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A win at West Perry: Blue Raider boys break losing streak as season winds down

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 2/6/19

It was a long time coming, but the Middletown boys basketball team finally got to celebrate.

The Blue Raiders registered a well-earned 55-51 victory at West Perry on Saturday, breaking a winless …

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A win at West Perry: Blue Raider boys break losing streak as season winds down

Posted

It was a long time coming, but the Middletown boys basketball team finally got to celebrate.

The Blue Raiders registered a well-earned 55-51 victory at West Perry on Saturday, breaking a winless streak that started all the way back on Dec. 18 and moving them to 2-15 on the season. And, judging by the reaction from the team and coaches as the final seconds ticked away, the win was huge for the young Blue Raiders.

Showing bits and pieces of improvement during the trying season, the Raiders were long overdue for a win. Taking on West Perry, owners of a 10-8 record that included a 47-33 win over the Raiders in the season’s first half, was expected to be a tough assignment. But the Middletown team played a fairly solid game despite some glitches during the course of the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division contest.

The week was trying, too, because of weather-related school closings that forced Tuesday’s game to be postponed until Saturday. The Raiders’ non-league game with Pequea Valley was rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 to wrap up the season.

The Blue Raiders were scheduled to face Milton Hershey, Annville-Cleona and Lower Dauphin this week.   

Historically, Middletown basketball teams do not do well at West Perry. That was a concern for those in the know on the trip to Elliotsburg. Those concerns were solidified somewhat when the junior varsity team struggled in a 31-26 loss in the first game. Also added to the mix was the fact that the Mustangs chose this game to recognize their senior players.

However, the varsity team got off to a good start and built seemingly comfortable leads. The Mustangs rallied late in the game and nearly pulled off a comeback, taking the game down to the final minutes. 

Two foul shots by Tyler Petroski and a driving layup by Jules Nester gave the Blue Raiders a 4-0 lead in the first minute of play. After breaking a 4-4 tie on a putback by Tajae Broadie off a Petroski assist at the 5:01 mark, the Raiders never trailed in the game. A late goal by Jarrod Pugh — filling in for Broadie, who drew his second foul — gave the Raiders a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Back-to-back treys by Tony Powell and Petroski pushed the lead to 21-11 a minute and a half into the second stanza before Jordan Erbacher and Caden Sutch ran off 5 points to cut the lead to 21-16. But the Raiders closed out the first half with an 8-2 run and owned a 29-18 upper hand at the break.

The Mustangs cut the deficit to 29-23 in the first minute of the third period as the Raiders went scoreless until Nester’s triple broke the ice at 6:01. Nester also scored on a drive off a T.J. Daniels’ steal to push the Raiders ahead 34-23.

A 6-point string from Pugh, Nester and Petroski increased the Middletown advantage to 42-26 with 2:47 left in the third. But the West Perry defense pitched a near shutout the rest of the way, limiting the Raiders to a pair of free throws by Daniels with 6 seconds left, and the Mustangs closed to within six points, 44-38, to start the fourth.

With the tension mounting and the Mustangs doing their best to rally, the mettle of the Middletown team was severely tested throughout the final frame. The Blue Raiders could have locked the game up at the foul line, but made just 7 of 16 free throws in the quarter, and that allowed the Mustangs to stay in it.

However, the host team made just 5 of 17 shots from the floor, the last one coming on a three-ball by Ben Smith with 20 seconds left. Early in the segment, Daniels drove the lane and added a foul shot for a three-point play that gave the Raiders an important 48-40 cushion. Nester pushed in a layup for a 53-45 lead with 59 seconds left, enough to offset a pair of treys by Smith in the final minute.

Nester finished the game with 21 points, matching West Perry’s Sutch for high scoring honors. Petroski registered 13 points while Smith had 16.