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High School Boys' and Girls' Basketball
District 3-A and 11-A Championships
Area Teams keep it close

By Mike Hutchins, CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Millersburg's Christian Keiter looks around an attempted block by Juwan Gooding of Impact Academy for a shot at the basket during the District 3A championship game held Feb. 27 at the Giant Center in Hershey. (Sentinel photo by lon Zaiders

HERSHEY • Prior to the District 3-A championship game at the Giant Center in Hershey Feb. 27, there was talk of Millersburg’s chances of beating highly-favored Hilda Goodling Impact Academy equalling that of a snowball and its chances in a warm place.

The Indians (17-9 overall) didn’t listen to the talk and gave the Mighty Warriors all it could handle and left the floor with heads held high and a proud following beaming, despite a 65-59 loss.

The Tribe didn’t back down at any point in the game, and nearly erased a 16-point fourth quarter deficit in collecting the district silver medals.

The Impact Academy was as advertised – fast, talented and athletic – but Millersburg stood toe-to-toe with them in the first half, trailing by just one point, 29-28, at halftime.

The Indians had their own lead early in the second quarter. The Tribe entered the quarter down five points, 16-11, but Christian Wingard (16 points overall) hit back-to-back three-point buckets early in the second to put the Indians in front, 17-16.

Christian Keiter followed that with a pair of free throws that had Millersburg in front 19-18. Keiter’s 19 points and 13 rebounds led the Indians.

The Mighty Warriors’ speed certainly played a role, forcing the Indians to commit 29 turnovers in the game and, on occasions, allowing Impact to score points in a hurry.

“You can’t simulate that in practice,” Millersburg Head Coach Todd Wingard said. “We knew we’d have some turnovers, but the guys handled it well.”

Wingard spoke of the effort sophomore Matt Snyder gave in the first half, scoring five points and playing hard on defense and on the boards.

“Matt’s one of those guys who really came along,’’ Wingard said. ‘‘We started giving him more and more minutes down the stretch (of the season) and he responded. He didn’t get in much in the second half because we needed shooters, but Matt really did a nice job helping us stay in the game.”

The third quarter really was the difference in the game. Impact came out and put the pressure to the Tribe right out of the gates. The Mighty Warriors used it’s full-court pressure to run off an 8-0 spurt in the first 1:30 of the half, with four different players connecting, as they took a 37-28 lead.

A similar flurry in the last minute saw the Mighty Warriors score six unanswered points to spread the lead to 15, 51-36, with just 20 seconds to play in the quarter.

“The third quarter really got us, but the guys came back and battled hard,” Coach Wingard said. “We didn’t quit; we didn’t just go away.”

With 5:20 remaining in the game, Impact had a 16-point, 60-44, lead.

The Indians held the Mighty Warriors scoreless for nearly 4 1/2 minutes by forcing multiple turnovers of their own, and rallied to pull within four points, 60-56, with 1:14 to play in the game.

Paeton Warfel, another of the Indians who really came on strong toward the season’s end, scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter. Wingard had a pair of three-point baskets in the run. Connor Keim (7 points) hit a big three to end the 12-0 run.

Impact was led by its 5-foot, 11-inch senior star guard Juwan Gooding, who raced and slashed his way to a game-high 23 points to go with six steals, five assists and four rebounds. Gooding is a Division I college prospect who has turned down a scholarship to Manhatten University to spend a year at the Impact Academy’s Prep School to concentrate on improving academically prior to deciding on his future in basketball. He had played high school basketball in Massachusetts for the past three seasons before coming to the York school that was known as New Hope Academy until the start of this year.

The Indians now move on the PIAA Class A state tournament, with their opening game Friday, March 6 at 5 p.m. at Harrisburg High School against District 1 runner-up Jenkintown.

DISTRICT 3-A SEMIFINAL

Millersburg 83, West Shore Christian Academy 80 (OT), Feb. 23. Millersburg was pretty much left for dead when it trailed West Shore Christian Academy by 28 points late in the first quarter at East Pennsboro High School.

The only ones who most likely had not given up hope were the Indians themselves.

Once Millersburg regrouped late in the first half and played to its game plan, they rode a nearly improbable comeback to earn a trip to the District 3-A championship game.

The Indians had five players score in double figures and were led offensively by sophomore Wingard’s 21 points and six assists. Keiter added 18 points and 17 rebounds. Paeton Warfel had 17 points and eight rebounds. Seniors Connor Keim and Robbie Burger (five assists, three steals) had 11 and 10, respectively. Snyder helped on the glass with six rebounds.

