ENOLA – The Greenwood boys basketball team continued to display its District 3 Class A supremacy Monday night in a one-sided matchup with Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference foe Harrisburg Christian.
The 12th-seeded Knights – the only team to enter the district field with a sub-.500 record and upset two opponents on the way to the semis – traded buckets with the Wildcats in the first quarter, but the Tri-Valley League champion was too strong and the defending champions pulled away in a 57-24 rout.
The Knights (12-12) sat in a soft zone to start, slowing the pace of the game while forcing the ‘Cats to rely on their jump shooters for the bulk of the production. Fortunately for Greenwood, its shooters came ready to play, netting seven early field goals, three of which came from three-point land.
“We knew what they were going to do defensively,” Greenwood coach Kent Houser said. ” We knew we were going to have to shoot the ball well and I thought we did.”
The Knights were paced by Johnathan Underkoffler, who netted nine first-quarter points including a 3-pointer, while teammate Connor Shroyer also dropped one from beyond the arc on his way to an eight-point stanza.
“We knew they could shoot the three,” Houser said. “The Underkoffler kid came off hot as can be and he really hurt us – Ryan (Kerstetter) finally buckled down and did a real nice job on him from there on out.”
Greenwood was led by Josh Ferguson, Adam Harrison and Ryan Kerstetter in the opening round of the bout, scoring five, five and eight respectively.
Much like the Wildcats’ quarterfinal game, the squad went on a defensive tear in the second quarter, shutting out the Knights while going on an 18-1 run that put the visitors in the rearview mirror. The ‘Cats held the visitors scoreless for 13 minutes, playing active man-to-man defense that forced seven first-half turnovers. Amid the run, Ferguson picked up his fourth foul with three minutes remaining in the third, but the championship pedigree was evident as Greenood was unfazed, looking to the next man to get the job done.
“Once we decided we were going to play, we had some kids come off the bench who really did a nice job in the second quarter defensively,” Houser said.
The Wildcat defense continued to stymie the CCAC team, allowing zero field goals across a span of 18 minutes while outrebounding the opponent – squashing the 12-seed’s hopes for a third-straight upset in its tournament run.
The Knights continued to sit in a soft zone and the ‘Cats continued to pounce, utilizing solid ball movement in the dwindling seconds of the third quarter, holding for the final shot. Kerstetter found a void in the defense and took advantage with a dribble on the right wing and a jump shot that found the bottom of the net.
The buzzer went off and so did the Greenwood student section: “I SMELL HERSHEY!”
Up 40-19 entering the final period, the ‘Cats continued to apply pressure on the Knights, who abandoned their soft-zone plan for a man-to-man defense. The result was the same, however, as the Wildcats sought and found a different way to score. Ferguson beat his man on three-straight possessions, cutting to the basket for easy buckets in the paint.
“We knew if we could get them in a man-to-man that that’s not what they prefer to play and we’d be OK at that point,” Houser said.
Greenwood was led by Kerstetter, who netted 15 from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 25 points. Ferguson was steady, chipping in 13 of his own.
The Wildcats (21-3) will make their fourth straight appearance in the District 3 Class A championship game Friday, looking to defend for the first time. They’ll face a familiar foe in Lebanon Catholic, which won its semifinal matchup over New Hope.
“We know Lebanon Catholic pretty well and we’ve had a lot of great battles with them over the years – we have a lot of respect for their program,” Houser said. “We know we’re going to have to be prepared to play and we have to come out and start a little better than we have the last two games.”
Tip-off for Friday’s game is 5 p.m. at Hershey’s Giant Center.