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Blue Raiders knock out Montoursville, head to second round of state tournament Tuesday

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 3/12/18

We’ve all heard the old saying about when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That could be the label to put on Middletown’s hard-fought victory over Montoursville on Friday …

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Blue Raiders knock out Montoursville, head to second round of state tournament Tuesday


We’ve all heard the old saying about when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That could be the label to put on Middletown’s hard-fought victory over Montoursville on Friday night in the first round of PIAA 4A boys state basketball playoffs.

Playing at Shikellamy High School in Sunbury in what was essentially a home game for their opponents, the Blue Raiders toughed out an exciting 66-57 win over the District IV champion Warriors to advance to the second round.

Just 16 teams are left in the 4A bracket. Next up is Overbrook, which is 17-8 on the season. The game was  Tuesday, March 13, at Garden Spot High School in New Holland, after the Press & Journal’s deadline. Win, and the Blue Raiders on Friday would take on the winner of Imhotep Charter (27-2) and Scranton Prep (21-5). Those two teams play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Liberty High School in Bethlehem. 

Against Montoursville, Ryan Hughes registered a game high 33 points and Tre’ Leach added 19 for Middletown.

Montoursville High School, coached by former Major League Baseball pitcher Mike Mussina, sits just a few miles from Sunbury, and the Warriors had won their district title in Shikellamy’s gym the week before. Not only was Montoursville a pretty good team, the Raiders also had to face some adversity from the style of officiating that, at times, did not work in their favor.

Another saying — about how it’s not how you start, but how you finish — also came into play, especially in the game’s final four minutes. Playing loose and relaxed down the stretch the Blue Raiders did not panic or cave in to the pressure applied by the Warriors. And that made the difference at the end.

“That’s how these guys are. They’ve been here before and that’s Middletown basketball,” said Raider head coach Chris Sattele when it was over. The right mix of intensity and fun on the court helped the Middletown squad pull away with a closing 11-4 surge to lock down the victory in style.

The Blue Raiders led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter and 28-26 at halftime to hold a slim lead. But the Warriors charged back with a 21-16 third-period scoring advantage after the break and carried a 47-44 lead into the game’s final 8 minutes. Some lesser teams might have cracked under the pressure following Montoursville’s rally. But not this Middletown team. A 10-2 run to start the fourth put the Blue Raiders back into the driver’s seat and paved the way for the win.

With both teams using pressure defense right from the outset, shooting and scoring did not come easily for either side in the first quarter. The Raiders made just 5 of 17 shots from the floor while the Warriors made just 5 of 16. The Raiders picked up 3 points from the foul line while Montoursville went 0 for 2 and enabled the Raiders to earn the 14-12 lead.

Tyler Reidy and Austin Loe scored the first 3 points of the second stanza to push the Warriors into the lead and, following a goal by Leach, Loe scored again for a 17-16 lead at 5:22. But after an exchange of turnovers, a putback by Hughes at 4:52 and two free throws by Hughes a minute later pushed the Raiders on top, 20-17. Although the Raiders suffered a low percentage of shooting again, the Warriors were never able to take advantage.

Added to that were a number of fouls called on both sides that slowed the game down. As it turned out, the Raiders went a perfect 8-for-8 from the line (Hughes made 6 while Leach made 2), while the Warriors made just 8 of 17.

With 27 seconds left, Hughes made both ends of a 1-and-1 to break a tie and give the Raiders a 28-26 lead at the break.

Following a goal by Hughes off a Brady Fox assist to start the second half, the Warriors took off on an 8-0 run, keyed by a pair of treys by John McCarthy, as Montoursville charged ahead 34-30. And the score stayed tight throughout the 8-minute span.

A triple by Leach tied the score at 38 with 3:30 left, but the Warriors answered. With less than a minute left, Leach’s jumper gave the Blue Raiders a 44-43 edge, but again the Warriors responded with a goal by Owen Kiess, who also added two free throws with 16 ticks left to give the Warriors a 47-44 advantage heading into the game’s final frame.

After Leach and Montoursville’s Kiess traded baskets in the early going, a Hughes triple knotted the score at 49 with 6:50 left. A pair of missed foul shots following a Warrior miss failed to break the tie, but another Hughes bucket off a Kyle Truesdale assist finally did just that.

Following another Warrior miss, Hughes was fouled on a successful putback at the other end. His free throw gave the Raiders a 54-49 lead with 3:42 on the clock. Another basket by Kiess and two foul shots by McCarthy cut the lead to 54-53 with 2:50 to go. But, despite both Hughes and Leach drawing their fourth fouls in a 10-second span, the Middletown defense never let up.

Led by Chris Plummer, Truesdale, Fox, Leach and Hughes, with help from subs David Alcock, Tyler Petroski and Jerrod Myers, the Blue Raiders contested everything the Warriors had to offer. And those defensive efforts wore down the tiring Warriors in the final two minutes.

Middletown’s last field goal came on a tap in by Leach at 2:01 for a 58-53 lead. After coming up empty on nearly every possession after that the Warriors were forced to foul. But the tactic did not work as Leach, Hughes, Fox and Plummer collectively made 8 of 11 freebies in the closing minutes to lock up the victory.

Kiess and McCarthy teamed for 38 for the Warriors.