Andy's Take!

ED Note: LLhoops welcomes Andy Herr. An ex-Warwick player, Andy gives LLhoops a new veiwpoint. Enjoy! @andybrackets

Past Reports

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Jan 23-31

Jan 30- Feb 10

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Feb 19-24

Feb 26- March 4

 

March 11-17

PIAA Games


Lancaster Mennonite Rides Strong Defensive Performance Into State Quarters As Blazers Advance With 61-44 Win Over Hughesville


And then there two. Only Thursday night, the remaining two LL representatives took their respective shows up north to Pottsville to finally do battle in the second round of states after two days of cancellations thanks to the havoc left behind from Winter Storm Stella. Despite rumors that Thursday’s tips may have also been in jeopardy, both the Blazers and Black Knights received the green light to play on as Lancaster County set up shop at historic Martz Hall for a twin bill, LL style.


Lancaster Mennonite had the honors of going first and the Blazers certainly set the table for the rest of the night. After some initial Mennonite turnovers combined with a cold shooting start from Hughesville, nearly half of the opening period had expired before Timmy Stefanosky was able to officially put LMH on a run as the senior’s bucket gave the Blazers the 4-0 start.


Even from that point on, the worst shape that Mennonite could’ve possibly been in end at the end of the first quarter would have been a tie ball game as the Blazers put the clamps down on the Spartans from Hughesville with a suffocating defensive effort that yielded only 4 Hughesville points after the first eight. Luckily for the Blazer bunch that made the trek, their team was able to do better than that as Lancaster Mennonite led 12-4 at the end of the quarter as contributions by Javan Terry and Isaac Beers from the field helped fuel the early Blazer separation.


At the start of the second quarter, it looked like it was going to be more of the same as Johnathon Gillespie rose up and slammed it down as the 5’11” junior guard appeared to have set the tone for the rest of the half. It’s the second round of states however, so you knew the task wouldn’t possibly be that easy.


Just when Mennonite started to have some good mojo, Hughesville was there with the counter-attack as the Spartans were able to whittle the Blazer lead down to half a dozen at 14-8 after Matt Myers drove to the rack and finished with 5:30 still showing on the clock. Myers was later able to get Hughesville within 4 at the break as the junior guard attacked the rim again and was rewarded for doing so as the Spartans trailed by the slim 16-12 margin after a first half that was authored by the work of the Blazers on the defensive end.


Once the second half got underway, it was more of the same from Lancaster Mennonite. With the Blazers persistent in forcing Hughesville turnovers, the Blazers built their lead up to double figures as a trey from Carter Hurst put Mennonite in front 23-12.


Fortunately for Hughesville, Conrad Sheatler was there to help the Spartans claw back into it as the 6’1” senior guard went on his own personal 5-0 run to make things somewhat interesting with the Blazers now in front 25-17.


From that point on however, Javan Terry and the rest of his Lancaster Mennonite teammates were there to slam on the door on Hughesville.


Terry began to take over the game in the latter stages of the third stanza on both the offensive and defensive ends as the senior forward executed a beautiful step through move between two Spartan defenders to put Mennonite up 8 at 30-22, and then later followed it up with a stick back that was followed by yet another Hughesville turnover as the Blazers had gotten their Spartan counterparts all out of sorts. Terry’s late third quarter barrage helped propel him to game high scoring honors with a 22 point night at the office.


Senior leadership continued to be on display in the waning minutes of the third period for Mennonite as Richie Rosas rattled off a 4-0 charge of his own as the Blazers rode the late third quarter momentum into the last eight minutes with the 41-26 lead.
Primarily known for their offensive prowess, Lancaster Mennonite was not without that either on Thursday night as a textbook example on how to run the fast break culminated with Johnathon Gillespie dishing it off to Javan Terry who finished at the cup at the outset of the quarter with the Blazers now in clear command. Despite time being their enemy, Hughesville kept grinding away in hopes of getting it into a small enough window where a late rally could make things interesting.


Taylor Mason was there to assist in the Spartans’ aspirations as the 6’10” junior center showed off his impressive post moves inside with a bucket to cut into Mennonite’s lead at 51-38 with just 2:26 left to play.


Almost instantaneously however, Lancaster Mennonite’s lead had suddenly grown to 15 as Carter Hurst knocked down two big free throws for his Blazer squad to make it 55-40 with just two minutes left.


Hughesville was eventually able to get within 11 of Mennonite after a turnaround jumper from senior guard Landon Henry, but by that time, the hill was too steep to climb as Lancaster Mennonite earned the spoils of victory as the Blazers moved on to a rare Sunday afternoon showdown against state powerhouse Neumann Goretti with a bid to the state semifinals on the line.


As mentioned, Lancaster Mennonite’s proficiency on offense has earned them high praise this season and rightly so. But without question, their stellar lockdown defense Thursday was the catalyst for this victory and Blazer head coach Geoff Groff couldn’t have been more pleased. “I thought our defense tonight was as good as it’s been. I was really impressed with (Hughesville’s) ability to run stuff and they got some easy baskets and things like that, but we didn’t give up second chance points I think.”
Despite the close margin at halftime, Mennonite was ultimately able to gain the critical separation during a stretch in the third quarter that later proved to be the difference, helped powered by the work of Javan Terry. “It’s nice to have him on your side,” Coach Groff put it simply before going on to add, “In a game like this where teams are capable of making plays, any time you can string together a combination of plays, it gets guys thinking we can do this.”


With Thursday’s night triumph over Hughesville, Lancaster Mennonite clinched a berth in the Elight Eight of the PIAA 3A bracket. Something Coach Groff is very happy about for this group of Blazers. “It’s great to keep playing. I’m happy for the group of guys that are seniors because they enjoy each other and as coaches we enjoy being with them.”


Lancaster Mennonite would be able to enjoy each other’s company for an additional couple of days as the Blazers went to work on prepping for Neumann Goretti.
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Business As Usual. Hempfield Turns Heads, Takes Out Another State Power En Route To PIAA Quarterfinals


After the opening weekend of the PIAA playoffs last weekend, there was one result in particular that had hoops aficionados buzzing. Hempfield 62, Allentown Allen 57.
One of the prohibitive favorites to make a deep run over the last two weeks of the basketball season, Allen was left in the first round by a Hempfield team that continued to surprise. Well, to those that haven’t seen them before at least.


In fact, last Saturday night’s win was so big that veteran Hempfield head coach Danny Walck said knocking off the Canaries ranked right up there among the best in his coaching career. So what would the Black Knights do for an encore? How about going up against a blueblood in Pennsylvania basketball in the Williamsport Millionaires.


Just as it had been the case in so many other games this season for Hempfield, the old narrative of who would be able to control the pace looked to be one of the key elements to this ballgame, along with slowing down newly-minted Oakland Grizzles commit Stan Scott of Williamsport, as the Millionaires wanted to get out and display their up and down game. While dictating the tempo would be the overarching theme, getting off to a fast start wouldn’t hurt matters either. Advantage Hempfield in that category.


The Black Knights were able to take advantage of two Millionaire defensive breakdowns in the opening minutes as Hempfield saw a lay in from Tyler Hilton and an old fashioned 3 point play from Bryan Karl amount to the Black Knight 5-0 lead in the early going.


Knowing that there was still an eternity left to play, Williamsport shook off their slow start and responded with a red-hot answer to tie things up at 6 apiece after a Stan Scott dunk.


Run followed run as Hempfield retaliated by scoring the next 5 in a row, 3 of them coming from Bryan Karl at the stripe as Karl converted all of his freebies after getting fouled in the act from behind the arc to put Hempfield up 11-6 after the first period. A first period that left many Millionaire-backers wondering out loud, when was the last time our squad managed to score only 6 points in a quarter?


After Stan Scott was able to cut the Hempfield lead down to just 3 at 11-8 to start the second quarter, Ryan Moffatt, who had playing on another level this postseason, was there to cash in on the 3 ball out of a perfectly-run side out play as the Hempfield advantage increased to 6.


Just as they done in the first quarter, the Millionaires had spotted Hempfield an early salvo, but were able to answer back as the Millionaires eventually met Hempfield at 15-15 following a Darryl Wilson trey, and later overtook the lead by way of a steal and finish through contact by Rondell Carson plus the free throw to give Williamsport their first lead of the game at 18-15.


After Saturday’s night win against Allen, Coach Walck cited the “little things” as being one of the straws that has stirred Hempfield’s drink this season. The little things turned out to be big things once again on Thursday night on top of the town of Pottsville. Tonight’s soup de jour, foul shooting.
The Black Knights were proficient shooting the rock from the line against Williamsport, and thanks to just some of that superb shooting from the charity stripe, Hempfield was able to go back in front 19-18 after a 2-2 trip from Ryan Moffatt. Another 2-2 completion from senior Tyler Hilton followed and Hempfield had increased their lead to 23-18 at the halftime break.


