Top-Seeded Falcons Speed Past Cocalico

By on February 20, 2019
Cocalico’s Connor Mack (10) dishes to a teammate during Monday’s District game at Lower Dauphin. Despite Mack’s 25-point effort, the Eagles fell 74-55 to the top-seeded Falcons. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Cocalico’s Connor Mack (10) dishes to a teammate during Monday’s District game at Lower Dauphin. Despite Mack’s 25-point effort, the Eagles fell 74-55 to the top-seeded Falcons. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Do-or-die game Thursday at Shippensburg

HUMMELSTOWN—The odds were certainly stacked against the Cocalico boys Monday night in the opening round of the District Three Class 5A playoffs.

Not only were they playing on the road in a tough environment, but as the 16th seed, the Eagles were facing the top-seeded team in the bracket in Mid-Penn Keystone champion Lower Dauphin.

A fast Cocalico start was imperative, and that’s exactly what the Eagles got as they nailed four three-pointers in the first four minutes against the Falcons’ zone defense to jump on LD early. Unfortunately, the Falcons withstood it, and then turned on the gas in the second quarter which fueled an eventual 74-55 Lower Dauphin victory.

Senior guard Luke Hedrick scored 13 of his game-high 26 points in the second period as LD broke a 14-14 tie with a 24-10 run, which keyed the eventual outcome.

“We thought if we played well and shot well, we could hang around, get it into the fourth quarter and you never know what can happen,” Cocalico Coach Seth Sigman said. “But we gave up 24 points in the second quarter and that’s not going to get it done. Defensively we had too many lapses. They started leaking out, throwing over top of us and getting lay-ups…that’s not a recipe for success.”

With the victory, the Falcons (21-3) not only clinched a State playoff berth but earned a quarterfinal match-up Thursday at home against Elizabethtown (15-10), which edged Shippensburg 64-62 on a Larry Locker shot at the buzzer.

Cocalico (13-10), despite the loss, is still in the running for a State berth as well. With District Three advancing nine 5A teams to States, the Eagles fall into a consolation quarterfinal at Shippensburg (15-8) Thursday at 7 p.m.

“It’s a winnable game,” Sigman said of Thursday’s match-up. “We are going to have to go to their gym and play obviously, but Shippensburg is a team that has a similar record as we do so we just need to (regroup) and go up there Thursday and battle.”

One issue that could be a problem for the Eagles is the health of sophomore point guard Carter Nuneville, who left Monday’s game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury and did not return.

“Hopefully we get him back for Thursday,” Sigman said. “That will be a big step in the right direction. He always guards the other team’s best player. That really shook us mentally, guys seeing him go down. For Thursday we got to figure out who we have, and if we don’t have Carter then somebody else has to step up and handle the ball.”

Early on Monday, the Eagles looked as if they’d be a tough out for the Falcons.

Connor Mack, who would go on to score a team-high 25 points, scored eight first-quarter points, which included two of his six treys on the night, to get his team out in front early. Peyton Stetter and the aforementioned Nuneville also each drained a “three” during that stretch as the Eagles built the early six-point advantage.

“In the first quarter I thought we withstood the energy that they are going to get from the crowd, being a one seed on their home floor,” Sigman said. “We shot the ball very well in the first quarter, and we knew they were going to play mostly zone. They are very good at it. But with them doing that we knew we’d get some good open looks at threes, which is what we do well, and we were able to hit them.”

Unfortunately, Lower Dauphin began to have success in transition, and three Cocalico turnovers in the final 3:39 of the first led to a quick 8-2 run by the home squad to knot the game at 14-14 after one.

It continued to pay off for the Falcons in the second, and Hedrick was a big reason why, leaking out for lay-ups while running off screens to knock down jumpers. The end result was a 38-24 half-time lead.

“He’s tough, man…he’s tough,” Sigman said of the Falcon senior. “He’s fast, he’s really good at getting you leaning one way and then makes one move and he’s gone. He shoots the ball well too. They run him off tons of stagger screens, and if you don’t switch out and you don’t communicate, he just needs a tiny bit of daylight and it’s going down.”

The third quarter belonged to Mack, who tallied 11 points in the period off three, made “threes.” However, Cocalico could never cut into the lead because Lower Dauphin kept executing at the offensive end. Eventually, the Falcons built the advantage to 54-34 late in the third after a pair of free throws by Blake Cassel, and they cruised the rest of the way.

In addition to Hedrick, two other Falcons landed in double figures as Brian Swist finished with 15 points while Will Bowen contributed 12.

While Mack was the lone Eagle in double figures, Stetter collected eight points while Ben Karbe and Trey Griffin each added five for Cocalico.

Cocalico, which finished the regular season with three-straight wins to sneak into Districts, is among seven other teams battling for that ninth-and-final State berth. The Eagles will need to win three games to nab that berth.

It would all start with a win Thursday at Shippensburg.

“It would be awesome to get a win…program-wise it would just be big,” Sigman said of Thursday’s match-up. “These seniors were freshmen the last time we made Districts so they weren’t part of that at all. It would be big for our underclassmen as well to get a win. And if you win, you are playing again. At this point, we need to win three in-a-row, just like we did at the end (of the regular season) to continue, so that’s what we are going to look at.”



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