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Rough week for Middletown boys basketball— 3 losses

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 12/23/19

Contrary to what many believe, there are such things as “moral victories.”

The Middletown boys basketball team had one of them on Friday night against visiting Trinity in front of a …

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Rough week for Middletown boys basketball— 3 losses


Contrary to what many believe, there are such things as “moral victories.”

The Middletown boys basketball team had one of them on Friday night against visiting Trinity in front of a good crowd in their first home game of the new season.

Giving the unbeaten Shamrocks all they could handle, the Blue Raiders pulled to within five points with 6:27 left in the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division clash on Friday before Trinity pulled away late to secure a hard-fought 68-57 win over the Raiders.

After struggling in a pair of losses earlier in the week at Camp Hill and Bishop McDevitt, the Raiders played arguably their best game of the season against perennial power Trinity, thus earning the respect of their opponents and the appreciative home crowd. They are now 2-5 on the season.

The term better used could be “morale” victory. Although the game ended with the Middletown team’s fifth loss of the year, the effort should go a long way in lifting the Raiders’ spirits as they head into the Christmas break.

Friday’s game capped a difficult week for the team, which had to face three very good opponents who are ranked high in District III and are also ranked in the state. Running that gauntlet proved to be a tough task for the Raiders.

The team is scheduled to host its own Holiday Tournament this weekend, and the progress it showed Friday will, hopefully, provide the spark needed to get on the winning track.

Against Trinity,  the Shamrocks jumped out to a 17-9 lead at the end of the opening period.

Aley Zangari hit a pair of threes to lead the way as the Blue Raiders offense struggled a bit. Led by 7 points from sophomore Tajae Broadie, the home team registered 14 markers in the second. However, Zangari, Marcus Beckett and Chance Westry teamed for 19 as the visitors built a 36-23 halftime advantage.

Rather than get down on themselves, the Raiders came out strong in the second half and, with Jules Nester finding his scoring range, Middletown chipped away at Trinity’s lead.

Nester scored 12 of his team-high 24 points in the frame and the Middletown defense held the Shamrocks to 13 points as the point separation dwindled. Nester’s trey at 1:16 and a layup off a Tate Leach outlet pass cut the Trinity lead to 47-41 with just under a minute left in the third. A late goal by Beckett, however, gave the visitors a 49-41 edge heading into the final period.

A minute and a half into the fourth quarter, the Raiders broke a scoreless start by both teams when Nester drove the lane for a bucket at 6:27. Fouled on the play, Nester made the free throw that closed the gap to 49-44.

But the Blue Raiders ran into a scoring slump after that and the Shamrocks took advantage with a 9-0 run that resulted in a 58-44 lead with 4:24 left. Nester made one of two free throws to break the string, but Westry converted a Middletown miss into an emphatic dunk at 3:48 for a 60-45 Shamrock lead.

In the final 3:28, the Raiders outscored the Shamrocks 12-8, getting points from Derrick Wall, Nester, Broadie and Daniels in a strong finish.

During that span, defensive leader Leach fouled out. Trinity scored its final points with 43 seconds left and a runner by Daniels with 23.7 on the clock closed out the scoring in the game.

Broadie finished with 16 points while Westry recorded a game-high 27.

Camp Hill 71, Middletown 59

Junior Julian Nester was held to just two points in the first half of Middletown’s Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division boys basketball game at Camp Hill on Dec. 16. But Nester came alive in the second half and ended up with a game-high 25 points for the Blue Raiders in a terrific effort.

Those points, however, were still not enough to carry his team to a win.

The host Lions, keyed by a big second period and a strong second half, used a balanced attack to hold off the Raiders 71-59 at the start of a rough week for the young Middletown team.

The Blue Raiders were coming off a tense, 61-56 win over East Pennsboro and played the Lions tough for the game’s first 14 minutes. But Camp Hill closed out the first half with an 11-1 run to take control.

The 12-point halftime advantage held up as both teams recorded 39 points each in the second half.

The defensive-themed first quarter ended in a 7-7 deadlock as each side fought to gain an advantage. Turnovers and missed shots were nearly dead even in the first 8 minutes.

A pair of free throws by Middletown’s Tony Powell tied the game with one second left in the opening frame. In the second stanza, the points came more freely, especially for the host team, which recorded 25, compared to Middletown’s 13.