It appeared that Williamsport had a newfound rhythm to start the second half however as Stan Scott, who finished as the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, drove to the hole hoping to ignite a spark for the Millionaires. That spark quickly fanned out, or more appropriately was blown out by the sounds of whistles, as the Millionaires found themselves in early second half foul difficulty.


Hempfield continued to remain on the attack themselves as the Black Knight cushion eventually grew to 7 inside the third quarter as Tyler Hilton finished off a 3 point play to put momentum back on the Hempfield side, with the Black Knights now leading 30-23.


Despite a Stan Scott drive to the rim that initially cut the Hempfield lead down to 5, a David Martin-Robinson to Tyler Hilton connection behind the Millionaire defense upped the Black Knight lead to 7 at 32-25 with 3 minutes to go in Q3.
For as much as Hempfield got off to early starts to begin the first and third quarters, Williamsport dominated the initial stages of the fourth at Martz Hall as two Stan Scott lay ins centered around a frantic Millionaire defensive effort, helped turn the tide in favor of Williamsport. Williamsport continued to pour salt in the open wound as a theft and easy deuce would do Hempfield in again a moment later as this time, it was Qayyim Ali’s turn as the senior forward put Williamsport within a point at 34-33.
Needing a big bucket to stop the Millionaire snowball that was rolling downhill in a hurry, Hempfield turned to Tyler Hilton and the senior delivered with a monster bucket to stem the tide and put Hempfield back up by 3 at 36-33. After yet another Ali steal and lay in got Williamsport back within 1 again, Hempfield rose up and fired off 7 straight to create some much needed breathing room as two Ryan Moffatt free throws put the Knights up 42-35 with just 2 minutes left to go.


Although it looked for a moment like the curtains were about to fall on Williamsport’s season, the Millionaires showed why you keep fighting til the end. After Stan Scott became the benefactor of a costly foul on the 3 point shot attempt, the heady senior was able to convert on all three attempts to put Williamsport back within 4 at 45-41 with 46.7 seconds left to tick off the clock. That’s when Williamsport’s press began to work like a charm. The frantic defensive effort by the Millionaires was enough to generate a turnover that led to a Stan Scott lay in and suddenly, the Millionaires found themselves within a possession.


Once again however, Hempfield’s Tyler Hilton was able to step up big for this team as the senior calmly drained two more free throws to extend the Hempfield lead to two possessions at 47-43 before Stan Scott came right down the floor and converted a follow attempt to put Williamsport back within 2 at 47-45.


After an extremely rare 0-2 trip to the line from Hempfield on this night, Williamsport collected the defensive board and had the ball in their hands with the chance to tie or take the lead. The Millionaires ended up with neither though as a costly turnover gave the ball back to Hempfield with the chance to ice it. David Martin-Robinson toed the line and although he was only able to knock one of two, Ryan Moffatt was there to bail out the Black Knights with a gigantic offense rebound that ultimately was the icing on the cake as the Black Knights stormed into the Elite Eight of Pennsylvania’s highest class, knocking off the Williamsport Millionaires 49-45.
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The Clock Strikes Midnight As Hempfield’s Incredible Story Ends Against Archbishop Ryan In PIAA Quarterfinals 60-50


They already did things most didn’t think were possible this postseason. Time after time over the last handful of weeks, Hempfield had answered the bell and proved why they were a team that no one wanted any parts of. By now, you already know the story, but it’s so good that it deserves mentioning again. After getting knocked out of the LL playoffs in the semifinal round against Lancaster Catholic scoring a total of just 19 points, the Black Knights were able to right the ship in the District 3 playoffs as the #7 seed found ultimately itself in the title game opposite of Harrisburg.
After being humbled by the Cougars on the Giant Center floor, Hempfield still had more tricks up their sleeve as the Black Knights stunned the Pennsylvania basketball community by knocking off the high-powered units of Allentown Allen and Williamsport in consecutive games. That all culminated in a Saturday afternoon date against Archbishop Ryan, hailing from the illustrious Philadelphia Catholic League, at the famed Geigle Complex at Reading High.


It appeared early on that Hempfield would be up to their same ole’ magic as the Black Knights took command of the early 4-0 lead after senior guard Javon Mitchell was able to score inside for his ballclub just 2:30 into the contest.


With it being the quarterfinal round of the state tournament, teams just don’t end up here by accident, and Archbishop Ryan proved why they are one of the best teams that call the City of Brotherly Love their home. The Raiders were able to come back to tie Hempfield at 4-4 following a 2-2 trip to the line from NJIT-bound Izaiah Brockington, but Bryan Karl was able to answer back with a 3 ball that put the Knights up 7-4. After a rebuttal from Ryan’s Chris Palantino from behind the arc knotted things back up at 7, the Raiders took off and never looked back.
After a bucket inside from the 6’7” towering figure of Matiss Kulackovskis, Brockington proved why he was worthy of MVP honors on the afternoon as the senior collected a steal on the defensive end and finished through the contact to put Ryan up 12-7 with 1:45 to go in the opening quarter. The final minute and change was equally as dominating by Archbishop Ryan as the Raiders turned up the dial defensively, leading to steals and more importantly, creating a general sense of havoc for the Hempfield ballhandlers. The exclamation point on Ryan’s emphatic first quarter came just before the buzzer as Kulackovskis finished off an alley oop dunk to put the Raiders up 15-9.
Archbishop Ryan didn’t rest on their laurels when the second frame began either. The Raiders went on to double-up Hempfield in the early going as another trifecta from Chris Palantino put AR up 18-9. Playing with the early cushion, Ryan continued to have the defensive intensity turned up to the max as AR held Hempfield without a field goal until the 3:01 mark of the second quarter before Hempfield’s Elijah Washington was ultimately able to break the ice with Hempfield now trailing 22-12.
In some ways, Washington’s late bucket appeared to be a catalyst in a late second quarter charge by Hempfield. Ryan Moffatt was able to help fan the flames of Archbishop Ryan’s hot start with a hoop inside that clipped AR’s lead down to 6 at 25-19. Just at that moment however, Matiss Kulackovskis helped alter the complexion of the game heading into the halftime break as the senior forward connected on the halfcourt buzzer beater to put the Raiders up by 9 at 28-19.
Coming out of the intermission, Hempfield as they had done so many times this season, did not push the panic button, but rather stuck to the gameplan and suddenly found themselves down by just 5 at 40-35 after a sweet give and go that ended in Javon Mitchell laying it up and in. Unfortunately for Hempfield, that also just so happened to be the moment when Izaiah Brockington took over the game.
The 6’4” senior forward showed off why he figures to be a nightmare matchup for Atlantic Sun foes over the next four years as he displayed his smooth lefty jump shot in back to back trips, before rising above the rim to finish the one-handed tomahawk that put Ryan up 40-29. On the afternoon, Brockington and fellow D1 teammate, Matiss Kulackovskis, bound for Bowling Green next year, claimed game-high scoring honors with each sharing in 20 point performances.
Even Hempfield though found themselves down 40-29 to start the final quarter, they were able to keep things interesting as Bryan Karl splashed in a 3 ball for the Black Knights, still down by a doable 9 points at 43-34 with 6:20 left go.


Coming out of the timeout however, Kulackovskis was able to get loose for a perfectly-timed 3 ball to put the Raiders back over the 10 point hill at 46-34, before Izaiah Brockington authored what may have been his signature moment of the ballgame as he glided down the floor and finished at the cup, rightfully displaying a flex at the conclusion to merit his momentum-changing play. Brockington was then able to finish off the traditional 3 point play at foul line as the Raiders now led 49-38 with 3:40 left to go.


Refusing to down without a fight, Hempfield was able to stay in the game, possibly setting up for a heroic finish as two Ryan Moffatt free throws got Hempfield within 6 at 53-47 with just a minute left to go.


Just as Hempfield was able to turn Williamsport away on Thursday with a dominating performance at the foul line, Archbishop Ryan put the shoe on the other foot on Saturday afternoon as Izaiah Brockington and his Raider teammates finished Hempfield off with a magnificent display of free throw shooting in crunch time that helped send the Raiders into the PIAA 6A Eastern Final, but not before Tyler Wassell checked into the ballgame and fired in a 3 ball, closing the books on this historic Hempfield season, as the Archbishop Ryan moved on to the PIAA Final Four with the 60-50 victory.


