Conestoga falls to Ridley in Central League final

The Conestoga High School boys’ basketball team began this season’s journey last year at Harriton High School, when they fell to Lower Merion High School in the championship game before advancing to the PIAA District One Class AAAA semi-finals as the No. 1 seed before falling to Pennsbury.

With the Central League title being one of their goals, the Pioneers advanced to the title game for the second year in a row by completing an unblemished league season, fending off many stingy opponents along the way, winning close games and taking a team-first mentality.

After earning the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row for the upcoming PIAA District One Class AAAA tournament, Conestoga ran into a hot shooting Ridley team who fought off every Pioneer comeback to hand Conestoga a heartbreaking 70-64 loss Monday night at Harriton High School.

“We set goals at the beginning of the year and winning Central League was one of them,’ said coach Mike Troy. “Unfortunately we fell just short but we have to move forward. We talked about the disappointment of how much this hurts but at the same time we talked about coming to practice tomorrow focused because we have an opportunity to make our mark in the district tournament.’

Senior Martin Dorsey who finished with 21 points, four blocks and four assists added, “This loss hurts more than any other in my athletic career but at the same time how we are going to use this as motivation going forward. Everything happens for a reason and we are looking forward to get at it in practice to get ready for the district tournament.’

Following a back and fourth first half which ended with Dorsey hitting a long two at the buzzer to slice the deficit to 26-25 at half, Conestoga came out hoping to build off any momentum they may gotten from the buzzer beater right before the break.

After trading early baskets, the Raiders Brett Foster went on a 7-0 run to give his team a 42-35 lead late in the third. Despite trailing by as much as 12 at 51-39, the Pioneers team-first philosophy seemed like it might help Conestoga rally for another close victory.

Trailing 66-61 late, Andrew Diehl pulled the Pioneers to within 66-64 following a long three-pointer but that would be they closest they would get as Ridley closed the game going 4-4 from the free throw line to provide the final margin.

“I am always proud of these guys,’ Troy said referring to the second half comeback. “They worked on getting shots inside, getting fouled and still getting the rebound and put back. Unfortunately the ball did not bounce our way tonight.’

Despite falling short the main ingredient for Conestoga’s success shined through once again as they stuck together.

“We have to stick together regardless of the situation,’ Dorsey said. “It’s nights like this that makes you appreciate every game you play. We know we are going to get every team’s best shot and we just have to stick together. If we don’t stick together we know our season can end soon.’

Troy added, “We win as a team and lose as a team. These guys have not just bought into the team first philosophy but they have embraced it and lived it. On and off the court it is the team first philosophy that is the key for our success.

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