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Three more losses for Blue Raider boys team; Annville-Cleona defeat was a close one

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 2/13/19

The Middletown boys basketball team suffered through three more losses last week following its win over West Perry the week before.

In two of those games it was a matter of losing to a pair of …

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Three more losses for Blue Raider boys team; Annville-Cleona defeat was a close one

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The Middletown boys basketball team suffered through three more losses last week following its win over West Perry the week before.

In two of those games it was a matter of losing to a pair of superior teams. In the other, it was a case of a victory eluding the hard-working team in a winnable contest against a non-league opponent. And that was the one that hurt the most for first-year head coach Chris Bradford.

On Feb. 5, the Blue Raiders, now 2-18 on the season, made the short road trip to Milton Hershey and fell to the athletic Spartans, 77-36. On Thursday at home, the Raiders played host to Annville-Cleona of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and came up short in a 53-47 decision. And, on Friday, the Blue Raiders were dealt a 78-36 setback to a very good Lower Dauphin team in the nightcap of a boys-girls double header in the MAHS gym.

The Blue Raiders were scheduled for a makeup game vs. Pequea Valley on Monday, but it was moved to Wednesday because of the weather.

Milton Hershey 77, Middletown 36

The host Spartans came out flying and jumped to an 11-2 lead in the first two minutes of the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division contest.

The Raiders struggled with cold shooting throughout the entire first half and ended up on the short end of a 42-16 score by halftime. Things didn’t get much better in the second half as the team collected just 20 more points.

The Spartans, in contrast, were scoring freely, putting up 22 points in the first quarter, 20 in the second, and another 35 after the break as they dominated the game on both ends of the court. Josh Parra led the way for the Spartans in the first half, scoring all of his game-high 16 points before the break.

Down 22-12 to start the second period, the Blue Raiders needed to pick up their game on offense, but it never happened. Shooting just 2 for 16 from the floor — Jarrod Pugh made one basket and Tony Powell made the other — dropped the Raiders into a deep hole they had little hope of getting out of.

The Raiders did manage to pick up 13 points in the third, but the Spartans stayed out in front and added to their lead, holding a 60-29 command heading into the game’s final 8 minutes. Sub Tate Leach scored 5 points in the fourth for the Raiders, but Milton Hershey’s deep bench collected 17 markers as the hosts cruised to the big win.

Annville-Cleona 53, Middletown 47

Bradford, who spent the previous five seasons at Annville-Cleona, really wanted to win this one, and his new team was in position to do just that in a closely played non-league matchup.

The Blue Raiders held leads of up to 5 points in the second half but could not hold on to give their coach that much-needed victory. The Dutchmen tied the score at 35 by the end of the third quarter and finished strong with an 18-12 advantage in the final 8 minutes to deny Bradford and his charges the win.

Jules Nester’s game-high 23 points gave the Raiders a good chance, but a rash of late mistakes and missed shots by the home team turned the game in Annville-Cleona’s favor in the final frame.

The Dutchmen held a slim 14-12 edge at the end of the first quarter and led 22-19 late in the second before Nester scored with 1:25 left and then converted a steal into the go-ahead points with 9 seconds left to give the Raiders a 23-22 edge at the break.

After Annville’s Adam Long scored to start the second half, Tajae Broadie and Tyler Petroski scored three straight goals for the Raiders for a 29-24 lead for the home team.

With 4:19 left in the quarter, Broadie made one of two free throws, and T.J. Daniels scored at 2:44 to push the Middletown advantage to 35-28. But the Dutchmen closed out the period with a 7-point run to knot the score at 35 heading into the final quarter.

The lead changed hands a couple times in the first part of the final frame. The Raiders edged ahead 41-40 on a bucket by Powell with 5:10 left, but that would turn out to be their last lead of the game.

A pivotal 11-1 run by the Dutchmen that ended at the 1:23 mark with a 51-42 lead for the visitors sealed the fate of the hard-luck Middletown squad.

Nester made two free throws with 52 seconds left and then added a late trey 30 seconds later, but Annville-Cleona absorbed those late points and held on for the win.

Lower Dauphin 78, Middletown 36

Without a doubt, Lower Dauphin is fielding one of its best teams in several years, and the Falcons showed that on Friday night at Middletown.

The Falcons won their 20th game of the year with the victory over the Blue Raiders and retained their top spot in the District III-AAAAA power rankings after winning the Mid-Penn Conference Keystone Division title. 

The team’s athleticism, size, solid defense and outstanding shooting added up to an easy win over the youthful Middletown squad. With a 26-point burst in the first quarter and double figures in each of the others, the confident Falcons showed their muscle and finesse in the crossover game.

Luke Hedrick scored a game-high 20 points in the win while Will Bowen added 15 and Brian Swist chipped in 10 for the winners. Nester was the only Middletown player to reach double figures with 10 points.

Hedrick was on fire to start the game and collected 16 of his points in the opening frame to lead the charge while the Lower Dauphin defense held the Raiders to just 9 points in the period. With 3:05 left, the Raiders cut the Falcons’ lead to 10-7 on a Petroski-assisted bucket by Pugh. But the Falcons ran off the game’s next 14 points to push the home team into a 24-7 hole.

Led by Nester’s 8 points, the Raiders scored 14 in the second stanza, but the Falcons put up 18 – with 9 coming from Bowen – on their way to a 44-23 lead at the halftime break.

The Raiders have had a bad habit of coming out for the second half flat at times, and this game was no exception. Failing to get past Lower Dauphin’s defensive pressure, the Raiders committed 8 turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the third and did not score until reserve Brock Welsh found the net with just 25 seconds left in the period.

And, although the Middletown defense showed improvement, it was not enough to stop the Falcons. The 14-2 scoring advantage in the third proved to be disastrous for the home team.

The Falcons’ reserve players finished up the game and collected 20 points of their own in the final segment to win going away.

JV beats Annville-Cleona, 45-28

On Thursday, Andrew Placeres’ junior varsity team won its third game of the year in a 45-28 victory over Annville-Cleona.

The young Blue Raiders got off to a good start, scoring the game’s first 10 points, on their way to a 12-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. After again holding their guests to just 2 points in the second, the Raiders put up 13 points to take a commanding 25-4 halftime lead.

In the third, the Dutchmen scored 7 points, but the Middletown squad picked up 13 more and led 38-11 heading into the final period. The Dutchmen opened up the fourth with a 9-0 run before the Raiders broke the ice with a putback by Matt Wagner with 2:17 left.

Brock Welsh drained a three at 1:50 off an assist by Tate Leach and Wagner added two late free throws to close out the Middletown scoring. Annville-Cleona secured 17 points in the frame, but not nearly enough to overcome the big Middletown lead.

Julio Rodriguez and Leach teamed for 21 points in the win. A.J. Stains registered 7 points, Wagner finished with 6 and Welsh, Caden Paul, Brandon Marcano and Ryan Goff added the rest for the winners.