Barons hold off Gantz, Tornado in L-L League quarter-finals

By on February 13, 2014

Manheim Central junior forward Matt Walsh (15) scores two of his team-high 24 points over a pair of McCaskey defenders during action Tuesday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Manheim Central junior forward Matt Walsh (15) scores two of his team-high 24 points over a pair of McCaskey defenders during action Tuesday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

As a Section Three team, Manheim Central doesn’t have to worry about McCaskey until it gets to the playoffs.

After watching the show that Tornado guard Kobe Gantz put on in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the Lancaster-Lebanon League quarter-finals, and knowing that he’s still only a sophomore, that’s just fine with Barons’ coach Chris Sherwood.

Gantz scored 24 of his game-high 36 points in the final stanza and single-handedly brought the Section One runner-up Red Tornado all the way back from a 50-32 deficit at the end of the third quarter. Shooting a sizzling 9-of-11 from the field in the fourth, Gantz helped McCaskey tie it 58-all with 1:32 remaining.

“He was really good,” Sherwood said. “He was really good. He can draw contact, finish around the basket, he can shoot. He’s a sophomore. He’s going to be a handful. I’m glad we’re in Section Three.”

Baron junior forward Matt Walsh was really good in his own right, and his three-point play put his team in front 62-58 with 1:16 to go and the Central boys went on to earn a 67-62 win in Manheim.

Their 18th straight win put the Section Three champion Barons (21-2) in the L-L semi-finals – moved from Thursday to Wednesday due to an impending winter storm – against Section Two champ Lebanon at Annville-Cleona at 6 p.m.

“It’s a big win because they’re a bigger school than us obviously,” said Walsh, who finished with a team-high 24 points. “They’ve got the intimidation factor, I guess, for most teams, but a win is a win – no more bigger than the others and we’re just trying to get a win (Wednesday).”

Another start like the one they got on Tuesday would no doubt make them hard to beat. The Barons never trailed in the opening 16 minutes, when Dan Wiederrecht scored 10 of his 19 points, helping Central go up 14-12 after one and 27-22 heading to the locker room.

“Early in the game, I just thought (Dan) was incredibly aggressive and confident going to the basket,” Sherwood said. “I’ve said it a million times – Dan’s a winner, Dan likes the moment, Dan will never let a teammate down, and he will never not be ready to play.”

Manheim Central won the turnover battle against McCaskey in the opening half, 6-5, but Sherwood again talked with his players at the half about how to to handle the Tornado’s 2-2-1 press, and it paid dividends. Leading by just one, 27-26, following a lay-in by Gantz early in the third quarter, the Barons went on a 13-0 run. Following a putback by 6-foot-7 freshman Taylor Funk, Wiederrecht scored three straight deuce, Josh Flanagan buried two free throws and then Walsh brought down the house with a dunk. Oh yeah, he also added a free throw to finish the three-point play, making it 40-26 with 4:16 left in the stanza.

“I thought the press caused us problems in the first half,” Sherwood said. “We worked on how you’re supposed to attack that 2-2-1 and we did a pretty good job with it in the second half. You’ve got to trust it.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt having Tony Staffieri at the point. The junior guard missed the season’s first 17 games due to a football injury, and he has been a key addition to the team since his return.

“Tony was the difference tonight,” Sherwood said. “We literally gave him the ball.”

“It’s great to have Tony back,” Walsh said. “He takes a lot of the pressure off that back-court.”

When Wiederrecht and Walsh nailed back-to-back ‘threes’ at the end of the third, Central took a big 50-32 edge to the final stanza.

But that’s when Gantz took over for the Red Tornado (15-9).

He hit his first six shots from the floor, including a spin move in the lane with 5:26 left to finish a quick 10-0 run, as the Red Tornado capitalized on five MC turnovers in the period’s first four minutes. Later, Gantz’s three-point play, followed by a steal and fastbreak layup by Randolph Speller Jr. tied it 58-58 with 1:32 remaining.

Walsh, who finished with 12 of his 24 points in the fourth, answered by sinking one of two free throws, and then he stepped up with his three-point on an inside deuce to put MC up four, 62-58.

“Matt really did deliver,” Sherwood said. “We just had to keep on trying to get our guys to calm down a little bit.”

“It wasn’t like we weren’t playing good defense on (Gantz),” Walsh said. “He was having a great game. He wasn’t missing very much, and what we try to do is if he’s making shots like he was making, we’re just going to go down and we’re going to try to get an answer.”

Gantz’s layup with :26.9 left kept the McCaskey deficit at four, 64-60, but they would get no closer as Walsh and Tanner Brenize went 3-of-4 at the line in the final seconds to seal it.

“We’re happy about it, but we just want to keep getting better,” Sherwood said. “There’s no guarantees in this job. We have to enjoy this moment and at the same time, continue to prepare for (Wednesday’s semi-finals), never get too high. This doesn’t happen all the time, unless you’re some of these powerhouses around here.”

Last Thursday, the Barons wrapped up the regular season with a 68-45 Section Three drubbing of Garden Spot in New Holland. Walsh scored 17 points to lead four MC players in double figures, as Central finished off a 15-1 L-L record. Funk added 16 points, while Wiederrecht and Staffieri added 14 and 10.

Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4451

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