Find out which were the best plays in the Spartans' 65-41 District 5 Class 2A semifinal victory over Northern Bedford. Video by Lizi Arbogast, GameTimePA.com
It's almost impossible to defend a team when it seemingly can't miss.
That's exactly what Northern Bedford's boys hoops team was up against in a District 5 Class AA semifinal Tuesday night.
McConnellsburg proved just why it is the No. 1 seed, as the Spartans were on fire from just about everywhere on the floor in a 65-41 victory to send them to their second straight district title game.
"Obviously they shot the lights out," Panthers coach Shawn Hicks said. "I thought we defended well early, but they were still knocking down shots. It took us out a little bit when they continued to make shots. We just couldn't gain ground at that point."
McConnellsburg (20-4) will face off against Berlin (15-9) for the District 5 title on Saturday at U. Pitt-Johnstown, while Northern Bedford (10-14) falls to the third-place game on Thursday against Conemaugh Township. Times are TBA.
Early on in Tuesday's semifinal, it was Spartan sophomore Dominick Reed who had the hot hand. He drained four straight 3-pointers to start the game, and McConnellsburg never looked back from a 21-15 first-quarter lead.
"I was just shooting with confidence," Reed said. "They were passing it to me, and before the game, Coach told me I had to shoot with confidence and they'll fall, so that's what I did. We feed off each other, and we play as a team and win as a team."
That team-first mentality was obvious, as four of McConnellsburg's five starters scored at least nine points, and the other, Nic Culler, had 11 assists.
"Any of my starting five can score in double figures, even Nic," Spartan coach Drew Washabaugh said. "Nic doesn't look to do that, though. He did all the little things that don't even show up in the stat book, and that's what makes us a tough team. Nic scored zero points tonight, but helped us out in a ton of other ways."
Chase Novak led the Spartans with 25 points, Reed finished with 17, and Chance Hawbaker scored 14. The Spartans finished with a staggering 68.9 shooting percentage from the field and were 10-for-15 (66.7%) from the beyond the arc.
"(Being well-rounded) is a major key in our game," Culler said. "I'm not a big scorer; I'm a pass-first player and try to help the defense and be a role player. Anything I can do to help the team out, and tonight it was passing."
Northern Bedford didn't help itself out on the boards. The Panthers were out-rebounded, 25-10, and managed just two offensive rebounds all night.
"The biggest thing we struggled with was crashing the boards on offense," Hicks said. "We had one guy that shoot and the rest would kind of stand around and watch the action instead of getting into it to get the rebounds. That's something we worked on a lot this week."
Not only did the win secure a trip to UPJ, but it also ensured a berth in the PIAA tournament for the Spartans.
Without looking ahead too far, McConnellsburg knows if it can put on another show like it did Tuesday night, anything can happen.
"I told the guys, this is why you play basketball," Washabaugh said. "It's a long season, but you gotta embrace the district championship and embrace the state games. The goal is to win as many in states as you can. One game at a time, but if we shoot like we did tonight against I don't care who in states, we're going to be tough to beat."