HERSHEY - Winning a District 3-A boys' basketball title has been a goal for New Hope Academy ever since the day Coach David Archer took over the program.
You see the home gym of the Mighty Ants has a banner that commemorates the school's runner-up finish in the disrict finals back in 2012.
Yes, a runner-up finish.
So it has been a running joke between Archer and New Hope girls' basketball coach Terrance Clark to see how quickly their respectively clubs could replace them.
It only took a season for Archer and the Ants to accomplish the mission.
New Hope (14-9) can officially raise a proper championship banner now after the Mighty Ants cruised to a 58-35 victory over Mount Cavalry in the district title game Friday.
"I told Coach Clark that we have to get those banners with second-place off the wall," Archer said. "That was my first goal. We don't want to see no runner-up trophies or banners on the wall. And it was a running joke every day that I was at practice - we don't want to see that runner-up banner and we're getting that off the walls."
It took a little while, but the Ants and their up-tempo pressure finally got to the Chargers in the second half. Leading by a 27-20 clip at the intermission, New Hope's defense fueled a bevy of turnovers as they blitzed Mount Cavalry (22-4) by a 30-15 margin over the final two periods.
"We knew (Mount Cavalry) had a championship heart," Archer said. "And we knew they were trying to go into unchartered areas for their school and their program. So we just wanted to keep (the pressure) up. I think Kareem Oden had like seven or eight steals and he's done that this year for us."
Many of those steals resulted in fast-break scores as the Ants broke open the game in transition. Oden and NaGus Griggs each scored 15 points apiece to lead New Hope while Montrel Morgan added 13 in the victory.
For Griggs, who is one of five seniors on the squad, playing well in the third quarter was of major importance.
"Usually the third quarter is our bad quarter," Grigg said. "But we knew that, in this game, we couldn't have a bad quarter. A bad quarter can turn into a loss and we wanted to be the first team in New Hope history to win a district title."
And to think that there was a chance a few months ago that the Ant and Archer may not have had a chance to achieve their goal. But fortunately for the school, they were able to successfully appeal a ruling that would have closed the doors at the school in January.
The school, however, isn't out of the woods just yet. So that's why Archer had shirts made up for the club to wear with the phrase #SAVENEWHOPE on the front and the back.
"We had a plan to use basketball to draw positive attention to the school," Archer said. "And (these shirts) were a silent protest. We wanted people to understand that (this school) is like a family. You're saving kids' lives at this school. And it's not about basketball. I have 16 kids in that locker room and 12 of them have straight A's. So this was just our little way of lettting people know that we're not going to go quietly."
New Hope (58)
Serrano 0 1-2 1, Griggs 7 0-0 15, Coleman 0 0-0 0, Oden 6 2-2 15, Beverly 1 0-0 2, Murphy 0 0-0 0, Morgan 4 5-5 13, E. Wilson 1 0-0 2, Little 1 0-0 2, J. Wilson 3 0-0 6. Three-point goals: Griggs, Oden. Totals: 23 10-11 58.
Mount Cavalry (35)
Jeter 5 1-3 14, Perales 1 0-0 2, LaChance 0 2-2 2, Crick 0 0-1 0, Bryant 1 2-3 4, Kuntzelman 2 0-0 6, Sturgis 3 0-0 7, Wolfe 0 0-0 0. Three-piont goals: Jeter 3, Kuntzelman 2, Sturgis. Totals: 12 5-9 35.
New Hope 12 16 14 16 - 58
Mount Cavalry 13 7 10 5 - 35