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Blue Raiders upset Spartans; Hughes scores 1,500th point

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 1/24/18

What a turnaround!

After suffering through a loss Friday to Steelton-Highspire, the Middletown boys team had the unenviable task of facing the Milton Hershey Spartans on their home court on Monday …

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Blue Raiders upset Spartans; Hughes scores 1,500th point


What a turnaround!

After suffering through a loss Friday to Steelton-Highspire, the Middletown boys team had the unenviable task of facing the Milton Hershey Spartans on their home court on Monday to start a five-game week.

Rather than caving into the pressure of facing the Capital Division leaders, the Blue Raiders turned in one of their best games of the season and won 81-55, handing their hosts only their second loss of the season against 12 wins. 

The Spartans were heavy favorites to defeat the Middletown squad, at the time 7-5 on the season. But the Raiders put together a fantastic offensive and defensive showing that turned the clash into a rousing victory that put the team back on the winning track.

Tre' Leach registered a game-high 22 points in the win while teammates Ryan Hughes, Kyle Truesdale and Chris Plummer each collected 13 points. 

With the win over Milton Hershey, the Blue Raiders stand at 8-5 overall, 5-3 in the Capital Division, and are ranked No. 5 in the District III-AAAA power rankings.

After playing one of their best games of the season in a 71-61 victory over Northern Lebanon in a non-league matchup last Thursday, the Blue Raider boys failed to repeat that effort in a disappointing 61-45 loss to Steelton-Highspire on Friday evening.

Middletown 81, Milton Hershey 55

The early minutes of the game were unsettling for the Raiders after Milton Hershey’s Donyae Baylor-Carroll scored 10 quick points to give the Spartans an early 10-2 lead. While that effort sent an uneasy feeling through the Middletown crowd, Baylor-Carroll scored just two points the rest of the way as the Raider defense grounded the talented senior following his high-flying start.

A quick timeout called by Middletown coach Chris Sattele worked wonders as his team settled down and started collecting points of its own. With 5:32 left in the opening quarter Leach kickstarted a 13-2 run by the Raiders that subtly took the early momentum away from the home team.

In the run, goals by Plummer, Truesdale, Tyler Petroski and David Alcock led the charge and gave the Raiders a 15-12 lead. The lead grew to 18-14 on a triple by Petroski before the Spartans closed out the period with three points to pull within one.

But any good feelings the home team had at that point were quickly washed away as the Middletown five started off the second stanza with a 13-0 run that lifted the Raiders to a 31-17 lead at the halfway mark of the frame.

Hughes opened it up with a drive following a Spartan turnover and Truesdale capped it with a trey at 3:59. In between, Leach, Plummer and Brady Fox chipped in points in the string.

While the Raiders missed some shots during the second quarter, the Spartans missed more. In fact, the Spartans missed a lot of shots throughout the game and the Raiders took advantage on nearly every opportunity. The first half ended with the Blue Raiders well out in front, 41-24, after outscoring their hosts by a whopping 23-7 margin in the period.

With the split crowd expecting Milton Hershey to gather itself to start the second half, it never happened. Things never really got any better for the Spartans after the break.

One of the big keys to the Middletown win throughout the game was a distinct advantage on rebounding on both ends of the court. With the Spartans limited to single shots most of the way, the Raiders were able to pick up valuable offensive rebounds that led to scores. With five players chipping in points the visitors held a 16-13 scoring edge in the third and led 57-37 heading into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, the Middletown offense only got better. Leach scored 10 of his points in the period and Hughes dished out several assists as the Blue Raiders poured in 24 points to put the game away.

Sattele had very efficiently substituted players from early on and, with his team leading 72-47 with 3:20 left, Sattele went deeper into his bench. In the final 1:16 Jerrod Myers scored 5 points and Zhmier Carter added a bucket to keep the gap far apart.

A late trey by Milton Hershey’s Hassan Kamara gave the Spartans 18 points for the period. 

Middletown 71, Northern Lebanon 61

With the non-league contest originally scheduled for their home court, the Blue Raiders instead moved to Penn State-Harrisburg’s spacious gym on Thursday and apparently liked the collegiate venue.

The change was made due to a wrestling match at the high school.

The Raiders worked their way to a 20-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, held a slim 38-37 edge at halftime and gained a 5-point lead by the close of the third period. By finishing the game with a 19-14 scoring advantage in the final frame, the Raiders turned away a good Northern Lebanon team that is also in the chase for postseason play.

