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Blue Raiders boys lose, but season will continue; Middletown qualifies for states despite district loss

Posted 2/28/18

The Middletown boys basketball season is still alive, even though Berks Catholic avenged last season’s playoff loss to the Blue Raiders on Monday night in the district semifinals.

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Blue Raiders boys lose, but season will continue; Middletown qualifies for states despite district loss

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The Middletown boys basketball season is still alive, even though Berks Catholic avenged last season’s playoff loss to the Blue Raiders on Monday night in the district semifinals.

Already qualified for the state tournament, the Raiders (16-7) will play Kennard-Dale (19-7) at West York tonight in the District III-4A consolation game with a No. 3 seeding on the line.

Earning a state playoff berth took some of the sting out of the loss to a 51-33 loss Monday. However, the Raiders really wanted a return appearance at Hershey’s Giant Center to play for a district title.

The Saints did not allow that to happen. Using a dominating defense and a 28-12 scoring advantage in the second half, the Saints took away any drama the Middletown fans were hoping for this time.

One year ago, Ryan Hughes scored on a last-second, fall-away jumper that gave the Raiders a 44-43 victory over Berks Catholic and placed the Middletown squad in the district title contest against Lancaster Catholic. The Blue Raiders came up on the short end of an 86-78 score and saw their championship hopes dashed in the process, however.

The Saints will face off against Bishop McDevitt for the district title Thursday at the Giant Center.

After scoring 72 points in its quarterfinal match-up against Boiling Springs the week before, the Middletown offense just could not get going against Berks Catholic’s tough defense. Throughout most of the game the Blue Raiders struggled on the offensive end, finishing up with a dismal 21.5 percent shooting effort (11 of 51) from the floor. That was just not good enough to win.

The Blue Raiders had their chances, especially in the first half, but everything fell apart after the halftime break. Down 15-8 at the end of the first period, the Raiders fought back, tying the game two minutes into the second stanza and then gaining an 18-17 lead at 4:33.

Down by just two, 23-21, at the intermission, the Middletown side was looking to correct its scoring problems in the second half. But it didn’t happen. At the end of the third quarter, the Blue Raiders trailed 35-27. After falling behind by 10 early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders never were able to recover.

With 4:28 left in the first quarter, Tre’ Leach made two foul shots to give the Raiders a 4-3 lead. The Saints outscored the Raiders 12-4 after that to take a 15-8 edge into the second period.

A strong start to the second stanza, however, got the Raiders right back in it. Kyle Truesdale scored off a steal and assist by Brady Fox, Ryan Hughes scored on a jumper off a Saints’ miss and then drained a trey off another miss to tie the game at 15-15. That 7-0 run gave the Middletown side a nice lift.

Following a goal by Berks Catholic’s Luis Garcia, Hughes hit another triple for an 18-17 Middletown lead. But Garcia drained a triple of his own to ease the Saints back in front and they never trailed again.

The physical first half ended with the Saints clinging onto a 23-21 lead and the Middletown fans, of which there were many, anticipated a second half surge by their Blue Raiders. But Berks Catholic’s defense really tightened up in the third quarter and the Raiders’ shooting woes continued. In fact, the Middletown offense made just one basket from the floor and totaled just 6 points in the 8-minute span as the Saints started to pull away.

To make matters worse, Hughes drew his third and fourth personal fouls in the late going. The period ended with the Saints leading 35-27.

Nothing got any better for the Middletown side in the final frame. A jumper by Truesdale at the 6:25 mark and a runner in the lane by Leach with 4:03 left turned out to be the only points the Blue Raiders would score until Chris Plummer made a pair of free throws with 1:51 on the clock.

The Saints, meanwhile, collected 9 points from the foul line and picked up a combined 7 points from Keba Mitchell and Trevor Dabney from the floor as Berks Catholic cruised to the 18-point victory.

Hughes scored 11 points in the loss (well below his average of more than 21 a game) while Truesdale (9 points), Leach (8) and Plummer (5) accounted for the other points for the Raiders.

Dabney and Garcia teamed for 31 points to lead the Saints.