NEFFSVILLE – This was far from a meaningless consolation contest for Connor Moffatt and the Hempfield Black Knights.
Dumped into the losers’ bracket after Saturday’s often listless District 3-AAAA quarterfinal loss to Central York, the Black Knights found plenty of motivation for Tuesday night’s rubber match against Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 rival McCaskey.
Moffatt and crew uncorked absolute insanity on the Red Tornado, posting an 81-73 victory while shooting an incredible 67 percent (30 for 45) at Manheim Twp. High School.
Scoring a career-high 33 points, Moffatt sank 10 of 12 shots, including all six 3-pointers, and added nine rebounds and seven assists. Fellow senior Andrew Green also went for a career-best, collecting 19 points (8-for-9 shooting) along with five rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
“I honestly don’t know,” the 6-4 Moffatt said when asked to describe his outing. “I struggled at the Giant Center [Saturday]. I came in here and haven’t usually shot well in this gym. But I hit the first couple, felt pretty good, made the third. After that, they were just going in. I just had the touch tonight. I don’t know.”
Joked head coach Danny Walck: “When a guy gets on fire like that, you become a pretty good coach.”
Hempfield (16-8) split the regular-season series with Steve Powell’s Red Tornado (20-7), including a loss in the final game of the regular season that kept the Knights out of the L-L playoffs.
So, Moffatt said, revenge was a factor, as well as setting themselves up in better position for the upcoming PIAA tournament.
“The fact it was McCaskey and we got to play in this gym was a big deal to us,” he said. “If this was the league championship, this is where we’d be playing, so we thought of it like that a little bit.”
Bryan Karl added 14 points and four blocks for the Black Knights, who will play Carlisle Thursday to determine fifth and sixth place.
Kobe Gantz scored 27 and Randolph Speller 20 for McCaskey, which will face rival Lebanon Thursday to determine seventh and eighth place. (The Red Tornado made their lengthy state run last year as the district’s eighth seed.)
Hempfield will take on Carlisle on Thursday at 8 p.m. at CD East.
WHAT IT MEANS:
Hempfield’s victory guarantees it will play in the western half of the PIAA Class AAAA bracket.
If the Knights beat Carlisle, they’ll open against the District 6 champion, likely State College (or perhaps Central Mountain or Altoona).
If the Knights lose to Carlisle, they’ll open against the District 1 runner-up. Chester and Plymouth-Whitemarsh meet Friday in that championship game.
McCaskey will again play in the eastern half of the PIAA bracket.
If the Red Tornado beat Lebanon, they’ll open against the District 2/4 champion, either Williamsport or Abington Heights (Saturday).
If the Red Tornado lose, they’ll open against the District 1 champ (Chester or Plymouth-Whitemarsh).
“It’s a privilege and honor to be in the state tournament, and these games have meaning,” Walck said. “And the meaning is we’re not only representing ourselves, we’re representing our families and our school. So when you show up for this game, you need to show up with pride and treat it as the biggest game on our schedule. And that’s a hard thing to do.
“It’s a privilege to play at the Giant Center, and I’m glad we got the opportunity, but that crowd didn’t see the team we were. I’m just really proud of our kids for standing up to the challenge and answering the call.”
Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo
Hempfield 81, McCaskey 73
Kobe Gantz 8-17 8-10 27, Ricky Cruz 2-6 3-4 8, Izaiah Baratta 2-6 0-0 4, Greg Nunez 3-7 0-0 6, Randolph Speller 8-14 0-0 20, Jathan Gonzalez 3-5 0-1 6, Skyler Davis 0-0 0-0 0, William Joseph 1-2 0-0 2. Totals — 27-57 11-15 73.
Andrew Green 8-9 2-3 19, Ryan Moffatt 2-5 1-2 5, Connor Moffatt 10-12 7-10 33, Bryan Karl 6-10 0-2 14, Javon Mitchell 1-4 0-2 2, Will Blair 1-3 0-0 2, David Martin 2-2 2-4 6, Joey White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 30-45 12-23 81.
McCaskey _ 12 _ 20 _ 17 _ 24 _ — _ 73
Hempfield _ 13 _ 24 _ 16 _ 28 _ — _ 81
3-point goals — McC 8-18 (Speller 4-7, Gantz 3-6, Cruz 1-4, Gonzalez 0-1); Hem 9-12 (C.Moffatt 6-6, Karl 2-2, Green 1-1, R.Moffatt 0-1, Mitchell 0-2). Rebounds – McC 24 (Nunez 5); Hem 26 (C.Moffatt 9).Assists – McC 12 (Baratta 4); Hem 25 (Green 8). Steals – McC 7 (Gantz 3, Speller 3); Hem 4 (Green 2).Blocks – McC 1 (Cruz); Hem 5 (Karl 4). Turnovers – McC 6; Hem 10. Fouls – McC 16; Hem 12. Fouled out: Cruz.