The fun times make those late Tuesday nights worth it. Covering the Manheim Central boys basketball team’s playoff run definitely qualifies as that for me.
Fact is, they are an easy team to root for. The Barons players hand the ball to the referees during stoppages in play. They play hard, but not dirty. By all accounts, they are a close-knit group. And they look like they’re just having fun playing the game – as it should be.
During coach Chris Sherwood’s post-game sessions with the media following Manheim Central’s wins in both the District Three Triple-A quarter-finals and semi-finals, a quote that he has repeated numerous times is, ‘It’s just kids making plays.’
That hits the nail on the head.
For me, the signature moment of the Barons’ playoff run to this point is Tanner Brenize’s three-pointer at the buzzer lifting Manheim Central to a wild 51-49 win over No. 2-seeded West York last Friday night.
What an amazing game and a spectacular finish.
It’s one of those plays that you remember years and years from now, like the Matt Stairs hitting his moon shot at Dodger Stadium in the Phillies’ 2008 NLCS win, or Christian Laettner’s last-second shot to boost Duke over Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament at the old Spectrum.
Then on Monday night, when Barons’ leading scorer Matt Walsh was held to single digits for the first time this season, there was Dan Wiederrecht, hard-nosed and gritty as ever, stepping up with eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, Taylor Funk leading the way with a team-high 14 points, and Josh Flanagan showing no concern for floor burns to dive after one loose ball after another. They are just gamers.
“It’s just kids making plays.”
Wherever and whenever the Barons’ playoff run ends, they are going to look back on this season as a smashing success. They’ve achieved the most wins in a single season in program history, while winning their first Section title since 1980 and reaching the District finals for the first time ever.
It’s been a heck of a ride.
The Manheim Central boys might also look at their loss to Lebanon in the L-L League playoff semi-finals as not such a bad thing. At the time, they had been on an 18-game winning streak and were rolling right along.
Not that they weren’t focused, but sometimes a loss, especially when you’ve been on a long streak like the Barons were, can do some good for your long-term goals.
Winning streaks are difficult to maintain for a long period of time, and at some point, all good things must come to an end.
The Barons’ 2013-14 season will also conclude in time, but not before going into the State Tournament.
To the Central boys, I say thanks for the memories.