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Middletown boys split pair to end season at 7 wins

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 2/11/20

The Middletown boys basketball team finished up its 2019-2020 season last week with a pair of games played and another one canceled Friday.

On Tuesday, the Blue Raiders played host to Milton …

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Middletown boys split pair to end season at 7 wins


The Middletown boys basketball team finished up its 2019-2020 season last week with a pair of games played and another one canceled Friday.

On Tuesday, the Blue Raiders played host to Milton Hershey, the No. 2 team in the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division, suffering a loss to the Spartans. On Thursday, the Raiders traveled to Annville-Cleona and posted a 51-41 victory over the Little Dutchmen, a team that had qualified for the District III playoffs.

The win gave the Blue Raiders their seventh of the season, to go with 14 losses, along with real hopes of better and brighter things to come. A girls and boys doubleheader scheduled for Friday at Lower Dauphin was canceled because of the death of a LD senior student.

With a roster filled with underclassmen, the Middletown squad under second-year head coach Chris Bradford showed steady improvement during a trying season in which the Raiders were competitive throughout.

Led by Trinity, Milton Hershey, Camp Hill and Steelton-Highspire, the Capital Division was very solid and the non-conference opponents were tough as well.

The Raiders will strive to become part of the upper level in the future.

Milton Hershey 71, Middletown 34

The athleticism and talent level of Milton Hershey were on display Feb. 4 as the Spartans got off to a fast start and cruised to an easy win over the Blue Raiders.

Following up on an 86-34 victory earlier in the season, the Spartans rolled again, taking advantage of ice cold shooting and costly turnovers by their hosts in the runaway win.

Ka’Ron George led the way with a game-high 20 points while teammates Gabe Rojas, Avohn Cross and Josh Parra chipped in with 10 each as the Spartans dominated from start to finish.

Jules Nester and Tajae Broadie teamed for 18 points for Middletown in the loss.

Nester opened up the scoring in the game, hitting a pair of free throws early. But the Blue Raiders, at times hurrying shots that missed their marks, went scoreless during the following five minutes and the visitors built up a commanding lead. Tony Powell finally scored with 2:40 left in the opening period, but the damage had already been done. The Raiders made just 1 of 15 shots from the floor in the quarter that ended with the Spartans well in control at 25-4.

Problems continued in the second stanza for the Raiders, hurt by 4 of 11 shooting and 7 turnovers. The Spartans put up 20 more points in the frame and led 45-13 at halftime. Brock Welsh scored 5 points for the Raiders in the period.

Nothing much changed in the third quarter, as the Middletown squad managed to score just 7 points compared to another 20 by the Spartans.

Down 65-20 to start the fourth quarter, the Blue Raiders actually outscored the Spartans 14-6 in the final 8 minutes, but by then Milton Hershey coach Mark Zerbe was substituting freely. Broadie scored 7 of his 9 points in the period while Tymir Jackson collected all 5 of his.

Middletown 51, Annville-Cleona 41

Two years removed from coaching at Annville-Cleona, Bradford made his return a successful one as the Blue Raiders claimed a 51-41 victory over the Little Dutchmen on Thursday.

Annville-Cleona, sitting at the No. 7 position in the District III-AAA power rankings, was looking to solidify its standings with a win over the Raiders. And with a big home crowd on hand for Senior Night, the extra incentive was there. But, by bouncing back from the morale-bruising setback to Milton Hershey, the Blue Raiders stole Annville-Cleona’s thunder.

Arguably, sophomore Tony Powell played his best game of the season, scoring 14 points and pulling down nearly a dozen rebounds in the win. Nester collected a game-high 16 points, Broadie added 10 and Jackson chipped in 9 while the Middletown defense, led by Tate Leach, did a remarkable job holding the Dutchmen in check throughout. With regular starter T.J. Daniels sick, Jarrod Pugh stepped in and also played solidly on both ends of the court.

And it all added up to a seventh win for the Blue Raiders in what turned out to be their season finale.

The Dutchmen got off to a good start, however, as Andrew Long and Caden Horning went back-to-back following a pair of Raider misses in the first minute.

Late in the opening period, with the Raiders trailing 9-4 following a triple by Long, Jackson’s driving layup came at 1:50 and Nester pumped in a trey off a Pugh pass with 27 ticks left to tie the score at 9-9.

Powell’s putback early in the second gave the Raiders their first lead, but Adam Long tied it at 11 and Yedel Cruz popped in a three following a Raider miss to push the home team up to a 14-11 edge. Nester’s trey off a Brock Welsh pass knotted the score at 14-14, but Annville-Cleona broke the tie on a goal and foul shot by Josh Speraw just 13 seconds later.

After the Raiders went back in front with a 5-point run by Broadie, the Dutchmen eased back into the lead 21-19 with 3:06 left in the first half. But that turned out to be the home team’s last lead of the game.

A 12-2 run by the Raiders closed out the first half with Middletown leading 31-23. In the run, Nester recorded 8 of his points, Broadie and Powell scored and Jackson made two free throws to lead the way. A last-second bucket by Horning made it an 8-point game at halftime.

The two teams showed how evenly matched they were in the third quarter. With defenses controlling the tempo, each scored just 8 points in the frame and the numbers of turnovers and missed shots were nearly identical.

In the first 1:30 of the period, Powell went 4-for-4 from the foul line and converted a Nester steal into another two points in a 6-0 opening run by the Blue Raiders. But the Dutchmen responded with their own 8-0 string to keep the game was getting out of hand. Jackson’s 10-foot jumper with 25 seconds left gave the Raiders a 39-31 lead heading into the final frame.

The lead stretched to 42-31 a minute into the fourth quarter, but Annville-Cleona fought back with a 6-0 run to pull within five, 42-37, with just over three minutes left.

Powell made one of two free throws to break the string, but the lead dwindled to four, 43-39, on a bucket by Speraw with 2:31 on the clock. And, with Annville-Cleona going full-court pressure on defense, the Dutchmen were looking to pull closer yet.

But, with everyone spread out, Leach took the ball the length of the court, cutting around Dutchmen defenders in the process and driving the lane for his only two points of the game. With the goal coming with 2:02 left, those points proved to be big.

Nester’s drive to the basket for two more points following an Annville-Cleona miss gave the Raiders some breathing room at 47-39 with 1:27 on the clock.

A foul shot by Jeremy Bours cut the lead to 7, but Broadie made both ends of a one-and-one at 1:13 and Nester and Powell each added a foul shot late to ice the win.