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Big win on a special night for Blue Raiders; seniors honored, along with 1968 state championship team

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 2/7/18

Not only was it a night when the senior players were honored in appreciation of their contributions to the boys basketball program, it was also an evening of remembrance.

Honored prior to the …

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Big win on a special night for Blue Raiders; seniors honored, along with 1968 state championship team

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Not only was it a night when the senior players were honored in appreciation of their contributions to the boys basketball program, it was also an evening of remembrance.

Honored prior to the start of Friday’s Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division game against visiting West Perry, the nine Blue Raider basketball seniors and their teammates stayed on the court at halftime to applaud members of Middletown’s 1968 Class B state championship team on the 50th anniversary of the state title.

As a fitting cap to the evening, the Blue Raiders defeated the Mustangs 57-41 for their 13th victory of the season and solidified their top 5 standing in the District III-AAAA power ratings that will help them into the playoffs.

Although the Raiders had one more home game remaining on the schedule, Friday’s contest was chosen for Senior Night to coincide with the championship anniversary. The Middletown gym was nearly full of appreciative fans of both the present and past teams, making the night even more special.

The championship team was represented by players Dave Twardzik, Charlie Bowen, Brett Whittle, Barry Ulsh, Charles “Chip” Etter, Ed Chubb, Dick Barnoski, family representatives of the late Ed Tennis, family of Owen Hannah, who could not attend, student trainers Sam Turns and Jerry Butler, and coach Casper Voithofer.

John Wilsbach from radio station WMSS read a brief history of the team and then introduced each of them individually.

Voithofer then spoke for a few minutes about the season and the championship.

Middletown 57, West Perry 41

Traditionally, Middletown coach Chris Sattele starts five seniors on Senior Night.

But, with nine of them on this year’s team, Sattele sent a different lineup onto the court at the beginning of the Blue Raiders’ game with the visiting Mustangs.

Jerrod Myers, Antonio Gamble, David Alcock and Mitch Lee joined regular Brady Fox at the start as Sattele kept that tradition alive.

At the halfway point of the opening period, the regular starting five got into the action. During the opening minutes, the visitors had gone ahead 7-0 before Tre’ Leach scored off a Ryan Hughes assist to break the scoreless start.

With a goal by Hughes and five points by Leach, the Raiders cut West Perry’s lead to 12-9 heading into the second stanza. From that point, it became Middletown’s game.

By scoring the first 7 points of the quarter on goals by Hughes and Chris Plummer, the Blue Raiders climbed to a 16-12 lead and never trailed the rest of the way.

The Middletown defense caused 10 turnovers in the time span and the Raiders held a five point lead, 22-17, at the halftime break.

Following the halftime festivities, the Middletown five picked up where they had left off to start the second half. Plummer’s trey and a pair of putbacks by Hughes and Fox following a goal by West Perry’s Caden Sutch pushed the lead to 29-19. Sutch scored again following the two Middletown goals but Plummer hit his second triple to increase the Raiders’ lead to 32-21.

While neither team shot well after that the Raiders still held a 10-point advantage, 40-30, to start the final frame.

A trey by Kyle Truesdale started the Raiders off on a 17-point scoring output for the game’s final 8 minutes. Gamble scored twice in the period, including a shot from just inside the arc in the left corner with 28 seconds left, and Lee added a basket off a pass from Tyler Petroski with 3:02 left. The Middletown defense limited the Mustangs to 11 points in the quarter and locked up the victory at 57-41.

Hughes ended with a team-high 20 points while Plummer and Leach teamed for 25 in the win.

Sutch scored a game-high 21 in the loss.

Trinity 70, Middletown 58

The Blue Raiders traveled to Trinity on Tuesday night, Jan. 30, with the hopes of breaking a long-standing string of defeats on the Shamrocks’ home court.

The last time a Middletown boys team won at Trinity happened all the way back on Feb. 11, 2000.

Following the Raiders’ 65-64 overtime win over the Shamrocks on Jan. 5, the Raiders were hoping to win again. But the Raiders came up short, despite 33 points from Hughes.

There are reasons why the Blue Raiders have not been successful at Trinity, and some of them are not good ones. Besides the fact that the Shamrocks are perennially one of the top teams in the Midstate, the Raiders simply cannot seem to get the right breaks when dealing with the Rocks on their home court. And that fact came into play again last week. Unfavorable calls, non-calls and, yes, the appearances of favoritism always come into play, much to the frustration of Middletown coaches, players and fans.

But this matchup started off really well for the Blue Raiders and gave the Middletown side a lift despite the odds.

Plummer’s putback at 7:22 of the opening period and his trey at 2:41 jump-started the Raiders to a surprising 13-2 lead before the home team knew what had happened. In the last 2:20 of the first quarter, however, the home team had outscored the Raiders 7-3 to trim the deficit to 16-9 to start the second.

And, partway into the second, the tide started to turn. After Hughes went back-to-back to give the Blue Raiders a 22-13 lead, the Shamrocks pulled off an 11-0 run, keyed by a string of Middletown misses, to go ahead 24-22. And that’s when some of the haunting factors started to come into play.

In the final two minutes of the first half, the Raiders were held to just two points, a goal by Hughes that tied the score at 24. A foul call against the Raiders and a following technical foul against the Middletown bench in protest allowed Trinity’s Jack Bucher to close out the half with four straight free throws and a 32-24 lead for the hosts at the halftime break. Although the Trinity coaches did enough protesting themselves during the first half, no penalties were issued.

The determined Blue Raiders got back into the game in the third quarter after a goal by Patrick Walker at 6:57. Hughes, Petroski and Leach teamed for a 9-0 run that pulled Middletown to within 34-33 with 3:45 left in the third. Tresjon Ruiz broke the string with a triple and added a second one after Hughes hit two foul shots to cut the Trinity lead to 37-35. The third period ended with the Shamrocks holding onto a 46-40 lead.

The Raiders stayed within 6 points, 52-46, with 4:39 left in the game, and cut the gap to five, 54-49, on a three-point play by Truesdale with 3:37 left.

With 2:15 left, the Raiders were still in it, down by six. But that’s when everything turned against them. Plummer was whistled for his fourth foul on the inbounds pass and then immediately drew a technical when he reacted to the call. The last two minutes were just nasty as the Raiders were called for fouls on every Trinity possession. The Shamrocks made 10 of 14 free throws down the stretch to lock up the win and deny the Raiders their much-desired victory