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MAHS boys basketball team falls to Rollers and Panthers

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 1/22/20

Despite showing steadily improving play in the season’s second half, the Middletown boys basketball team just can’t break the chain that is holding it back from securing much-needed wins. …

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MAHS boys basketball team falls to Rollers and Panthers


Despite showing steadily improving play in the season’s second half, the Middletown boys basketball team just can’t break the chain that is holding it back from securing much-needed wins.

Two cases in point were last week when the Blue Raiders came up short in a 68-51 decision with Steelton-Highspire and a 61-59 loss to East Pennsboro, who rallied from a double-digit deficit to steal a victory Friday night.

The setbacks kept the Raiders stuck at just 4 wins against 10 losses on the season.

A crossover matchup at Gettysburg in a York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association/Mid-Penn Showcase game scheduled for Saturday was canceled due to the weather.

Heading into this week, the Blue Raiders had seven games left on their regular season schedule. They were scheduled to play host to Camp Hill on Tuesday and will visit Trinity on Friday, then be home to West Perry next Tuesday before traveling to Pequea Valley on Jan. 29. They then are home to Milton Hershey on Feb. 4 and at Annville-Cleona on Feb. 6 before wrapping up at Lower Dauphin on Feb. 7.

They are No. 17 in the PIAA District 3 AAAA power rankings, and the top 10 make the postseason.

Steel-High 68, Middletown 51

Against the visiting Rollers on Jan. 14, the Raiders trailed by just two points at the end of the first period but slipped to a 7-point deficit by halftime.

Partway into the second half, the home team was still within striking distance, down by that same difference, and was hoping for a successful rally. But the Rollers (9-6, No. 1 in the PIAA District 3 AA power rankings) outscored the Blue Raiders 14-5 over the next 5 minutes to push their lead to 41-25 heading into the final frame.

Trying to battle back, the Raiders put up 26 points in the fourth quarter, but Steel-High registered 27 in the same span.

Julian Nester (16), Tymir Jackson (15) and Tajae Broadie (10) led the Middletown scoring in the game, but Steel-High held control with Chris Wells, Vashon Spencer, Charles Brooks and Mehki Flowers each scoring in double figures.

Brooks scored 8 of his 14 points in the first quarter to pace the Rollers to a 13-6 lead with under 3 minutes left in the opening frame. But Nester hit a triple at 2:40 and Jackson scored on a driving layup with 47 seconds left to make it a two point game, 13-11.

After Jarrod Pugh scored off a Brock Welsh assist that tied the score at 13 early in the second stanza, the Rollers collected the game’s next 5 points to regain the lead. Broadie’s putback drew the home team to within 18-15 at the 2:11 mark, but Steel-High finished the half with a 4-point run from Brooks and Flowers to earn a 22-15 edge at the break. The Raiders were called for three offensive fouls in that span, which aided the guests’ run.

Steel-High opened up the second half with a trey by Wells. Broadie scored and Tony Powell answered a Flowers’ goal with a Tate Leach-assisted bucket and free throw to keep the Raiders in contention at 27-20. But during the last 5 minutes of the quarter, the Rollers, aided by a rash of Middletown turnovers, outscored their guests 14-5 to push their lead to 41-25 by the end of the third period. And that put extra pressure on the Middletown squad with a big hill to climb in the last 8 minutes.

That hill just proved to be too big to overcome. Jackson scored 13 of his points in the quarter to lead the way, but 7 Rollers put points on the board to offset any hopes the home team had of pulling off a successful rally.

East Pennsboro 61, Middletown 59

While the loss to Steel-High was no real surprise, Middletown’s game with visiting East Pennsboro gave the Blue Raiders and their fans a good opportunity to break out of their winless streak.

Back on Dec. 13 in Enola the Blue Raiders held on for an exciting 61-56 victory over the Panthers (6-9 on the season). And, after leading at the end of the first two quarters and building a 14-point lead two minutes into the second half, it appeared as if the Raiders were heading to their fifth win of the year.

But the hard-working Panthers put together a pair of runs in the third period that chipped away at the Middletown advantage and led to a 46-46 tie to start the final segment. That pivotal rally and momentum carried over into the fourth quarter, leading to a 15-13 scoring edge that equated to a Panther win and disappointment for the Middletown team.

Nester’s game-high 24 points and a combined 23 from Jackson and Powell went for naught in the loss. Evan Farling led the Panthers with 18 points while teammates Devon Shellenberger and Adnon Sbai teamed for 27 more to lead the successful comeback.

The Blue Raiders fought their way to an 11-6 lead in a low-scoring first quarter as both teams struggled to put points on the board. Nester scored 7 of his points in the opening frame.

With the home team leading 9-6 with 5:43 left, the game went scoreless until Nester was awarded a bucket on a goaltending charge against the Panthers with 1:40 left.

The Blue Raiders started off period two with a 6-point run that included a putback by Welsh, a breakaway dunk by Nester off a Leach steal and a drive by Leach at 5:58. With 4:02 left in the half, the Raiders led 21-10, but in the last 30 seconds of the period Shellenberger scored 5 points after the home team had built its advantage to 30-15. Those late scores, coming off Middletown mistakes, appeared to be the lift the Panthers needed.

And, despite the fact that the Raiders jumped back to a 15-point lead on a pair of treys and a foul shot by Nester early in the third, the guests kept working hard. With 3:47 left, East Pennsboro had cashed in on more miscues to trim the lead to seven, 40-33. T. J. Daniels stopped that run with a bucket at 3:14 and Nester answered a Sbai goal with a putback at 2:15 to make it a 44-35 game. But, after a pair of free throws by Nester kept the home team ahead by 7 with 1:36 left, the Panthers converted a pair of Raider misses and a costly turnover into a late run that tied the score at 46.

That late surge carried the Panthers to a 50-46 lead to start the fourth and set the stage for the dramatic finish. Unfortunately, the Blue Raiders could not regain control, although they did rally for a 56-54 lead on a basket by Powell and a pair of goals by Jackson with 3:01 left.

The Panthers tied the score on a Shellenberger bucket at 2:40 and then knotted the score again on a Farling goal after Powell put the Raiders ahead with 2:25 on the clock. Broadie made one of two foul shots at 1:28 to give the Raiders their final lead of the game at 59-58. With 1:06 left, Preston Powery’s assist led to another goal by Farling and the Raiders came up empty, missing a shot with 31 seconds left. Powery made one of two foul shots 11 seconds later, leaving the door open for the Raiders to tie it or win it on a trey.

But yet another turnover with 9 ticks left foiled that attempt. The Panthers threw the ball away, however, and gave the Raiders one more shot with two seconds left, but Nester’s long 3 attempt just missed at the buzzer.