Although Hempfield’s incredible journey came to be an abrupt end on Saturday afternoon in Reading, Coach Walck will always will look back with great memories that this year’s team provided. “It’s their competitiveness. It’s their spirit to play together through adversity and to stick to it. Such a coachable bunch,” Walck said on what he’ll take away from this year’s group of Black Knights. “It’s been a fun year. Everything has happened so fast in the last two or three weeks and you get texts from people to enjoy the ride. When you’re in the middle of it, it’s exciting. It’s a heck of a lot better than not being in the middle of it. It’s fantastic. It’s March Madness.”


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Lancaster Mennonite Runs Into Goliath. Blazers Fight Valiantly But Key Fourth Quarter Charge Sends Neumann Goretti Into PIAA 3A Semifinals 69-56


When talking about the best basketball programs in the state, the conversation likely starts and stops with Neumann Goretti. The Saints have been in their own stratosphere over the last handful of years as NG has won the 6 of the last 7 PIAA 3A state championships, including a current three year streak with visions of a fourth set squarely in their sights. Ironically, NG’s road to Hershey has typically included an LL foe along the way, as the Saints have gone up against a Lancaster Lebanon League program 3 out of the last 4 years in the state tournament. In fact, Neumann Goretti’s last hiccup came against an LL outfit, that being the historic Donegal Indian bunch that sent shockwaves around the nation with their 55-50 victory in the 2013 postseason.


As fate would have it, the LL would send another representative into the center of the ring against Neumann Goretti in 2017 as the Lancaster Mennonite took their shot at knocking off the PIAA’s standard-bearer.


Getting off to a fast start is paramount in games such as this and the early going couldn’t have started off much better for the Blazers if they would have tried to script it. Mennonite was able to get off to the lightning-fast 6-0 start that raised more than a few eyebrows inside Reading’s Santander Arena to start the contest.


Despite the early setback, Neumann Goretti showed off their highly potent offense as the Saints climbed back within 2 at 9-7 when future Kentucky Wildcat point guard Quade Green finished off the 3 point play with 4:25 to go in the first quarter.
To Lancaster Mennonite’s credit, the Blazers were not awe of the star-studded lineup facing them on the other side as LMH battled tooth and nail through the opening quarter as evidenced by Javan Terry’s 3 ball that tied things up at 16-16 with 1:15 left in the opening eight minutes.


From that point on however, the Saints were able to head into the second stanza as owning the 20-16 lead after a rim-rocking dunk from future Villanova Wildcat Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and last second lay in by Christian Ings to finish off the late quarter 4-0 charge.


With the early score perhaps being a shock to some, Lancaster Mennonite proved that the first quarter score was no fluke as LMH junior guard Johnathon Gillespie pumped in a 3 ball to get the Blazers within 3 at 22-19 under the 6 minute mark of Q2.
From that point on however, the rest of the half was colored in the Gold and Black of Neumann Goretti. Almost quicker than a bolt of lightning, Neumann Goretti’s lead immediately grew to double digits as a Cosby-Roundtree lay in made it 33-22 Saints with 2:30 to play in the half. Neumann Goretti’s impressive show continued to be on full display as the second quarter moved along as Quade Green rained in a 3 ball and Cosby-Roundtree swatted a Mennonite shot into the expensive seats as the Saints were now rolling. When the books finally closed on the opening half, Neumann Goretti was able to head into the break with a dominating 18-4 run that had them leading 40-23.


Despite being down by what appeared to be an insurmountable amount of points against of the nation’s most-recognizable basketball brands, Lancaster Mennonite didn’t flinch in the face of adversity, but rather stayed true to their roots knowing that they had the ability to turn this game around if they fixed themselves. As Lancaster Mennonite head coach Geoff Groff described it after the game, “We were talking more about what we needed to do. We needed to stay on the attack.” Stay on the attack they did.


The Blazers came out on a mission to start the second half as Mennonite nearly climbed the entire hill in just the initial minutes of the third quarter as the Blazers suddenly got back within 4 at 40-36 after an ol-fashioned 3 point play from senior Javan Terry. Needing a bucket to stop the bleeding, Neumann Goretti was able to find their answer in the form of Christian Ings as the Saints’ senior guard halted the LMH momentum with a key triple to extend NG’s lead to 43-36 inside of the 4 minute mark of Q3.


Unphased, Mennonite continued to press on as the Blazers eventually worked back into it with a 5-0 run that included a 3 ball from Isaac Beers, and drive to the tin from Carter Hurst to get LMH within a bucket at 43-41.


Mennonite would eventually come all the way back after a pair of free throws from Javan Terry put the Blazers up 45-44 at 1:35 mark of the third quarter, now proving more than ever than Neumann Goretti had gotten way more than they bargained for in this pesky group of Blazers.


Neumann Goretti would eventually respond soon after as a lob play to Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree before the third quarter buzzer sent NG into the final eight minutes with the 51-49 lead.


Unfortunately for the group that traveled northward on 222 on Sunday afternoon, the aforementioned slam from Cosby-Roundtree proved to be the catalyst that eventually sparked an enormous 10-0 run for Neumann Goretti that carried over into the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference. Senior Mike Millsip was instrumental down the stretch as the quad-captain was able to deliver 6 of the NG’s 10 on consecutive 3 balls that helped create the late game separation.


Neumann Goretti would eventually go on to lead by as many as 16 late in the game as a hesitation move en route to the hoop from Quade Green later put the Saints up 66-50.


Mennonite was eventually able to close the game out with both Seth Beers and Ezra Buckwalter converting on 2-2 trips to the line respectively, but it was Neumann Goretti who staved off an upset bid by the always-game Blazers from Lancaster Mennonite. A group of guys that Coach Geoff Groff will look back on years from now and remember fondly. “Our guys are fearless,” the head man offered after Sunday’s finale. “They’re not afraid to compete... I’m pretty blessed to coach a group like that.”


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This Week’s Starting Five
Javan Terry (Lancaster Mennonite)
Tyler Hilton (Hempfield)
Ryan Moffatt (Hempfield)
Johnathon Gillespie (Lancaster Mennonite)
Isaac Beers (Lancaster Mennonite)

 

March 4 -March 10

 

PIAA Tournament

 

Strong Second Half Sends East Stroudsburg North Into PIAA Second Round With 58-55 Victory Over Manheim Central

 

When the name Manheim Central comes up, football is likely to be the topic of conversation and rightly so. The success that the Barons have achieved on the gridiron for decades is unmatched by anyone in District 3, and rivals any other program in the state, as well as the greater eastern seaboard for that matter. Pssst. By the way, they also happen to play basketball at this school too.

 

Largely overlooked historically, Manheim Central head coach Chris Sherwood has helped change the narrative for Baron Hoops over the last handful of seasons. Dominance in the regular season that has led to league and District 3 playoffs berths have become commonplace around these parts while also being able to secure a spot in the dance of all dances, the state tournament. Once there, the Barons have gone head to head with a who's who list of Pennsylvania state powerhouses including the likes of now 3 time defending state champion Neumann Goretti. The 2017 season proved to be no exception to the new winter normal around Manheim.

 

While the Barons came in reeling somewhat winning just 2 of their last 5 games heading into states, a ticket to the dance gives you the opportunity to write your own history for a two week stretch, something the Barons were eager to get started on Friday in the Poconos.

 

Their opponent on the opposite bench Friday night was already in the midst of creating their own storybook season. The East Stroudsburg North Timberwolves came into the District 11 playoffs as the 6 seed and didn't stop until they claimed the gold as the Twolves earned the right to play in their neck of the woods in Brodheadsville as the District champion.

 

Early on however, it appeared that Manheim Central was a team rejuvenated, eager to prove that their most recent history was not indicative on how good they could truly be.

 

The Barons jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after 3 balls from Taylor Funk and Connor Hostetter before ESN's sensational senior point guard Arian Azmei got the Twolves back within 3 after a trifecta that made it 8-5 Barons with 5 minutes to play in the first.

 

The Manheim Central lead would later swell to 8 after Tyler Lyons got behind the North press and was able to lay it in and then followed it up with a charge on the other end before Taylor Funk knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Barons up the commanding 14-6 score.

 

Unphased by their early turnovers, East Stroudsburg North stuck to the plan and were rewarded for it as another Azemi 3 ball before the first quarter buzzer got the Wolves back within 5 at 17-12.

Manheim Central responded to the start of the second quarter by firing off a 4-0 run to go in front 21-12 after a pullup J by senior guard Kody Kegarise that concluded the Baron surge. Down but certainly not out, ESN rallied back to get within 4 of MC after you guessed it, another Azemi 3 ball, to make it 21-17 Barons. On the night, Arian Azemi's long range shooting helped him finish as the game's leading scorer with a 24 point effort.

