Delone Catholic boys fall short vs. North Penn-Mansfield, ending season at states
McSHERRYSTOWN — Perspective in the realm of high school athletics is always somewhat relative. A team that falls in the championship game might feel like a bit of a failure, while another team that simply got there feels like a success.
That brings us to Delone Catholic boys’ basketball. After missing out on the York-Adams League playoffs entirely, the Squires were not expected on paper to play more than a single District 3 Class 3A contest. Yet somehow, some way, the Delone boys proved the naysayers wrong. First, the Squires upset parochial rival York Catholic, which had won both of the teams' regular-season meetings. Then Delone knocked off top-seeded Columbia with a miraculous second-half comeback that Squire fans will not soon forget.
All of that earned the boys from McSherrystown not only a ticket to the PIAA tournament, but a first-round home game against District 4 runner-up North Penn-Mansfield on Saturday afternoon.
Could the Delone boys keep their magical postseason alive for at least one more night?
Trailing by three points with two seconds left, the Squires heaved a pass to midcourt where Cam Keller collected it, dribbled once before launching a high-arching shot toward the rim. The ball smacked against the glass, hit the front of the rim before caroming sideways as the buzzer sounded.
Final score: North Penn Mansfield 68, Delone 65.
“That was definitely a good high school game to watch,” Squires coach Brandon Staub said. “I’m just super proud of the guys, obviously, that they played really hard and tried to do everything that we wanted to do.”
Karson Dominick scored 26 points, Alex Davis tallied 23 and Burleigh finished with 11 for the District 4 runner-up Tigers (25-3). Bryson Kopp, one of two seniors who saw extensive time in the lineup this season for Delone, finished with a team-best 15 points, including a perfect 10-of-10 performance from the free throw line. Gage Zimmerman and Keller finished with 11 points each, while Wittmer and Brady Dettinburn tallied six apiece for the Squires (17-9).
The home team seemed poised to advance to the second round late in the fourth quarter. Leading 62-61 with 28 seconds left, the Delone boys almost forced a five-second violation on an inbounds pass before a timeout was granted to avoid what could have been a game-changing miscue. Instead, the visiting Tigers regained the lead with an and-one basket by Brody Burleigh (11 points).
“They ran what we knew as ‘Play Number 5,'” Staub said. “We’ve gone over it the past week like 15 times or so, but, to their credit, they executed it and got the and-one.”
That was one of seven "and-one" finishes the Tigers completed during the contest, which certainly made a difference in the outcome.
“The game wasn’t necessarily called in fashion that is conducive to the way that we play,” Staub said of the physicality before clarifying that he wasn’t upset with the officiating. “Just the style of the game and how it played out was good. We shot the ball well and had the kind of pace that we wanted. Coming in, if you told me we would score 65 points, I would've felt really, really good about the outcome of the game. But (Burleigh) and (Davis) did a good job of getting the basket and finishing and that sort of thing.”
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The Squires had a chance to tie it up on the following possession as Keller drove through the lane and seemingly scored the game-tying layup, only to have it bounce off the rim and into the hands of Burleigh for the defensive rebound. Dominick was quickly fouled, sending the NPM standout to the line, where he converted both shots to push the Tigers' lead to 66-62 with nine seconds left.
Not so fast.
The Squires advanced the ball up the court before finding junior Gage Zimmerman, who buried a 3-pointer to draw the hosts within a point with three seconds left. Only a second ticked off the clock as the Delone boys fouled Dominick on the inbounds pass once again. And just like the previous time, the Tigers standout sank both attempts to push the lead back to three.
Despite the dire circumstances with two seconds left, the Squires came out of a timeout with confidence.
“Our walkthrough yesterday (Friday) ended with Cam making a shot just like the one he got,” Staub said.
And just like the practice, the Squires got the ball to their guy, but unfortunately the result Saturday could not be duplicated from the day before.
“We got a great look there,” Staub said.
Instead of moving on to the next round, the Squires and Staub saw their Cinderella-like run come to an end.
“I mean, what more could we have done?” Staub said. “I think our guys executed well and played their hearts out. We just lost to a team that made one more play than we did.”