By Brendan Fahey and Charlie Sisian
The Conestoga Boys Varsity Basketball Team hosted the Garnet Valley Jaguars on Thursday night for the Central League Championship on Gerry Gasser Court in Berwyn, PA. The Pioneers came into the game riding a 5-game winning streak and had not lost since January 28th, and was looking to add another Central League Championship to its resume.
The Pioneers found themselves facing a formidable opponent in the 14-3 Jaguars. Early on, the Pioneers followed what brought them to the championship game, eeding their big men inside to try to overwhelm their smaller opponents. However, they faced some struggles to open the game, turning the ball over due to a combination of offensive fouls and a tight Garnet defense. On top of this, Stoga’s starting Power Forward Michael Walz suffered an injury late in the first quarter, causing Stoga fans to hold their breath. Garnet Valley eventually capitalized on the opportunities they were given with a few made 3s, and things seemed to be swinging in their direction. However, Stoga’s size held them close and its defense made Garnet work hard for the few rebounds they were able to get. At the end of the first, Stoga trailed in a close one, 12-14.
As soon as the second quarter started, Garnet’s threes started falling consistently, allowing them to expand their lead. Luckily for Stoga, about 3 minutes into the quarter, Walz was able to come back in to the game, which helped the Pioneers get back to work inside and begin cutting into the Garnet lead. Along with this, Stoga began playing more aggressive defense to try to create turnovers, which disrupted the Garnet offense. However, just as it felt like Stoga was climbing back into the game, the Jaguars made a 3 at the buzzer to extend their lead to 10, with a score of 30-20 at the half.
The third quarter started out slow for both teams, with the first score coming half way through the quarter. To combat Garnet’s 3 pointers, Stoga switched to a zone defense, and it worked. Garnet didn’t make another three pointer all game. In an effort to disrupt Garnet further, Stoga switched to a man defense, which pushed Garnet to a four corners offense but the quick Garnet guards pushed through with drives to the hoop, kick-outs to the corners, and tough finishes around the rim. Stoga held their own with Garnet maintaining its 10-point lead until late in the quarter, when Stoga began their comeback. Great post play, tough finishes around the rim as well as stellar perimeter defense allowed Conestoga to go on a 7-0 run and bring the Garnet lead down to 5. Garnet responded quickly, however, and the quarter ended with Garnet Valley leading 44-36.
To open the fourth quarter, the Jaguards were in no particular hurry, spending most of their time dribbling the ball out around center court in a four corners offense. Stoga increased defensive pressure, but Garnet’s guard’s continued their drive into the paint, where they continued to hit tough layups. On the other end, they double teamed the Stoga bigs, forcing tough entry passes, often earning some steals. Stoga soon implemented a full court press but Garnet held their lead to take the Central League title, winning the game 52-39. Conestoga finished the season 7-2, and will be the second seed in the District 1 playoffs where they will hope to bounce back. Roll Neers!