Bubble boys Cocalico awaits District fate after defeating Mules
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
The Cocalico boys basketball team will practice Wednesday, just like any other day.
However, the work they put in may be all for naught since they enter Wednesday on the outside looking in as far as Districts are concerned.
Wednesday night is the final game day that will count as far as the District Power Rankings are concerned. The Eagles, who were ranked 23rd heading into Tuesday’s regular-season finale vs. Solanco (the top 20 qualify for Districts), did their part, earning a 65-56 victory over the Mules.
However, Lebanon, Manheim Township, Central Dauphin and Lower Dauphin, all ranked ahead of the Eagles, were winners Tuesday.
So now they sit, or rather practice, and wait.
"I don’t know how it’s going to pan out," Cocalico Coach Travis Wealand said late Tuesday. "There are some games yet to be played (Wednesday) night. We’ll see what the new standings are (after Wednesday), see what happens and we’ll go from there. We are still hopeful."
Tuesday night, the Eagles used a big second half to overtake the Mules. Trailing 34-30 at the break, Cocalico out-scored Solanco, 35-22 in the second half to capture the all-important win.
Freshman Tucker Lescoe had a monster game, scoring a career-high 30 points to pace the Eagles. Oliver Denlinger chipped in with 12 while Spencer Moser added 10 in the victory.
It was Cocalico’s second-straight win after losing a heartbreaker on a last-second shot at Lebanon one week ago. That loss, as it turned out, was crucial as far as the Eagles playoff hopes were concerned. But Wealand was pleased how his team has responded after such a tough loss.
"These kids want to succeed and do well," Wealand said. "We just didn’t pull out a couple of those games that we had a chance to and that’s what comes back to haunt you. I’m real proud of how we came around and tried to finish the season on a positive note."
Cocalico (8-8 Section Two, 12-10 overall) entered Tuesday’s match-up after winning a wild 85-82 triple overtime thriller Friday in Ephrata. But despite their incredible win, the Eagles were eliminated from L-L playoff contention Friday, thanks to Lebanon’s upset victory over Section Two champion Elizabethtown which earned the Cedars the final bid from Section Two based on the third tiebreaker which is record against the section champion.
The Cedars (9-7, 13-9) handled business anyway Tuesday, earning a hard-fought 51-47 home win over Ephrata.
The Mounts led 28-23 at the break but could not hold it as the Cedars outscored them, 28-19 the rest of the way to claim the victory.
Josh Spaulding led a trio of Cedars in scoring, dropping in 14 on the night. Ephrata’s Aaron Hubbard led all scorers with 17 while Evan Radcliffe chipped in with 11 for the Mounts, who closed out the season at 4-12 in Section Two (5-17 overall).
Back to this past Friday where Ephrata got out of the gates fast as Radcliffe’s two three-pointers ignited a 14-2 spurt and a 14-3 Mounts’ lead after one quarter of play.
In the second, Cocalico’s Moser canned treys on successive trips to ignite an Eagle run that left them trailing just 15-13 midway through the period. However, Ephrata finished the half on a 6-0 run to go back up by eight (21-13) and seemingly re-take the momentum.
But it was the Eagles, and senior Brock Gosling who got hot in the third. Gosling, who had just three points at the half, would go on to score nine in the period, which included a lay-up at the buzzer to end the third to put Cocalico up by three at 29-26.
The Eagles then appeared to be in control, and led 44-39 after a pair of Gosling foul shots with 20 seconds to go. But the fun was only getting started.
Hubbard went hard to the hole, was fouled and made a key three-point play to cut it to two (44-42) with nine seconds to go. Then after Lescoe missed a pair of free throws, Ephrata got it’s chance to tie. And off an inbounds play from under the basket, Hubbard worked free and made a lay-up at the buzzer to sent it into overtime.
It was Ephrata which looked to be in good shape in the first OT. The Mounts held a 51-47 lead with 47 seconds to go, but a Lescoe lay-up got the Eagles to within two with 32 seconds left.
Then after Roman Heckstall missed a pair of foul shots at the other end, Lescoe, who had just six points through regulation but scored 23 when it was all said and done, drained a three from NBA range to put the Eagles suddenly on top, 52-51 with 18 seconds to go.
But Hubbard would extend it to a second overtime with a free throw in the final seconds, and the Mounts carried the momentum into the period, taking a 64-59 lead into the final minute
But Cocalico responded yet again. Denlinger drained a three with 50 seconds to go to cut the deficit to two. Then after Ephrata went back up by four with 37 seconds to go, Denlinger nailed another three-point bomb to cut it to one with 26 seconds left.
Ephrata’s Aaron Huston converted a lay-up to put the Mounts back up by three with 14 seconds left, but Lescoe’s off-balance three tied it with nine seconds to go to send it to the third extra period.
It was Cocalico that finally took control, and the Eagles did it from the line to put away their amazing win. After a Denlinger three made it a 76-73 Eagle lead, the Eagles went 9-for-10 from the line in the final two minutes to open the lead to five with three seconds to play. For good measure, Hubbard nailed an NBA three at the buzzer, but the Eagles prevailed in what had to be one of the greatest games in the history of this rivalry series.
Gosling led the way for the Eagles with a career-high 30-point effort. Denlinger chipped in with 24 (which included five three-pointers) and Lescoe added his 23.
Ephrata was led by Radcliffe and Hubbard, who poured in 28 and 27 points respectively. More BUBBLE, page B-6