Wilson Outlasts Lancaster Catholic In Fiery Early Season Grudge Match For Key Road Victory
Written by: Andy Herr on Monday, December 9th, 2019
While Monday night around the Lancaster-Lebanon League basketball scene may have only signified just the third night of what promises to be a fun-filled and action-packed marathon to the finish line come early February, teams from around the league weren’t exactly dipping their toes into the water to start the season. No, especially not when considering Lancaster Catholic.
For most teams, this past weekend was one reserved for examining growth coupled with an exploration and assessment of the available tools found inside each team’s respective toolboxes while using the age-old instrument of season-opening tip-off tournaments as the measuring stick. But not for the Crusaders mind you. Instead, the Purple and Gold opted for a much stiffer challenge immediately out of the box when they found themselves matched up against the Wilson Bulldogs at home on Monday night for their season lid-lifter.
In terms of the sheer talent found littered across both the Bulldogs’ and Crusaders’ rosters from top to bottom, it was certainly understandable as to why there was an undeniable and downright palpable buzz when walking into the Crusaders’ home confines on Monday evening. After all, it’s not exactly an every day occurrence when a squad acclaimed by some as a Top 10 ranked 6A outfit in the overcrowded world that is Pennsylvania high school basketball comes rolling into Lancaster Catholic. And speaking of things that don’t necessarily happen every day, matching up against a talented point guard the likes of Wilson’s Stevie Mitchell, a dynamic, gear-shifting point guard who seems to add a high-major Division 1 offer on a weekly basis, is not something one can bear witness to on a consistent basis either. Yet if ever there was a team that was likely ready for the daunting aspect of matching Wilson blow for blow right out of the chute, Lancaster Catholic was a name likely to be found scribbled on the short list.
For as much attention was sure to be placed on Wilson’s backcourt on Monday night, and justifiably so considering who was setting the table for the Bulldogs’ attack, there was equally as much interest in the Crusaders’ pair of imposing big men who will patrol the paint on a nightly basis in David Kamwanga and Trey Wells respectively. And speaking of a pair, both Kamwanga and Wells own differing styles that complement each other perfectly, like that of two sneakers that fit just snug immediately out of the box when considering Kamwanga’s ability to drag fellow bigs away from the basket, creating absolute matchup nightmares, along with Wells’ ability to simply bully the opposition down low as a true back-to-the-basket center.
So, suffice to say, the intrigue heading into this one was cooked and up so perfectly that the anticipation could’ve been cut with a butter knife as these two goliaths that will chase down District 3 title teams this season in 4A and 6A respectively went toe-to-toe Monday night in Lancaster city.
Right from the opening tip — and really before then for that matter — it was obvious that this was a playoff atmosphere in early December. And like a match that could ignite a full-out blaze, a David Kamwanga steal and subsequent dunk helped set the tone for the rest of the night as the Crusaders’ rangy 6’6 senior forward flushed it home to give the homestanding Crusaders the early 2-0 cushion.
That said, Wilson was likely far from the type of squad that would be rattled while in the midst of such a hostile atmosphere. So, with that in mind, it likely should have came as a surprise to no one when the Bulldogs proceeded to rattle off the next seven in a row, taking a 7-2 lead, prior to a Devin Atikinson hoop plus the harm as the Lancaster Catholic 5’11 junior forward ended the Crusaders’ dry spell at just the right time.
Yet even when faced with the Lancaster Catholic rebuttal, the Bulldogs were able to generate some much-needed breathing room following a sweet Stevie Mitchell to Avanti Lockhart dish from point-blank range allowed the red-clad visitors to up their back to a half dozen at 11-5 with two minutes and change left to play in the opening period. However, much as they had been able to do just moments earlier, Lancaster Catholic, namely Devin Atkinson, rallied the Crusader troops and promptly sprayed in a key 3-ball which cut the Bulldogs’ lead down to the slimmest of margins at 11-10, before Wilson would go on to carry a 13-10 advantage with them into the second frame.
To say that Wilson started off the second quarter hot would be an extreme injustice. To be sure, the Bulldogs proceeded to score the first five points of the frame, capped off with a Stevie Mitchell floater in the lane, forcing Lancaster Catholic to call timeout and regroup while staring at an 18-10 deficit with 6:40 left before the break.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, it quickly went from bad to worse over the course of the next few minutes as an Avanti Lockhart triple allowed the Bulldogs to now enjoy a double-digit lead at 24-13 with 4:52 left to go as the Crusaders called yet another timeout in the face of the Wilson current onslaught.
