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ANNVILLE — Searching for a reason why neither of the Lebanon County boys basketball entries in the Annville-Cleona Tip-Off will be playing in Saturday’s championship game?

You won’t need to look too hard.

Lengthy dry spells proved costly for both sides.

Middletown employed a matchup 1-3-1 zone from the start of the second quarter on, mystifying Northern Lebanon long enough to record a 58-52 victory in the first of two Friday night at The Barn, spoiling Chris George’s coaching debut.

As for the back end of the twinbill, host Annville-Cleona went scoreless for nearly nine minutes of the first half against defending champion Fleetwood and wound up suffering a 49-42 setback to the Berks County Tigers.

A-C and Northern Lebanon will meet in the third-place game, which will tip Saturday at 12:30. The Middletown-Fleetwood scrap will follow.

“We started digging into the paint more, which is what we’ve got to do,” A-C skipper Chris Bradford said, referring to a second-half effort that enabled the Dutchmen to twice draw within eight (43-35 and 45-37) at different times in the fourth quarter.

“What we’ve been harping on is the inside-out game and the jumpers weren’t falling,” Bradford admitted. “When we finally picked our heads back up, it was a hole that we just couldn’t quite get out of.”

Noah Myers scored 12 points and grabbed eight boards for A-C, which led 8-7 with 1:40 to go in the opening quarter and trailed 27-8 with just under 1:40 to play in the first half. Matt Light and Donald Friday added 10 points apiece.

Light also posted six assists. Big man Isaac Burris grabbed 12 boards for a Dutchmen group that shot just over 31 percent from the floor (18-for-58) and 30 percent from the foul line (6-for-20).

Nate Mercuri banked a game-high 18 points and slick lead guard Justin Hummel chipped in 15 for the Tigers. While the Fleetwood tandem combined for 18 first-half points, Mercuri also snared eight rebounds and Hummel dished out seven assists.

Ryan Miller topped Fleetwood with 13 rebounds, three more than Jensen Sievert. The Tigers owned a slight 42-41 advantage on the glass.

“I don’t think there’s any guy in that locker room that doesn’t think we’re a better team than that,” Bradford said. “We’ve got the opportunity to come right back at it tomorrow, and that’s good for these guys.”

George’s Vikings will have the same opportunity to get right back at it, too.

“I can’t question the effort,” George said. “Those kids played so hard and the defensive effort was fantastic; our defense was off the charts. We just couldn’t score.”

Moments after William Fellows canned a trey from the left wing to end the opening quarter — Northern Lebanon led 17-13 at that point — Middletown’s Chris Sattele ordered his Blue Raiders to unveil their frisky matchup 1-3-1.

What ensued was the first of two sparse offensive stretches for George’s bunch — both lasted about 5:30 — which totaled 10 points in the middle quarters.

And while Middletown sported a 25-21 lead at halftime, the Blue Raiders were up by a dozen (39-27) when the third quarter came to a close.

Luke Mrakovich paced Sattele’s club with 17 points, while Ryan Hughes finished with 16. Hughes topped the Blue Raiders with seven rebounds.

Isaac Bicher’s 14 points paced Northern Lebanon, although he was limited to a pair of freebies in the middle two quarters, while Alex Yeager finished with 12 second-half points. All of Yeager’s points came from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t hit shots,” George lamented. “Later in the game, you saw we have shooters. We have some kids that can knock it down. We just got real cold at the wrong time.”

Fleetwood 49, Annville-Cleona 42 

Fleetwood (49)

Justin Hummel 5 2-4 15, Ryan Miller 1 3-6 5, Nate Mercuri 5 6-8 18, Ryan Scepansky 0 0-0 0, Jensen Sievert 3 0-5 7, Mike Wilkinson 0 1-2 1, Marckens Griffin 1 0-0 3, Nate Wolfe 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 12-25 49.

Annville-Cleona (42)

Matt Light 5 0-5 10, Donald Friday 4 2-4 10, Julian DyReyes-Kapp 3 2-5 8, Isaac Burris 1 0-2 2, Noah Myers 5 2-4 12, Cameron Hoch 0 0-0 0, Cole Waldhausen 0 0-0 0, Ryan Mathews 0 0-0 0, Gordon Parks 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 6-20 42.

Fleetwood _ 13 _ 14 _ 13 _ 9 _ — _ 49

Annville-Cleona _ 8 _ 5 _ 18 _ 11 _ — _ 42

3-point goals — Fleet 7 (Hummel 3, Mercuri 2, Sievert, Griffin).

Middletown 58, Northern Lebanon 52 

Middletown (58)

Ryan Hughes 5 3-6 16, Luke Mrakovich 7 3-4 17, Caleb Leggore 1 5-8 7, Brandon Harper 2 3-5 7, Tre Leach 0 3-4 3, Chris Plummer 3 1-2 8, Jordan Jefferies 0 0-0 0, Tyeer Mills 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 18-29 58.

Northern Lebanon (52)

Caleb Light 1 2-4 4, Isaac Bicher 3 6-8 14, Ryan Biever 0 0-0 0, Noah Gingrich 3 2-2 9, Shane Reese 2 0-0 4, Michigan Daub 1 0-0 2, Dominic Celleri 1 0-0 2, William Fellows 1 0-0 3, Alex Yeager 4 0-0 12, Ben Light 1 0-0 2. Totals — 17 10-14 52.

Middletown _ 13 _ 12 _ 14 _ 19 _ — _ 58

N.Lebanon _ 17 _ 4 _ 6 _ 25 _ — _ 52

3-point goals — Midd 4 (Hughes 3, Plummer); NL 8 (Bicher 2, Gingrich, Fellows, Yeager 4)..

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