WAYNESBORO – The Waynesboro Indians varsity basketball team spends ninety-nine percent of the season playing teams belonging to the PIAA Class 5A classification. It’s the staple of the Mid-Penn Colonial Division with teams like Greencastle-Antrim, Northern York, Gettysburg and Shippensburg.
It’s tough enough for a developing team like Waynesboro, which had to replace its entire starting five and had just two seniors who played a lot of minutes this season (Kellan Smith and Grant Thompson) to play teams that have shown significant improvement over the past two seasons. It’s why the Indians were on par with teams they dominated last season on their way to a 14-0 division record.
That was nothing compared to the final two games on the 2023-24 schedule. First came Carlisle, the second-ranked 6A team from District 3. The Thundering Herd thundered past Waynesboro 66-32, a demoralizing loss for a team that still had to play a top-five 6A team in the district in Chambersburg.
Head coach Tom Hoffman’s squad can hold their heads high despite a 64-44 loss to the Trojans on Friday night in the regular-season finale.
“We went into this game thinking we’re going to change defenses a lot,” said Hoffman, who completed his 24th season as Waynesboro’s head coach. “The man defense was pretty good out there, so we stayed in man and gave (Jai’tavius Kelly) a lot of attention. He is so athletic.”
Chambersburg led 38-34 with a little over four minutes to play in the third quarter. The Indians, up to that time, were effective in containing Chambersburg’s transition game and its half-court offense with a man-to-man defense.
Hoffman said he liked the way the man-on-man strategy was working, though they also switched up to zone until the Trojans began to find seams that enabled them to penetrate off the dribble and score from close range.
But Kelly reasserted himself in the paint, drawing a foul and making one of two free throws and following that up with a field goal to increase Chambersburg’s lead to 41-34. Kelly tacked on eight points in the fourth period, including a dunk that livened the Trojan faithful to make the score 52-40.
Chambersburg ended the game outscoring Waynesboro 26-10.
To their credit, the Indians, who were in the words of Hoffman “shellshocked” after losing to Carlisle on Tuesday, Waynesboro – who made things much easier for Chambersburg by turning the ball over 17 times – didn’t give up the fight. They trailed 20-9 and 26-14 in the second quarter. Julian Mencia worked his way for a field goal, and following a missed shot at the other end, Kellan Smith drained a three-pointer. Grant Thompson capped the 7-0 run with a bucket to make it 26-21.
However, Kelly took the wind out of Waynesboro’s sails when he made a three-point field goal to give the Trojans a 29-21 lead at halftime.
Waynesboro opened the second half with back-to-back possessions with points, while Chambersburg saw its double-digit lead shrink to 29-26 when Rayshawn Frazer-Hewitt made a two-point shot and Mencia threw down a triple.
Moments later, Frazer-Hewitt knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 31-29.
The Trojans continued to crash the boards and take advantage of missed shots by Waynesboro to take a 43-36 lead at the end of the third quarter. A nice pass from Carter Hough to Farin Parks for a layup made it a seven-point gap.
Chambersburg owned the fourth quarter. The Trojans outscored the Indians 21-8 to lock down their 16th win of the season. The fifth-ranked District 3 team is 16-5 with one more game to play in the regular season against Altoona on Monday.
Waynesboro is already looking ahead to next season, and Hoffman – as he does every season – takes a long look at things in his life and his work at the high school to determine his status for the next season.
“Endings are always hard,” Hoffman said after talking to his players one more time in a post-game locker room talk. “We’re a big journey team and not a destination team. We had 6 a.m. weight room sessions. We ran gassers. The behind-the-scenes things we do to get ready for the fun stuff – a 22-game season.”
Parks scored a team-best 11 points for Waynesboro, who finished the season with a 9-13 record. Thompson scored 10 points, and Frazer-Hewitt had nine points.
Forward Alex Torbica was held to two points, which indicates the struggles the Indians had on the offensive end with the points in the paint being rare. Torbica has had his share of being the top scorer for the Tribe, but Friday night was not one of them.
Parks was rewarded with two trips to the foul line for penetrating in the lane off the dribble. He made all four foul shots.