in the Dutchmen’s existing wound as yet another 8-0 spurt –this one highlighted by a magnificent Westry finger roll at the cup combined with a TJ Lawson bucket in transition—propelled Trinity out to the 38-14 cushion with Annville-Cleona being forced to call yet another timeout to regroup the troops with 5:14 left before the intermission.
And while Chance Westry’s exploits up until that point on Monday evening were understandably highlighted by his buckets from within the paint that largely came by way of highlight reel dunks, it would be a triple that truly proved to be historic for the Shamrocks’ star as his 3-ball that gave Trinity the 50-18 lead with 1:22 left before the break allowed the sensational sophomore to eclipse the 1,000-point in his brief, yet already stellar Trinity career, prompting an midcourt celebration that came complete with balloons and all the extra trimmings.
From there, TJ Lawson would be able to pick the Shamrocks up right where they had left off following the well-deserved Westry celebration as the 6’0 junior’s personal 5-0 run ushered Trinity out to the 55-18 lead before the first half later expired with the homestanding Shamrocks effectively holding serve, 55-19.
In the second half, Trinity only continued to exert their dominance over A-C.
In fact, the Dutchmen would not be able to tally their first points of the second half until the 1:48 mark of the third quarter on a pair of Andrew Long free throws knocked down at the charity stripe, admittedly with a lot of that due to the fact that the Shamrocks had since triggered the mercy-rule by that time.
As far as the Shamrocks were concerned, the latter stages of the third period largely seemed to be just business as usual considering the back-to-back buckets tallied by 6’4 junior forward, Logan Groff, upped the already-gargantuan Trinity lead to 63-21 with the third quarter clock rapidly expiring.
Now, as far as Annville-Cleona’s existing third quarter field goal drought was most specifically concerned, that was finally extinguished thanks to a much-needed 3-ball sunk by Josh Speraw, ultimately closing the book on the third quarter proceedings with Trinity still well out in front and well on their way to the 3A semifinal round, 63-26.
Yet even with eight minutes left to go, that still proved to be more than enough time for Trinity to keep working and perfecting their collective craft.
Case in point, two consecutive takes to the rack by 6’0 junior forward, Elijah Beard, making it a 40-point Trinity lead at 67-27 with 4:50 left to play. From there, Trinity’s Sam Kirchhoff was only able to exacerbate the Shamrocks’ lead even further with an old-school three-point play that garnered the largest roar of the entire evening, making it a 70-27 Trinity lead shortly thereafter.
That said, Annville-Cleona would continue fighting up until the bitter end as a sweet turnaround jumper knocked down by 6’1 sophomore forward, Da’Modric Green, ended the Dutchmen’s most-recent scoring drought before a nice pullup jumper cashed in by 5’10 senior guard, Noah Fogelsanger, later proved to be Annville-Cleona’s final points of the season as Trinity was able to advance on into the semifinal round on Thursday night in hopes of eventually capturing their seventh-consecutive District 3 title come next Monday night at the Giant Center by virtue of their first round 72-32 final triumph over Annville-Cleona.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in here,” second-year Annville-Cleona head coach, Jason Coletti, admitted following his team’s season-ending loss at the hands of last year’s state semifinalist. “They have a great basketball team and program….It’s tough. Tough to deal with,” Coletti said. “These seniors, two summers ago, I couldn’t even find them in Annville and Annville’s not that big. But last summer, we had a really good offseason.”
“Hopefully the younger guys can learn from Adam Long,” Coletti went on to mention regarding one of his key departing seniors. “I never had to ask Adam Long to play hard, or Caden Horning. Those (younger) guys look up to them and know what it takes to have a chance to be successful.”
And if nothing else, the fuel and desire to get better this offseason will likely come from within for the Dutchmen given the way in which this season of high expectations ultimately turned out for A-C.
“We wanted league playoffs. We wanted to be in the race at the end for the section championship,” Coletti obliged while quickly assessing the season as a whole from top to bottom. “We let some games get away in the beginning of the year, then we started to play our best basketball towards the end…We really started to come around the last week to ten days (of the regular season).”
“Was it successful? Annville hasn’t made back-to-back district appearances in some time,” Coletti continued. “Those guys set a legacy for the younger guys to look up to. Seven seniors came to 7:30am workouts, you know? That’s the type of stuff you need to build. Those younger guys need to see that. But were we successful in terms of meeting our goals? No we were not.”
Yes, while Annville-Cleona was forced to say goodbye to more than a handful of seniors on Monday night in Camp Hill, the late-season stretch run that the Dutchmen were able to muster and put together is something that Coletti and his staff hopes sticks around, no matter who ends up donning an A-C uniform come next winter.
“Just the hard work,” A-C’s head man said on what he hopes his returning nucleus takes away from this year’s departing senior class and their final run that culminated in capturing a District 3 playoff berth. “I never had to ask Adam Long to play hard. Caden Horning, you never had to ask them to play hard. That’s just what you do. Hopefully the offseason that we had like last year continues and then we’ll get the juniors and sophomore ready.”
And if that does indeed come to fruition, Annville-Cleona will be yet another name to add to an already deep pool of candidates to choose from regarding preseason favorites within Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Five for a division that will likely be one of the best and most wide-open that the entire league has to offer come next year.
Follow LLhoops on Twitter @LLhoops