HERSHEY >> A game that on the outside was relatively meaningless, Thursday’s District 3 Class AAAA third-place game featuring No. 5 Reading and No. 2 Cedar Cliff turned out to be one of the most memorable contests of the season.
The Reading Red Knights, champions of Berks County, rode the No. 2 Cedar Cliff Colts, champions of the Mid-Penn, into not one, but two overtime sessions on the strength of a dynamic second half, eventually besting the tough-as-nails Colts, 67-66, at Milton Hershey’s Spartan Center.
Reading’s second half was fueled by sophomore Lonnie Walker, who scored a game-high 26 points in his return from a one-game suspension. More important than the game-high total, however, was Walker’s two free throws with 48 seconds remaining in the second OT. The second turned a 66-65 deficit into a one-point lead.
The 6-foot-4 Walker then made a highlight-reel block on a 3-point try by the Colts’ Derek Ford (15 points), gathering the loose ball as time ran out to allow his team to celebrate a hard-fought win.
“They just showed a lot of character. They want this thing to keep going forever,” said Red Knights head coach Rick Perez. “They just want to play hard and be the best team every day that they possibly can. I’m proud of them every day, but a little extra today.”
Next up for Reading (24-5) is a state first-round matchup versus the fifth-seed from District 1, which has yet to be determined.
Cedar Cliff (24-4) will face the District 1 third seed.
The Colts’ took a 29-23 lead into intermission on the strength of four 3’s from senior Owen Shenk, who finished with a team-high 24 points.
Tyler Hoagland (20 points, six assists) continued his stellar tournament with another standout performance.
With Reading holding a 47-37 lead in the fourth quarter, Hoagland brought his team back with eight straight points, finishing with 12 points in the quarter. Walker countered with three straight assists as the teams fought to a 56-56 dead heat at the end of regulation.
“Cedar Cliff, hats off to them, they play extremely hard,” said Perez. “We’ve seen a lot of very good basketball teams, (but) they are the hardest-playing basketball team we’ve seen all season.”
A fact that could bode well, as both teams prep for states.