 

Despite the sudden shift in momentum over to the side of the Timberwolves, the Barons rallied back taking a 9 point lead into the locker room at the break that culminated in a perfectly executed end of half play with Jake Novak knocking down the trifecta to put Central up 31-22.

 

Coming out of the break, it was apparent that a different North team was set to do battle in the second half. The Twolves jumped out to a quick 4-0 run in the first minute of the third quarter after two drives to the cup from Josh Noble and Arian Azemi got ESN within 5 at 31-26 as the Barons called timeout to regroup.

Manheim Central turnovers in the early stages of the second half kept North in the ballgame as the Twolves feasted on those opportunities. The Wolves were able to get within 3 following a Darin Bellinger lay in and later within 2 after yep, another Arian Azemi trifecta that trimmed the Baron lead to 35-33 with two minutes left to play in the third quarter.

If you're sensing a theme here, you're right think so. East Stroudsburg North was finally able to take their first lead of the night off after Arian Azemi got loose for another timely 3 ball that beat the third quarter clock with ESN now on top 39-37.

 

With North now playing with momentum, the Timberwolves increased their lead to 6 after a Darin Bellinger dunk to put the Barons in the 45-39 hole with 4 minutes left to go.

 

It appeared that East Stroudsburg North would be able to run away and hide as the fourth quarter moved along, but Kody Kegarise had other ideas as the senior buried a monster 3 ball that cut the Twolves' lead to 49-44 with 2:10 left to play. The Barons were later able to inch closer to ESN as back to back 3 balls from Taylor Funk cut the lead to 54-50 with now just 44.6 left to go.

 

Even though time was running out, it looked like Central would have the chance to make it a one possession game after an ESN turnover, but the Barons returned the favor right after which led to junior Adisa Wilkins knocking down a pair from the stripe with 30 seconds left to go.

 

Another Baron turnover then followed after the inbounds pass as MC was whistled for stepping on the sideline. After a foul to extend the game, Arian Azemi was able to knock down another freebie, but Roman Wagner kept the Barons within striking distance with a lay in plus the foul to cut it to 56-53 with just 13.9 to go.

 

After an Armani Reed free throw down at the other end, North kept the game afloat with a foul, sending Trevor Hosler to the line with 11.7 left as the senior was able to keep it a one possession ballgame at 57-54.

After another free throw for East Stroudsburg North, the Twolves still could not avoid the foul bug as yet another whistle against ESN sent the Barons back to the line with now just 2.5 ticks remaining. After Jay Barreto was able to convert on one from the charity stripe, Central would have to do what appeared to be the impossible, tying the game with just .6 seconds remaining down 58-55 after North was able to secure the defensive rebound.

 

It appeared for a brief moment that Manheim Central would at least get that opportunity as the Barons picked off the ESN pass at a halfcourt and fired off a desperation heave towards the other end, but it was not to be on this night as the Timberwolves advanced to the second round of the state tournament bracket, knocking off Manheim Central 58-55.

 

Although the loss that ends a season is always hard to take, it was one was perhaps even more difficult as Manheim Central bids adieu to Taylor Funk, bound for St. Joe's next year. A player that his head coach didn't mince words for when describing Friday night. 'He's the best player to ever put on that uniform,' Baron head man Chris Sherwood said after the game. 'I can't stress enough what a great guy he is. People don't really know. People don't really know how special he makes the JV players feel. We've been fortunate,' he added. 'Matt Walsh was very similar. We've had guys in this program that have always had that demeanor.'

 

Speaking of Walsh, Coach Sherwood went on to explain that being a part of the dynamic duo that patrolled Section 3 not all that long ago was a critical piece of the puzzle in Mr. Funk's development looking back, now four years later. 'There's no doubt. He walked in to a great situation,' Sherwood went on to reiterate.  'The first two years, he kind of got his feet wet, played in all these games, and it was kind of a perfect storm around here for four years.'

 

While not only saying goodbye to the best player in school history, Friday's game also marked the end of the line for a talented bunch of Baron seniors leaving many left wondering, what does the future hold for the Baron ballers? Ask Coach Sherwood and you'll come away with a clear and concise answer. 'The future looks great,' the Central overseer said. 'Because of these guys that have gone through, our middle school program is better than I've ever seen. This is a product of these guys going to all these games in February and March, saying I want to do that.'

 

They say that history tends to repeat itself. If that's the case, the torch that is being passed in Manheim is fully ablaze waiting for the next generation of Barons to carry it onward and upward. And by the way, basketball is no longer a distant second fiddle to football in this town.

 

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Historic Lancaster Catholic Postseason Ends After 78-65 Defeat To West Philadelphia In Opening Round of PIAA Tournament

 

There are ways to enter the playoffs and then there is the way Lancaster Catholic entered the opening round of states. To say that the Crusaders were on a roll would be a bit of an understatement. Instead, it would be accurate to say that the Crusaders stormed into the PIAA playoffs after capturing their first set of LL and District 3 gold medals since 2003.

 

While the Crusaders were entering with the strength of a category 5 hurricane, their task at hand in the opening round of states seemed like anything other than a reward. Instead, Lancaster Catholic drew the Speedboys from West Philadelphia, a team that would not be intimidated going up against a hot Lancaster Catholic team playing in their own neighborhood. Why? Well it doesn't hurt that the Speedboys routinely see competition that includes the likes of two time defending now former AAAA state champ Roman Catholic, a team that West Philly took to overtime just this year.

 

With their work clearly cut out for them, Lancaster Catholic set sail on another quest they hoped would end in gold medals as the Speedboys and Crusaders tipped off the opening round of the PIAA 4A tournament at Warwick on Saturday afternoon.

 

The first quarter seemed like that of a boxing match with both teams feeling each other out before someone finally made the initial move. That would come in the form of West Philly's senior co-captain Malik Lorenzano executing a perfect Euro-step en route to the hoop to put the Speedboys up 2-0 two minutes in. It was then the Crusaders' turn to answer as Danny Bomberger fired in a 3 ball for the Crusader bunch before a Jon Ware drive to the rack later in the quarter put the Crusaders up 7-4 with 3:30 left in the opening quarter.

 

West Philadelphia would have the answer for that however as a Dymeir Shackelford 3 ball tied things up at 7-7 before the Speedboys took control of the scoreboard at the end of the opening quarter thanks to a 3 ball from the other senior co-captain, Maxwell Brown, that helped put West Philly up 11-9 at the end of the opening quarter.

 

The Speedboys were then able to open up the second quarter on a 5-0 run that included a 3 ball from Cyrie Coates and Latrell Carroll finish inside put West Philly up 16-9, forcing a Crusader timeout. Danny Bomberger was able to answer back with a floater coming out of the timeout, but the Speedboys kept grinding away as a trey from Dymeir Shackelford put West Philadelphia up 19-11 before the Speedboy lead eventually climbed into double digits after another splash from downtown, this one from Cyrie Coates, that put WP up by a dozen at 24-12.

 

Thanks in part to double digit Lancaster Catholic turnovers in the opening half, West Philadelphia was able to go up by two touchdowns at 28-14 following a Malik Lorenzano lay in before a Sean Landis lay in to beat the buzzer got the Crusaders within 12 at 32-20 at the halftime break.

 

The intermission did nothing to slow down the Speedboys as West Philly was able to build upon their lead going up by 13 after a Dymeir Shackelford trifecta and then eventually going up by 20 after a Cyrie Coates lay in that put the Speedboys up 53-33.

 

Heading into what could have been the final quarter of their season down 55-36, Lancaster Catholic needed to mount a rally immediately. They tried to get it started with a Jon Ware finish plus the foul on the fast break that got the Crusaders within a dozen at 61-49 with 5:30 left, before an additional bucket from Ware and one from Chad Wenger got the Crusaders within single digits at 67-58 with just two minutes left.

That would prove to be all the closer the Crusaders would get however as the Speedboys were able to finish at the foul line, including Maxwell Brown living up to his co-captain status by going 6-6 down the stretch to send West Philly into the second round of states after traveling west and capturing the 78-65 win against Lancaster Catholic.

 

Even though the Crusaders came up short for the first time since the regular season, Coach Joe Klazas will forever look back with great memories of this 2017 senior class as he eluded to after the game. 'Obviously we're disappointed we weren't able to extend things out. As much as this one hurts, every time we'll just think back on all the great things that they accomplished. For the 11 seniors that I have, they've done so much for our program. They pushed each other and worked hard in practice to make themselves and their teammates better. We got the results that no one really believed we could.'

