Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
LANCASTER-LEBANON LEAGUE BOYS' BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS
OPENING BELL Titanic total takes Tornado to win BY JASON FULGINITI, Sports Writer
They're extremely talented, and have been showered with a ton of verbal praise and media attention over the last few months.
But at the end of the day, McCaskey's boys' basketball players are still high school kids. And high school kids, by nature, can tend to get ahead of themselves.
Not this bunch.
"They know it's just hype," Red Tornado coach Steve Powell said, explaining his team's ability to stay grounded despite all the attention. "They know you've just got to play each game like it's your last. As I've said before, 'Everybody is going to give you their best shot, so you've got to give them your best shot.' "
Call Monday night a case in point.
Getting a game-high 22 points from senior forward Shaki Staten, who led five Tornado players in double figures, Section One champion McCaskey cruised to a 31-13 lead after one quarter and eventually rolled to a 105-68 drubbing of Section Four runner-up Lancaster Mennonite in the quarterfinals of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.
The win puts the Red Tornado (23-2) in Wednesday's semifinals opposite Section Three champ Donegal (23-0), which advanced with a 60-47 victory over Lebanon on Monday night.
Wednesday's game is set for 7 p.m. at Conestoga Valley.
"Coach tells us you can lose any night," said senior guard Aaron Swinton, who finished with 14 points. "Our biggest enemy is ourselves. We're in the mindset that the only way we're going to lose is if we beat ourselves."
That means staying in the present, which is something McCaskey obviously did against Mennonite (15-8), which found itself trailing 52-28 at halftime.
Keyon Cowan (21 points), Devonne Pinkard (18) and Luis Fuentes (11) also scored in double figures for the Tornado, which got a game-high 11 rebounds from Staten.
"They have a presence about themselves and they play with a lot of confidence," said Blazers coach Geoff Groff, whose team was led by Matt Hess' 19 points. "They did what they needed to do and they did it in impressive fashion."
Equally impressive is that McCaskey's 105 points Monday night is an L-L playoff record, besting the 100 scored by Columbia in a quarterfinal victory over Garden Spot in 2001.
More important for the Tornado, however, is that with its 21st consecutive victory, it has taken the first step toward what would be a second straight L-L crown and a league-record 13th overall.
Meanwhile, the closest Mennonite got after halftime was 22 points (52-30) when Jon Snader started the third quarter with a jumper from the left corner.
But by the end of the third, McCaskey had jacked the lead to 33 points (81-48) before pushing that advantage to 40 (95-55) on a pair of Alex Montanez free throws with 4:15 left in the contest.
"I've been doing this for four years," Swinton said. "And I've never been on a team this talented from top to bottom."
Or this grounded, perhaps.