The Rockets outscored the Nighthawks 24-6 in the third quarter
Eli Brooks managed to surprise himself.
There was one second remaining in the third quarter of Friday's YAIAA tournament quarterfinal between Spring Grove and Hanover when the Rockets junior grabbed a rebound and flung a nearly full-court shot toward the basket.
Brooks has been a highlight machine all season, but even he couldn't believe it when the shot fell in.
"That time I was surprised," Eli Brooks said. "I just kind of threw it up to get it up there and it actually went in."
That shot was one of many dazzling plays the YAIAA's leading scorer made Friday during Spring Grove's 61-44 win against the Nighthawks at West York High School. Brooks finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two assists.
The junior was arguably more impressive on defense than he was offense, guarding Hanover star Kyle Krout one-on-one most of the game and holding him to just five points in the first three quarters and 10 overall.
"I usually don't put him on the other team's best offensive player, but it's the time when you have to step up and play both ways," Spring Grove head coach James Brooks said. "Eli can defend and he can defend multiple positions. He's a lot stronger than people give him credit for."
The Rockets led by just four points at halftime but dominated the third quarter, holding the Nighthawks to just six points and outscoring them by 18. Spring Grove hit four 3-pointers in the quarter, including Brooks' buzzer-beating heave.
Spring Grove led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter before cruising to a 17-point victory. Early on, however, the contest was far from a blowout.
The score was tied after one quarter, with Brooks scoring all 11 of the Rockets' points. Hanover's triangle-and-two zone limited Spring Grove's supporting players, and the underdog Nighthawks went into halftime down by just four.
"We haven't seen a triangle-and-two for a couple games and guys just had to get recalibrated to going against it," James Brooks said. "(Hanover) played it pretty well at the beginning, and our guys weren't really confident to take the shots. We just needed to have fun."
But strong third-quarter performances from Grant Wierman, Drew Gordon and Darin Gordon — who combined for 22 points in the second half — proved to be too much for Hanover to handle. The Nighthawks made just three field goals all quarter after playing strong in the first half.
Hanover head coach Nathan Myers said he knew shutting down Eli Brooks was unrealistic, but he thought the Nighthawks had a legitimate chance for an upset at halftime.
"Absolutely, we approached the game as we have a shot, that's why you play the game," Myers said. "I thought we represented ourselves pretty well. It's tough to cover them because they have so many guys who do so many things, but I thought we competed."
The Nighthawks will now shift their attention to the district playoffs, while the Rockets advance to the league semifinals against Northeastern, which beat William Penn, 76-47, in Friday's quarterfinals. The Spring Grove vs. Northeastern semifinal is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Red Lion.
"If our league isn't the best league in District 3, it's close," James Brooks said. "These games are just about getting ready to fight and keep seeing different styles of play."
Spring Grove 61, Hanover 44
Hunter Martz 5 0-0 13, Kyle Krout 4 1-1 10, McQueen 1 4-6 6, Hart 1 0-0 2, Hill 0 1-2 1, Bowman 3 0-0 8, Kenworthy 2 0-0 4, Ehrhart 0 0-0 0, Gebhart 0 0-0 0, Keeney 0 0-0 0. Totals — 16 6-9 44.
Spring Grove (61)
Eli Brooks 11 0-0 25, Daren Gordon 5 0-0 10, Wierman 2 2-2 8, Flaherty 1 0-0 2, Sager 2 0-0 4, Drew Gordon 3 3-4 10, Panter 1 0-0 2, Bellamy 0 0-0 0, Messersmith 0 0-0 0, Sterner 0 0-0 0, Colbert 0 0-0 0. Totals — 25 5-6 61.
Hanover _ 11 _ 11 _ 6 _ 16 _ — _ 44
Spring Grove _ 11 _ 15 _ 24 _ 11 _ — _ 61
3-point goals — Spring Grove 6 (Brooks 3, Wierman 2, Drew Gordon), Hanover 6 (Martz 3, Bowman 2, Krout).