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Reading beats York in early-season District 3 clash

12/06/2015, 12:30am EST
By Michael Bullock

Lonnie Walker (above, in July) and Reading scored a big win over York on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)

YORK — Might have been just the second night of Pennsylvania’s high school basketball season, but Rick Perez’s Reading Red Knights were mighty impressive — add a few more mightys for emphasis — despite playing away from home.

Take into consideration that Perez’s Knights were playing in the championship game of the York Tip-Off against the host side and one can tack on several more mightys following Reading’s decisive 76-57 victory over the Bearcats.

Williamsport popped South Philadelphia 67-36 in the third-place game.

Nonetheless …

Even more mightys come into play once one takes into consideration that Saturday night’s much-anticipated scrap matched the No. 5 (Reading) and No. 6 (York) teams in City of Basketball Love’s preseason Class AAAA rankings.

Lonnie Walker bucketed 25 points, pulled down eight rebounds, dished out four assists and swatted away three shots for Perez’s Knights (2-0), who banked the first 11 points of the game and opened the second half with a 16-1 burst.

Damon Stern chipped in 17 points — his buzzer-beating trey at the close of the opening quarter had Reading in front 25-9 and merited an airborne chest bump from the excited Perez — while blur Khary Mauras finished with 12 points.

Mauras also grabbed seven rebounds.

Can you say high level? For a Reading side that connected on 60.4 percent (32-for-53) of its field-goal attempts, the obvious answer elicits a throaty yet emphatic “Oh, yeahhhh” typically uttered by late wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

“They’ve been excited,” Perez said. “And one thing people don’t understand about this team is it’s way beyond the basketball court. These guys are true family.

“It’s nothing for Damon Stern to go into someone’s home without any permission and wake them up and get them where they need to be. They go in each other’s refrigerators. They just enjoy each other. It’s fun. I can’t put it any other way.”

Fun definitely works.

And with Walker scoring 12 points in the opening quarter — including seven in Reading’s game-opening 11-0 burst — the Red Knights were able to use transition play and effective work in the half-court to bolt to a 25-9 lead.

Although Troy Sowers’ Bearcats (1-1) were able to slice into their sizable early deficit only slightly by the time the halftime break arrived — Reading led 31-17 — the Red Knights’ explosive start to the third quarter had York extremely dizzy and searching desperately for some sort of quick-acting antidote as Stern, Walker and Mauras shared each and every one of those 16 second-half points.

Those early second-half points that had Reading up 47-18.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” Sowers admitted. “When [Walker] plays like that, I don’t really know what to do because there’s four other guys that know how to play basketball around him. When you play a team with one guy, without everyone else, it’s easier to draw up some things against one player.

“But you can’t do that against Reading. For one thing, Lonnie will make you pay. You can’t really trap him, because he’s tall enough to see over that stuff. And everybody else can finish and shoot. I thought they shot extremely well and we didn’t.”

Montrel Morgan netted 20 points for York, which knocked down 35 percent (21-for-60) of its field-goal attempts against active 2-3 and 3-2 zone defenses that made it awfully difficult for Trey Shifflett (one point) to get open looks from deep on the wings and Kris Johnson (11 points/seven boards) to get an easy look from anywhere.

Messiah Anderson also scored 11 points for the Bearcats.

Morgan, who suffered a severe gash above his left eye late in the first half during a head-to-head collision with Tymir Comfort yet returned in the third quarter, added six rebounds. Thirteen of Morgan’s 20 arrived once he checked back in.

Comfort, who also was patched up, did not return.

As for Reading’s effective defensive scheme, history played a sizable role.

“We learned our lesson after that 3-pointer he hit two years ago,” Perez recalled, referring to a late Shifflett finish from deep that gave the Bearcats a 71-69 win in the 2013 York Tip-Off. “We were gonna make sure we found him at all times.

“The kids really take it personally, especially Damon and Khary who were here during that time and really felt that,” Perez added. “And Lonnie said, ‘No more corner threes for Shifflett, that’s the goal until he graduates.’”

Had Shifflett managed to knock down even a couple of corner threes, those buckets probably would not have impacted the ultimate result.

Reading was that good throughout. 

“Even though we feel bad in there right now, we’ve seen that we can turn it around,” said Sowers, who is trying to reconstruct a team around returning starters Morgan, Johnson and Shifflett, as well as returning reserve Jacquez Casiano.

“We’ve done it before. And it’s all about where you finish at the end of the season. As a coaching staff, we have a belief that we’ll get better and we’ll be there when we need to. Right now, we’re realistic that we’re not where we need to be at this point.

“Credit to Reading because they did what they wanted and they took it to us. We’re just gonna get back to the drawing board Monday and try to get better,” added Sowers, whose Bearcats have won three of the last five District 3-AAAA crowns.”

And while Perez said his Red Knights weren’t trying to send a message to Sowers’ ballclub/program, he’s well aware what York has accomplished.

“They set the standard,” Perez said. “They’re the two-time defending district champs. Their coach is excellent. Their players are excellent. Their program is excellent. So when you can come down here and win, this is huge – especially like this. There’s no way I was going to assume this was going to happen.”

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