Back to the final eight

By on February 18, 2015
 Baron point guard Tony Staffieri (23) shoots over Milton Hershey’s Tyron Brown for two of his 11 points on Tuesday night. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Baron point guard Tony Staffieri (23) shoots over Milton Hershey’s Tyron Brown for two of his 11 points on Tuesday night. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

The Manheim Central boys took the floor on Tuesday night for their District Three Triple-A first-round playoff tilt with a little chip on their shoulder.

It wasn’t a big surprise.

After all, the Barons were coming off an emotional loss to Cedar Crest in the L-L League playoff semi-finals six days earlier.

Lose to 14th-seeded Milton Hershey and there were no tomorrows.

“They should be mad,” Barons’ coach Chris Sherwood said. “They have goals and sometimes it’s not an easy ride. They had goals to get back to Hershey, and then once you’re in the final eight, you don’t know what’s going to happen. We know weird things happen … we’ve been there.”

Now the Manheim Central boys are there again.

Sophomore center Taylor Funk scored five treys and 19 of his team-high 21 points in the first half, helping the 3rd-seeded Barons grab an 11-point lead and they never looked back, advancing with a 73-63 victory over the Spartans in Manheim.

Next up for Manheim Central (23-2) is a District quarter-final matchup against 11th-seeded Gettysburg (15-8) &tstr; a 66-54 upset winner over 6th-seeded Boiling Springs &tstr; on Friday at 5 p.m. at the Giant Center.

In their game against Milton Hershey, the MC boys hit 11 treys and four players finished in double figures, as Matt Walsh had 16, while Blake Reiff and Tony Staffieri chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

“We were real anxious and real excited to get back,” Funk said. “We had a real good practice two days ago and we just knew we had to come out and show them what we could do.”

“I think it took until tonight (to get over the Cedar Crest loss),” Sherwood said. “I’d be lying to you if I said I thought we were over it. Our motto the next day was, ‘Get over it.’ But the truth is, it’s not over until you play a game. So it took some time.”

It didn’t take the Barons much time at all to establish early momentum, as Funk knocked down back-to-back treys, followed by a putback, to spark Central on a 10-0 run.

“We wanted this win more than anything else,” Funk remarked. “We wanted to go back to the Giant Center.”

Apparently, so did Milton Hershey (12-11). Sparked by sophomore guard Keonte Lucas, who led all scorers with 22 points, the Spartans countered with a 12-0 run and took their first lead on a triple by Manny Anderson-Marrow, who chipped in with 19 points.

“Lucas … he’s good,” Sherwood said. “Not only could he get into the middle of your defense, he even finished a little bit on his penetration. He’s a heck of an athlete and he did a really good job.”

They still led 18-15 following a ‘three’ by Lucas with 5:27 left in the half. But the Barons were 8-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half, and treys by Funk and Walsh kick-started Central on a 17-3 run which gave them a lead they never relinquished.

“It’s funny &tstr; when you knock down shots like that, it’s like you have a great game plan or something,” Sherwood laughed. “No, you just have guys who can knock down 22-footers.”

Reiff, a shortstop on the Barons’ baseball team, was one of those guys, and he scored all 12 of his points on four treys.

“Blake has ice in his veins,” Sherwood said. “I mean, Blake really has ice in his veins.”

Leading 32-21 at the half, the MC boys threw some different defensive looks at the Spartans in the second half. That, and Walsh scored 13 of his 16 points following the intermission to help lead the offensive charge.

The Barons forced six of the Spartans’ 11 turnovers in the third quarter, and Dan Wiederrecht’s drive led them on a 13-3 run &tstr; which included a slam by Funk and was capped by a transition layup from Staffieri &tstr; to make it 45-27 with 3:13 left in the period.

“We rummaged, I think, through six different defenses,” Sherwood said. “And you know what the crazy part is? I think we did pretty well. Every time we felt like we showed something new, we got a few possessions out of it and we could build that lead back up, then they’d figure it out and we’d have to go back to something else.”

As evidence of the Spartans figuring it out, they went on an 11-2 spurt and cut the Barons’ lead to 47-38 with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter on a putback by Juwon Owolabi.

“They never go away,” Sherwood said, “and it’s a credit to their kids, it’s a credit to their coach … They’re a good team. They’re no 14 seed.”

The Barons, though, would not be denied and they stretched it back to 61-41 after Staffieri scored on a layup with 6:25 remaining in the fourth.

“Yes, I thought Matt had a really good second half and of course, Taylor shot the ball great in the first half,” Sherwood said. “But we had other players too. I thought Tony really controlled the game tonight. Tony was fantastic, absolutely fantastic.”

A conventional three-point play by Lucas in transition cut the Spartans’ deficit to 10 points, 72-62 in the final two minutes, but they got no closer.

And Manheim Central clinched yet another trip to the Giant Center.

“We’ll just throw our name in the hat of eight and see what happens,” Sherwood said.

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