They waited a decade to do it, but the Cocalico Eagles finally celebrated —a little, anyway.
Thanks to their 49-43 win over Lampeter-Strasburg on Friday night in Lampeter, the Eagles clinched a share of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three boys basketball title.
It’s Cocalico’s 12th section crown overall, but first since 2011 and first under fifth-year coach Seth Sigman.
“It’s been a weird, tough season,” Sigman said. “It’s been tough on the guys, starting and stopping, having ups and downs all the way through. It’s a credit to them and their fight. They stuck with it.”
The Eagles can take the title outright with a win Monday night at Garden Spot. The Spartans were the last team to beat the Eagles (54-53 on Jan. 28), who have reeled off eight straight wins since.
However, Cocalico (6-1 section, 12-2 overall), however, could end up playing L-S again Tuesday night in a tiebreaker to determine who gets the section’s L-L tournament bid. The Pioneers (5-2, 6-2) also wrap up section play against Garden Spot (today at 3:30 in New Holland). If L-S beats the Spartans and Cocalico loses, they will play Tuesday night.
“Yes, we clinched a share, but there’s still work to be done and we’re well aware of that,” Sigman said. “We still have all the same goals that we would in a normal year. We want to win the section, we want to make districts and make a run. They’ve put us in a pretty good position to do that so far.”
Beating the Pioneers, who have won the last five section titles, for a second time this season goes a long way toward achieving those goals.
Playing for the first time in 22 days following a program shutdown due to COVID-19 protocols, L-S hung with the Eagles through the first three quarters.
Carter Nuneville and Carson Nash combined for 13 points in the first half as the Eagles grabbed a 22-20 lead at the break. Both finished with a team-high 14 points, which is slightly below Nunveille’s season average, but four points over Nash’s average.
“He’s really stepped up,” Sigman said. “He plays so much bigger than his actual size. He’s a rebounding machine and he plays so hard. He gets rebounds he has no business getting.”
Nuneville was also busy on defense, drawing the assignment of blanketing the Pioneers’ leading scorer, Ty Burton.
Burton, who averaged nearly 22 points a game coming in, finished with a game-high 19 points, but had to work hard for most of them.
“He’s a great player,” Sigman said. “We said if he’s making shots, they have to be tough shots. We can’t give him wide-open layups or uncontested threes. Carter’s a really good defender and he bothers guys when he’s guarding them.”
Leading 33-30 after three quarters, the Eagles used a 7-2 run to open up a 40-32 lead with 3:24 to play. The lead was 43-33 with 1:52 before the Pioneers put a scare into the Eagles, cutting their lead to 45-41 with 38 seconds left.
Cocalico made just enough free throws (10-16) in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“Our kids play a lot of minutes and they just battle,” Sigman said. “I’m just really proud of them.”