By BRETT R. CROSSLEY
For the Loyalsock Lancers
HERSHEY—Moments after one of the most important wins in school history Loyalsock team managers Grant Walters and Ronnie Emery summed up the experience perfectly by thanking the fans and calling the game special.
“I just want to thank the fans,” Emery said. “It was one of the best groups of fans I’ve ever seen.”
Emery and Walters have been with Loyalsock throughout the entire 2017-18 season. They’ve experience the highs and lows of being with a team throughout the course of a season, but Wednesday’s quarterfinal upset of District 1 champion might have been the best moment yet.
Loyalsock has survived through tight contests all season. Against Valley Forge it was no different. Leads were exchanged, ties were broken, and a late three from Mitchell Klingerman proved to the difference as Loyalsock pulled away for a 54-50 win over heavily favored Valley Forge.
The will advance Loyalsock to play Trinity, which defeated District 12 runner-up Dobbins, 69-41. The game will be played Saturday at a time and place yet to be named.
For Loyalsock, it was another tight game. Klingerman, who entered the final stanza with just two points, two steals, and a rebound, hit the biggest basket in the Lancer’s season thus far. The shot made it with no problem, barely touching the net as it sailed through to give Loyalsock the lead for good.
“I knew what we were down by and I knew we needed a big shot to give us the lead,” Klingerman said. “I knew if we had the lead it would give us an easier transition in defense. We didn’t need to score they had to score. We didn’t need to push it.”
The shot gave Loyalsock a one-point advantage as Valley Forge was down to its final possession to tie or win the game outright. The Lancers defense, which made big plays throughout the game, stopped Valley Forge and forced a traveling call to put even more pressure on the District 1 Champion.
Foul shots eventually iced the game for the Lancers, who turned Valley Forge over 22 times. The defense also kept the Trojans’ big men in check throughout the game as Bam Brima and Connor Watkins gave outstanding efforts underneath the basket.
As those two players controlled the paint, Gerald Ross and Anthony Pastore did their jobs defending the top of the key. Ross, who finished with a team-high 20 points, stopped Arion Lewis through the first half, limiting Valley Forge’s top player to just five first half points.
“It started with the guards and putting pressure on them so they couldn’t get it inside to the big guys,” Ross said. “They are just so big we had to swipe at the ball and do anything to mess them up.”
Ross has been clutch throughout the postseason, hitting game-winners in the PHAC tournament and the PIAA Tournament. Wednesday’s game offered another player to get into the action as Klingerman canned a trey with 13.9 seconds left to give Loyalsock a slim one-point lead. A defensive stand that forced a traveling call ended any chance of a Valley Forge comeback.
“We needed a big shot to put us in the lead,” Klingerman said. “It felt really good to be able to help Gerald (Ross) and hit that shot. We realize that we don’t want it to come to an end.”
Klingerman finished with eight points, Pastore and Watkins each added seven, and Brandon Bauman scored four off the bench. Aiden Gair, after his biggest game of the season to open the PIAA tournament, hit a three in the second to help extend Loyalsock’s lead.
4-2 Loyalsock 54, 1-1 Valley Forge 50
Brandon Bauman 1 2-3 4; Gerald Ross 8 1-1 20; Collin Graver 0 0-0 0; Anthony Pastore 2 3-5 8; Connor Watkins 2 3-4 7; Mitchell Klingerman 3 1-4 8; Bam Brima 2 0-0 4; Aiden Gair 1 0-0 3. Totals 19 10-17 54
Valley Forge (50)
Arion Lewis 8 9-9 27; Will Colleran 1 0-1 2; Abraham Deng 2 0-1 4; Kobie Reid 1 0-0 2; Quadir Miller 1 4-4 7; Marius Ntwari 2 4-11 8. Totals 15 17-26 50.
VALF 8 8 21 13–50
SOCK 12 8 19 15–54
3–Point Goals: Valley Forge 3 (Lewis 2, Miller). Loyalsock 6 (Ross 3, Klingerman, Pastore, Gair).
Records: Valley Forge 22-7. Loyalsock 22-7.
Next: Loyalsock vs. Trinity, Saturday, TBA