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Mechanicsburg holds off Greencastle in MPC semifinal

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Just after Greencastle-Antrim’s girls basketball team was ousted in double overtime, the Blue Devils' boys basketball squad likewise found itself in a nail-biter with Mechanicsburg in the Mid Penn Conference semifinals Tuesday night at Big Spring.

Despite the Wildcats being heavily favored after a 47-31 victory against G-A in the Dunks for Drew showcase, Greencastle fought tooth and nail to avenge its earlier loss.

And it looked like the Blue Devils just might pull it off, but Mechanicsburg was strong from the foul line and got an 11-point fourth quarter from Cade Alioth to earn 66-61 victory.

The Wildcats will face State College, a 70-63 win over Trinity, in the conference championship Thursday (7:30 on ABC27 - Comcast 245).

"A well-played loss is probably the best term," G-A coach Rick Lewis said. "Same with Spring Grove; we played very well against a very good team. When I look at our last couple of games and the atmosphere, we're prepared for the playoffs."

Heading into the final quarter, the Blue Devils held a 48-44 lead and were in good shape. But their offense fell silent in the first four minutes of the fourth, and Mechanicsburg regained the lead midway through the frame.

It wasn’t over just yet, though. With under two minutes remaining, Brandon Stuhler nailed a 3-pointer and Bryan Gembe hit a layup to knot the score at 58-58.

But that was all she wrote for Greencastle, as Shane Homick and Alioth scored back-to-back layups to give Mechanicsburg the lead for good.

"It's a lot easier playing someone the second time around; you kinda know what they're doing," Gembe said. "Cade Alioth (28 points, 16 rebounds) is a really good player, and he's obviously the reason they won. We focused more on him, but he's still a great player."

Ian Gelsinger paced G-A’s offense with 21 points, while Casey Hoover and Stuhler scored 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Looking forward: Greencastle's season doesn't end here.

The Blue Devils turn right around to face yet another rematch when they host Shippensburg on Monday in the District 3 Class 5A playoffs.

"I think this game gave us a lot of confidence, even though we didn't win," Gembe said. "We played great, besides a few little things, and I think we're going to carry this confidence into this game against Shippensburg."

One of the big things Lewis talked about with his team post-game was those little things. G-A didn't shoot the ball well early in Monday's game, and it also went through a dry spell in the fourth. A few costly turnovers could've also changed the outcome.

"There's chance to win the games at all times, and you never know when that chance is going to be," Lewis said. "It could be in the first quarter, or it could be two minutes ago in the third quarter. Everyone focuses on the last minute of the game, but there's opportunities to win the game all throughout. We need to clean up a couple possessions to play at the level we need to."

G-A's division sweep: Despite the pair of losses, Greencastle-Antrim put on a fine show in a tournament that's typically unkind to the Mid Penn Colonial Division.

Both teams had opportunities to win, and neither were blown out, by any means. In fact, this is the first time since 2013 that the same school was represented on both the girls and boys side of the tournament. Gettysburg and Steel-High both did it four years ago.

"I'm in awe of what Mike Rhine has done with the girls program," Lewis said. "I think this is a heck of an accomplishment for our school, and (these programs) support each other. Mike has been an unbelievable support to me, and the whole athletic program. We've got a very nice sports program at our school, and there's a lot of pride."