The rally started with a first-half closing 8-2 run by the Tribe that saw the WSCA lead “shrink” to 22 points, 48-26, at the break. It ended with an unlikely play off an intentionally missed free throw that resulted in a game-tying bucket to force the extra frame.

“We didn’t change a thing at halftime – just restated our three goals for the game: stop penetration, rebound and don’t settle for jump shots … establish an inside game,’’ Head Coach Todd Wingard said. ‘‘At times, we fall in love with our three-point shots and shoot ourselves out of games

“We came to start the second half by driving to the bucket,’’ he added. ‘‘(Connor) Keim, (Matt) Snyder and (Paeton) Warfel had huge roles in the comeback.

The Indians turned up the pressure in the third quarter defensively, forced 12 turnovers in the frame and collected a 20-8 edge on the scoreboard to further hammer away at the Bobcats’ lead, pulling to within 10 points, 56-46, heading to the fourth quarter.

Keiter had sat most of the third quarter due to foul trouble, but came on strong in the fourth quarter and overtime. Keiter (18 points, 17 rebounds) and Warfel (17 points, eight rebounds) took care of most of the scoring in the fourth frame.

Keiter connected with 20 seconds left to get the Indians within three, 71-68.


District 11-A: Vikings fall by 2 points but still make school history
By Janet Smeltz, CONTRIBUTING WRITER



Williams Valley's Rayanne Hawk, pictured here in an earlier season game against Tri-Valaley, was the high scorer in her team's Feb. 28 game against Shenandoah Valley for the District 11-A championship. (Sentinel photo by Lon Zeiders)

POTTSVILLE • The stakes were high Feb. 28 when Williams Valley and Shenandoah Valley took the court for the District 11, Class A championship. It would be the first time in either school’s history that the girls’ basketball program had an opportunity to earn a district championship.

Fans filed into Martz Hall in anticipation that a hard fought battle that would likely take place.  And nobody was disappointed in watching the second-seeded Lady Vikings and the top-seeded Lady Blue Devils.

But in the end, it was Shenandoah Valley that earned its first district gold, holding off Williams Valley, 42-40.

Even so, the Lady Vikings move on to the PIAA Class A state tournament, playing District 12 Champion West Catholic Saturday, March 7 at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia.

‘‘It was a tough loss, I have to give it to Shenandoah; they out played us in the second half in all aspects of the game. It was    just tough to finally get (to district) and not come away with a win,’’ Head Coach Brian Unger said.

‘‘We play Saturday in Philly, so we need to prepare for that one, hopefully win and continue on in states,’’ he added.

The Lady Vikings had defeated SV 46-43 in regular season action. Williams Valley had lost in the district semifinal last year.

Unger had his team prepared for the challenge.  Their game plan was to bring lots of energy to the floor, make the Blue Devils play the length of the court and try to stop standout shooter Abigail Snitzer, known for cranking out threes on any place past the half court line. The Vikings’ game plan offensively was to put the ball in the hoop, play with composure, make the foul shots and play their best, according to Unger.

The Vikings played a match-up style defense and came out of the starting gate ready to play. Both teams found themselves going at a blistering pace as each team raced horse-like up and down the court. But neither team shot very well in the frenzied pace.  

Hannah Nestor’s trey tied the game at 5-5, and time and time again the game would remain knotted. Snitzer nailed a trey, but Haley Nestor countered with a triple to force a 10-10 tie. An inbounds play to Jenna Daniel and another trey by Kate Whelski at the buzzer gave Williams Valley a 9-0 run and a 16-10 first period lead.

With both teams scrapping at both ends of the floor, it was evident no lead would be safe. Snitzer unleashed another trey and Carly Teaschenko followed for a 5-0 run by the Blue Devils with 6:18 remaining in the second period, forcing Unger to call a timeout.  Whelski’s drive earned her a three-point play and Williams Valley led 19-15. 

But just as quickly, a Marcella Creasy trey kept the Blue Devils within striking distance. Daniel earned an offensive putback and the Lady Vikings led 23-18 at halftime. Both Whelski and Daniel scored six points each. Daniel was also superb in the first half with seven rebounds and two blocks.

With the start of the third quarter, the Vikings put up an offensive putback to take their biggest  game lead 25-18, taking advantage of two turnovers committed by the Devils. But this would be short-lived, as SV increased its defensive intensity and slowed the pace holding the Vikings to just four points for the quarter.

A 7-0 run by the Blue Devils occurred when Snitzer hit a long-distance triple, followed by an inside Creasy bucket and two Snitzer free throws. 

