Wildcats fall to Upper Dauphin in heartbreak
NEWPORT –The Tri-Valley League boys championship game had everything one could want in a high school title matchup — a showdown of two senior-led squads that the standard 32 minutes of regulation could not settle. Ultimately, Upper Dauphin claimed the crown over Greenwood in a 52-45 overtime thriller Thursday night at Newport High School
The Dartmouth-bound Macklin Ayers was the top Wildcat killer, accounting for 24 points while collecting nine rebounds. Senior Hunter Lentz was also a force to reckoned with, accounting for 12 points and three steals.
For Greenwood, senior Aaron Bollinger led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Classmate Steven Watts also had a very strong night on the glass, collecting 10 boards and a steal while scoring four points. Watts often was the emotional leader on the floor delivering an unquantifiable entity that lifted the Wildcats’ spirits at critical junctures.
“Inspired is a good word (to describe Watts’s effort),” said Wildcat coach Troy Gantt. “You could tell he really wanted this, it meant a lot to him. I think it was a positive emotion; we did let anything get under our skin, where we could have lost our edge and our focus. Everybody in the game gave us solid contributions and the bench gave great energy.”
There were several points in regulation were the Trojans started to add separation, but Greenwood never let things get out of hand.
Upper Dauphin came out of the gate hot, connecting on six of its first nine shots to build a 14-9 lead, but Avery Morder (five points, four rebounds) drained a deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer to cut the lead to 14-12 after one.
“That is the result of guys looking to make plays with time winding down, understanding the situation and doing their best to get a quality shot up,” said Gantt.
Junior Brennan Miller then came off the bench to account for six of the Wildcats eight second-quarter points to give Greenwood a 20-19 lead at the break.
“Miller’s effort coming off the bench in the second quarter was great,” said Gantt. “You need contributions from all the guys.”
The Trojans started the second half on a 7-0 run as Lentz drained a pair of threes to push his team to a 26-20 advantage, but Greenwood responded with a 12-4 run to go back up 32-30 after Michael Strohm completed an old-fashioned 3-point play.
The Wildcats carried a 34-32 lead into the fourth quarter, and built it to 39-34 with 3:29 to go, but both Watts and Bollinger were hampered by foul trouble. Additionally, veteran Trojan coach Allan Laskowski went to a trusty old defense to try and turn the tide.
“The 1-3-1 is (legendary Trojan coach) Gordon Foster’s defense. I played for him in 1960, and that is all we used,” said Laskowski. “It was a standard here for decades, they got away from it, but I brought it back about three weeks ago.”
The Trojans stormed back on the strength of their defense and a Lentz 3-pointer, as well as a bunch of free throws to take a 41-39 lead.
Bollinger in turned drained a pair from the stripe to tie things at 41-41 with 14 seconds left.
A Wil Leskowski jump in the lane as time expired did not go, and things went to overtime.
Nathan Wise connected on 3-pointer to start the extra session, and the Trojans were off and rolling. Leskowski and Ayers each tallied four in the overtime to secure the 52-45 victory. Junior Thomas Pyle scored all four of the Wildcats points in the extra session.
Greenwood advances to a first-round game of the District 3 Class A championships, when it hosts High Point Baptist at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Upper Dauphin 52, Greenwood 45 (OT)
Macklin Ayers 8 8-16, Hunter Lentz 4 0-1 12, Wil Laskowski 1 4-4 7, Nathan Wise 2 0-0 5, Sam Kerwin 2 0-0 4, Grant Stoner 0 1-2 1, Hayden Bellis 0 0-2 0.. Totals 17 13-25 52.
3 point goals: Hunter Lentz 4, Wil Laskowski 1, Nathan Wise 1.
Did not score: Maison Grow.
Aaron Bollinger 7 2-2 18, Tyler Sherman 0 1-2 1, Avery Morder 2 0-0 5, Thomas Pyle 2 2-2 6, Michael Strohm 2 1-2 5, Steven Watts 2 0-2 4, Brennan Miller 3 0-1 6. Totals 18 6-11 45.
3 point goals: Aaron Bollinger 2, Avery Morder.
Score by Quarters
Upper Dauphin 14-5-13-9-12–52