The Red Tornado claimed thier first Section One title since 2012-13 after defeating Manheim Township, 58-42 on Thursday, January 28, 2016. John Buffone
– Zero points, but one major impact.
That’s one way to describe McCaskey junior reserve Jathan Gonzalez, whose defensive contributions highlighted a championship effort in Thursday night’s 58-42 comeback victory over host Manheim Twp.
While star Kobe Gantz bucketed a team-high 21 points, and Izaiah Baratta contributed an essential 15 more, Gonzalez’s defense on fast-rising Blue Streaks freshman Tyler Crespo sparked Steve Powell’s Red Tornado (15-4, 13-2).
The team’s fourth straight victory clinched an outright Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 championship for McCaskey, which won the title for the first time since 2012-13.
Matt Johns’ Blue Streaks (11-9, 9-6), a night removed from walloping two-time defending section champ Cedar Crest, saw an end to their eight-game winning streak despite 22 points from Crespo.
But the 5-8 Gonzalez held the electric Crespo scoreless in the fourth quarter, and the Tornado outscored the Streaks 23-5 over that span. Manheim Twp. led after each of the first three quarters (11-5, 23-22 and 37-35).
“My role is I come in as a shooter, but in my head that’s not my main focus,” said Gonzalez, who didn’t even attempt a shot but did grab four rebounds, hand out three assists and collect one steal in his reserve minutes.
“My main focus is strap up on defense and do little things to help my team win, so we can be the best we can be and play to our abilities.”
Crespo, who began the season as a reserve, has been on fire for Johns’ crew since joining the starting lineup a month ago, with nine double-digit efforts in his last 10 games, including a career-high 27 Wednesday night vs. Cedar Crest.
His 12 points in the third quarter alone had the hosts thinking upset for the second straight night.
“He kind of over-penetrated a little bit tonight, but he’s pretty good at taking what he’s given,” said Johns, the Streaks’ first-year coach who still has his team chasing a District 3-AAAA playoff berth.
“And if you’re going to press up on him, he has a lot of really shifty moves to get around you. And he takes contact very well. If you’re going to give him room, he’s going to hit a shot on you.”
That on-court shiftiness reminds a bit of a young Gantz, who was limited to one bucket in each of the first three quarters before scoring 14 of his 21 in the fourth. (That includes eight makes in 11 free-throw attempts.) Gantz also added five assists and four steals.
Baratta was a steady contributor throughout, adding seven rebounds and three steals. Despite foul trouble, Randolph Speller scored 10 with six rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Greg Nunez posted six points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
McCaskey began a game-changing 10-0 run with Baratta’s layup late in the third quarter. The go-ahead bucket came on a Ricky Cruz turn-around jumper, and the run was complete on Gantz’s steal and dunk (and free throw) with 5:10 left.
Only a 3-pointer by Manheim Twp. reserve Nick Vicidomini (eight points) interrupted the run, though McCaskey soon started an 11-0 spurt to build a double-digit advantage into the closing minutes.
“They’re very good at drawing contact in the fourth quarter,” Johns said of McCaskey, which was the last team to beat his before the eight-game winning streak. “That was a big part of it. We never had an offensive flow tonight. It was choppy. …
“You’re playing a little game of playing out on the shooters but closing off the penetration on Kobe. We got away with that game for about three quarters, and then he decided he was going to put his head down. And it got tough.”
While Crespo netted 22, the other four starters scored six points combined, which certainly goes against the balance Johns was used to seeing. David DiMeo did haul in a game-high 14 rebounds and dished out four assists.
But this was about McCaskey rising back to the top of Section 1.
“Communication is one thing we lack,” Gonzalez said of the Red Tornado. “Sometimes we get a little bit too selfish, but when we all want to buckle down and play basketball, like we should from the start, great things can happen.”
Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo
McCaskey 58, Manheim Twp. 42
Kobe Gantz 6 8-12 21, Ricky Cruz 3 0-0 6, Izaiah Baratta 7 1-1 15, Greg Nunez 1 4-7 6, Randolph Speller 4 0-1 10, Jathan Gonzalez 0 0-0 0, Skyler Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals — 21 13-21 58.
MANHEIM TWP. (42)
Tyler Crespo 9 3-5 22, John Stutz 0 0-0 0, David DiMeo 1 0-0 2, Jordan Phillips 0 2-2 2, A.J. McCloud 1 0-0 2, Michael Sharpe 3 0-0 6, Michael Lux 0 0-0 0, Brian Hines 0 0-0 0, Nick Vicidomini 3 0-0 8. Totals — 17 5-7 42.
McCaskey _ 5 _ 17 _ 13 _ 23 _ — _ 58
Manheim Twp. _ 11 _ 12 _ 14 _ 5 _ — _ 42
3-point goals — McC 3 (Speller 2, Gantz); MT 3 (Vicidomini 2, Crespo).
JV — McCaskey 48, Manheim Twp. 46.