Senior Ryan Hughes recorded his 1,500th career point, which moved him into second place in all-time scoring for the boys program. Dave Grabuloff is the leader with 2,000 points.

The Vikings came into the game with a 9-3 overall record and a second place standing in the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s Division III. Led by smooth, sharp-shooting guard Caleb Light, the Vikings gave the Blue Raiders a good test, one that the Middletown squad passed with good grades.

The game also marked the return of Raider senior Chris Plummer, who had missed some time following ear surgery. Plummer scored a game-high 22 points in his return, while Hughes added 21 and Tre' Leach collected 18 points. Light led the Vikings with 20 markers.

With just more than minutes left in the opening quarter, the Raiders had climbed up to a 15-7 lead on scores by Kyle Truesdale, Plummer, Hughes, Leach and David Alcock. The 20-point output by the Middletown offense gave the team a good start. And it was needed as the Vikings, down 20-14 to start the second stanza, pumped in 23 points in the span to close the gap to just one at halftime.

Light put up 11 of his points in the second to lead the rally after the Middletown side had stretched its lead to 31-22 with 5:13 left in the first half. The Raiders registered just 1 point in the last two minutes of the frame while the Vikings scored six.

The Blue Raiders scored the first 4 points of the second half but Northern Lebanon ran off 6 straight to work their way to a 43-42 lead with 5:21 left in the third. Neither team shot well in the quarter (Middletown made just 6 of 19, Northern Lebanon made 5 of 14), and points were at a premium. With the score tied at 47 following a goal by Northern Lebanon’s Cameron Gensler, Leach put back a rebound with 59 seconds left and Hughes converted a Viking miss into a three-point jumper at :03 that gave the Raiders a 52-47 edge heading into the final period.

The action heated up in the final segment and the Middletown side was able to make their shots in building its lead to 63-51 with 2:55 left. Plummer, Hughes, Leach and Truesdale joined forces as the Raiders outscored the Vikings 11-4 in the five minute span. Hughes made one of two free throws with 58 seconds left to make it a 70-59 game that locked up the victory.

Steelton-Highspire 61, Middletown 45

As well as the Blue Raiders had played in the win over Northern Lebanon, the team never got into any rhythm Friday against the visiting Rollers.

After losing by one point to the Raiders on Dec. 18, the Rollers exacted their revenge in the second meeting, breaking away from a tight contest with a dominating second half and a strong finish in their 61-45 win. While the Middletown team has shown much improvement since the start of the season, the Steelton-Highspire squad has also gotten better. With a 9-5 record, the Rollers are sitting in fourth place in the District III-AAA power rankings.

The game evolved into a typical Middletown vs. Steel-High battle of rivals that was closely contested through the first half and into the early minutes of the second. But the Rollers stepped up their game and used their athleticism from that point on to run away with the victory. Jarvai Flowers and Tim Kater each recorded 18 points for the winners while Hughes and Plummer teamed for 26 points for the Blue Raiders.

The Raiders got on the scoreboard first on a three-pointer by Plummer at 6:46 of the opening period, but that goal was quickly matched by Amig Jenkins 24 seconds later. Dead even in missed shots and turnovers in the opening frame, the teams ended up deadlocked at 12 at the end of the quarter. The Rollers opened up the second stanza with a 10-0 run, however, to forge ahead 22-12 and would not trail the rest of the way.

A rash of missed foul shots and turnovers by both teams kept the score close and the Rollers led 23-17 at the halftime break.

For the Blue Raiders, a much-needed positive start to the second half was secured when Plummer tapped in a rebound at 7:42 of the third quarter that cut the deficit to four points. But the Rollers ran off the game’s next 12 points to jump up to a 35-19 lead that subdued the Raiders’ efforts.

During the stretch, the Middletown side missed four straight free throws, was whistled for a technical foul and missed a couple shots from the floor that led to the commanding Rollers’ lead. And, although they tried to stay in it, the Raiders just could not make any progress. Flowers and Kater collected 16 of the Rollers’ 18 points in the third and the visitors led 41-29 heading into the final frame.

The Blue Raiders put up 16 points in the fourth quarter but made just 7 of 19 shots from the floor while the Rollers collected 20 points to hold the Raiders at bay. Hughes scored 7 points for the Raiders while David Alcock put up 5 in the game’s final two minutes.