FINAL FOUR - March 22, 2021

FINAL FOUR - March 22, 2021
Posted on 03/22/2021

Final Four

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Blue Raiders Pass Danville in the State Quarter-Finals

by Larry Etter

Tony PowellWith a tense, 52-49 victory in their hands the Middletown boys basketball team moved another step closer to a wishful, state championship appearance in its sights. The win placed the Blue Raiders into the AAAA semi-final game against Allentown Central Catholic, the first such accomplishment since the 1986 season.

So far this has been an historical season for the Raiders who earlier claimed the Capital Division crown and the District 3-AAAA title, both breaking long-standing droughts that have plagued the boys’ teams for many years. Now they have a chance to dream about a state title that has not been realized since 1968 when the Raiders laid claim to the Pennsylvania Class B championship in Pittsburgh.

Getting to this point has not necessarily been a cakewalk for the Blue Raiders and last Thursday’s clash with visiting Danville was proof of that. The Raiders got off to a good start but ran into some issues of focus in the second and third periods as the visiting Ironmen steadily pulled ahead on the scoreboard. That reversal once again, as in other past contests, forced the Middletown squad to dig deep within itself or face elimination in the state tournament. Fortunately, the Blue Raiders did just that, and rewarded themselves with the season-saving victory.

That aforementioned good start propelled the home team to a 17-8 lead by the end of the first quarter and sent good vibes through the Middletown fans. Tymir Jackson led the way on offense with 8 points and the defense forced the Ironmen into many missed shots. That good feeling grew when Tajae Broadie’s drive stretched the Raiders’ lead to 19-8 a minute and a half into the second quarter. But Danville’s Dante Harward’s trey broke a scoreless streak by the guests and his bucket a minute later made it a 19-13 game as the Raiders got a bit careless and hurt themselves with a number of turnovers. The Raiders recovered in time to pick up some key points later and held onto a 25-21 lead at the halftime break.

Tajae BroadieNeither team scored in the second half until Tony Powell made one of two free throws at 5:49, but more offensive issues by the Raiders gave the Ironmen some momentum. A goal by Jagger Dressler, a pair of treys by Harward, and a bucket by Kayden Riley completed a 10-0 run and a 31-26 lead for the guests with 1:33 left in the third quarter. Broadie made a basket and foul shot to break the string and Jackson scored with 37 ticks left following a Danville goal to pull the Raiders to within two points, 31-33, to start the fourth period.

A steal and tying basket by T.J. Daniels off the inbounds pass to start the fourth was a good start, but the Ironmen forged ahead 38-35 with under 7 minutes to play. At that point the Blue Raiders and coach Chris Bradford knew they needed to step up their game. Powell’s two foul shots at 6:34 drew the home team to within a single point and a huge momentum-changing series set the stage for the Middletown rally.

Broadie’s block of a Danville shot started it. His pass to Jackson down court and Jackson’s toss to the left corner was rewarded when freshman Tyson Leach drained a monstrous three-pointer that put the Raiders ahead 40-38. Broadie then converted a Daniels steal into a 42-38 lead with 5:10 on the clock. Over the next tension-filled four minutes the teams exchanged points, but the Raiders were able to stay ahead. Broadie made two clutch foul shots with 2:48 left and Jackson made two more at 1:38 to push the home team to a 50-45 lead. Following a Danville turnover Jackson was back at the charity stripe. Visibly tired Jackson missed both shots, but Broadie grabbed the rebound on the second miss, keeping the ball in the Raiders’ hands.

Tate Leach made one of two free throws for a 51-45 Middletown lead and then made another one following a Danville goal to put the game out of reach at 52-47 with half a minute left. The lead was more than enough to absorb a late basket by Danville as the clock ran out. Jackson scored a game-high 21 points in the win.

Tate Leach

Tate Leach intercepts a pass. 
TJ Daniels

TJ Daniels completes a fast break for two. 
Tymir Jackson

Tymir Jackson steals and adds 2 to his 21 point total. 

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