A Season for the Record Books

A Season for the Record Books
Posted on 03/31/2021

boys basketball

By Larry Etter

The MAHS boys’ varsity basketball team reached the PIAA state semi-final game and needed a victory to attain its goal of playing for a state title at Hershey’s Giant Center. But the Blue Raiders’ dream of getting that chance was denied as visiting Allentown Central Catholic, instead, earned that honor with a tense, wire-to-wire clash that ended with a game-winning, three-point basket with just 2.6 seconds left on the clock. The deciding goal gave the Vikings a 46-43 win and closed the door on what had turned out to be highly successful 2020-2021 season for the Blue Raiders.

With few people outside the Middletown program at the start of the delayed season expecting the Blue Raiders to even make it that far, this nearly-historic season turned out to be a real surprise to many. But the hard work of the players and coaches paid huge dividends during the course of the regular season.

  1. First was an overall 13-4 record and the Capital Division title secured with a 52-28 triumph over Trinity.
  2. Second was a District 3-AAAA championship title in a 69-53 victory over Littlestown after the Raiders had to go through Bishop McDevitt and Susquehanna Township. 
  3. And third, after drawing a bye in the first round of states the Raiders dispatched Danville 52-49 to move into the semi-final round.

The matchup with Allentown Central Catholic had all the indications of a classic showdown. And it turned out to be just that. After playing against Danville on Friday the Raiders had little time to prepare for the Vikings who had claimed the District 11 championship trophy and had recorded a 55-51 win over Archbishop Carroll in the quarter final prior to their visit to Middletown.

The Blue Raiders got off to a bit of a rough start on Monday and had difficulty putting points on the board. Making just 3 of 13 shots in the first quarter the Raiders trailed 7-11 at the end of the opening period, forcing themselves to play from behind for nearly the whole game. Down 7-13 early in the second stanza the Raiders finally got on track with their offense. Tajae Broadie’s bucket, followed by a trey from Tony Powell 20 seconds later made it a 12-13 game and gave the home team the lift they needed.

But the Vikings were smooth on offense and used their size advantage under the baskets to stay out in front. Getting their last four baskets of the first half on the inside the Vikings led 28-23 at the break. Two of those goals came from Christian Spugnardi and Liam Joyce, a pair of 6’5” big men in Allentown’s front court. Tymir Jackson’s triple off a T.J. Daniels assist had cut the Vikings’ lead to 22-21 with 1:51 left in the second period before Joyce and Aiden Burmeister went back-to-back and Tyson Thomas offset a late goal by Broadie to give the guests a five-point lead at the halftime intermission.

In the third quarter the two teams played nearly even up and just one point separated the two when the final buzzer sounded at the end of the 8-minute span. Powell’s trey off a Tate Leach pass got the Blue Raiders started and the game stayed close throughout. Powell scored with 5:50 left and Jackson made one of two free throws at the 3:00 mark that tied the score at 32-32 as the tension within the Middletown gym increased. After the Vikings had scored late, Jackson scored from the low post off a Broadie assist with 57 seconds left and the Vikings were hanging onto a 35-34 edge heading into the final period.
But, 20 seconds into the final frame, ACC’s Griffin Patridge drained a long three and at the 5:50 mark Spugnardi scored following a Raider turnover pushing the Vikings’ lead to 40-34. The Raiders rallied, however, scoring the game’s next 5 points to get the Middletown team back in it. Jackson made one of two foul shots at 5:13 and then converted a steal into a basket a minute later. Powell completed the run with a putback with 3:30 left as the Raiders pulled to within one, 40-39.

Allentown’s Patridge missed the front end of a one-and-one and Powell’s drive gave the Raiders a 41-40 lead with 2:50 showing on the clock. A missed foul shot on a one-and-one kept the Raiders from building on their lead and the Vikings went back in front 42-41 with 2:18 left. Another pair of missed free throws with just under two minutes to play kept the Raiders on the short end of a score that went to 43-41 when the Vikings made one of two shots from the charity stripe.

But Jackson, as he had shown all season, made one of his hard drives to the basket laying in the tying points with 26.4 seconds left. It was now up to the defense to hold off the Vikings late and hope for a possible overtime session. And, it appeared as if the Blue Raider defenders were going to make that happen. But Allentown Central Catholic had other ideas. With Thomas handling the ball for the Vikings the Raiders collapsed into the paint to stop him. Thomas saw the traffic tie-up and flipped the ball out to Burmeister on the left wing. With a smooth stroke Burmeister swished a three ball with just 2.6 ticks on the clock. Following a Middletown timeout coach Chris Bradford set up a late shot, but Powell’s long ball from halfcourt just missed the mark and bounced off the glass as time, and the Blue Raiders season, expired.

Powell finished the game with a game-high 20 points in the loss and Jackson, who ended his senior season with 349 points, added 15. Broadie with 8 points was the only other Middletown player who scored in the game. Seniors Jackson, Derek Wall, Daniels, Julio Rodriguez, Brock Welsh and Maric Linton ended their varsity careers with the dual championships and a lot of great memories.

Tate Leach
Tymir Jackson Tony Powell

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