This time however, the timeout seemed to be exactly what the doctor had ordered for the Crusaders as the Wilson lead was suddenly trimmed down to seven at 24-17 following yet another David Kamanga rim-rattler, his second of the game, as the Bulldogs were now the ones forced to call and timeout and right the ship just one minute later.
Yet even with the Bulldogs showing signs of threatening to run away with it after a trifecta dialed up by way of junior guard Ryan Strobel, the Crusaders were able to keep Wilson at arm’s length heading into the intermission as Wilson went into the break leading 29-22.
Throughout much of the first half, while it had generally felt like it was period of 16 minutes where Lancaster Catholic had more than their fair share of opportunities, the Crusaders had just failed up until that point to get over the hump Well, needless to say, whatever was said inside the Lancaster Catholic dressing room during the halftime recess was a speech that should certainly be bottled up and saved for later.
Slowly but surely, the Crusaders began to chisel into the Wilson advantage once the second half got underway. And after a pair of back-to-back buckets cashed in by Trey Wells, the Bulldogs’ cushion had suddenly been trimmed down to just three at 29-26. But they didn’t stop there. Shortly thereafter, the Crusaders were able to draw even following a 3-ball sunk by 6’1 senior guard Denzel Kabasele, only to see Wilson take the lead right back the next time down the floor courtesy of a fearless trey dialed up by way of Ryan Strobel.
Yet even while the Bulldogs had seemingly answered each and every Lancaster Catholic challenge up until that point, Wilson would eventually surrender the lead for only the second time on Monday night when a Kabasele take to the tin put the Crusaders up by the slimmest of margins at 33-32 with 5:30 left in the third.
But just when Lancaster Catholic had likely felt like they had the Bulldogs on the ropes once and for all, Wilson proceeded to storm right back, eventually retaking the lead at 44-37 following a Stevie Mitchell pulled, aided thanks in large part to a pair of back-breaking triples tallied by Strobel contained within the Wilson salvo.
So, with Wilson heading into the fourth quarter in possession of the 46-41 lead, the time was now should anyone rise up and take control of the contest the rest of the way home. In that regard, it certainly had appeared as if Wilson big man Evin Timochenko understood the magnitude of the situation as the Bulldog senior had snuck behind the back line of the Crusader defense before rising up and finishing with a dunk which put Wilson back up by a touchdown at 48-41 with 6:30 left to play.
Surprise surprise. Lancaster Catholic refused to go away quietly into the damp and dreary night.
Over the course of the next 2:30 minutes, the Crusaders proceeded to author a 5-0 charge, capped off by a Denzel Kabasele bucket, good for two of his team-high 14 points on the evening, as the Bulldogs’ lead was suddenly cut down to a pair at 48-46.
Now, if you’ve been around sports long enough, chances are that you’ve heard a phrase somewhere along the lines of the following. “Big players step up in big times.” Well, in that case, it probably should have come as a surprise to no one to see Stevie Mitchell proceed to take matters into his own hands as the shifty Wilson guard proceeded to splash in an absolutely fearless jumper along the baseline that was nothing but net, good for two of his game-high 18-point effort, allowing the Bulldogs to take a bit of an exhale with their lead now at 52-48 with 1:50 left to go.
However, when speaking of big games, sometimes emotion can play the role of both your best friend, as well as your worst enemy. And shortly following the Mitchell jumper down on the other end, a frantic loose ball situation would result in a Lancaster Catholic foul, sending Wilson down to the floor for free throws. But alas for the Lancaster Catholic contingent, passion had suddenly betrayed the Crusaders as a dead-ball technical foul was whistled at the conclusion of the play, only engulfing the problem regarding the current situation as it pertained to Lancaster Catholic.
And with a cool, steely-eyed focus, four consecutive freebies cashed in by way of Wilson senior guard Kieran Borian proved to be the difference, as the Wilson Bulldogs were able to escape and head back home to Berks County happy on Monday after a hard-fought 61-48 triumph over a stingy Lancaster Catholic squad.
NEXT UP: Following their contest against Wilson on Monday evening, Lancaster Catholic now sets their sights on Wednesday night in hopes of picking up their first win of the young season when the Crusaders welcome Columbia to town before finishing off the week with a Friday night trip to New Holland to tangle with Garden Spot.
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