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Raiders ready for tourney after beating LD, Boiling Springs; they will play Bubblers again Feb. 22

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 2/14/18

Faced with the task of competing against two very good teams to close out the regular season schedule last week, the Middletown boys basketball team was victorious in both games to stand at 15-6 on …

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Raiders ready for tourney after beating LD, Boiling Springs; they will play Bubblers again Feb. 22


Faced with the task of competing against two very good teams to close out the regular season schedule last week, the Middletown boys basketball team was victorious in both games to stand at 15-6 on the season.

First up on Feb. 6 was Boiling Springs (12-9), a team that sat close behind the Blue Raiders in the District III power rankings. The Blue Raiders turned in a solid all-around effort at home and defeated the visiting Bubblers 81-68. While the final margin of victory was substantial, it could have been much bigger.

Those two teams will meet again very soon. They will play at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, in the quarterfinals of the District III Class AAAA boys tournament. Middletown, as the No. 3 seed, and Boiling Springs, at No. 6, both received byes.

The winner of that game will play the winner of Berks Catholic (21-2, which received a bye into the quarterfinals) and Northern Lebanon/ELCO. Northern Lebanon is 15-7, and ELCO is 12-10. Those teams play at Northern Lebanon High School at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. The winner plays at Berks Catholic at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22.

On Thursday, the Raiders made the short trip to Hummelstown to take on the Lower Dauphin Falcons in a game that turned out to be one of most entertaining matchups of the season. Amid the hoopla of Lower Dauphin’s Senior Night festivities, the Raiders stole the show in an 86-81 shootout in front of packed house, live radio and television coverage.

The Blue Raiders will now have a two-week layoff before starting playoff competition. While the last three weeks of the season have been grueling, Middletown coach Chris Sattele has welcomed the break, but has scheduled a couple scrimmages in between to keep his team playoff ready.

Middletown 81, Boiling Springs 68

The Bubblers came into the game Tuesday with a 12-8 record and ranked fifth in the district power standings.

The Raiders got off to a good start, jumping to an 8-2 lead in the first minute and a half. Kyle Truesdale got things started by going back-to-back, Ryan Hughes followed a Bubbler miss with a goal and Brady Fox dropped in a pair of foul shots after the Bubblers’ Grayson Hacker had scored at 6:42. The Raiders padded their lead, closing out the first quarter with a 22-13 advantage while the Bubblers struggled through 3 of 11 shooting from the floor and committing 9 turnovers.

Fox made the first of two free throws to start the second stanza, and a putback by Chris Plummer off the miss pushed the home team to a 25-13 lead. But the Bubblers ran off 8 straight points to cut the lead to 25-21 with 5:35 left in the first half.

That momentum was short-lived, however, when Plummer, Truesdale, David Alcock and Hughes joined forces in a 12-0 Middletown sprint that gave the Raiders a 37-21 lead with 1:46 to play. Three Bubblers’ turnovers and a pair of misses keyed the run. Big rebounds by Plummer and Alcock helped as well.

Boiling Springs picked up 5 points in the late going on goals by Mike Wagner and Zack Vonstein, but Plummer scored twice and Hughes added a jumper with 3 seconds left to give the home team a comfortable 43-26 lead at the break.

Tre’ Leach started off the second half with a pair of baskets and a 13-7 scoring advantage led to a commanding 56-33 lead for the Raiders before the midway point of the third quarter. Hughes capped the run with a breakaway dunk off a steal. Later in the period, with Middletown’s second team on the court, the Bubblers made a run of 9 points to close the gap but the Blue Raiders still led 66-44 entering the final frame.

After his team had blitzed their guests with a 9-5 scoring rush and a 75-49 lead with 5:20 to play, Sattele again went to his bench and the subs finished out the crossover contest in the easy win.

Late points by Tyler Petroski, Tymir Jackson and Jerrod Myers proved more than enough to lock up the victory. Plummer finished with a game-high 21 points in the Middletown victory.

