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Raider boys take third place in district play, prepare for state basketball tournament

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 3/1/18

Rebounding from their semifinal loss to Berks Catholic on Feb. 26, the Blue Raiders (17-6) grabbed the third spot in the District III-4A seedings entering state tournament play with a well-earned …

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Raider boys take third place in district play, prepare for state basketball tournament

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Rebounding from their semifinal loss to Berks Catholic on Feb. 26, the Blue Raiders (17-7) grabbed the third spot in the District III-4A seedings entering state tournament play with a well-earned 66-56 victory over Kennard-Dale on Wednesday at West York High School.

The Blue Raiders likely will start state tournament play on Friday, March 9, at a place and time to be determined.

Starting off the game’s second period with a slim 16-13 edge over the Rams, the Raiders took control after Kennard-Dale had pulled to within two points, 20-18, with 5:52 left in the first half. Using its amped-up defensive game plan to full advantage from that point, the Middletown team ran off 15 straight points to push their shocked opponents into a 35-18 hole by the time the first half clock had expired.

That turned out to be the main key to the win, simply because the Rams got back on track in the second half, forcing the Blue Raiders to play through some tense minutes in the late going. But the Raiders did survive.

The Rams, who had lost to Bishop McDevitt in the other semifinal game at Penn Manor on Monday, had jumped on top 7-2 after Ryan Hughes had scored the game’s first points off an assist by Brady Fox a minute and a half into the opening period.

Adam Freese, Joey Thomas and Carter Day scored the Rams’ points in the run off a pair of misses by the Raiders and a blocked shot. Chris Plummer broke the string and kicked off an 8-0 run by the Middletown side that pushed the Blue Raiders out in front 10-7.

After the Rams tied the score at 10 on a trey by Thomas, the Raiders scored the game’s next 4 points to regain the lead. They would not trail again in the contest. Hughes’ putback with one second left made it a 16-13 score at the end of one.

Tre’ Leach opened up the second stanza with a pair of foul shots for a 5-point lead, but Freese hit his second trey 40 seconds later. After Leach and Kennard-Dale’s Donnell Williams traded baskets, the flood gates really opened for the Raiders.

Kyle Truesdale’s drive and goal off a Chris Plummer assist at 4:35 kicked off a crushing 15-0 run that did not end until the late seconds of the first half. Leach, Hughes and David Alcock cashed in on a streak of Kennard-Dale turnovers and missed shots as the Middletown defense threw a suffocating blanket over the Rams. And the Middletown fans loved every minute of it. A streak like that was exactly what was missing from their previous game.

Hughes’ triple capped the streak and gave the Blue Raiders a commanding 35-18 lead at the break.

But Kennard-Dale did not get as far as they did without being a good, competitive team and it showed in the second half. Scoring the first 4 points of the second half, and with Freese, Thomas and Day teaming for 18 points, the Rams came out strong in the third quarter. Although they made just 5 of 17 shots from the floor, second chances off misses by the Rams kept them right in the game.

At the same time the Blue Raiders shot just 36 percent but picked up 7 points from the foul line to stay ahead. A jumper by Tyler Petroski at the buzzer gave the Raiders a 50-36 lead heading into the final frame.

The game’s final 8 minutes turned into a long session of trips to the foul line as Kennard-Dale coach Jake Roupe tried to take advantage of Middletown’s reputation of having difficulties with free throws. As luck would have it, his tactics nearly paid off.

With 1:02 left in the game, Thomas followed up a pair of missed free throws by the Raiders with a three-pointer that pulled the Rams to within 59-53. But they would get no closer. Hughes made one of two from the line with 1:00 left and then added two more following a Ram miss with :43.9 seconds on the clock to earn the Middletown squad some breathing room at 62-53.

In the final 30 seconds Hughes and Petroski each made one of two, Carter made one for the Rams and Plummer’s layup off a Truesdale rebound and outlet pass locked up the victory for the Blue Raiders.

In that final period, the Raiders made just 14 of 27 free throws, although they were enough to secure the 66-56 win. Hughes finished with a game-high 25 points for the Blue Raiders.