With 3:20 remaining in the third frame, the game once again was tied (25-25). Hawk’s  fade-away jumper was followed by an inbounds play inside to Creasy. Alaina Demalis, who was a thorn in the Vikings side the entire quarter with an assist, a steal and a blocked shot, sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to help the Blue Devils take a 29-27 lead going into the last period.

Another trey way beyond the arc by Snitzer gave SV a 32-27 lead at 6:57 and Unger immediately called another timeout. Shortly thereafter, Hannah Nestor drained a trey to close the gap by two. Hawk’s three point play put Williams Valley up, 33-32, with 4:00 remaining. But once again, Snitzer launched another trey to pull ahead.

The Vikings knotted the score at 35-35 with 2:30 remaining on another Hawk drive. But once again, the Vikings were hurt when Creasy launched a trey at 1:50. 

With 1:36 remaining, the Blue Devils chose to slow the pace of this game, forcing WV to foul. Hannah Nestor’s twisting drive six seconds to go. But Kristina Nieddu would connect on one of her four three throws made down the stretch to pull SV ahead 42-38 before Haley Nestor’s buzzer beating drive gave the Devils only a two-point margin of victory.

“I was really heartbroken. It was a very intense game. Snitzer is a really great player,” the Vikings’ Rayanne Hawk said. ‘‘When you make it this far, it's really hard to lose especially in the district championship.

‘‘This definitely gives me motivation to return to the district championship and win the gold next year,’’ she added. ‘‘It was an honor to be there, because it was the first time ever that a Williams Valley girls' basketball team made it into the district finals. I'm excited to make some noise in states.”

Hawk led her team with 12 points. Hannah Nestor contributed with 11 points.  Daniel added six points and 11 rebounds. Snitzer finished with 21 points for the Blue Devils including five treys. Creasy added 11 points.  The Vikings hit 4-for-6 from the free throw line and SV hit 9-for-13.

DISTRICT 11-A SEMIFINAL

Williams Valley 52, Salem Christian 28, Feb. 25. The Lady Vikings girls’ basketball program can add another feat to its long list of accomplishments.

With its victory against third-seeded Salem Christian(20-3) at Pottsville’a Martz Hall, Williams Valley earned its first district final berth for the first time in program history. In addition, the Vikes clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the storied 1998-99 season.

Rayanne Hawk and Hannah Nestor ignited an early 20-0 run to open the game.

“Salem had difficulty handling our full court pressure. We came out with an incredible amount of intensity,’’ Head Coach Brian Unger said. ‘‘However, after getting such a big early lead, we seemed to just let the game play out. Once we called off the pressure and started to substitute, we seemed to get a bit flat. We will have to maintain that intensity for the (championship).’’

With Salem committing numerous turnovers in the first quarter, the Vikings took advantage, scoring often on their opponents’ mistakes. 

Williams Valley also controlled the boards, as Haley Nestor and Jenna Daniel were a major factor in making their presence known inside the paint. In turn, this created opportunities for second-chance points as well as transition plays. 

Nestor grabbed 15 rebounds, while Daniel hauled in 10. Williams Valley led 24-6 after the first period.

In the second and third quarters, when the Vikings intensity waned, so did their shooting. Thanks to their initial huge lead, the Vikings held on.

Kate Whelski was a big factor in the Vikings’ keeping an 18-point lead, 40-22, after three periods. Whelski scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the middle quarters.

‘‘We came so far as a team, and we set this goal at the beginning of the year and here we are. It’s just amazing,’’ Whelski said.  ‘‘Our coaches believed in us to work hard and we did it. We kept the intensity up and the confidence behind our team. We need to keep our intensity up to move forward.”

Williams Valley outscored Salem Christian 12-6 in the final quarter to punch its ticket to the finals.

Hannah Nestor, who finished with eight points and seven steals, said, ‘‘We set goals at the beginning of the year and have come so far to accomplish them.”

Hawk, who contributed with eight points and four steals, added, ‘‘I believe our team has the drive to win (districts) and move on to states. Our coaches have a lot of confidence in each of us.”

In addition to Haley Nestor’s 15 rebounds, she also scored nine points. She commented, ‘‘I really am so proud of my team and thankful for all the support we are getting from the community.”

For Unger, who also was the Vikings’ coach in 1998-99, when the program reached the state Eastern Final, getting this far and achieving this accomplishment with this team is special. 

‘‘It is a nice accomplishment for the girls and was the last of our team goals this year – to get to the finals and states,’’ he said.  ‘‘We need to add one more, and that is to win districts. 

‘‘The girls have been awesome this season. We could not have been a better bunch,’’ he added. ‘‘Now, we just need to work hard and go out and play our best game of the season.’’




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