LANDISVILLE - Will Blair, running back extraordinaire, is used to media attention on the football field.
But as a key role player for Danny Walck’s basketball team, the Hempfield senior earned some attention on the hardwood Thursday night.
As the primary defender on Cedar Crest superstar Evan Horn, Blair’s hard-nosed work sparked the Black Knights’ must-have 63-59 victory in a Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 battle at Hempfield High School.
In his first hoops game since announcing a football commitment to the University of New Hampshire earlier this week, Horn was limited to 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting and one assist. He still paced the Falcons (14-4, 10-3), who fell a half-game behind idle McCaskey atop the Section 1 standings, with eight rebounds and four steals.
The Black Knights (12-6, 9-4), led by Ryan Moffatt’s 20 points and 13 each from Connor Moffatt and Bryan Karl, beat Crest for the first time since January 2014 and pulled to within a game of the Falcons in the standings.
“Coach Walck just challenged us to play our best, and I think we went out there and showed what Hempfield basketball is all about,” said Blair, who finished with eight points, three rebounds, an assist and a block.
That block was on a would-be tying drive by Horn with about 12 seconds left.
The Black Knights pulled out a victory in a tooth-and-nail game with Section One rival Cedar Crest on Thursday, January 21, 2016. John Buffone
“He’s physical, he’s athletic, he’s strong, and he was determined tonight,” Falcons coach Tom Smith said of Blair, who’s also a standout lacrosse player.
Smith’s bunch led by as many as eight points in the first quarter before this morphed into a seesaw affair, with the Falcons’ last lead being 53-51 after a pair of Blake Thomson free throws with 3:54 remaining.
After a coast-to-coast drive by Connor Moffatt tied it, Blair scored four straight with two free throws and an inside bucket to give the Black Knights a lead they would keep. The Knights sank six of 10 free throws over the final 1:06 to barely keep Cedar Crest at arm’s length.
Horn, who was one of four Falcons in double figures, missed a would-be tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Blair rebounded and made one of two freebies with fractions of a second on the clock to seal it.
“Evan is such a great athlete and great player,” Walck said. “Just the utmost respect for what he’s accomplished and what he’s brought to the L-L. It’s a pleasure to coach against a young man like that.
“That respect (means) that we needed to come up with a team effort. (Blair, David Martin and Javon Mitchell) really did a great job on him. We also send another guy at him when he has the ball just because he’s such a threat, and that’s still risky because he makes the other guys around him better.”
Cole Laney scored 12 for Crest, with 10 each from Thomson and Iziah Trimble. Kobe Bolanos handed out three assists.
Karl (seven) and Connor Moffatt (six) led Hempfield’s rebounders, as all seven guys pulled in at least three caroms for a 30-29 overall edge on the glass. Moffatt also dished out five assists, with three more by Mitchell. Karl contributed two steals and two blocks.
Hempfield shot 50 percent (18 of 36) and turned it over nine times. The Falcons shot 38 percent (19 of 50) with seven turnovers. There were a combined 40 fouls called and 58 free throws attempted.
“I don’t know why we’re not playing with the energy that we’re used to,” Smith said. “I’m at a loss of words for that. I thought we came out, were executing and doing a good job, and then the energy level just went straight down, and we didn’t fight out of it until late in the second half.”
Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo
Hempfield 63, Cedar Crest 59
Cedar Crest (59)
Kobe Bolanos 1 0-0 2, Iziah Trimble 4 0-0 10, Cole Laney 4 4-4 12, Raymie Ferreira 3 1-1 7, Evan Horn 3 5-6 13, Blake Thomson 3 3-5 10, Luis Minaya 0 0-0 0, Dylan Miller 1 0-0 2, Tate Seyfert 0 3-6 3. Totals — 19 16-22 59.
Andrew Green 0 1-2 1, Ryan Moffatt 5 8-10 20, Connor Moffatt 5 2-5 13, Bryan Karl 4 5-6 13, Javon Mitchell 0 2-4 2, Will Blair 2 4-7 8, David Martin 2 2-2 6. Totals —18 24-36 63 .
Cedar Crest_ 18 _ 11_ 12 _ 18 _ — _ 59
Hempfield _ 15 _ 18 _ 10 _ 20 _ — _ 63
3-point goals — CC 5 (Trimble 2, Horn 2, Thomson); Hemp 3 (R.Moffatt 2, C.Moffatt)..
JV score — Hempfield 54, Cedar Crest 42..