SPRING GROVE — Grant Sterner stepped into a starring role Thursday night and helped keep alive Spring Grove's bid for a District 3 Class 5-A title.
Sterner, who comes off the bench for the Rockets, scored his team's final five points of the game, along with making a key steal, as the Rockets edged Manheim Central, 65-63 before a standing-room-only crowd.
When the final horn sounded, fans poured on to the court.
Fourth-seeded Spring Grove (20-6) advanced to the district semifinals, where it will meet York-Adams Division I rival Northeastern (25-2) for the third time this season. The game vs. the top-seeded Bobcats is set for 8 p.m. Monday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
With his team trailing 63-60, Sterner began his late-game heroics by connecting on a 3-point shot from the right corner with 38 seconds to play.
"It felt good leaving my hand," the junior said. "I had a chance to get my feet set."
Sterner followed up the shot with a steal. He was fouled and made the first of two shots with 20.9 seconds remaining to break the tie.
Fifth-seeded Manheim Central (20-5) missed a shot on its next possession, and Sterner closed the scoring by converting the second of two foul shots with nine seconds to play.
Barons' star Taylor Funk had to rush to beat the final buzzer with a 25-footer that would have won the game, but the shot didn't go down. Spring Grove survived to play in the semifinals.
Storming back: Spring Grove trailed by seven points with 3:04 to play in the final quarter, but the Rockets wiped out the deficit.
"We had to keep our heads up and fight back," Sterner said. "We can't thank coach (James Brooks) enough for believing in us."
James Brooks' son, Eli, who will play basketball on scholarship at the University of Michigan, led his team with 23 points including a perfect 10 of 10 at the foul line. Brooks' teammate, Austin Panter. delivered a terrific performance for the winners by scoring 22 points.
"We did the right things at the end, and it wasn't just Eli who was doing them," James Brooks said. "We have to have that second and third guy. We shoot a lot (in practice), and the guys have confidence in what they're doing."
The Barons' Funk, Eli Brooks' AAU teammate and friend, led all scorers with 32 points.
"Any time he puts a shot up, you think it's going to go in," Brooks said. "Luckily for us, it missed."
Funk, who will play NCAA Division I college basketball at St. Joseph's, and Brooks posed together for a photo after the game.
"You couldn't ask for a better atmosphere, and you can't ask for a better game," Eli Brooks said. "This ranks up really high, especially with us getting to the Giant Center."
Middletown 73, Eastern York 63: At Middletown, Eastern put up 33 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough in a District 3 4-A quarterfinal. Ryan Hughes was one of four Middletown players in double figures with a game-high 21 points. Leading the way for fifth-seeded Eastern (14-10) were Trevor Seitz and Evan Springer with 14 points each. Eastern will now face eighth-seeded Schuylkill Valley (15-10) at 8 p.m. Monday at Milton Hershey consolation semifinal.
Garden Spot 65, Dover 44: The Eagles' season came to an end with a District 6 Class 5-A consolation setback. Dover trailed 31-27 at halftime, but was outscored 34-17 in the second half. Brady Bowman had 15 points to lead Dover. Elijah Sutton had 11 points. Dover finished 14-11.
Bishop McDevitt 64, Littlestown 23: The sixth-seeded Thunderbolts (15-9) were no match for the third-seeded Crusaders (17-6) in a District 3 4-A quarterfinal. Littlestown will now face 10th-seeded Susquehanna Twp. (9-15) in a consolation semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Monday at East Pennsboro.
New Oxford 62, Waynesboro 52: The 13th-seeded Colonials (12-11) kept their season alive with a District 3 5-A consolation win over 12th-seeded Waynesboro (14-10). New Oxford will now face ninth-seeded Shippensburg (17-6) in another consolation contest at 5 p.m. Monday at East Pennsboro.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.