WAYNESBORO – The Wilson Bulldogs varsity basketball team didn’t have a whole lot of spectator support in their District 3-6A playoff game against the Waynesboro Indians.
A sparse Wilson cheering section didn’t make any difference at all for the Berks County League team, which made the two-plus hour trip from the Reading area to play its Mid-Penn Colonial Division I opponent.
At stake was a trip to the quarterfinals against top-seed Reading on Friday. For the winner of Tuesday night’s game also came at least two more games to determine the top seven finishers who will advance to the PIAA tournament.
The host Indians, not used to playing from behind, did just that from start to finish. And, after cutting an 11-point deficit to one in the third quarter and getting to within three early in the fourth quarter, Waynesboro didn’t have enough to get over the hump as the Bulldogs pulled away en route to a 61-47 victory.
“They have a lot to be proud of,” said Waynesboro coach Tom Hoffman of his team. “Fighting back like we did, we got it to one. We dug ourselves a hole and we didn’t give up. I was really proud of them. That’s a good team.”
Perhaps the most telling statistic in a game that was evenly matched until the closing minutes was rebounds – specifically defensive rebounds. Wilson, which outrebounded Waynesboro 30-25, grabbed 22 defensive boards. The Bulldogs limited the Indians to basically one shot per possession.
“If you go back to our games during the season, the paint was always ours. It wasn’t tonight,” Hoffman said. “I felt like they controlled the interior.”
Meanwhile, Wilson (15-7) took advantage of the matchups in a game that saw both teams playing a blanketing man-to-man defense. The Bulldogs also neutralized Waynesboro’s three primary threats in Jaylon Bean, Ryan Shaffer and Reese Cover.
Shaffer scored 10 points, while Bean and Cover tallied nine points. But neither was able to put together dominating efforts that characterized them throughout one of the team’s most successful seasons under Hoffman.
Louie Lindsay (10 points) sank a three-point field goal to give Waynesboro a 7-6 lead in the first period. That was the only time the Tribe led in the game. Wilson responded by going on a 7-0 run, and after Waynesboro tied the game at 13-13, the Bulldogs scored the next eight points before the Indians scored on back-to-back possessions to make it 21-17 after the opening stanza.
Waynesboro scored first in the second quarter to make it 21-19, but the Bulldogs scored nine of the next 10 points to build a 30-20 advantage with under two minutes to play in the first half.
Trailing 37-26 early in the third period, Waynesboro went on a tear. Shaffer made two free throws and Blake Carbaugh made a three-pointer. Cover took a pass from Shaffer and made a layup, and Bean made a put-back shot to make it 37-35.
Holding on for dear life to a 38-37 lead, Wilson’s Madyx Gruber gave the Bulldogs a huge momentum shift when he made a three-point shot thanks to an offensive rebound that kept the ball in Wilson’s hands.
Shaffer sank two more foul shots at the other end, followed by a two-pointer from Gruber for a 43-39 Bulldogs lead after three quarters.
Cover made a traditional three-point play to make the score 45-42, but Cleveland Harding somehow made an improbable falling-away bucket from about eight feet and was fouled during the shot. He made the free throw to put the Bulldogs up 48-42.
Wilson extended the lead to 55-42 at the 2:10 mark of the fourth frame.