Wednesday night's game between William Penn and Red Lion was one of those games I could write a 50-inch game story about. There were so many nuances, so many team and individual statistics that warrant mentioning.
Alas, there just isn't enough room in the newspaper. Luckily I have this endless, internet void to empty my notebook into. So here's a litany of news and notes from Wednesday's Division I showdown, which the Lions won, 62-47.
I'll start with this observation, which I tried to convey in my game story: It was easy to tell just how much this win meant to Red Lion. This team, after all, is still trying to establish itself as a member of the YAIAA elite. Wednesday's win will no doubt give Red Lion some more clout. And for the team's seniors -- which had never beaten William Penn -- this win was especially sweet. Spencer McCreary, the Lions' leading scorer, said the win "almost makes you want to cry," and while I'm sure that was a bit of an exaggeration, it provides insight into the psyche of this team.
"We can play with anybody," McCreary said. "I don't care who you are. Suburban. York High. Eastern. You still got to come through Red Lion. We want people to know that."
Junior Evan Ehrhart, who scored 12 points off the bench, agreed.
"We were saying we needed a lot of confidence," he said. "This was a big game for us. We have a lot of shooters. We can play ball with anybody."
Now the challenge for Red Lion becomes making this win the start of their coming-together process, not the culmination of it. You can't win division titles in January -- and that title is still William Penn's until somebody takes it -- but this is a good start for the Lions.
Doing it with defense
So much of what the Lions have been able to do this year has started on the defensive end. Coming into Wednesday's game, Red Lion was allowing just 42 points per game. The Lions also hadn't faced an offense like William Penn's, which had averaged 80.1 points per game this year.
In the end, Red Lion was able to control the tempo and keep the Bearcats' transition game grounded.
"We take pride in defense," McCreary said. "We knew if we could keep the game in the 45, 50, 60 range, we like those odds."
William Penn scored 15 points in the first -- it's hard to think of many quarters this year when they haven't scored that many. The Bearcats never found their rhythm in a halfcourt set, and shot 6-of-24 from the floor in the first half.
Take away a three-minute, 18-3 spurt in the third quarter, and William Penn scored 29 points in 29 minutes. The Bearcats transition game sputtered, and their sporadic attempts at pressing the Lions were ineffective.
That relegated William Penn to trying to essentially play the Red Lion's more-deliberate style.
"Our half-court defense is what ended up winning the game for us," Lions coach Steve Schmehl said. "When they made their run it was all in transition and second shots.
"The thing about it for us is that's the way we play. We're not doing anything different. We just have to establish our tempo against them. That's the hard part."
Spark off the bench
Red Lion's offense got a huge lift from backups Evan Ehrhart and Tanner Klinefelter. The duo came off the bench to hit seven of the Lions' nine 3-pointers for 21 points.
Ehrhart's contributions weren't much of a surprise. He has been a productive sixth-man all season, and came into the game the team's second-leading scorer at 10.4 ppg.
William Penn may have been more surprised by Klinefelter's hot hand. He canned three 3-pointers in the first half -- equaling his previous total for the entire season. The sophomore also hit momentum-boosting treys at the end of each of the first two quarters, the latter of those giving Red Lion a 25-15 halftime edge.
"The interesting thing about Tanner is he was so upset after the JV game, he had his head down, and I said 'We're gonna need you,'" Schmehl said, referring to the Lions 47-43 junior varsity loss that Klinefelter participated in. "It says a lot about him to bounce back and knock down those shots in the varsity game."
Ehrhart made his biggest mark in the third quarter, hitting three treys in the frame. He nailed two during Red Lion's 13-0 run to go up 40-19.
"It was a big lift," the junior said. "Coach told us once we come off the bench we got to get ready to play and just knock down shots. We had confidence, both of us. We knew we were going to knock down shots."
Red Lion got 23 points from its bench, compared to nine for William Penn.
Foul from the line
As it always seems to in close games, free throws played a huge role in the fourth quarter Wednesday night.
William Penn made just 3-of-11 foul shots in the final quarter, crucial misses that could have possibly put the Bearcats ahead.
Troy Sowers' team finished 14-of-28 from the line, uncharacteristic for a team that came into the game having made 70 percent of its free throws.
"We left about 20 points at the foul line tonight," Sowers said. "And against a good team like Red Lion, you're not going to win those games."
Red Lion, on the other hand, hit 11-of-12 foul shots in the final three minutes to transform a close scoreline into a comfortable one.
The last five or six days have been fairly taxing for the Bearcats.
William Penn had to rally Friday night to win at Dallastown. The next day, it trekked across the state to play Pocono Mountain East, a game it lost, 91-87, in overtime.
Even though the Bearcats got to rest a bit in a blowout win over Spring Grove on Monday, Sowers felt his team was showing the effects of its weekend doubleheader.
"We've been on the road like crazy," Sowers said. "Saturday we drove six hours on a bus to Pocono Mountain East ... This is like a killer week. I gave my guys light practice yesterday. We looked a little tired, a little more tired than we normally are. We still haven't recovered from that Friday night, Saturday night."
No rest for the weary
Both these teams will face stiff tests on Friday.
Red Lion will visit York Suburban at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while William Penn will host West York at the same time.
By the way, these two teams will play at least one more time. That game set for Feb. 9, happens to be the season finale for both teams. There's a very good chance the Division I title will be on the line in some capacity.
Should be fun, eh?