 

Although Lancaster Catholic fell short of completing the trifecta of gold medals that the 2003 Crusader team was able to accomplish, the 2017 team will forever be considered one of the best to ever wear the Purple and Gold and when you get right down to it, that's really not such a bad way to be remembered.

 

 

Hempfield Slays A Giant. Black Knights Off Heavyweight Allentown Allen To Advance To Second Round Of States

 

The last time Hempfield took the floor last Saturday at the Giant Center against Harrisburg, the result was less than ideal. The Cougars looked like the Cougars of old as they by and large dominated Hempfield to win the inaugural District 3 6A title. Despite getting past the initial disappoint with the Harrisburg game, it still had to be a considered a successful trip to Districts as the Black Knights finished in second place, having entered as the #7 seed. The Black Knights' prize after finishing with the silver medal in District 3? A matchup against arguably an even more talented team in the William Allen Canaries who hail from Allentown.

 

It would've been very easy when offering pregame prognostications that Hempfield would be in over their heads against Allen who would lean on their D1 caliber guards, Talek Williams and Tyrese Martin, standing at 6'3' and 6'6' respectively, piloting a Canary outfit eager to make up for an early exit from the District 11 tournament their last time out.

 

The one thing that can't be accounted for however when looking at film or thumbing through a stat sheet, is the 'it' factor which Hempfield has in spades. Whether you define it as heart, grit, bounce-back or any other adjective of the like, no one can question the mental makeup of this year's Black Knights, especially in the postseason. After a surprising defeat in the league playoffs to Lancaster Catholic, a game in which Hempfield failed to score 20 points, the Knights blazed a path all the way to the District finals, knocking off higher seeded Governor Mifflin and Lebanon in the process.

 

That led to the aforementioned game against Harrisburg, a contest in which Harrisburg controlled from start to finish. So sure, even though Hempfield would be playing this one in their own back yard at Warwick, a place in which Hempfield ironically was already 2-0 in this season, the easy pick would have been to bet against these Black Knights, but it certainly wouldn't have been the smartest. 

 

Hempfield didn't waste any time getting off to a hot start Saturday night as the Knights exploded out of the gates to a 12-4 lead after back to back triples from senior Bryan Karl got things going in the right direction. With Allen's early shooting rivaling the cold just outside the gym doors, Ryan Moffatt was able to build upon Hempfield's early lead by knocking down another 3 ball putting the Knights up by the surprising 15-4 score. From that point on however, Allen got things down to a much more manageable level as the Canaries closed the opening quarter on a 7-2 run to close the gap to 17-11 after the opening eight minutes.

Although Allen started off slow in the first quarter, they certainly didn't waste any time showing what they were capable off to start the second as Talek Williams threw down a monster alley oop off a set play to start the quarter, which juiced the bus loads of Canary fans that made the trek southward.

 

Williams continued to make for a happy group of Canaries as the senior fired off a 3 ball shortly thereafter to cut into Hempfield's lead at 19-16. Allen then ultimately went in front as Tyrese Martin showed off his long range shooting ability as the ultra-talented senior put the Canaries up 22-21.

 

If ever there was a stretch of time that you could say defines a team, it would have been the next couple minutes for Hempfield. With the all the momentum clearly on Allen's side of the gym, Hempfield kept their nose to the grindstone and didn't finch in the face of danger. Instead, the Black Knights rallied the troops and took the lead into halftime, including one possession that saw Ryan Moffatt grab 3 offensive rebounds, saving the possession before the ball eventually found its way into the hands of Anthony Alston who responded with a monster 3 ball that helped send Hempfield into the break leading 30-23.

Hempfield then kept their foot on the gas to start the second half as the Black Knight lead later increased to 10 after a 3 ball by Ryan Moffatt that made it 35-25 before Bryan Karl went back door at the end of a diligent offensive set for Hempfield to put the Black Knights up by a dozen at 37-25.

The latter part of the third stanza would be defined by an Allen barrage that saw the Canaries cut it to 5 following a Tyrese Martin finger roll in transition before Hempfield was able to carry the 41-34 lead into the final quarter.

 

Playing with the lead, Hempfield was able to maintain that critical balance of playing the lead while managing the clock against a team with the offensive firepower equal to that of dynamite waiting to go off at a moment's notice. For proof of that, Hempfield was able to get up by 10 at 46-36 following 3 of Ryan Moffatt's team 23 points from behind the arc before Javon Mitchell went back door himself to put the Knights up by 11 at 51-40 with just 3:20 left to go.

 

That's when things got interesting. After yet another lob play that ended in a Talek Williams throw down, the Canaries sensed a time to pounce. Williams then proceeded to put Allen on his back as his tip in later on cut the defecit to 3 at 54-51, with a Hempfield turnover following suit which created for a deafening noise from the Allentown faithful. Once again, Mr. Williams was there to make Hempfield sweat it out as the senior went 2-2 on a trip to the line to make it a 1 point ballgame at 54-53 with time melting away.

That's when Ryan Moffatt stepped in. After being fouled once Hempfield was able to get past the Canary press, the junior showed off his moxie by going 2-2 from the foul stripe at a critical juncture to put Hempfield up 3, 56-53. For all of his prowess on the offensive end that he was able to display on this night, Moffatt then got into it defensively by picking up a gigantic steal and going back to the foul stripe, knocking down two more to now make it a two possession game in favor of Hempfield at 58-53.

 

After another empty Allen trip, Moffatt was able to put even more salt in the Allen wound with another pair of freebies that put the Knights up 60-53 with victory in their sights. Their vision would get a little cloudier, at least temporarily, as Tyrese Martin drove to the hole and finished to get Allen within 5 at 60-55 with just 13.5 remaining, but the damage had already been done.

 

Tyler Hilton was there to put the exclamation mark on this one as the senior knocked down his first two points of the night, going 2-2 from the stripe to send Hempfield into the Sweet 16 by virtue of the 62-55 defeat of Allentown Allen.

 

It may have been hard to imagine that a team that just a few weeks ago was knocked out of their league playoffs after failing to crack the 20 point barrier would be standing here among the best of the best in Pennsylvania's biggest classification, but as it turns out, the groundwork for this postseason run started that night at Penn Manor. 'We put a poster up after the Lancaster Catholic game and had everyone sign it,' Hempfield head coach Danny Walck mentioned Saturday night. 'It says "Redeeming Your Pride.' It's something simple, but you wonder about the basketball spirit in that sign because it's helped us weather some storms. We're on a mission to redeem our pride.'

 

The message seems to have struck a chord. In just seven days, Hempfield went from what felt like the outhouse to the penthouse. But even with all the high-flying talent that William Allen possessed, Coach Walck admitted that this past week's work was primarily about Hempfield. 'It was more about what we wanted to do. We know how good they are. Coming out of Harrisburg I thought it was more about us. It was more about here's what we need to do in order to give ourselves the best chance to win.'

 

So, how does a team that is largely overlooked keeping rising to the occasion time after time after time? It's never been a secret formula. It's all about the little things- elements that Coach Walck has instilled in this Hempfield group that keeps executing. 'We have to do all the small things,' the Black Knight head man stated. 'I strongly believe that talk is the glue. Talk can make up for a lot of mistakes, especially when you're changing defenses and knowing you're spots. When we make mistakes, your teammate has to tell you to go to the next play. We have to talk each other through.'

 

Next thing up on the agenda to talk about, how to formulate a victory over Williamsport.

 

 

 

This Week's Starting Five

Taylor Funk (Manheim Central)

Danny Bomberger (Lancaster Catholic)

Ryan Moffatt (Hempfield)

Jon Ware (Lancaster Catholic)

David Martin-Robinson (Hempfield)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 26- March 3

 

District 3 Tournament


Lancaster Catholic Holds Off Hard-Charging Bishop McDevitt To Advance To District 3 4A Title Game


Two weeks ago, Lancaster Catholic pulled off what many considered to be an upset of pre-tournament favorite Lebanon in the LL Championship Game leaving many left questioning what the Crusaders could do for an encore. Well, naturally the next domino would be a District championship. All things considered, that challenge would be much easier said than done with Catholic having what appeared to be an extremely tough draw by first squaring off with perennial Midpenn power Susquehanna Township, a program that advanced to the AAA state title game twice over a seven year span as recently as 2014. If the Crusaders could get past the Indians on their homecourt, the next roadblock would likely be a Bishop McDevitt squad that hails from what is arguably one of the best athletic departments in all of District 3.


