By Charlie Sisian and Brendan Fahey
Following a strong regular season and a deep run in the Central League Tournament, the Conestoga Boys Varsity began its postseason run as the number 2 seed in the District 1 tournament tonight, hosting 18th seed North Penn Knights (11-6) at home.
From the tip, both teams exhibited their defensive skills which translated to a slow start on the offensive side of the ball. The Pioneers got the first bucket and held the Knights scoreless through nearly the first four minutes of the game, but were unable to create a large lead for themselves in the process. North Penn quickly scored 5 points to take the lead and Stoga responded with a press to disrupt their momentum. However, the Knights moved to a four corners split offense to create some space. As the clock winded down, North Penn hit a 3 with about 10 seconds left to go up 12-8, but the Pioneers responded with a 3 of their own before the buzzer to close the gap to one. As the quarter ended, the Knights led a close one 12-11.
Coming into the second, Stoga played strong defense inside and forced North Penn to settle for lots of long twos and three pointers. However, the Knights hit the target on many of them, making their first three shots from downtown in the quarter, which led to a 22-14 North Penn lead. As the Pioneers looked to try to climb back in, they used both their bigs inside and shooters on the perimeter. Just as it looked like the window for a comeback was open, the Knights seemed to close it, having a quick response to nearly every Stoga score. Towards the half’s end, the Knights committed a couple turnovers, which gave Stoga opportunities. Unfortunately, the Pioneers were unable to capitalize on them and trailed 27-19 as they headed to the locker room.
To open the second half, Stoga looked to quickly reduce the deficit. After an early bucket from North Penn, Conestoga responded with its own and controlled the boards, quickly cutting the Knights’ lead to 6. Following a ferocious one-handed dunk by Conestoga to end of the quarter, Stoga trailed the Knights 37-31.
Just as they did to open the second half, Conestoga opened the fourth quarter on a mission to close the gap. With a big three pointer, a few more offensive rebounds, and points at the free throw line, Stoga was able to slowly whittle North Penn’s lead down to one point. However, it seemed that whenever Conestoga looked poised to take the lead, the Knights would quickly respond with a three pointer or a timely steal. Conestoga wouldn’t go down without a fight, keeping the game close until the end. Forced to foul with just a minute left, North Penn hit free throw after free throw and sealed the game. The Pioneers fell to North Penn 52-45. They finish their season 7-3, the runner up for the Central League Championship, having won the Central League Regular Season Title! Roll Neers!