WAYNESBORO – Waynesboro’s boys’ basketball team had its sights set on at least a share of the Mid-Penn Colonial Division championship.
But, to do that, the Indians had to rally against the Shippensburg Greyhounds, a team that entered Saturday night’s game as the leader of the division with a sparkling 11-0 record. Waynesboro was 12-1.
The Tribe’s only league loss was to Shippensburg, a 63-54 setback on Jan. 22 in Shippensburg.
Prospects of a comeback against a team that has size and quickness – not to mention accurate shooting from the field – began to dim when the Greyhounds scored two quick baskets in the third quarter to take a 29-20 lead.
The rally that Waynesboro (16-3, 13-1 Colonial) needed started inconspicuously when Louie Lindsay sliced his way to the hoops for a layup. He was fouled and missed the free throw.
Then, Ryan Shaffer was fouled during a shot and made one of two from the line to make the score 29-23.
The Greyhounds (14-2, 11-1) saw their momentum slowed by a turnover and back-to-back missed shots that Waynesboro capitalized on to tie the game. First, Jaylon Bean grabbed a missed shot and put it back and drew a foul. He sank the free throw to cut the deficit to 29-26.
At the other end, Shaffer held his ground for a key defensive rebound, and the next thing you know the score was tied when Bean made a traditional three-point play.
Waynesboro coach Tom Hoffman knew what was at stake and sensed that his players might have been trying too hard to grab hold of a share of the league title.
“I felt like at halftime that we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” he said. “Sometimes when you want something so much, you forget what it takes to get there and you’re hoping against all hope and every pass and every shot just feels weird, because we weren’t in a flow.”
All that changed in the second half, and the task was on Shippensburg to find the right combinations to slow the Tribe’s momentum.
Shippensburg head coach Ray Staver called on Erby Weller from the bench. Weller immediately went to work and scored on back-to-back Shippensburg possession thanks in part to a Waynesboro turnover that gave the Greyhounds a 33-29 advantage.
The Greyhounds tried to close the deal on another Tribe miscue, but Bean made another clutch rebound that gave Waynesboro another chance to keep the game razor thin.
Senior Reese Cover, who spent some time on the bench with foul trouble, entered and made his own immediate impact felt. He connected on three straight shots that tied the game at 35.
Bean then brought the crowd to its feet when he made a close-range shot, giving the Indians a 37-35.
All this occurred in a five-and-a-half minute span.
Waynesboro wasn’t done. After Shippensburg tied the game on a basket by Jeremy Thomas, the Indians went on a 7-0 run to make it 44-37.
Waynesboro continued to keep the pressure on the Greyhounds in the fourth quarter, but Shippensburg would not go away gracefully.
Jayden Statum, who was a nemesis of the Waynesboro defensive five the entire game, made good on a bucket that made it 48-44.
Cover then aired out a three-point field goal to give the Tribe some breathing room at 51-44 with 4:18 to play.
A give-and-go from Cover to Cooper Hough made it 57-48 with 38 seconds, and the celebration began as the Greyhounds weren’t able to make up the deficit. Hough’s points made it a three possession game.
“We didn’t change anything,” said Hoffman of the second half. “We might have switched up a matchup or two. Jaylon had three fouls, so we took him off of Thomas, because he had 15 points in the first half and if he was being guarded by Jaylon they would have gone right at him.”
Bean finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Cover had 15 points and Lindsay added 11 points.
Shippensburg has two conference games remaining, on Thursday and Friday against Big Spring and Boiling Springs.
Waynesboro plays at Mechanicsburg on Tuesday and hosts Carlisle on Thursday.
We didn’t change anything. We might have switched up a matchup or two, Jaylon had three fouls, so we took Jaylon off of Thomas because he had 15 in the first half and if was being guarded by Jaylon they would have gone right at him.
We were down five we missed six, we knew what we needed to do.