Lessons from a hoops-heavy week
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
The following are excerpts from an online diary from last week's District Three basketball semifinal and final games at Hershey's Giant Center.
The entire diary can be viewed on the blog Billy Paultz Revisited at LancasterOnline.com.
Boys' AAA semifinal, Donegal-Berks Catholic: This was very similar to the Indians' L-L semi showdown with McCaskey, in that Donegal ran the heck out of its stuff early and got layups.
"They were running their sets perfectly,'' said Snip Esterly, BC's feisty coach. "We were flabbergasted.''
It was 12-4 when, critically, Donegal guard Jason Deitrich picked up his second foul and sat down.
It was 16-4 when Esterly called time and, he said later, made no adjustments other than to yell at his troops to get with it.
Donegal was never the same. It scored zero field goals the rest of the half, a stretch of over 10 minutes of game time. It settled for the first available three-pointer way too often, and made just 1-of-16 from behind the arc.
The Indians defended terrifically, especially on Berks Catholic bigs Nana Foulland (who's 6-9) and Connor Jack (6-6). They took care of the ball. Surprisingly, they pounded Berks on the offensive glass.
It was a one-point game with 29 seconds left, and the Tribe had a decent look at the three at the buzzer.
But they shot 15-55 from the field, 7-13 from the line. That's the story.
It's the kind of thing that used to happen often in the old Hersheypark Arena, to high school players used to shooting in the smaller framework of a gym.
Esterly admitted that, "shooting all those threes is different on a big floor like this.''
Donegal coach Ryan Butt wasn't buying it.
"I think it's more about the pressure, the quality of teams you're going against and the stage you're on.''
In other news:
n Pat Huggins of the Lebanon Daily News tweeted last night: "Fun times in Lebanon County hoops world right now. Hope everyone enjoys it to the fullest."
He has a point. Palmyra's boys' and girls' teams are in the AAA district final, and the girls are undefeated. Lebanon Catholic will play for gold medals in boys' A.
And the Lebanon Valley College women will host first- and second-round games in the D-3 NCAAs.
All this in 2013, the bicentennial of Lebanon, official hometown of BPR.
n From the "It's Chester, and then everybody else,'' dept.: The Clippers won their round-of-15 and quarterfinal games in the District One AAAA tournament by a combined 90 points. Again, that's: Ninety.
Boys' AAAA semifinal, York-McCaskey: Just a couple minutes in, a loose-ball scramble devolves into some pushing and woofing and results in three technical fouls, two of them against McCaskey.
The Mid-Penn Conference and its refs have long had a reputation for tough, physical, big-boy hoops. That's always been overrated, but it's being murdered and its corpse mutilated tonight.
By the middle of the second quarter, York has a double-figure lead, the entire McCaskey starting five is in foul trouble, and the game is an aesthetic and qualitative nightmare.
Late in the second quarter, McCaskey by necessity has on the floor a previously-unthinkable, all-reserve lineup of Luis Fuentes, Kyvon Myers, Kyaire Bynum, Jalen Washington and Derrick Dixon.
And, just as unthinkably, given the stage and opponent and experience level of those kids, they make a scrappy run and keep their team afloat.
Bynum, Dixon and Washington hit threes, and McCaskey gets as close as 38-31. But then (theme alert), they get caught chasing the ball around and give up a breakaway dunk, and its 40-31 at the half.
The regulars are back after the break, and McCaskey is much better offensively, scoring 45 points and rallying, largely behind gutty efforts by guards Aaron Swinton and Diante Cherry.
Incredibly, after a night that has gone badly beyond reason or even imagination, they pull within three three times in the fourth quarter. But the foul trouble, and the endless defensive lapses that cause it, never go away.
For the second straight year, McCaskey routs York in December, and York beats McCaskey when it counts. The memory of this one will cause an ache in the Tornado gut for a long time.
