Hershey’s Giant Center will feature two Lancaster-Lebanon League boys basketball teams going for District Three gold Wednesday.
First up will be new L-L member Lancaster Country in a District 3-1A title tilt at 4:30 pm. Lancaster Catholic will play in the District 3-4A championship game later on at 8pm. Here’s a look at both of their matchups...
No. 1 Halifax (21-3) vs. No. 3 Lancaster Country Day (18-4), 4:30pm:
The Cougars last year made the program’s first-ever trip to the District 3-1A championship tilt, and appeared on the verge of capturing the crown with a 19-point third-quarter lead. Then LCD turned the ball over 13 times and shot 33 percent the rest of the way, and York Country Day completed a 61-54 come-from-behind victory. It’s a sour taste that some Cougars haven’t forgotten, including 5-11 senior point guard Andrew Williams.
“That hurt a lot,” Williams had said back in December. “We came into halftime lazy and we came out and just turned the ball over. It hurt a lot. The morale in the locker room was awful. But I feel like that’s definitely helped us play with a chip on our shoulder this season.”
New head coach Jon Shultz has done a good job steering the Cougars back here to have a shot at completing the unfinished business. He’s done so with a veteran group led by Williams, whose 1,159 career points is fifth-most in program history. Alongside Williams (15.4 points per game) is 6-2 sophomore guard/forward Lance Lennon (10 ppg), 6-2 senior forward Bradley Fry (8.8 ppg), 6-4 senior guard/forward Luke Walling (8.1 ppg), 5-11 senior guard Will Lisk (5.4 ppg) and 6-1 senior forward Konrad Lojewski (1.4 ppg). By the way, Walling has collected 842 career points.
The Cougars get a somewhat familiar opponent in Halifax. These two programs were once Tri-Valley League rivals before LCD joined the L-L League this season.
Halifax won the District 3-2A each of the last two years. And this season it won the Tri-Valley League and is now in a district title game for the third year in a row. The Wildcats led the Tri-Valley this season in assists and steals with a balanced group formed by 6-3 junior forward Nathan Blasick (19.7 ppg, 155 rebounds, 53 assists, 44 steals, 9 blocks), 6-2 senior center Clayton Paul (13.1 ppg, 101 rebounds, 13 blocks), 5-7 senior guard Dylan Wells (11.1 ppg, 23 3-pointers, 56 steals), 6-1 senior forward London Johnson (86 assists, 41 steals), 5-8 senior guard Caden Minnich (52 steals) and 5-7 senior guard Tyler Berzowski (51 assists, 31 steals). Halifax is averaging 67 points a game.
Both the Wildcats and the Cougars are holding opponents to 42 points a game.
Added Halifax coach Will Sagle, “We have an athletic group. We like to get up and down the court. ...We press the whole game and we have a good group of kids that can combine speed, strength, and height to help reach our goal. We’re happy to be back in the finals. We try to stay humble for it's not something everyone gets to do and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for us.”
No. 5 Lancaster Catholic (16-9) vs. No. 2 Bishop McDevitt (21-3), 8pm:
This year’s run to the district title for Lancaster Catholic is commendable considering all the Crusaders have had to overcome to get here. First off, their schedule hasn’t been an easy one.
“Of the nine losses that we have, all but one (team) are still alive (in the postseason) right now,” veteran Lancaster Catholic coach Joe Klazas said after Monday’s semifinal win. “Our schedule is probably as tough as I remember it ever being.”
On top of that, the injury bug has ravaged the Crusaders throughout the season. Leading scorer Johnny Besecker, point guard Andy Santiago, shooting guard Densel Kabasele and others have missed time to injury or illness. Kabasele had missed 10-straight games before his comeback Monday night, which was ended when he went down in the final minute with a serious right leg injury. Santiago has missed the last four games and isn’t expected to play Wednesday.
“With the injuries we’ve had it’s given opportunities to other kids,” Klazas said. “We say we’re 13 as one. Guys will have to step in.”
One of those guys is 6-0 senior guard Justin Baker, a role player who was averaging 2.6 points a game before his career-high 12 points in Monday’s win. By the way, Lancaster Catholic starts a sophomore at point guard in Devin Atkinson. Though, it should be noted that strong supporting cast surrounds a talented trio in Besecker (11.7 ppg, 43 3-pointers), 6-5 senior guard/forward Dwayne Caine (11.5 ppg) and 6-6 junior forward David Kamwanga (11.1 ppg).
Add it all together and the Crusaders have managed to get back to the district title game for the second time in three years and fifth time overall, now in search of the program’s fourth district championship (they previously won it in 2003, 2011 and 2017, with the last two coming under Klazas).
Back in 2015, Bishop McDevitt reached a district championship game for the first time since 1989. The program is now making its fourth trip in five years to the district title tilt. So it’s been quite a run of recent success for McDevitt, which last won district gold in 2016. These Crusaders are coached by veteran skipper Mike Gaffey, who once paced the sidelines for five seasons at L-L League program Annville-Cleona in the early 2000s.
McDevitt is paced by 6-3 junior forward Jake Kelly (15.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.9 apg), 5-10 senior guard Tarajae Davis (12.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg), 6-2 sophomore forward Kenyon Elliott (7.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.1 apg), 6-0 senior guard Alin Jones (6.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg), and 6-3 junior forward Kris Kolk (5.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg).