WEST LAMPETER TOWNSHIP - Things didn’t start off quite as planned for No. 2-seed Lampeter-Strasburg in Tuesday night’s home District Three Class AAA first round playoff matchup against No. 15 Dover.
Less than three minutes in, Pioneers’ leading scorer Ben Sandberg went to the locker room with a nose bleed. A few minutes later, Pioneers’ second-leading scorer Matt Achille picked up his second foul and headed to the bench. Achille emerged at the 5:55 mark of the second quarter, only to get whistled for an offensive foul - his third personal - and went back to the bench.
It allowed visiting Dover to twice take a two-point lead in the first half, and stay within three points of L-S heading into the break. But a big third quarter from Sandberg and Achille allowed L-S to open up a sizable advantage, with the Pioneers eventually prevailing with a 67-58 win.
“We knew every game from here on out is gonna be tough,” Achille said afterward. “It’s districts. Nobody is gonna bow down and give you a free ride.”
With the victory, Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three champion Lampeter-Strasburg (22-2) advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal round, where the Pioneers will face No. 10 Gettysburg (13-8) at 6:30 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey. Gettysburg on Tuesday edged No. 7 Palmyra (17-6), 45-44.
Brown steps up: Dover’s largest leads of the game both came in the second quarter, when the Eagles (13-11) went up 21-19 and 23-21. Each time, it was Lampeter-Strasburg 6-foot, 2-inch senior guard Connor Brown who responded. Brown’s second jumper of the game tied it, 21-21. He then followed with a 3-pointer and another jumper to give the Pioneers a 26-23 advantage. With Achille and Sandberg on the bench for much of the first half, Brown tallied nine of his 11 points in the opening two quarters to help L-S take a 30-27 lead into the break.
“Connor Brown was huge,” Pioneers’ coach John Achille said. “He hit the jumper from the elbow and then he hit that 3. He doesn’t take many 3s. I think he’s only got two or three all year.”
Tag team back again: Back on the floor together after halftime, the tag team of Achille and Sandberg combined to score the Pioneers’ first 17 points of the third quarter, followed by an Achille assist to teammate Luke Beers (nine points) to give Lampeter-Strasburg its largest lead of the night, 49-37, before Dover closed to within 49-41 heading into the final frame. Achille (19 points) and Sandberg (18 points) combined for 37 points, with 28 of those coming in the second half.
Dover had four players finish in double-figures, led by 16 points from freshman point guard Keith Davis.
Asked if Tuesday’s win was too close for comfort, coach Achille said “We knew anybody this time of year is tough. And we’ve been off for awhile (since the L-L tournament loss to Cedar Crest on Feb. 6). We had a couple of scrimmages. We scrimmaged Lebanon on Wednesday and Conestoga Valley on Saturday….and Dover has three or four solid players. It’s different. When you get into district play it's different.”
On to Chocolatetown: Now it’s back to the Giant Center for L-S for the first time since 2012, when the Pioneers’ reached the District 3-AAA semifinals and Matt Achille was sitting next to his dad and watching older brother, J.B., who was then a starter.
“We talked about winning the section, which was our top goal,” coach Achille said. “And the second one was playing in the Giant Center. It’s just a neat experience. It’s really cool, as a player and coach. So they’re excited.”
Keith Davis 5 4-4 16, Brady Bowman 4 4-4 13, Najah Fink 5 1-1 11, Brady DeShong 3 5-10 11, O'Neal 3 1-2 7, Sayres 0 0-0 0, Sterner 0 0-0 0, Hansel 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 15-21 58.
Matt Achille 6 6-7 19, Ben Sandberg 7 4-4 18, C. Brown 4 2-2 11, L. Beers 3 2-3 9, Boynton 0 5-6 5, I. Beers 1 0-0 3, Metz 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 19-22 67.
3-point goals —Do 3 (Davis 2, Bowman); LS 4 (L. Beers, Achille, Brown, I. Beers ).