Middletown 86, Lower Dauphin 81

The atmosphere inside Lower Dauphin’s packed gym was absolutely electric Thursday as the two longtime rivals met for the first time since Jan. 22, 2010. In that game at Lower Dauphin, Middletown’s Aaron Lupia swished a half-court bomb at the buzzer in a thrilling 52-51 win for the Blue Raiders. Lupia is now one of the assistant coaches for the Middletown team.

With the excitement of pregame Senior Night festivities, along with a boisterous student cheering section behind them, the Falcons wanted to make their final home game against their old rivals a memorable one. And it was just that.

However, it was the Blue Raiders who stole the show with the 86-81 victory as the gym nearly rocked with the offsetting cheering from both sides.

Leach scored a game-high 30 points, Ryan Hughes nearly matched him with 28 and Chris Plummer added 20 to lead the Middletown offensive charge.

Lower Dauphin did have two regular starters out with the flu, but Casey Caruso, Josh Saufley and Jackson Becher teamed for 56 points to give the host team a great chance for a win.

But the Middletown starting five, along with key substitutions by Sattele in the game, put together one of their best efforts of the season and held off their hosts in a game that really went down to the final moments. While the Falcons had a slight numbers advantage in the stands, a sizable following of Middletown fans clearly made their presence known throughout the hotly contested clash, causing a circus-like atmosphere in the gym.

Leach started off the game with a pair of foul shots following a Falcon turnover and Truesdale drove inside for a bucket off a Falcon miss to give the Blue Raiders the early 4-0 lead. Saufley’s putback at 6:43 broke the ice for the hosts but the Raiders took advantage of a couple more missed opportunities by the Falcons getting back-to-back treys from Leach and Plummer and a putback by Hughes that pushed the Middletown lead to 12-2.

But Caruso found his long range shot and hit a trio of triples in the last 5 minutes of the opening quarter to spark a Falcon rally. His third trey and a basket by teammate Kyle Korczinski with 31 ticks left pulled the Falcons to within 20-17 to start the second.

Becher made a three-point play to start the second as the hosts tied to the score at 20. Following a tie-breaker by Leach, Caruso knotted the score at 22 about 30 seconds later. Leach scored the game’s next four points and then went back-to-back with Plummer after Caruso hit two foul shots.

With the Raiders leading by four, 30-26, Myers drained a big three at 4:05 to make it a 7-point game. By the end of the first half the Blue Raiders carried a 20-17 scoring edge and a 40-34 lead into the much-needed intermission for both sides.

The second half turned into a battle of wills for both teams. By outscoring the Falcons 18-17 in the third quarter, the Raiders were able to stay slightly ahead, hanging onto a 58-51 lead to start the final 8-minute period.

Hughes registered 12 of his points in the third while the Falcons used balanced scoring to keep pace. Seven Lower Dauphin players chipped in points in the segment.

Leach, Truesdale and Plummer popped in points for the Raiders in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter while Brian Swist, Saufley and Caruso collected scores for the Falcons to keep the game close. Ryan Becher scored on a putback at 4:52 and then converted a steal into another bucket that cut the Middletown lead to 67-65 with 4:32 remaining and effectively raised the intensity to a higher level.

But Hughes broke the mini-string with a drive to the hoop and Plummer dropped in a pair of free throws following his steal to give the Raiders a 6-point cushion, 71-65, with 4:07 on the clock. The Raiders held together despite the increased pressure from the Falcons and were able to answer any points the Lower Dauphin offense put up.

With 51 seconds left, Saufley scored off a rebound to keep the score within six points. But Plummer changed that with his sky-walking slam just a few seconds later for an 82-74 lead that nearly ended it right there.

On the play, Hughes escaped double-team pressure and made a long outlet pass to Plummer on the left wing. From there Plummer took off and flew to the basket, making the left-handed dunk over two defenders.

The Falcons did not quit, however, and back-to-back buckets by Saufley and Jackson Becher made it a four-point game with 18 ticks left. But Leach was Mr. Ice Man at the foul line and calmly drained 4-of-4 in a 7-second span to lock down the Middletown victory.

Saufley’s trey with 2 seconds left were not enough to overcome the Blue Raiders’ lead.