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Middletown boys get ready for Thursday game in state tournament after beating Danville

By Larry Etter, Press & Journal Staff
Posted 3/15/17

The Middletown boys basketball team stepped into the PIAA picture on Saturday and came away with a 71-56 victory over Danville Area High School in the first round, bringing home their first state …

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Middletown boys get ready for Thursday game in state tournament after beating Danville

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The Middletown boys basketball team stepped into the PIAA picture on Saturday and came away with a 71-56 victory over Danville Area High School in the first round, bringing home their first state playoff win since 1992.

Next up for the Raiders is Greater Johnstown, a 62-52 winner over Schuykill Valley. They will play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at Chambersburg High School. The game was delayed from Wednesday because of the snow.

While it was not a thing of beauty, Raider head coach Chris Sattele said he was very pleased with the outcome of the game and the new fortunes that his team has enjoyed this season.

“Yeah, we’ll take that,” he said. “Our kids worked hard. The whole community has been great with its support that actually started back in football season. Tonight our defense played phenomenal and from that we got the shots we wanted and made them.”

All five Middletown starters scored in double figures, led by 20 points for Ryan Hughes and 14 by Tre Leach and Luke Mrakovich. Christian Plummer added 11 (including three 3-pointers) and Michael Mattes registered 10 for the Blue Raiders.

The Middletown defense forced 23 turnovers to help key the victory.

Coming off the disappointing loss to Lancaster Catholic in the District III championship game the week before, the determined Blue Raiders were ready to bounce back and were set up in a favorable bracket to start the postseason run.

Following the long layoff between the district title game March 2 and Saturday’s contest against Danville, which was played at Central Dauphin East High School, the Blue Raiders looked a bit rusty at the start.

The Ironmen, the third-place finisher out of District 4, got off to a good start and jumped out to a 9-3 lead with 4:53 left in the first quarter. Two minutes later Danville still held a six-point advantage at 11-5. But that’s when the Middletown side turned up the defensive pressure and the offense started to convert turnovers into points.

Goals by Kyle Truesdale and Luke Mrakovich cut into the lead and, following a foul shot by Danville’s Dyson Harward, Ryan Hughes dropped in a triple off a Tre Leach pass that tied the score at 12 with 27 seconds left.

Hughes then sank two free throws 10 seconds later to give the Middletown side a 14-12 edge at the end of the opening period.

The Blue Raiders would not trail again during the balance of the game. Hughes opened up the second stanza with a bucket off another Leach assist.

Shane Kozick scored for the Ironmen at 6:53 and Hughes made one of two foul shots after rebounding a missed free throw by teammate Michael Mattes to make it a 17-14 game.

That lead stretched to 21-14 after Mrakovich and Mattes converted a pair of Danville misses into points at the other end. Peyton Riley broke the string with a goal for Danville to close the gap to five points, but Chris Plummer drained a triple off a Mrakovich pass and then hit a second one off a Hughes defensive rebound to give the Middletown side a 27-16 advantage with 3:10 left in the first half.

Leach scored 7 of his 14 points in the last two and a half minutes of the half and Mrakovich hit a trey from the left corner with 3 ticks left to give the Raiders a comfortable 37-26 lead at the break.

But the Ironmen made things interesting to start the second half by scoring 5 straight points and cutting the lead back down to 6 two minutes into the third period.

The Middletown offense had some trouble scoring during that stretch going 0 for 8 from the floor. A single point by Hughes from the foul line was all the Raiders had to show for their efforts until Mattes broke the ice off a lob pass from Hughes at 5:03.

From that point on the Blue Raiders outscored their opponents 8-7 on their way to a 50-38 lead to start the fourth quarter.

The final frame turned into a high scoring session as the two teams combined for 39 points. After Danville’s Riley had converted a steal into a goal that had cut the Middletown lead to nine, 52-43, with 6:30 left, Mattes tapped in a rebound and Hughes popped in a triple to lift the Raiders back up to a 57-43 lead.

Following a pair of missed free throws by Riley, Plummer fired in his third triple of the game and Mrakovich converted a Leach steal and Plummer assist into a 62-43 lead that put the game out of reach with 4:21 left.

Down the stretch, Hughes, Mattes, Mrakovich and Leach made 7 of 11 foul shots to lock down the victory.

Kozick and Harward teamed for 29 points to lead the Ironmen.

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