"We have the best team,'' McCaskey coach Steve Powell said afterward, in a tone that suggested this was self-evident.
In tonight's game or in District Three?
"On the floor tonight and in District Three.''
Earlier, York coach Troy Sowers had called McCaskey, "One of the best high school teams I've ever seen.''
McCaskey's Keyon Cowan suggests that his team's readiness wasn't quite what it should have been, that some of his teammates were late for a shootaround/walkthrough earlier today.
"You get what you deserve,'' he said.
But Cowan also said he hated the officiating.
n This felt like a pretty good year for the L-L in boys' hoops, and we headed into the postseason with a more-than-reasonable chance of the league having three district finalists, plus another one or two on the girls' side.
But now McCaskey in AAAA and Donegal in AAA have lost winnable semifinals. Columbia will be a big underdog tonight in its AA semi with Trinity. The Lancaster Catholic girls, previously unbeaten, didn't even make it to the Giant Center.
We're talking mostly about senior-dominated teams. This might be the L-L's best chance in a while.
Lebanon Catholic will get its shot at Greenwood for the A marbles Friday, but it feels like a great opportunity has already been missed, and it's only Tuesday.
Girls AAA semifinals, Palmyra-Gettysburg; Boys' AA semis, Columbia-Trinity:
Palmyra is undefeated. Hate to say it, but you'd never guess that from what we're watching.
Cougars are absurdly reliant on three-ball, struggling mightily with what appears to be a garden-variety Gettysburg zone, and leading only 23-22 late in the third quarter.
Palmyra wins, 44-29. It was a bit closer than that, but Cougars much more polished down the stretch.
Coach Ron Berman says afterward he spends more than half his practice time on defense, because so many of his best kids have been multi-sport athletes who aren't going to spend enough time on skill development.
"If the offense comes, it comes in the summer,'' Berman said.
To shoot fifteen percent from the field and win, as the Cougars did tonight, presumably, one must be D-ing up some people.
The Susquehannock and Gettysburg student sections join forces and everyone benefits.
They sang "God Bless America,'' while one kid, in what appeared to be a spandex body suit, did an elaborate, arm-waving interpretive dance, as if to aid the hearing impaired.
Not afraid to say I wept uncontrollably.
n Trinity and Columbia are playing for the right to face Delone, which beat Camp Hill in its semi tonight, in Friday's AA final.
The win was the 700th for Jim Dooley, Delone's colorful, and very good, coach.
It's an even bigger mismatch than expected. Trinity has two 6-4 junior bigs, Brandon Kuntz and Josh Trump, who move well and are very active on both ends, and for whom Columbia has nothing resembling an antidote.
The Shamrocks seem better than 18-6. They also have solid guards, a shot creator in senior guard Brad Wesner, and a couple guys comfy at the arc.
Trinity coach Larry Kostelac has been as successful as a high school coach can be for what seems like forever, and has 102 fewer wins than Jim Dooley.
Class A girls' final, Steel-High-Halifax. Girls, AA final, Delone-York Catholic; Boys' AAA final, Berks Catholic-Palmyra:
Everyone expected a blowout in A girls, but nothing like this. We're in the last minute of the first quarter, and it's 29-2.
Steel-High scoring machine Malia Tate-DeFreitas has 3,248 career points at this moment.
According to pahoops.org, the top three scorers in Pennsylvania girls' ball history are Maria Fantana of Mt. Carmel (1981-85, 3,823 points), Gina Naccarato of Monessen (1992-96, 3,364) and Kelly Mazzante of Montoursville (1996-2000, 3,270), who had a brilliant college career at Penn State.
Tate-DeFreitas could pass everybody but Fantana. She may pass Mazzante before I finish this sentence.
Speaking of which, it's 72-25, with less than five minutes left and a running clock due to the mercy rule, and Tate-DeFreitas, and the other four starters, are still in the game, and they're still trapping, and still sending T-D out on the break to cherry-pick.
