WEST GROVE — Pulsating tempo, physical defense, thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
There was a little of everything in Chester Charter Scholars Academy’s 63-58 loss Friday to Linville Hill Christian in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class A boys basketball game at Avon Grove High.
And a lot of heartache for the Sabers, with the exception of senior guard Kevin Miller becoming the first player in school history to hit the 1,000-point mark.
“It’s super-disappointing,” Sabers coach Daniel Spangler said of the loss. “We felt like we had the talent to get to Hershey. But what’s not disappointing is the way we played. The energy, the effort, the lack of quit. That’s not disappointing.”
The District 1 champion Sabers (21-6) had a 54-53 lead with 3:27 left on a fastbreak layup by Miller, who finished with 17 points. That would be their last field goal against a Hornets defense that had shut out City Charter of Philadelphia over the last four minutes to reach the quarters.
“That was the city game against the country boys, basically,” Linville Hill coach Mike Schatzmann said. “Luckily, we came out ahead. Either team could have won that game. We know they make runs. They can score 12 points in a minute and a half. We were ready for that but these kids we have … their defense is just relentless, and they just don’t know anything but winning. We’re 25-0 and they won’t lose. I told them before we came out here if we lose it’s going to be to a team that’s better than us, not one that outhustles us.”
District 3 champion Linville Hill, from Paradise, plays the Phil-Mont Christian-Berlin Brothersvalley winner next week in the Final Four.
Stephen Smucker led the Hornets with 16 points while Matthew Lapp and Daniel King added 15 apiece.
Senior Jayden Williams tallied a game-high 20 points for Chester Charter, which trailed, 39-29 at the intermission.
But the Hornets were in trouble early in the third quarter when big man King, No. 45, was called for a phantom push that probably should have been assessed Lapp, who is No. 35. It was the fourth foul on King, and it changed the way the Hornets attacked and rebounded at both ends of the floor. The Sabers outscored them, 13-4, in the frame to get within a triple entering the fourth quarter.
With King back in the lineup and playing a wing in the matchup zone defense, the Hornets were rejuvenated.
“It was a roller coaster night,” Spangler said. “First quarter we came out strong, which we don’t usually do. Then they punched back as an undefeated team should do. And then we answered coming out of the break. The fourth quarter was kind of nip and tuck. We were constantly on the cusp of breaking it open and we missed a couple of foul shots here and there and then there was a kicked ball that was never called, and the lead went from one to three and we just ran out of time.”
Giovanni Sejuste made three of four free throws in the last 15 seconds to ice the victory for the Hornets.
The first quarter was full of runs. The Sabers surged to a 10-4 lead only to be outscored 14-4 over the next three minutes, the Hornets securing a 16-12 advantage.
That was followed by a 6-0 burst putting the Sabers back in front. The Sabers led by a point entering the second quarter.
The second quarter belonged to the Hornets, although with three seconds left in the frame, King, who had 10 points at that time, collected his third personal foul. The Hornets, just like Spangler said, couldn’t quite put their opponent firmly in the rearview mirror.
“We have six seniors,” Spangler said. “No lead is scary to them. When we’re down in games like that they just know how to fight back.”
Those seniors will be missed. But Spangler nonetheless appreciates the legacy they leave including Miller’s milestone.
“It’s huge, that pretty much puts us on a level with every other high school,” Spangler said. “Coming into the gym now you’re going to see that we have a 1,000-point scorer and two district championships. It’s huge.”
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