Grand performance

By on December 10, 2014

Walsh scores 1,000th in win over Mounts

Manheim Central senior Matt Walsh (15) gets past Ephrata defender Christian Miles and drives to the basket for his 1,000th career point late in the third quarter on Monday night.

Manheim Central senior Matt Walsh (15) gets past Ephrata defender Christian Miles and drives to the basket for his 1,000th career point late in the third quarter on Monday night.

Manheim Central senior Matt Walsh had a message for himself in the third quarter of Monday night’s non-league game against Ephrata.

Relax.

Just four points shy of 1,000 in his standout career with the Barons, the final steps were proving to be the hardest.

On MC’s first possession of the third, he traveled. A short time later, he took a charge. Then there was a reach-in foul.

After a brief stint on the bench with four fouls, he returned to the game and reached the milestone, driving from the right elbow, swooping toward the basket and dropping in a layup to get his 1,000th.

“I think the more I thought about it, the harder it got,” Walsh admitted. “I just tried to relax myself and say, ‘You know, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then I have another game.’ So at that point, I just relaxed and played the game and that’s when it happened.”

Walsh’s accomplishment was the highlight from a game in which the defending Section Three champion Barons took a commanding 19-2 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, cruising to a 74-40 non-league victory over Ephrata in Manheim.

Walsh finished with a game-high 18 points to lead three MC players in double figures. Taylor Funk and Dan Wiederrecht added 17 and 10, respectively.

“I took (Matt) out for 30 seconds and for the first time in my career, I told him not to touch anybody on the defensive end,” Barons coach Chris Sherwood said. “For a lot of reasons, with the tough loss this weekend (60-54 to Octorara in the Hamburg Tip-Off finals) and everything, we wanted to turn the page from this, to refocus on what we have to do, and Matt did too. Someone had said, ‘You used your whole playbook.’ No, I didn’t because all I kept yelling was, ‘Throw the ball to Matt.’ I didn’t use anything in my playbook. We did very simple things just to try to get him looks.”

Walsh netted 10 of his points in the game’s first six-plus minutes, including a pair of three-point plays. And when Wiederrecht converted on a fastbreak with 1:43 remaining in the quarter, the Barons had a big 19-2 advantage.

While Manheim Central shot 8-of-13 from the floor in the opening stanza, the Mounts got out of the gates just 0-for-7 before junior guard Matt McGillan finished on a putback with more than five minutes elapsed. Nathan Zimmerman’s ‘three’ cut the Barons’ lead to 19-5 at period’s end.

McGillan and Zimmerman, Ephrata’s only returning players from the squad that finished 11-11 in 2013-14, led the Mounts with 16 points apiece.

“They’re a good team. Their size is hard to beat. We can certainly play better than we did, but we’ll just go back to work,” said Mounts’ assistant coach John Coletti, who was filling in for his son Jason, serving a one-game suspension after receiving a technical foul in a key win over Lebanon in the final game of the season last February.

Not helping matters for the Ephrata boys was that Central already had two games under its belt prior to the Mounts playing their season opener.

“I think we were nervous,” Coletti said. “We have a lot of talent, but they’re young and learning. I think our future looks bright. But we’re going to struggle until we get them all on the same page.”

The Barons were clearly on the same page, taking advantage of their pressure defense while forcing turnovers and running the floor.

Behind 6-foot-8 Funk and 6-foot-5 Walsh, who combined for 13 boards in opening half, the Barons built a 22-13 edge on the glass going into the break.

“We just ran our stuff,” Walsh said. “We focused on getting stops and running the other way in transition. That’s pretty much how we got (the lead).”

“We have some seniors and seniors can apply some pressure and look really good applying pressure because 18 year olds are playing 16 year olds and it’s a big difference,” Sherwood said.

The Mounts were still within 13 points, 27-14, when sophomore guard Alexander Rummel scored on a layup with 2:55 left in the half. But deuces from Wiederrecht book-ended a 9-2 MC run, highlighted by Funk’s putback slam, sending the Barons to the locker room with a 36-16 advantage.

As the Central boys pulled away in the third, outscoring Ephrata 15-5, Walsh was in the center of things with six of those points, including his milestone 1,000th with :35 left in the quarter to push the Barons’ lead to 49-21.

“It’s hard to prepare for another team when you’re guys are still learning,” Coletti said. “Then you go up against a 6-8 guy and a 6-5 guy, they never see that. We have a lot of young guys and there’s some good ball players there. For the first varsity game, it’s pretty tough &tstr; especially in a packed house against a team that’s pretty good and supposed to do well this year.”

To Ephrata’s credit, they battled to the end, as McGillan scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough, but they did leave a favorable impression on Sherwood.

“(McGillan)’s a heck of a ball player,” he said. “I really think that he’s the full package because he plays so hard all the time … Those kids are going to be good for Ephrata. Listen, I can remember a couple years ago a Donegal team that ripped our heads off and that only made our young guys better. Now here we are and that will be them in a couple of years. It’s the cycle of high school basketball.”

Walsh was a freshman on the Barons’ team that lost 73-47 to a Donegal squad that would go on to the PIAA semi-finals just one year later.

On Monday night, he celebrated a rare milestone playing for a Manheim Central team with some high aspirations of its own.

“It’s satisfying to get it,” Walsh said. “I’m not completely satisfied yet, but it is a nice feeling … It just kinda signifies all the work I’ve put in during the season, out-of-season. It shows all the support and love I had growing up all throughout high school, all throughout middle school, from my family, friends, coaches and everybody that’s been involved in my life.”

Sherwood couldn’t have been happier for someone he describes as “just a heck of a kid.”

“Everybody sees what he does basketball-wise and I don’t think I need to get into that,” he said. “He is such a kind kid and he’s compassionate toward others, he’s compassionate toward his teammates. There’s nothing phony about him. He is so sincere and such a genuine young man &tstr; there’s more than basketball to him. I just think that he’ll be such a great father, a great husband and a good worker later on in life. That’s what is really important here.”

Last Saturday, Funk scored 23 points and Walsh finished with 12, but the Barons came up a little bit short to Octorara, losing 60-54 in the Hamburg Tip-Off Tournament championship game.

The Central boys led 28-23 at the half, but Octorara went on a 20-9 third-quarter run to grab the lead and then held on for the win.

In Friday’s opening-round, Walsh netted a game-high 16 points and Wiederrecht added 14, leading the Barons in a 58-22 rout of Northern Lehigh.

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