Extended life: Eagles overcome 16-point deficit to stun New Oxford, need one win for State berth

By on February 27, 2019
Cocalico Coach Seth Sigman (left) reacts after the Eagles held on to defeat New Oxford Monday. Above, the Eagles’ Brady Nuneville powers to the basket past New Oxford defender Abdul Janneh. Photos by Kirk Neidermyer

Cocalico Coach Seth Sigman (left) reacts after the Eagles held on to defeat New Oxford Monday. Above, the Eagles’ Brady Nuneville powers to the basket past New Oxford defender Abdul Janneh. Photos by Kirk Neidermyer

For most of the evening Monday at New Oxford, Brady Nuneville was having a frustrating night at the offensive end. The sturdy senior big man simply couldn’t get anything to drop.

However, when it mattered most, in the midst of a huge Cocalico comeback, he delivered the biggest bucket of the night with 50 seconds to play to give the Eagles a 43-42 lead, their first and only of the night.

And when Cocalico was able to withstand a few anxious moments at the other end in the final seconds, the Eagles held on for the one-point victory to punch their ticket to Thursday’s District 5A consolation final.

“It was amazing,” Nuneville said of scoring the game-winning bucket. “I wasn’t getting anything to go earlier in the game. I was like, I got to keep shooting…I’ll get some to go eventually, and it just happened to be that shot. I was very happy that it was that shot.”

With that shot, the Eagles (15-10), who have now won two-straight after falling to top-seeded Lower Dauphin in the first round, extended their season once again and head into Thursday’s game at Milton Hershey one win shy from advancing to States. The 10th-seeded Spartans (18-7) defeated Gettysburg, 66-39 in Monday’s other consolation semifinal game.

Thursday’s winner will open State Tournament play Friday, March 8, vs. the District 7 champion.

“(Coming off the loss to Lower Dauphin) was tough,” Nuneville said, “but we just had to stay disciplined and play the way that we can play and the way we know we can play. We play for each other. That’s the biggest thing. If we play for each other we can get anywhere…we can beat anybody.”

It certainly didn’t seem probable Monday, especially after Cocalico came out flat and found itself down 30-14 late in the first half.

Offensively, the Eagles had a hard time getting the shots they wanted against a tough New Oxford man-to-man defense that turned them over seven times in the first half. Defensively, Cocalico continually allowed the Colonials (20-8) to get to the rim, which resulted in several easy baskets and the 16-point deficit.

But the tide may have begun to swing Cocalico’s way when sophomore Carter Nuneville (Brady’s younger brother) sank a three-point prayer from beyond halfcourt at the buzzer to end the half and pump some much-needed life into his team.

“That three at the end of the first half ended up being pretty huge,” Cocalico Coach Seth Sigman would say later. “I think the environment and the moment got the better of us in the first half, since we haven’t been here before. But we told them at half-time, ‘you can’t get it all back in one possession so just chip away, chip away, and get into the fourth quarter down five or six, and try to close it out with a little run.’ And that’s exactly what we did.”

If Carter Nuneville’s shot didn’t ignite them, another thought did.

“I think we realized it could be the last game that we were playing,” said senior Connor Mack, who scored seven points on the night. “This was the season, and that’s how we were looking at it so we couldn’t let (the second half) be our last half of basketball. We couldn’t let the first half depict how we played in the second half.”

Trailing by 13 heading to the third, Cocalico came out and began the comeback bid. After Abdul Janneh, who led New Oxford with 17 points, scored on a putback to make it 32-17, the Eagles went on a 10-1 run to cut it to 33-27 with 2:45 left in the third.

During this spurt, bigs Brady Nuneville (10 boards) and Trey Griffin (6 boards) continued to give Cocalico second and third looks, pounding the offensive glass at every opportunity.

“Coach said that we could definitely get some offensive rebounds if we worked hard enough,” Nuneville said. “I just made it a goal, and everybody made a goal to go in off a shot and go and get the rebound. I thought we did a really good job with that in the second half. We just kept chipping away.”

Sigman added, “Brady was giving us energy, he’s getting us second chance opportunities. We were just waiting, waiting, waiting for the tide to turn a little bit and finally it did. We got a couple lay-ups, made a couple shots and we got rolling.”

The Eagles, who out-rebounded New Oxford, 23-10 in the second half, got a big three from Peyton Stetter (6 points) midway through the period. Then Ben Karbe, who was held scoreless in the first half, hustled to save a loose ball and eventually found it back in his hands where he drained a three-pointer to suddenly cut the deficit to six.

A three-point play by Branden Long in the final minute of the quarter momentarily stopped the bleeding and gave New Oxford a 36-28 lead heading to the fourth, but the Eagles wouldn’t be denied on this night.

Carter Nuneville opened the fourth with a “three” before a putback by Griffin and a lay-up by Brady Nuneville made it 38-35 with four minutes to go. Janneh converted a lay-up after Nuneville’s make, but that would turn out to be the final field goal of the night for the Colonials, who were held to just 12, second-half points.

A pair of Karbe “threes” sandwiched around two free throws by New Oxford’s Connor Jenkins then cut the Colonials’ lead to one (42-41), setting up the exciting finish.

After a time-out, Cocalico’s Carter Nuneville came up with a huge steal with about a minute to play. That led to brother Brady’s big basket at the other end to put the Eagles ahead to stay with 50 seconds to go.

But it was far from finished as the Eagles had some work to do at the defensive end.

With four seconds left, Janneh was fouled and had a chance to tie and perhaps give his team the lead. He missed them both but an Eagle turnover led to one final chance for New Oxford to tie with 2.6 seconds left.

Out of the time-out, the Colonials found Cameron Krebs in the corner. Krebs took one dribble and fired, but it was too strong, and the Eagles held on for their biggest win of the season.

“I’m just so happy for our guys,” Sigman said. “They battled. We got down big in the first half but they just kept fighting, kept fighting, kept fighting. I’m just so happy for our seniors. They went through a six-win year, then an eight-win year, and then coming into today we had 14 wins, so that was the last two seasons combined. We already topped that and I told them, ‘if you win tonight, you earn yourself a right to have a game to play your way into states.’ After losing to Lower Dauphin last Monday, that’s all you can ask for. You put yourself in position to have a chance, and that’s what they did.”

Brady Nuneville, who scored eight total points Monday but hit the biggest bucket, added, “It’s crazy. I knew we were going to be good this season but I didn’t think about getting this far. I love my teammates more than anything in the whole world. They are a great group of guys and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere this far without them, so it’s amazing to be in this position.”

Karbe led the Eagles Monday with 11 points, which all came in the second half.

Cocalico advanced to Monday’s game by virtue of a 72-66 victory over host Shippensburg in the consolation quarterfinals last Thursday night.

Once again it came in come-from behind fashion as the Eagles heated up down the stretch once again.

Trailing 51-47 after three quarters, Cocalico out-scored the Greyhounds 25-15 in the fourth quarter to earn the victory and advance.

Karbe had it going from distance as he made six three-pointers en route to a team-leading 18-points. He was one of four Eagles to score in double figures. Mack chipped in with 14 points while Griffin added 12 and Carter Nuneville chipped in with 11.

Shippensburg (15-9) was led by Collin Taylor (24) and Jayden Satum (22), who combined for 46 points on the night.

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