Luckily for the Lancaster Catholic-backers, their team was indeed able to get past Susquehanna Township by a 57-43 margin and matched up with Bishop McDevitt who coasted by Littlestown with ease in their first District game, setting up a semifinal battle Monday night at Garden Spot. Although Catholic led for much of the contest, they were able to make the critical winning plays down the stretch which proved to be the difference. Plays which included a gigantic free throw under the 10 second mark from Chad Wenger, sending the Crusaders off to the Giant Center in Thursday night’s 4A title tilt.


One thing became perfectly clear from the moment that the ball was tipped in the air. Catholic had likely not seen as intense- 94ft “up in your mug” man defense than what the McDevitt presented all night. Luckily for the Crusaders who hail from Lancaster, they knew what to expect after having already played McDevitt in a matchup earlier this season in late January.


Despite the strong McDevitt defensive effort out of the chute, Catholic guard Jon Ware found the outside stroke in the early going as the senior poured in two early 3 balls, the last of which allowed Catholic to double-up McDevitt by an 8-4 clip with 4:45 left in the opening quarter. Playing with the lead, Catholic employed a 2-3 zone which McDevitt senior co-captain Jody Morales was able to exploit with a trey of his own to bring the Crusaders from Harrisburg within 1 at 8-7. Bryan Downey was later there to put the capper on the opening eight minutes with a pair of free throws to send Catholic into the second stanza with the 12-9 lead.


For a quarter that felt like it was dominated by great defensive effort by both teams, McDevitt freshman Devon Lee tried to change the script for the second quarter with a trifecta that tied things up at 12 points apiece just 15 seconds in. With Lee being able to make things all square, Bishop McDevitt had several chances to their first lead of the game, but simply could not. Patience is a virtue though and it found itself in Chris Briner, the other Crusader co-captain, with a stick-back that gave McDevitt their first lead of the ballgame at 16-14 with half the second quarter gone by.


McDevitt then not only took the lead, but officially started a run in the form of a 4-0 flurry that culminated with a Nick Briner lay in off transition to put the Crusaders up 18-14, forcing Catholic to burn a timeout.


Coming out the timeout, Lancaster Catholic saw McDevitt’s 4-0 run and answered with 5-0 run of their which put them back in the pilot’s chair at 19-18 with Chad Wenger’s follow off a missed LC free throw. Even though McDevitt was collecting what felt like steal after steal after steal, Catholic was able to go into the halftime break in front, thanks in part to unsung plays like Mark Cannon diving after a loose ball to save the possession. A possession that ultimately ended in a Jon Ware floater with a minute left to put Catholic up 23-20 heading into the intermission.


After an exchange of 3s between McDevitt’s Davon Lee and Catholic’s Danny Bomberger that helped raise the curtain on the third quarter, Lancaster Catholic began to make a move. After the Bomberger trey, Catholic rattled off a 6-0 run that concluded with a Sean Landis drive to the hoop which made the score 32-23 LC, forcing to McDevitt to spend a timeout and regroup.


McDevitt was up to the task as this group of Crusaders mounted their own 5-0 rally to get within 4 at 32-28 after a jumper by senior Ben Green with just under 60 seconds remaining in the quarter. Catholic was ultimately able to fend off the McDevitt-led momentum shift as Jon Ware connected on a floater just before the third quarter buzzer that gave Lancaster Catholic the half dozen cushion heading into the final eight.


With Lancaster Catholic coming up dry shooting the rock to start the fourth, McDevitt saw their opportunity to strike. The McDevitt Crusaders got back within a bucket at 34-32 with 5 minutes remaining thanks to a hoop from Ben Green.
With the game there for the taking, point guard Jon Ware was able to hook up with Sean Landis who cut along the baseline and finished with an enormous bucket for Catholic to up them up by two possessions with 3:21 now showing on the big board.
McDevitt though was not just about to let Catholic run away and hide in the final few minutes, and their resolve to make it a 32 minute ballgame showed as Jody Morales was able to connect on a huge 3 ball to get Bishop McDevitt back within a point at 36-35 with now 2:50 to play.


Being the beneficiary of an earlier dish from a teammate, Sean Landis decided to return the favor and put a key assist into the score book when he found Mark Cannon sneaking along the baseline for the lay in to put Catholic up by 3 at 38-35 with two minutes left to go.


As time began to tick away from that point on, Bishop McDevitt had fouls to give. When Catholic did finally get into the bonus, they came up empty missing the crucial front end of a 1 & 1, with McDevitt snatching the defensive board.


With the ball now back in their hands, the Crusaders turned to their co-captain who rightly delivered as Chris Briner drained an NBA 3 to tie it up at 38-38 with just 40 seconds left to tick off.


Catholic came down the floor and threw up a shot of their own, but this one also did not find the bottom of the cup, and McDevitt now had the ball with the chance to seal it. Luckily for Lancaster Catholic, Chad Wenger had his own aspirations of making it to Hershey as he earned himself a key steal and began to take off down the floor with it.


His progress was stopped by the shrill of a whistle as McDevitt was called for a bump, sending the senior to stripe. He was able to make the first but not the second as McDevitt cleaned the glass yet again, setting up the opportunity a walkoff winner.
Bishop McDevitt would have two shots at semifinal glory, but both attempts inside the paint failed to go down which sent Lancaster Catholic into the Thursday night title bout with Middletown by virtue of the nail-biting 39-38 triumph. Middletown ironically was a team able to find last second magic as they toppled Berks Catholic at the buzzer in the game that followed Monday night in New Holland.
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Hempfield Keeps On Keeping On All The Way To The District 3 6A Final After 53-40 Triumph Over Lebanon


When committees release their postseason brackets, the seeding lies in who had the most successful regular season, while sometime serving as a good indicator on how the playoff tournament will play itself out. This year’s Hempfield team on the other hand did not get that memo.


After originally being slotted in the #7 starting position at the start of the District 3 6A tournament, the Black Knights used a late game comeback against their arch rival Manheim Township before taking their show on the road and knocking off the #2 seeded Governor Mifflin Mustangs. All that work led them to Tuesday night’s 6A semifinal showdown against another higher seeded team, albeit a familiar foe, in the #3 Lebanon Cedars.


Right from the jump it was evident that Hempfield would be the team dictating the tempo. With the Black Knights being patient on O while playing the same type of stifling interior defense that helped them prevail last Friday night at Mifflin, the Cedars were held to numerous one and done situations in the early going. It took awhile for either team to crack the scoreboard, but Hempfield junior forward Ryan Moffatt was finally able to do so as he knocked down a freebie from stripe to get the scoring started with 4:20 left in the opening quarter. The Black Knights then saw their lead increase to 4-0 after Javon Mitchell drained a triple for Hempfield, but Lebanon’s Shaq Ortiz was there to answer with a take to the rim for the first Cedar points of the night.


The Cedars then took their first lead of the contest when Felix Kortright collected an offensive board to save a possession that ended with Camryn Shaak draining a trifecta, but Hempfield’s Ryan Moffatt was there with the answer from deep to put the Black Knights back in front 7-5. Hempfield continued to have the outside shooting touch later on in the quarter when Tyler Hilton was able to connect on the 3 ball that helped send Hempfield into the second quarter in front 10-6.


The long range Black Knight assault was still on display when the game moved into the second quarter as Ryan Moffatt continued to have the hot-hand for Hempfield by raining in another 3 ball that upped the lead to double digits at 19-9, causing Lebanon to call time.


Following the Cedar timeout, Luis Aquino-Rios tried to get his team back within shouting distance as the junior rattled off 7 straight Lebanon points that helped trim the deficit to 5 when the half concluded with Hempfield leading 21-16.


Even though Lebanon had significantly cut into the Hempfield lead heading to the break, the Black Knights were there to fire off two straight 3 point plays, both of the old and new variety. Tyler Hilton splashed a trifecta to start the half while Ryan Moffatt later collected an offensive board, finished through contact, and capped it off with a freebie at the stripe to put Hempfield back up by 8 at 27-19.


Once again, despite an early Hempfield onslaught to start the half, Lebanon came right back as Khalique Washington’s offensive board and stick back got the Cedars within 4 at 27-23 with just over 3 minutes left in the third quarter. For every Cedar rally, Hempfield was there to counter and keep the Cedars at bay as a 4-0 Black Knight charge that was capped off by a Ryan Moffatt drive, ended the third quarter scoring with Hempfield in front 31-23.


Sensing a trip to finals on the horizon, Hempfield seized the opportunity. The Black Knights grew their lead to 35-24 at the start of the fourth quarter highlighted by a Ryan Moffatt one handed slam. On the night, Moffatt far and away had high scoring honors as the junior accounted for 29 of the 53 total Hempfield points.