Camp Hill’s Greg Labine recorded 9 of his 13 in the frame to lead the Lions while Tate Leach led the Raiders with 8.

With 4:06 left in the second, Powell’s putback knotted the score at 16, but Labine’s trey and a putback by David Shuster following a Raider turnover gave the Lions a 5-point cushion at 3:31. The Lions then closed out the half with 13-4 run to earn a 32-20 lead at the break.

Nester caught fire from the start of the third quarter, hitting a triple 13 seconds into the second half to kick off his scoring streak, but the Lions went back-to-back to pad their lead to 36-23.

Following another Nester goal off a Leach assist, the Lions scored the game’s next 8 points to push their lead up to 44-25, a deficit the Blue Raiders could not overcome in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Nester ended up scoring all of Middletown’s 13 points in the third, including a breakaway dunk with one tick left, but the hosts still held a comfortable 52-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Nester collected 10 more points in the fourth and got some scoring help from Powell, Omarion Fanus, Derrick Wall and Tajae Broadie, as the Raiders recorded 26 markers in the last period. Camp Hill put up 19, with Jake Perry and Will Ketterer each scoring 6, to keep the Middletown team from staging a comeback rally.

Bishop McDevitt 64, Middletown 42

State-ranked Bishop McDevitt hosted the Blue Raiders on Wednesday and, after a slow start, showed why that ranking is justified.

The Crusaders pulled away in the second half to turn back the Middletown squad 64-42.

The Raiders earned a 17-16 lead with 3:40 left in the first half before the Crusaders caught fire on their way to a 30-20 halftime lead.

A 20-9 scoring advantage in the third quarter turned out to be more than enough to deny the upset bid by the visitors.

Prior to the Mid-Penn crossover contest, Middletown coach Chris Bradford noted that the Raiders’ game at Camp Hill gave his team a good idea about what to expect at McDevitt the following night. And the Raiders showed that they had learned something from that game as they used a good defensive plan to hang tough with their hosts.

The plan worked pretty well through the midway point of the second period.

A rash of costly turnovers in the late minutes of the quarter led to a string of easy transition baskets for McDevitt and a 30-20 lead at the break.

In all, 20 miscues contributed to the loss as McDevitt’s full-court pressure defense wreaked havoc on the Middletown offense that ran into trouble trying to bring the ball up the court. The Raiders scored just a combined 17 points in the middle two quarters while the Crusaders rang up 40 at the same time, more than enough to subdue the struggling Middletown side.

The Blue Raiders took advantage of several missed shots by their hosts in the first quarter and battled to an 11-10 lead by the end of the opening period. A layup by T.J. Daniels with 25 ticks left gave the Raiders the one-point edge.

Tymir Jackson’s drive to the basket to start the second stanza, and a steal and bucket by Daniels 20 seconds later pushed the Middletown led to a surprising 15-10 score.

A foul shot by Ben Marsico and a goal by Jake Kelly broke the string, but Jackson went low for a bucket at 6:13 to put the Raiders up 17-14 at 6:13. Unfortunately , that turned out to be the last hurrah for the Middletown side.

As the defensive pressure increased and the Raiders made mistakes, McDevitt ran off the game’s next 11 points and earned a 25-17 lead with 1:46 left in the first half.

A foul shot by Daniels broke the streak and Powell scored with 1:10 left to make it  26-20 with 1:10 left in the second. But Marsico and Kelly went back-to-back to close out the half with the Crusaders leading 30-20.

Needing a good start in the second half to stay in the game, the Blue Raiders instead suffered a breakdown right from the outset.

Keyed by more turnovers and missed shots, the Middletown side went scoreless in the first four minutes of the third quarter. The Crusaders took advantage by opening up the half with an 11-0 run that pushed their guests into a 41-20 hole at the midway point.

Broadie made two free throws to break the string, but Kris Kolk hit a three and Kenyon Elliot converted a Middletown miss into a 46-22 lead for the host team.

A 20-8 scoring edge in the third period put the game out of reach at 50-28 heading into the final segment.

Wall hit a triple early in the fourth, but the Raiders made just one of four foul shots over the next two minutes, allowing the Crusaders to push their lead to 57-32 with five minutes left. The fourth quarter ended with both teams scoring 14 points.

Sub Quintin Miles made four of four free throws in the final two minutes and Wall scored in between to close out the game in the loss.