ANNVILLE — With Section Three having grown considerably with this year’s realignment, the Annville-Cleona Little Dutchmen boys’ basketball squad has been looking to find its way in L-L League play so far this season.
But following Friday’s tough loss at home to a powerhouse Lancaster Mennonite team, the Little Dutchmen know that while there’s room for improvement, there’s definitely a place for them in the neighborhood.
“You look at a team like (Mennonite) and that’s where we want to be,” said A-C coach Chris Bradford following his team’s 71-48 loss. “The premier teams, really in our district, and then our section, that we get an opportunity to play twice, we can use as a measuring stick the next time we play them. We can determine what our avenue is by going at the big guys on the block.”
Friday night, the big guys were the Blazers’ Javan Terry, Johnathon Gillespie and Carter Hurst, who pumped in 16, 12, and 10 points respectively as A-C (7-3, 2-3 Section) was forced to play catchup from the opening tip.
“Unfortunately, we allowed them to get the shots they wanted,” Bradford said. “We have to put our guys in a better place because they (the Blazers) didn’t do anything they haven’t done in the last five, six, seven games. They’re a good team, but we have to give our guys a better way to success.”
Gillespie started things off with a 3-pointer on the opening possession for the Blazers (11-1, 5-0) before Hurst followed with a layup and a 3-pointer of his own to put A-C in an immediate 8-0 hole and forcing the first of four first-half timeouts from Bradford.
“We’ve been stressing and talking a lot about getting uncontested shots,” said Blazers’ coach Geoff Groff. “Sometime when you have players who are good individual players there’s no bad shot, so we’re trying to help them understand that it might not be a bad shot, but you want to get a better shot. I think our guys did that very well early on.”
The ultimate challenge from that point on was keeping Terry out of the paint. He led all scorers with 11 points in the first half before hauling in eight of his game-high 14 rebounds in the second while A-C tried to answer back.
In turn, the Dutchmen got resilient performances from a host of players, including Ryan Matthews off the bench with six points and four rebounds, a pair of threes from Dashaun Archer, eight points from Donald Friday, tough inside play from both Isaac Burris (8 points) and Noah Myers (4 points), and Cameron Hoch, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
“We’ve bounced back from adversity all year in positive ways; tonight wasn’t a positive one,” Bradford said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it. It hurts them (the players) right now, they’re not happy, but they’re blessed with the opportunity to get out there and erase that memory tomorrow.”
Having measured themselves versus the likes of Section Three, the Dutchmen have an opportunity to see where they fit in the grander scheme of the PIAA when they play District 11’s Mahanoy Area, a team coming off its first loss of the season Friday night, Saturday at 5 p.m. at Lebanon Valley College.