Eli Brooks talks about Spring Grove's dramatic win over Northeastern in the YAIAA semifinals.
Spring Grove senior hit winning layup with three seconds to play
Grant Wierman didn't expect the ball to end up in his hands.
Spring Grove was tied with Northeastern with 25 seconds to play in Thursday's YAIAA semifinal game at Red Lion High School. The Rockets drew up a play for Darin Gordon, but the senior spotted Wierman open on the perimeter and passed him the ball.
The 6-foot-4 forward drove to the basket and went up for a contested layup. Despite nearly having the ball knocked out of his hands, Wierman regained control and managed to lay it in with three seconds remaining.
The Rockets quickly forced a turnover to hold on for a dramatic 59-57 victory over the Bobcats. Spring Grove will now play Central York in the league title game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at York College. Central beat Eastern York, 64-48, in the other semifinal Thursday night following Spring Grove's win.
"The play wasn't designed for me but I was open so I was just ready for the opportunity," Wierman said. "It happened so fast, he hit the ball out of my hands from behind but it went right back into my hands and I just shot it."
Although Wierman has taken a backseat to Gordon and Eli Brooks all season, he delivered on Thursday with 12 points against the Bobcats. Spring Grove head coach James Brooks said an offseason growth spurt helped transform the 6-foot-4, 170-pound Wierman into the player he's been this season.
"That extra height, Grant was only 6-foot-1 last year, that height has really helped him out," James Brooks said. "A year ago he was 17 pounds less, he wouldn't have finished that (winning shot)."
"Honestly I probably would have gotten stuffed last year," Wierman said. "I was scrawny."
Wierman's shot capped off a wild fourth quarter in which Northeastern tied the game multiple times but never took the lead. Sophomores Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto both hit numerous clutch shots for the Bobcats and combined for 28 points, all in the second half.
But the Bobcats weren't able to overcome a sluggish start that put them down seven after the first quarter. While it trailed by just one at halftime and three after the third, Northeastern couldn't slow down Brooks and the Rockets long enough to take control of the game.
"We couldn't get a lead, which allowed them to run their offense and we kept having to force the issue but couldn't (get) over the hump," Northeastern head coach Jon Eyster said. "Our poor transition (defense) allowed Eli to score. We didn't want him to score in transition and he did."
Brooks finished with 28 points and had three transition dunks in the fourth quarter. More impressively, he guarded Northeastern star Kobi Nwandu most of the night and held the 6-foot-5 guard to just three points.
It was the second straight dominant defensive performance for Brooks, who held Hanover's Kyle Krout to just 10 in Spring Grove's quarterfinal win over the Nighthawks.
"In college basketball, you're going to have to be able to guard the best player on the court because they're all like that at the next level," Brooks said. "Coaches want to see that, and you get looked at that way."
Saturday's game will be the third matchup between Spring Grove and Central York this season. The Panthers won by the same score, 53-50, both times.
Spring Grove 59, Northeastern 57
Spring Grove (59)
Eli Brooks 9 7-8 28, Darin Gordon 5 0-1 10, Grant Wierman 6 0-0 12, Sager 1 1-1 3, Flaherty 0 0-0 0, Drew Gordon 2 0-0 4, Panter 1 0-0 2. Totals — 24 8-10 59.
Fred Mulbah 3 10-13 16, Donovian Maxfield 5 0-0 15, Reynolds 2 4-4 9, Nwandu 0 3-4 3, Coleman 0 0-0 0, Antonio Rizzuto 5 1-1 12, McCarter 1 0-0 2. Totals — 16 18-22 57.
Spring Grove _ 14 _ 9 _ 13 _ 23 _ — _ 59
Northeastern _ 7 _ 15 _ 11 _ 24 _ — _ 57
3-point goals — Northeastern 7 (Maxfield 5, Reynolds, Rizzuto), Spring Grove 3 (Brooks).