With three quarters in the books at Eastern York High School, things didn't look good for the Golden Knights in their District 3 Class AAA playoff opener.
Eastern York saw two of its starters spend time on the bench in foul trouble, were just 9-of-32 shooting from the field and trailed 13th-seeded Middletown by seven points.
But those final eight minutes proved valuable to the Golden Knights and costly for Middletown in a 45-44 Eastern York win on Tuesday evening.
"We talked after about surviving," said Eastern York coach Jon Reichard. "I don't care if it is ugly or if it is fantastic and we win by 30. We are moving on and that's what matters at this point."
With the win, No. 4 seed Eastern York advances to meet fifth-seeded ELCO in Friday's quarterfinal round. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Hershey High School. ELCO eliminated Steel-High, 80-58, on Tuesday.
"This whole team, we don't want this season to end," said Eastern York senior guard Broguen Nicholas, whose team has won 17 of its last 19 games. "We've been rolling. We don't want to stop."
Eastern York (20-5) was tied with Middletown (14-9) at the half despite Nicholas spending the tail end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second on the bench with two fouls. Senior teammate Jarad Woods picked up a foul and a technical foul on the same play midway through the second quarter and did not play again until the start of the fourth.
"That was probably the first time we had Broguen sitting on the bench due to foul trouble all season," Reichard said. "We lost Woods for a good bit. We had a little adversity we overcame."
The Golden Knights fell behind in the third quarter as sophomore guard Ryan Hughes scored six of his game-high 22 points for Middletown while Eastern York was 2 of 10 shooting from the field with six turnovers.
Senior forward Colby Shimmel came off the bench for the Golden Knights to score the final two points of the third quarter and the first three of the fourth to begin to close the gap.
"When we got to the fourth quarter, we decided to go back to our man-to-man defense," Reichard said. "It's what got us here. We just extended it a bit. We gave up some chances for baseline screens and layups, but I thought we covered it better than we had in the other three quarters."
Eastern York finally grabbed the lead with 35.4 seconds left as Nicholas sank two free throws. With 13.8 seconds left, Hughes missed the front end of a two-shot foul. Woods missed both of his free throws with 11 seconds left, leaving the door open for Middletown, but their last shot attempt missed and Nicholas grabbed the rebound as time expired.
"I think when we took the lead, it stymied them a little," Reichard said. "They were very aggressive early, but kind of stood and watched a bit in the fourth quarter. They kind of held it and didn't really look for opportunities."
Nicholas was 6-of-6 from the foul line in the final quarter and contributed eight of his team-high 19 points during the fourth-quarter comeback.
"When Broguen steps up on the foul line, we are very calm and collected," Reichard said. "He's been pretty solid over his career from the foul line. We just have to get the other guys to step up and be as solid."
Mrakovich 1 1-2 3, Leggore 2 2-2 6, Harper 0 0-0 0, Leach 1 1-3 3, Ryan Hughes 9 4-7 22, Plummer 3 0-0 6, Mills 2 0-0 4. Totals — 18 8-14 44.
Eastern York (45)
Jared Achterberg 4 3-5 11, Broguen Nicholas 5 8-8 19, Woods 2 0-1 4, Springer 1 0-0 3, Particelli 0 1-2 1, Kalke 0 0-0 0, Wisler 0 0-0 0, Bernstein 1 0-0 2, Shimmel 1 3-4 5. Totals — 14 15-20 45 .
Middletown _ 11 _ 10 _ 14 _ 9 _ — _ 44
Eastern York _12 _ 9 _ 7 _ 17 _ — _ 45
3-point goals — Mt 0; EY 2 (Nicholas, Springer).