Down but certainly not out, Lebanon mounted one last charge that got them with 6 following a Shaq Ortiz drive to the cup that made the score 35-29, but Hempfield was not about to be on the other side of a Cedar comeback and it showed as Tyler Hilton hit a timely 3 ball to give Hempfield some much need breathing room at 40-29 with 4:30 left to go.


Down the stretch, Hempfield was ultimately able to close it out by way of the foul line as Javon Mitchell and Ryan Moffatt each went 2-2 in the closing minutes to keep the dream alive and send Hempfield into the first ever District 3 6A title game opposite of District 3 royalty in the Harrisburg Cougars.


“This team just had great grit,” Hempfield head man Danny Walck offered up after the game when describing his squad. “Give them all the credit in the world. They bought in and decided to play together. The unselfishness, the grit, all that glue together is what made us a playoff basketball team.”


Walck, a veteran coach who has been to the playoffs many times before, tried to illustrate to his troops that although it was an honor to make the postseason, there was still more work to be done. A message that was received loud and clear as the Black Knights set out on their playoff journey. “We tried to sell to the kids that this is special. You earned the right to be in this. It’s a great state, it’s a great district, it’s a great league that we represent, let’s go make the most of it.”
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New Class, Same Old Trinity. Shamrocks Hold Off Lancaster Mennonite Comeback For District Gold


Two weeks ago after Lancaster Mennonite succumbed to Lebanon in the LL semis, I wrote that Lancaster Mennonite’s bid to cure their recent semifinal demons would have to wait another day. The Blazers didn’t end having to wait all that long. The dawn of their new day would come just a week later as the Blazers upset York Catholic in the first round of the district tournament in a double overtime thriller. Their prize? A rematch with an old foe in the Trinity Shamrocks.


The ‘Rocks and Blazers are two teams that know each other all too well. Just last year, Trinity knocked off LMH in the district semis and also got the best of the Blazers this year in the regular season to the tune of 72-47. Despite being a thorn in Mennonite’s side historically, there was no better time than the present for this year’s group of Blazers to finally crack through and create their own history. This time with hardware on the line.


The Blazers were able to tie things up at 2-2 early on after a Javan Terry spin move with 6:15 left in the quarter but from that point on, it was all green and white. Thanks to mesmerizing ball movement that was one of the engineering factors behind their prolific offense, the Shamrocks ended up building an early 12-2 lead 4 minutes into the game after a Timmy Edwards bucket for the Trinity.


Javan Terry was ultimately able to put a stop to the Shamrock barrage, but by that time Trinity was already up 14-5 and the Shamrocks were able to close the first quarter in style with a Timmy Edwards dunk just before the buzzer to make the score 23-10.


Despite the early 13 point deficit, the Blazers were able to stick with it and cut the Trinity lead to single digits after Richie Rosas canned a trey for Mennonite that made it a 25-18 Shamrock advantage. Even though Mennonite was able to engineer an early second quarter rally, Trinity responded back with a 10-4 run that upped the Shamrock lead to 13.


Once again however, Mennonite refused to yield and rallied the troops once more to get back within 7 at 37-30 after Timmy Stefanosky went up and under, leading to a Trinity timeout with 2:19 left in the opening half. The ‘Rocks were ultimately to keep Mennonite at a 7 point distance as the first half clock expired with Trinity in charge 41-34.


Held scoreless in the first half of action, Trinity wasted no time and went right inside to 6’11” center Sean Good as the junior was able to score the first two buckets of the half for the Shamrocks before an Austin Gilbertson 3 ball put the Green and White up by a dozen 48-36 with 6:25 to go in the third.


Mennonite was able to cut the deficit to 10 points on two separate occasions in the third quarter, the last of which came by way of an Isaac Beers cut to the basket that showed Trinity in front 56-46, but the ‘Rocks were able to close the third frame in style with Timmy Edwards scoring 4 of his game high 33 points right in a row, before an Austin Gilbertson lay in put the capper on the quarter with the Shamrocks holding firm with the 62-47 lead.


Once again however, Mennonite was there to trim the Shamrock lead back down to 10 following a Javan Terry spin inside, but Trinity continued to stay on the attack eventually pushing their lead back up to 14 at 70-56 with 4:16 left as LMH called timeout. Then Mennonite began to make their move.


A Richie Rosas trifecta shrunk the Trinity lead down to 7 at 72-65, before Rosas was able to can another 3 ball later on which cut the Shamrock advantage down to 2 at 72-70 with just 2 minutes to go.


Trinity was then able to counter with an Austin Gilbertson spin inside, followed by a Timmy Edwards freebie from the line to extend the Trinity lead to 75-70.
After a pair of Carter Hurst free throws for Mennonite put the Blazers back within 3, the Shamrocks were sent back to line in hopes of holding off the valiant LMH comeback effort. The Shamrocks came up empty on both tries a, giving Mennonite one last shot to send the game into extra time.


The Blazers were able to get off two good looks in the waning seconds, but neither found the bottom of the well which allowed Trinity to escape with the 75-72 thriller and yet another District title to add to an already loaded resume,. This one coming in the Shamrocks’ first foray in 3A.


Depsite the setback, Lancaster Mennonite coach Geoff Groff was happy with the shots presented to them at the end of the ballgame. “As I told our guys, I don’t know if I could have drawn up anything better,” the head Blazer summed up after the game. “They had a play set up, it didn’t work, and went right to the next thing. You hope the game doesn’t come down to those types of situations, but we got some good looks.”


Although the Blazers came up short on the District stage, Lancaster Mennonite was still able to secure a PIAA State Tournament berth in the process as LMH will tangle with the Philadelphia West Catholic Burrs this Friday at Garden Spot with 8:00 set as the tip time.
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Lancaster Catholic Proves That Gold Is Twice As Nice As Crusaders Rally Late To Win District 3 4A Title


The year was 2003. The Lancaster Catholic Crusaders had just won the Lancaster Lebanon Boy’s Basketball Championship. After winning leagues, the Crusaders took their talents to the District Tournament stage and brought that hardware home as well. Those that are familiar know how this story ultimately ends. A 35-0 State Championship season. Although the comparisons may be few and far between when comparing the two squads, the 2017 Crusaders were eager to follow in the footsteps of their illustrious 2003 brethren and capture some of that same Crusader magic by going back to back winning leagues and districts.


After a white-knuckle victory over Bishop McDevitt in the semifinal round set up a date with Middletown, the Crusaders were 32 minutes away from doing just. And then some.


The Blue Raiders started off hot making nearly everything in sight as Middletown jumped out to an early 6-2 advantage before Mark Cannon drove baseline to make it a one possession ballgame at 6-4 with 4:50 to play in the first. While Middletown cooled down from the field, Catholic was frigid in their own right as the Crusaders found themselves in a 11-6 hole after the opening eight minutes as Middletown’s Luke Mrakovich rose up and called bank from halfcourt just before the buzzer sounded, giving the Blue Raiders the 5 point edge.


Lancaster Catholic was able to whittle the Middletown lead down slowly but surely as a Jon Ware drive got the Crusaders within 3 at 16-13 and a Sean Landis rebound and put back later on in the quarter got Catholic within 2 at 17-15 with just under two minutes to play in the half. Middletown was able to increase their lead to a half dozen following a successful pair of free throws by junior guard Ryan Hughes, but the Crusader deficit would be trimmed to 4 at the break after another Jon Ware drive to the cup just before the clock hit zero made it 21-17 Blue Raiders.


Middletown was then able to double up their halftime lead by knocking down two consecutive 3 balls in the early portions of the third quarter with one from Luke Mrakovich and the latter by Chris Plummer to put Middletown up 29-21 with 5:43 to go in the quarter, forcing Lancaster Catholic to burn a timeout.


With Middletown playing a 1-3-1 zone, Catholic was able to get some decent looks behind from the arc, but were still coming up empty. Thankfully the Crusaders had Jon Ware on their side. The senior guard knew exactly what his team needed on Thursday night as his consistent penetration into the seams of the Raider defense created easy scoring opportunities, all while keeping Catholic without striking distance the entire night. Never was that more evident than following the aforementioned Crusader timeout as Ware drove to the tin three straight times and came up golden on each one of them to help Catholic claw back into at 29-26 with just under 5 minutes to play in the third quarter.


The Crusaders kept chipping away at the Middletown lead and eventually got it down to 1 on two separate occasions, the last coming after a Danny Bomberger trifecta, but Middletown was ultimately able to keep the lead heading into the final stanza as a Tre Leach baseline drive put Middletown up 40-37.


