MOUNT JOY>> Josh Bailey stood unguarded in the right corner, a 3-ball away from advancing West York to states. Bailey – who was having a tremendous evening – took the pass, fired as time expired and the ball fell short of the rim.
With that miss, the Bulldogs’ hardwood season came to an agonizing end with a 60-58 loss to Berks Catholic in a boys’ District 3 Class AAA consolation game at Donegal High School Monday night.
After flying high with an opening round rout of Wyomissing, West York’s season ended with consecutive losses to Steel-High (57-54) and the Saints.
West York was sloppy with possession – both teams were, actually, in a frantic, fast-motion game that will end up on no one’s Hoops 101 reel – but were still, somehow, a converted shot away at the buzzer.
“We were just talking about it as a coaching staff,” longtime West York coach Bill Ackerman said, “that you tell the guys to get the tempo up and to go-go-go, and then you turn around and say, ‘wait a minute, slow down on this possession.’ And that’s tough to do when you’re a teenager.
“We made some decisions we probably shouldn’t have made on the scheme sides of things, but on the flip side, we had the tempo where we wanted it and I can’t fault the kids for that.
I think Berks just made a couple more plays down the stretch. My kids were warriors. I wish I could give them more because they deserved more.”
On the final play, Ackerman anticipated Bailey being open for the game-winner in the corner, and the junior guard was.
“We either wanted Kyle (Einsig) to get the handoff or Darian (McCauley) to fake the handoff. We told Darian that when you fake it, you’ll have Josh open in the corner. And he was. That’s the shot we wanted.”
Bailey finished with a game-high 20 points, three shy of what he and all of West York would have wanted.
It was an incredibly frantic and sloppy finish.
Berks Catholic took a 54-53 lead with 2:57 to go on a pair of Connor Jack free throws. Catholic’s big was a load to handle in the post, but picked up four fouls and was playing with that burden during the home stretch. He scored 16 for the game, a team-high, and those freebies were his final points of the night.
A back and forth finish would then ensue. Matt DellOrfino gave the Bulldogs the lead back on a jump shot with 1:12 left, only to see Isaac Lutz drive the lane, find a sliver of daylight, and lay it in for a 56-55 Saints’ lead.
Lutz hit one of two free throws next trip down, then stole the basketball on the trip back up court and fed Pop Lacey. Lacey was fouled driving the hoop and drained both of his free throws for a 59-55 lead.
But Einsig nailed a 3-pointer with 13 ticks left to cut it to 59-58, then fouled Lacey on the in-bounds. Lacey hit one of two for a 60-58 lead with 12 seconds to go, setting up West York’s final possession.
Catholic fell behind early 10-2, but ripped off a 15-6 run, its best sustained ball of the night, to close the first quarter with a 17-16 lead.
West York dominated the second quarter to the tune of 18-8 to take a 34-25 lead into the break.
Isaac Lutz, the junior point guard who had a big impact for Berks, converted a pair of personal steals near the time line midway through the third quarter for consecutive baskets to pull Catholic within 44-41, then hit that go-ahead layup with 57 seconds to play, while creating chances from the charity stripe with daring forays into the paint. He finished with 12 points and played a huge role in the outcome.
“(Lutz) was fantastic and that’s why he’s all-county for us,” veteran Berks Catholic head coach Snip Esterly said. “He’s another one with great speed, quickness and strength. At times he’s overaggressive, but he had a great span there where I thought he kept us in the game, if not outright won the game, for us.”
Catholic heads back to states for the fourth consecutive year.
“It sure didn’t look that way at the beginning,” Esterly said, somewhat whismically. “They (West York) were pushing the ball up, pretty much doing what they wanted to do. Our guys were out of sync, out of position, turning the ball over. For some reason we weren’t focused. We had too many lapses defensively.”