It's a disgrace and an embarrassment.
OK, now coach Jeff Chisholm pulls his starters, with 3:39 left. I nominate him for the Lady Byng Trophy.
n Delone and York Catholic seemingly play at this stage every year, and YC always wins. It feels fatalistic, a little like the Yankees-Red Sox pre-2004.
Delone's girls' teams are called the Squirettes, which prompts a rant about the dumbness of insisting that nicknames are gender-specific.
I mean ... Lady Steamrollers? Why? Why do we take nicknames literally in this, and only this, way? Nobody thinks a team called, for example, the Panthers, are in any way Panther-like.
It's bad language, logically ridiculous and mildly sexist. You'd think that would be more than enough for it to have washed out by now.
Oh by the way, York Catholic did it again, 56-38. That makes eight straight district titles.
n Berks Catholic-Palmyra is a defensive clinic by the Saints (who, this just in, aren't really Saints).
They're taking away the three-point arc, leaving Palmyra with not much save for all-around good stuff from senior Logan Stowall, a 6-3 ends on with 45 points in the semis and finals.
Stowall would fit nicely at, for example, Elizabethtown College.
BC's Cooper Kutz droves for an old-school three-point play, punctuated by a leg-kick and fist-pump Esterly, who seems more apoplectic the greater his club's lead grows.
The final is 59-42. It's Esterly's 11th district title, including his time at Reading Central Catholic. He's been to four state finals with one state championship.
"It never gets old,'' he said. "What can I say? I'm an emotional guy.''
Class A boys' final, Lebanon Catholic-Greenwood; Boys' AA final, Delone-Trinity:
Catholic is going for its fourth district title since 2000. It reached the state semis in 2005 and quarters in '06. Greenwood, the defending A champ, has won four district crowns since 1996 and reached one state final.
The game delivers. The Beavers seem a bit tight on the big stage early, and are too protective of a lead late.
In between, though, they're very good, an athletic club getting big games from guards Timmy Orr (20 points) and Anthony Thomas (13) and overcoming foul trouble and an off night by one of their top guns, Anthony Pletz.
They lead by as many as 11, early in the fourth quarter, as Greenwood fans take the high road. "We're getting big-city-ed!'' somebody hollers.
Orr is at the line, the game tied, with 3.5 ticks left. He said later he blocked everything out, pretended he was at practice, and drilled the first.
He barely missed the second but then, with a foul to give, slid over and fouled the rebounder. Except the ref didn't call it, and it slowed the Greenwood kid down enough that the 'Cats didn't even get a heave off before the buzzer.
52-51. Orr, being recruited by everyone from mid-majors to Division Threes, is 6-2, strong, and does everything pretty well.
Thomas and Pletz are back next year, so Catholic could be, too.
n The AA game is at least as good. It thunders to the wire, and now the Squires are holding for the last shot in a tie game.
Guard Brett Smith, finally a senior after what seems like decades, misses a jumper, but teammate Andrew Austin grabs the rebound, and sticks it back in at the buzzer.
In an upset, it says here, it's Delone, 58-56.
Critically, the Squires outrebound bigger Trinity, 32-23.
After coaching for decades with no district titles, Dooley has now won two in a row.
And the year's most hoop-dense week is over.
What, if anything, have we learned?
n District Three has become much more media-friendly, from the website on down. A former sportswriter, Rid Frisco, being involved in running things probably has a lot to do with that.
n Best game (not counting Saturday's, which you can read about elsewhere in this sports section): The Delone-Trinity AA boys' final.
n The annual survey on concession-stand prices: One Italian sausage sandwich, one candy bar, one drink. Same as last year.
n This battle in the endless war between public and private schools ended in a 4-4 tie, public titles for Harrisburg, Wilson, Palmyra and Steel-High, and private titles for Berks, Delone, Lebanon and York Catholic.
As always, draw your own conclusions.n