Barons show ‘guts’ in State playoff loss
He didn’t have that luxury this season.
Not that Sherwood was complaining, mind you.
With the banquet just two days away, the Barons headed to Garden Spot last Friday night for a PIAA State Triple-A first-round game hoping to extend their magical season just a little bit longer.
It wasn’t to be, however, as District 12 power Archbishop Carroll broke open a nine-point halftime lead and dealt the Central boys a season-ending 57-35 loss in New Holland. It was the first State playoff game in program history for Central.
The Barons were still within eight, 30-22, with 4:42 left in the third, but the state-ranked Patriots, including three Division-One recruits, went on a period-ending 11-4 run and never looked back.
“I think we had an incredible amount of guts,” an emotional Sherwood said as his players filed out of the locker room. “I thought from the word, ‘Go,’ we were incredibly intense. We talked the whole week about competing -that’s all we wanted to. And our guys were awesome. They competed their rear ends off tonight and it’s why they’ve accomplished so much this year. So why I’m emotional about it, I don’t know. It’s not like I didn’t expect it. I did expect it. They just competed.”
Junior Matt Walsh led the Barons (24-5) with a team-high 10 points, while junior Dan Wiederrecht chipped in with nine. For the Patriots (22-4), 6-foot-6 junior forward Derrick Jones paced all scorers with 17 points and 6-foot-1 senior guard Austin Tilghman chipped in with 11.
With Archbishop Carroll’s starting lineup also featuring 6-foot-9 junior center Ernest Aflakpui, the Barons had some concerns about matching up with the size advantage that the Patriots had.
“After the Susquehanna game (in the District finals), obviously we were concerned because Susquehanna killed us on the glass and got some easy putbacks,” Sherwood said. “That was honestly what concerned us the most. But again, we fought our rear ends off. It still bothered us obviously, but it probably didn’t even bother us as much as I thought it would to tell you the truth.”
Both teams had six rebounds in the first quarter, and the Patriots had only a slim 15-12 edge in that category at the half.
“The big kid,” Sherwood said, “we don’t see a kid like that. I thought our guys battled, I thought we did a good job helping underneath on him. When their shots went up, we were getting bodies on everybody which we didn’t do against Susquehanna. As far as my guys, they did a really good job.”
With the Manheim Central boys trying to slow the tempo, they cut the Patriots’ lead to 12-6 after one, and then Walsh’s pull-up ‘J,’ followed by one of his two 3-pointers, got the Barons within 14-11 with 5:56 remaining in the half.
Ryan Daly knocked down two foul shots for Archbishop Carroll, but a Colin Brubaker layup – set up by Tony Staffieri’s nifty assist -brought the Barons’ faithful to their feet and had Central trailing just 16-13 with 4:11 to go in the half.
Shooting 7-of-18 in the opening half, the Barons, though, hit just one more bucket the rest of the quarter, and the Patriots got six points from Jones in an 8-2 run which put Archbishop Carroll up 24-15 going to the locker room.
“I thought Tony did a heck of a job handing the pressure tonight,” Sherwood said. “Early on, maybe it came down to there were a couple of buckets that we left in the first half. Maybe we could have made it a little closer there at halftime. It’s not too often we score 15 at half and we had some good looks.”
Wiederrecht’s fadeaway jumper and Tanner Brenize’s ‘three’ made it 30-22 at the 4:42 mark. Jones, however, returned from a late first-half injury to score inside, kicking off an 11-4 surge by the Patriots to extend their advantage to 41-26 going to the fourth quarter. Tilghman also chipped in with five in that run.
Central had hoped to keep its deficit to single digits after three, but it was easier said than done.
“They do a heck of a job spreading the floor and getting the ball to the big guys. If you look at their third-quarter games with what they’ve done to some teams recently, they’ve blasted some teams in the fourth quarter,” Sherwood remarked. “We wanted to try to get away from giving up a big run in the third, but it was tough because they keep coming at you. The guards off the bench are so good. (Number) 23 (Tilghman) controls the game.”
Over the final eight minutes, the Patriots maintained a double-digit lead, outscoring Manheim Central 16-9 to send them to the next round against District Two champ Abington Heights (26-1), a 70-42 winner over Central Columbia last Friday.
For the Barons, who bring back all of their starters from a team which reached its first-ever District championship game this winter, they are hoping for another deep playoff run next year. To do so, however, the Central boys will need to overcome the loss of three seniors – Josh Flanagan, Josiah Ginder and Steve Young.
“Yes, I’m excited about next year,” Sherwood said, “but we had three natural-born winners that were seniors. They have to be replaced. They took care of their roles. There’s things that they did for us that were just absolutely huge.”
Those seniors, and the rest of the Barons, left Sherwood with a good problem as he got on the bus outside of Garden Spot.
“I normally have a month to prepare for the banquet and I have a really good speech waiting for everybody. I don’t even know what I’m going to say,” Sherwood laughed. “Hopefully everything spoke for itself here with our program this year. Flat-out great kids. You can’t write it big enough. You can’t write it enough times.”
Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 721-4451.