Why did Biglerville hold the ball for a quarter?
As the third quarter clock ticked down Tuesday night, Biglerville head coach Steve Elsier could hear chants of "defense" coming from the Canner faithful.
The Canners were clinging to a four-point lead against Big Spring at home, with a win likely giving them a District 3 Class 4A playoff spot. But Biglerville wasn't playing defense.
In fact, the Canners weren't doing much of anything.
Trying to protect its lead and with Big Spring in foul trouble, Biglerville decided to hold the ball for the entirety of the third quarter. According to Elsier, Big Spring's defense never left its zone as senior Conner Griest stood with the ball for nearly eight minutes before the Canners ran one unsuccessful play in the final seconds.
The unorthodox plan worked, as Biglerville went on to win, 53-42. The Canners will play in the district tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season, pending the finalization of the District 3 rankings Friday afternoon.
"At the end of the game the referee shook my hand and said he'd never seen that before. I told him in all my years of coaching I hadn't either," Elsier said. "(Big Spring) was in a triangle-and-two (zone defense), and I told the kids at halftime that if they came out in that again we'd hold the ball. Their kids were looking around and weren't sure what to do.
"We just said, 'You've got to dictate the game.' What's right isn't always popular and what's popular isn't always right."
Big Spring had just six players get in the game, and Elsier said a couple of them were in foul trouble after the first half.
While the unusual and uneventful third quarter might have been the part of Tuesday's game that stood out the most, the win capped off Biglerville's most successful regular season in years. At 13-9, the Canners have posted their first winning season in Elsier's eight years at the helm.
According to Elsier, a big part of the Canners' improvement has come from implementing a new zone defense in place of the team's previous man-to-man scheme. Biglerville has also used a more balanced attack offensively this season than in years past.
While Biglerville relied heavily on Noah Ayers for scoring production the past three seasons, the Canners have four players averaging double-digit points this campaign. Ayers, who reached the 1,000-point plateau last season as a junior, is third on the team in scoring behind Cody Shaffer and Gavin Parker.
"Noah is still the guy who initiates everything offensively for us, he's the guy we want to have with the ball when it's tight or it's a fouling situation,"Elsier said. "There might be some games where he only scores six points, but it helps create an equal distribution of talent that’s a credit to our team offense."
The Canners aren't content with just making districts however. After losing to York Catholic by 30 points in their last playoff game three years ago, Biglerville hopes to advance at least one round this time. The Canners are ranked ninth and expected to play eight-seed Schuylkill Valley in the first round on Feb. 20.
"Absolutely the goal is to win and we've talked about that," Elsier said. "My first year here we won four games and every year we've improved."