HERSHEY >> They clapped their hands while chanting "ayee" and "save New Hope."
They wore white shirts that read "#SAVENEWHOPE" on the front and "SAVE MY LIFE" on the back.
While New Hope Academy wonders what will happen to its charter school following this high school boys' basketball season, the Mighty Ants celebrated Friday at Giant Center. Their 58-35 victory against second-seeded Mount Calvary Christian secured the school's only District 3 championship in Class A.
New Hope's celebration began in the closing minutes of its victory. It extended into an embrace of school founder Isiah Anderson after the trophy presentation. Anderson shed a few tears, as did some of the New Hope players. For now they still have their school.
They still have basketball.
"It makes us come together," sophomore guard Montrel Morgan said. "We don't have any worries on the court. That's why we're so passionate about what we do every single day."
The fourth-seeded Ants (14-9) brought that passion for a convincing semifinal win against defending district champ Lebanon Catholic in the semifinals and were even more decisive Friday against the Chargers (22-4).
New Hope took control midway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer by senior guard Kareem Oden and led the rest of the day. The pivotal play was made possible by junior guard Carlos Serrano. Easily the smallest player on the floor at 5-foot-4, Serrano grabbed two offensive rebounds — including his own miss — before finding Oden near the top of the arc. It also sparked a seven-point run.
While the aggressive offense often finished with a flashy look, New Hope was not forgiving on the other end.
Oden sparked the defense with nine steals, wreaking havoc on a Mount Calvary team that committed 27 turnovers.
"We just wanted to come in and keep it up. He's done that this year," Archer said of Oden. "He had a quadruple-double earlier this year. Montrel Morgan has triple-doubles, so we've had games with 18, 19, 25 steals. It's not outside the norm to do this."
Archer called it a "laser focus" from his group, which previously beat Mount Calvary by three in January. One change the coach has made in the games leading up to the postseason is using fewer players. Archer went with a 10-deep lineup for most of Friday until the late celebratory curtain calls. In total, 15 players got in — closer to his normal substituting pattern early in the season.
Oden scored 15 points, Morgan added 13 and NaGus Griggs scored 15 off the bench. The Mount Calvary defense seemed outnumbered. All three, Archer said, have the ability to score 30 points in a game.
"It's hard to defend a team like that," he said, "when you don't know who's going to go off."
The third quarter proved to be Griggs, a 6-2 senior guard. Griggs scored six of his points in the third quarter, as New Hope stretched its lead to double digits.
"If a kid makes a good decision, just get out of the way," Archer said. "Gus had a huge third quarter just shooting jump shots. That's his bread and butter. As athletic as he is, he can shoot with the best of them."
They had to counter a strong shooter in the Chargers' Joshua Jeter. He finished with 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Jeter's effort kept Mount Calvary in it early. Then, Oden's big basket came.
Then Morgan finished with a putback try that resulted in a foul at the buzzer. He sank two free throws before retreating to the locker room. A short while later, Archer put a gold medal around his neck.
It was the second time Archer did that for Morgan. A month ago, Archer gave Morgan his district medal he won two years ago at Pine Grove.
"I told him to put it on every day," Archer said. "If you couldn't see a medal around your neck, you're not going to win it."
Not only did he see the medal, but he heard the chants of "save New Hope."
Morgan said, "It gives me hope that we will stay open."
MOUNT CALVARY CHRISTIAN (35)
Joshua Jeter 5 1-3 14, Perales 1 0-0 2, Crick 0 0-1 0, Kuntzelman 2 0-0 6, Sturgis 3 0-0 7, Bryant 1 2-3 4, Lachance 0 2-2 2, Toth 0 0-0 0, Wolfe 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 12 5-9 35.
NEW HOPE ACADEMY (58)
M. Coleman 0 0-0 0, Kareem Oden 6 2-2 15, Beverly 2 0-0 4, Murphy 0 0-0 0, Montrel Morgan 4 5-5 13, Serrano 0 1-2 1, NaGus Griggs 7 0-0 15, Little 1 0-0 2, J. Wilson 3 0-0 6, E. Wilson 0 0-0 0, B. Coleman 0 0-0 0, Pinkey 0 0-0 0, Handy 0 0-0 0, Jimenez 0 0-0 0, Murray 0 2-2 2.
Totals — 23 10-11 58.
3-point goals — MC 6 (Jeter 3, Kuntzelman 2, Sturgis), NH 2 (Oden, Griggs).