Barons’ bid for first District crown comes up short
Unfortunately for the Manheim Central boys, it came at their expense.
The 6-foot-6 junior forward, a shot-blocking, rebounding extraordinaire, was a big factor in Susquehanna Twp. managing to hold the Barons to 13 points below their season average of 57 per game.
Ward also chipped in with 15 points, to go along with Nehemiah Mack’s game-high 18, as the Indians captured their first District Three Triple-A boys basketball championship since 2008, defeating Manheim Central 59-44 at the Giant Center in Hershey.
“Just based off of (Ward’s) defensive presence, that changed the whole complexion of the game,” Rogers said. “It was real hard to score in (the paint) when he was in there.”
Making their first-ever appearance in the District finals, the Barons (24-4) were still within single digits, 21-13, with 2:31 remaining in the half when junior Matt Walsh knocked down a mid-range ‘J.’ But the Indians (19-7) scored seven of the half’s final 10 points, making it 28-16 going to the locker room, and never looked back.
“I just told (our players) that they have a lot to be proud of,” Sherwood recalled. “I said that what’s around their neck is nothing to take for granted. Go look at the teams who win and are in this championship every single year and you’re in really good company.”
The Manheim Central boys had capitalized on fourth-quarter comebacks to defeat West York and Bermudian Springs in their previous two District games, but they found themselves up 5-2 in the first quarter against the Indians thanks to a putback by Walsh and a 3-pointer by Taylor Funk (6 points).
From there, while being kept to the outside against Susquehanna Twp.’s zone defense, the Barons went 0-fer on their next seven shots over a span of 8:51.
“I thought that their aggressive defense, just pushing out, caused (problems),” Sherwood said. “A lot of it had to do with Ward, but I thought that 15 (Joseph Marshall) did a nice job defending, I thought that 5 (Takhi Turner) did a nice job. They kinda were physical enough where they were pushing us outside. We need to get physically stronger.”In the meantime, during the Barons’ scoring drought, Mack hit two treys and finished with eight points in a 14-0 run by the Indians, giving them a 16-5 edge with 5:20 to go in the half.
“I’m sure it’s very easy, when you have guys that fast and they’re beating other teams down the floor, to take bad shots at times,” Sherwood remarked. “They didn’t do that. We thought we had gotten them to take shots that we wanted them to get and they were cleaning them up. I don’t how many second-chance points they had in the first half, but I feel like it was 100 and I don’t know how many times they beat us down the floor.”
Walsh’s triple at the 4:53 mark of the second quarter snapped Manheim Central’s scoreless drought, then Funk buried a trey to cut the Indians’ lead to 18-11 and Walsh’s jumper made it 21-13 with 2:31 left in the half. But Ward’s putback pushed Township’s advantage back to double digits and the Indians still led 28-16 at the break.
For the game, Susquehanna Township built a 38-27 advantage on the glass, led by Ward, who finished with eight rebounds.
“I thought Ward was just a monster on the glass,” Sherwood said. “We knew he was good on the glass, but he was a monster on the glass.”
The Indians led by as many as 16 points early in the third, 32-16, following a floater by Joseph Marshall and a layup by Takhi Turner.
Tanner Brenize’s 3-pointer from the left elbow with 2:33 left in the period got the Barons within 37-25, but they would get no closer after that.
“I’ll be honest, I did think going into halftime that we had a run in us in the second half,” Sherwood said. “I thought we gave up points that we talked about not giving up, and if you’ve seen this team all year, this team had runs. I thought we were going to get something going and they controlled the pace.”
In the final stanza, Mack was 6-of-10 at the foul line and scored eight points, as Susquehanna Twp. outscored the Barons 19-17 to salt it away.
“We could have done a better job of getting a body on guys and I was disappointed with some of the things we did in the first half,” Sherwood remarked. “But I’m not disappointed with my guys’ effort and I’m not disappointed in who they are as people and I’m not disappointed in what they’ve accomplished.”
What they’ve accomplished will no doubt help them down the road with a strong cast of underclassmen returning. But with the Barons preparing to play District 12 bronze-medalist Archbishop Carroll (21-4) this Friday, March 7 at Garden Spot at 7:30 p.m., Sherwood is still focusing on the present.
“What do we have, 28 games played?,” he said. “What are we, Duke? We’re going to play into March, so this allows us again next year to tell our guys, ‘This is a long season,’ and I think that all the experience they’re gaining playing high quality teams with different styles only helps us down the road. But I’m not looking ahead. I want to focus on this group. I have three seniors who I care a lot about and I’m not looking ahead.”
Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at email@example.com or at 721-4451.
by Bruce Morgan