By Charlie Sisian and Brendan Fahey
The Conestoga Pioneers boys varsity basketball team tipped off vs. the Strath Haven Panthers tonight for a semifinals matchup in the Central League tournament.
To open the game, Stoga followed its strategy that put it in position to succeed this season — feeding their offense through the bigs down low. After Stoga experienced some early success in doing so, Strath Haven reacted with pressure and double teams that forced the ball out to the guards. With multiple open looks, the Stoga shooters connected 3 times from deep in the opening period and helped the Pioneers carve out a good lead. In response, Strath Haven attempted to catch up using many 3-point attempts, but couldn’t buy a bucket, opening the game 0-12 from beyond. As the clock expired in the first quarter, Stoga led 15-6.
To open the second, Stoga went on a monstrous 14-0 run, expanding their lead to 23 points about midway through the quarter. Eventually, the Pioneers got into some foul trouble and began giving the Panthers 1-and-1 opportunities, which allowed them to break their scoring drought and begin a climb back into the game. To try to close the gap, Strath Haven implemented a press on Stoga, making the Pioneers uncomfortable and forcing turnovers. The Panthers closed the quarter with a 13-5 run of their own and by the half, Stoga was up 34-19.
Strath Haven continued their torrid pace to open the second half. With strong defense, the Panthers forced turnovers and got out on the break. However, with 5 minutes left in the quarter, Stoga was able to stabilize their lead by slowing the game down with buckets from their big men. Both teams got into foul trouble, putting each other at the free throw line for easy points. As the quarter closed, Conestoga led Strath Haven 45-32.
The Pioneers went on a run of their own early in the 4th quarter, pushing the ball on the fast break and scoring from the 3-point line. On the other end, strong interior defense and active rebounding kept the Panthers from keeping pace. A late attempt at a press and increased defensive pressure by Strath Haven weren’t enough as the Pioneers went on to win 63-40.
With the win, Stoga moves on to the Central League Championship finals and will host the winner of Garnett Valley and Marple Newtown.