It looked like Lancaster Catholic was deep inside the danger zone following a Chris Plummer 3 ball for Middletown that put the Raiders up 51-44, but the Crusaders refused to fold, showing off that championship moxie as Mark Cannon buried a gigantic 3 ball that cut into the Middletown lead at 53-49 before scoring a layup in transition to get it down to a 2 point deficit with under 5 minutes to go.


With Lancaster Catholic now playing the momentum, Middletown needed an answer to keep Catholic at bay. Fortunately, Tre Leach was Johnny on the spot to deliver with an old-school 3 point play to put Middletown back up by 5 at 56-51.


From that point on, Lancaster Catholic tore off a 9-4 scoring run to meet Middletown at 60 points apiece after a Jon Ware free throw knotted things up at 60-60 with 1:30 to play. After getting fouled in transition the next time down the floor, Ware was able to go back to the stripe where he knocked down another monster free throw, giving Catholic their first lead of the night at 61-60 with just 1:27 to go. On the night, Ware’s seemingly limitless amount of big plays helped lead to a 24 point outburst.


Undaunted, Middletown came right down the floor and countered with a Chris Plummer drive to go back in front, but Catholic had the answer for that too as Sean Landis secured a critical offensive rebound and promptly kicked it out to Mark Cannon who drained the 3 ball to put Catholic back in front 64-62. Cannon and Landis were essential in the Catholic march down the home stretch and it showed as Cannon tallied 17 Crusader points with Landis finishing as the game’s leading scorer with a 26 point night.


Yet again, Middletown did not want to let Catholic write the final chapter of this storybook comeback as a Ryan Hughes drive tied things back up at 64-64 with just 14.1 showing on the clock, still leaving plenty of time for Catholic to go home with the mic drop style win.


Following a tie up that showed Catholic with the possession arrow with now 2.1 seconds left, the Crusaders still had time for some last second heroics inbounding along the baseline. Catholic fired off a good look in the corner, but the ball bounced off the rim sending the game into an extra session.


The brief break in the action did not stop the Lancaster Catholic charge. The Crusaders were able to get out to a 6 point lead in extra time as a 3 point play by Sean Landis gave Catholic the 71-65 cushion with 3:10 left to go.


In a game that seemingly had everything, the game officially reached legendary status after a Lancaster Catholic shot attempt on a drive bounced and bounced on the back rim until it finally came to a rest, sitting atop the back rim, as the ball couldn’t decide which side it was rooting for.


Following the critical alternate possession which gave the ball back to Middletown, the Blue Raiders got themselves back within 2 following a Ryan Hughes bucket inside, but once again Mark Cannon drilled a back-breaking 3 ball that put the Crusaders up 76-69 before Sean Landis followed suit with a drive to the rack that put Lancaster Catholic up by what felt like an unsurmountable 9 points with time running out on Middletown.


To their credit while certainly showcasing their own merit, Middletown proved why they are one of the best teams District 3 has to offer as the Blue Raiders refused to go down without a fight when a Luke Mrakovich 3 ball was pure to Blue Raiders within 5 at 81-76. Unfortunately for Middletown, that would be all the closer they would get as Catholic was able to close it out via the foul line as Miles McCaskey and Sean Landis both completed 2-2 trips, sending Lancaster Catholic home with another piece of hardware to add to an already crowded trophy case as the Crusaders became the newly-minted District 3 4A champs following a sensational ballgame with a superbly-talented Middletown bunch, by the final score of 86-78.


As is the case in many championship games, several players stepped to the forefront in their team’s time of need and on Thursday night, Lancaster Catholic was no exception.


As previously mentioned, Jon Ware’s persistent attack off the dribble was instrumental in keeping Catholic in it when the outside shooting was bone-dry. Throw in repeated timely buckets from Mark Cannon and consistent all-around play from Sean Landis, and you have the elements of a District title performance. Elements that Lancaster Catholic head coach Joe Klazas has long-since ingrained into the program. “We use that term a lot ‘confidence grows.’ When one makes plays it builds confidence throughout the team and everyone stepped up and followed that lead.”
Next up for the Crusaders, a short trip up 501 to Warwick for the opening round of states against West Philadelphia.


The extension of the season is a reward for any team, but in particular for this Lancaster Catholic ball club that Coach Klazas appears to be especially fond of. “It’s been an incredible group of kids,” Klazas went on to say. “They’re so fun to be around. They’re gym rats. I really sensed something two or three weeks before the season that things were just clicking. They just continued to work hard every day and push each other.”


While the Crusaders will rightly revel in the spoils of this victory, coach Klazas outlined the plans for the next few days by saying matter of factly, “We’re gonna enjoy this the next couple of days and then get back to work.”


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Harrisburg Cruises Past Hempfield For District 3 6A Crown


In the aftermath of their semifinal victory over Lebanon, Hempfield head coach Danny Walck admitted that his team would be the underdog the next time they took the floor at Hershey’s Giant Center opposite of either Reading or Harrisburg in the title bout. Even so, it was a role that Hempfield would likely relish as the Black Knights had become District 3’s version of Cinderella charting a path right into the last game in town as the #7 seed. Literally.


With their triumph over the Cedars, Hempfield earned a spot in the last District 3 game of the year, the 6A final, on Championship Saturday in Hershey against District 3 blueblood Harrisburg. The Cougars advanced to the title game by defeating Reading in a game for the ages in the other semifinal Tuesday night at the Giant Center.


Like any good story or sitcom, fans were left wondering what the finale would look like. It became pretty apparent early on that the Cougars would be the ones to author this script.


After Hempfield’s David Martin-Robinson was able to tie things up a 2-2, Harrisburg took off and never looked back. The Cougars responded to the early deadlock by ripping off a 6-0 run that culminated in a Tony James jumper, forcing Hempfield to call a timeout and regroup, now down 8-2. The Harrisburg lead would eventually grow to 16-5 with 1:09 left in the quarter, before the Cougars put the finishing touches on a 14-3 gallop to close the opening frame up 16-5.


Cold shooting from Hempfield and a thorough cleaning of the offensive glass by Harrisburg in the early stages of the second quarter really put Hempfield behind the 8 ball. It didn’t help matters that Micah Parsons was on the other side as well. The imposing 6’4” junior forward scored two early hoops for the Cougars en route to a 22-5 bulge on the scoreboard towering above the arena floor just two minutes and change into the quarter.


Parsons continued to be the star of Harrisburg’s second quarter as he later went 2-2 on a trip to the foul line before throwing down a one-handed stuff in transition to escalate Harrisburg’s lead to 29-7. On the afternoon, Parsons finished with a 14 point effort for his Cougar team.


David Martin-Robinson, who would finish as the Hempfield leading scorer on the day with a 15 point display, later drove to the cup with under 30 seconds to go half, but by that time Harrisburg had already built a significant cushion all while holding Hempfield to single digits, as the Cougars raced to the locker room up 31-9.
Much in the same way that Micah Parsons dominated the storyline of the second quarter for Harrisburg, the third quarter was Chris Whitaker’s time to shine. After a Tyler Hilton trifecta in the corner started the third quarter scoring, the 6’3” senior Cougar guard started to take over, including a stretch of back to back possessions that ended in Whitaker jumpers as Harrisburg increased their lead to 37-16.


Bryan Karl was able to splash a triple for Hempfield later on the quarter that got the Black Knights back within 20, but Whitaker continued his third quarter exploits with smooth turnaround J’s, and bunnies around the rim en route to a game high 25 point day at the office.

 


As the fourth quarter got underway with the Cougars holding serve by way of the 48-25 lead, the Harrisburg high-wire act was on full display as another Micah Parsons flush coupled with a Damien Barber rim-rattler, got the Cougars started on the right foot down the homeward mile.


In the final stages of action, Hempfield senior Michael Cunningham was able to check into the game and deliver with bucket plus a free throw later on making the most of his minutes. Not to be outdone, junior guard Drew Groft also checked in and was able to knock down a trey from downtown which helped Hempfield get over the 40 point threshold, making the score 62-40.


Harrisburg junior guard Nyzier Brannon would be the one to put the last final touchups on Harrisburg’s first ever District 3 6A crown with a bucket late as the Cougars crossed the finish line with the 67-40 victory, capturing their first taste of District glory since 2013.


Hempfield now enters the PIAA tournament as the #2 seed representing District 3 and draws Allentown Allen in a first round matchup at nearby Warwick on Saturday night. Tip is slated for 8PM.


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This Week’s Starting Five
Jon Ware (Lancaster Catholic)
Ryan Moffatt (Hempfield)
Mark Cannon (Lancaster Catholic)
Chad Wenger (Lancaster Catholic)
Javan Terry (Lancaster Mennonite)