Central boys celebrate first Section title since 1980

By on February 6, 2014

Manheim Central’s Matt Walsh gets fouled by Lampeter-Strasburg’s Peyton Hoenninger while driving to the basket.

Manheim Central’s Matt Walsh gets fouled by Lampeter-Strasburg’s Peyton Hoenninger while driving to the basket.

Win over L-S is Barons’ 15th straight

Playing on a big stage is nothing new for many of Manheim Central’s players.

Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that Tony Staffieri and Dan Wiederrecht were playing with the Barons’ football team for the District Three Triple-A championship on the Hersheypark Stadium turf.

Colin Brubaker and Tanner Brenize were on that same field when Manheim Central played in the District Three Double-A boys soccer playoff semi-finals in October.

Those moments no doubt helped the MC boys basketball team remain poised last Friday night with an opportunity to clinch the Section Three crown.

“The kids are too talented (to panic),” Barons boss Chris Sherwood said. “They’re winners at this point. We have players on this team that have played in bigger games than this.”

Even when Lampeter-Strasburg twice got within two points early in the fourth quarter, after rallying from a 15-point deficit in the first half, the Barons were up to the challenge.

In the end, Central’s defense held the Pioneers scoreless over the final four minutes and Matt Walsh led all scorers with 14 points, as the Barons won their 15th straight game and clinched their first Section crown since 1980 with a 44-34 conquest in front of a packed house in Manheim.

The win not only put the Manheim Central boys (13-1 L-L, 18-2 overall) four games ahead of L-S (9-5 L-L) with just two games remaining, it also equaled the program record for most wins in a single season.

Manheim Central coach Chris Sherwood and his players celebrate after cutting down the net following their Section Three championship-clinching win over Lampeter-Strasburg last Friday night. Photos by Preston Whitcraft

Manheim Central coach Chris Sherwood and his players celebrate after cutting down the net following
their Section Three championship-clinching win over Lampeter-Strasburg last Friday night.
Photos by Preston Whitcraft


“The community is great,” Sherwood said after he and the Barons players cut down one of the nets. “If you win – football, basketball, softball – they will support you. This community loves their athletics. These kids work hard. It’s fun to watch these kids play because of how hard they work.”

They were certainly working hard in the opening quarter, when Manheim Central (currently ranked 7th in the District Three Triple-A power ratings) capitalized on a pressing, trapping defense to force eight of the Pioneers’ 18 turnovers. That, and five early points from Walsh – one on a ‘three,’ another on a putback – ignited the Barons to a 13-0 advantage after one.

“I thought we were aggressive as heck,” Sherwood said. “We were just trying to exploit some weaknesses and that was trying to get guys to pass out of traps. It was exactly the style we wanted in the first quarter. Exactly the style we wanted.”

The lead would have been larger, except that the Barons shot just 3-of-6 from the foul line in the first quarter, and 13-of-25 for the game.

“Going into the game, we were 61 percent, (L-S) was 53 percent, so it was going to bite one of us,” Sherwood said. “Some of these close games, we have not shot real well from the line. We’ve left points out there.”

L-S finally scored when Matt Achille buried three foul shots early in the second quarter, but they were 0-for-5 from the field until Achille, who finished with a team-high 13 points, hit a 3-pointer with 6:05 left in the half.

Justin Dehaut added five of his nine points in the period and R.D. Moore drained a buzzer-beating ‘three’ to make it 21-15 at the half.

Central led by no more than eight points in the third – Josh Flanagan’s putback made it 29-21 for the Barons, who had a 29-26 edge on the boards – and the Pioneers remained within six, 29-23, going to the fourth on a layup by Collin Shank.

The lead was down to two, 29-27, with 6:58 to go after Dehaut scored back-to-back deuces inside. Following a turnover by Central, L-S called a timeout with 6:43 remaining.

Still, the Barons remained calm.

“There was never really a sense of panic because we thought we could defend them in the half-court,” Sherwood said.

Back-to-back layups by Staffieri and Taylor Funk attacking from the wing, followed by a ‘three’ by Achille and then another layup by Staffieri put MC up 37-32 with 4:46 left.

“We did say, ‘You have to start attacking them from the sides and the base line. You can’t attack them from the top because they’re jamming the middle of it,’” Sherwood said. “And Tony did that. Tony put us in a situation where he gave us a couple big buckets to keep it a two-possession game.”

Those buckets looked big when Achille’s deuce cut the L-S gap to 37-34 with 4:00 left.

But they would get no closer.

Although Manheim Central shot just 5-of-10 from the foul line in the final 2:13, Funk stepped up by converting a huge three-point play, making it 41-34 with 1:32 left, and the Barons never looked back.

“We had to adjust and I thought our guys did,” Sherwood said. “We had to make plays down the stretch.”

It’s not like the Barons haven’t been through it before with the football and soccer teams. Fortunately for Manheim Central, however, Friday’s game was one of three chances it had to clinch the Section title.

“One thing I was stressing to these guys is, ‘You’ve got three games to do it.’” Sherwood said. “The pressure’s not on you. You’ve clinched your District berth. You’ve clinched your L-L League berth. One of the reasons we wanted our guys to celebrate tonight is I’ve been preaching and preaching, ‘Stay focused, stay focused, stay focused.’ They’re just winning games (and saying), ‘OK coach, when are you going to allow us to be kids.’ I feel like I haven’t allowed them to enjoy it.”

Friday night, they did.

The Manheim Central boys were back on the court Tuesday night, as they stretched their winning streak to 16 straight with a 66-32 thumping of ELCO in Manheim.

The Barons had things well in hand at the break, taking a 33-13 lead to the locker room and never looking back. Taylor Funk finished with 14 points to lead three Manheim Central players in double figures. Josiah Ginder chipped in with 12 and Walsh added 11.

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