Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
HARRISBURG — Now that’s what you call taking the ‘Next Man Up’ credo to another level.
Actually, it was several levels since every time Hershey needed someone to barge into the offensive breach and produce, the streaking Trojans received something in timely fashion over and over again. Quite simply, a different player turned hero whenever the quarter changed.
No wonder Paul Blackburn’s club was able to tuck away its fifth consecutive success.
Displaying all sorts of balance by popping four players into double figures and getting to the basket at will, Hershey took care of yet another Mid-Penn Keystone Division adversary by claiming a 68-57 win over Susquehanna Twp. Friday night at the Susquehanna Twp. Field House.
“It was a pretty good effort for the team,” Blackburn said. “We’re very happy with the win here.”
Chase Wallace pocketed 18 points and Nick Hines netted 13 of his 17 in the opening half for the visiting Trojans (12-1, 8-0 in Mid-Penn Keystone), who never trailed after snapping an early 2-2 tie. Hershey also picked up 12 points apiece from Jake Wilson and Sean Coller.
The 6-7 Hines completed a double-double by grabbing 10 boards.
Royce Urena dropped in 17 points to lead Township (7-7, 5-3), which was hoping to keep alive its hopes for a Mid-Penn Keystone Division championship. Gary Martin’s Indians were able to get within two twice in the third quarter (38-36 and 40-38), but never could tie or take the lead.
“We definitely didn’t give them our best effort,” Martin said. “Our energy was low. I just thought that when we got down early, we got really impatient and we had a couple guys with foul trouble. But I was super happy at halftime, because I think we kept it to six points (32-26).
“We got it down to two points and right then I was still feeling comfortable, but the biggest concern I had at that point was we just still seemed like we didn’t have the energy. I’ll give it to their guard [Wallace], just a great effort handling the ball, keeping them in their sets.”
A six-point spurt generated by Wilson — Next Man Up No. 3 for the Trojans — triggered a 16-4 outburst that bridged the break between the third and fourth quarters and gave Hershey a 54-42 lead with 6:42 to play. Wallace added six points during that pivotal run.
Yet even though Wilson really came alive in the third quarter — Township’s Tyrese Smith really was effective at denying Wilson his usual looks from the perimeter — he moved into that spotlight by going to the basket. With the Indians determined to take away the 3-ball, Hershey penetrated.
Quite honestly, Hershey penetrated a lot.
“It really was a problem,” Martin said. “We knew they could shoot from the perimeter, so we were crowding them to take away that 3-point shot. They hit one really early and we got up even tighter. They did find some [driving lanes] and our help wasn’t there because we had some guys playing full face guard, so when they did get by someone the help wasn’t there.
“We thought about maybe zone, but that’s what hurt us the first time we played them,” Martin recalled. “And then the foul line wasn’t very kind to us. We let them get there too many times as well.”
And the Trojans’ ability to get into the paint — and ultimately the rim — caused Township to amass fouls at a rapid rate in both halves as three of the Indians’ starters spent lengthy stretches sitting.
“This group’s been good,” said Blackburn, whose Trojans were District 3’s No. 10 seed in last year’s PIAA Class 5A tournament and knocked off District 1 champ Penncrest in the opening round. “We have six guys that average between eight and 13 points a game. Our top two scorers [Coller and Wilson] are two of the top assist leaders in the midstate. That says a lot about how we are. They did a wonderful job face guarding Jake, especially in the first half, and the other guys made plays.
"Take this guy away and this other guy would step up and try to help the team.”
Early on, it was Hines who had his way in the paint as he collected 10 of his points in the opening quarter as the Trojans wheeled to a 19-10 lead. Hines, who was Next Man Up No. 1, finished 7-for-11 from the floor and canned three of his five looks from the free-throw line.
When Hines’ production slowed in the second quarter, the 6-2 Wallace took over, motoring straight to the basket on three consecutive trips after noticing a driving lane while some 35 feet from the hoop. Next Man Up No. 2 wound up 4-for-6 from the floor and 10-for-13 from the line.
“At some point, Chase took over and was getting to the basket,” Blackburn recalled. “They had to adjust to him. Chase was getting to the rim at will, because they’re taking away two of our guys face guarding and they’re tight on our post guy.
“That’s the balance I’m looking for in our motion offense and a credit to the kids. This didn’t happen in preseason. This is work in our program that we’ve tried to make all the kids threats offensively and share the ball. I’ve never had a big scoring guy — usually it’s pretty balanced scoring — but I think that’s a good brand of basketball for our community and the kids that we have.”
Hershey, in fact, outscored the Indians 23-5 from the charity stripe.
The Trojans, who played without 6-5 senior Drew Painter, owned a 32-26 edge on the glass.
Painter, who will be attending James Madison to play football, was away on his official visit. Painter is the younger brother of Villanova sophomore Dylan Painter.
Didn’t seem to matter as Dante Hunter, Alec Singer and Mike Abruzzo logged quality minutes off the bench while sharing four points. Fifth starter Griffin Jackson gave Hershey the lead for good early on by sinking the Trojans’ lone 3-ball also chipped in by adding a handful of points.
“To their credit, they were very smart and very disciplined,” Martin said. “And I can see why they’re 8-0 in the conference.
"It wasn’t to be.”
What was so frustrating for Susquehanna Twp. was the Indians really were handcuffed by the 2-3 zone Hershey tossed their way throughout the second half — especially with Roland Norfleet (9 points) parked on the bench with foul difficulties. Urena and Bill Folk (8 points) had some success from the perimeter — so did Smith (9 points) — but some ill-advised shots also proved costly.
Township is still very much in the District 3 Class 4A playoff picture at No. 9 — 10 teams advance — but every time the Indians seem poised to generate some traction they run into a roadblock. Friday’s setback was one thing, but a loss at the buzzer Wednesday night to Steel-High, was another.
All the Indians need to do is string together some wins and that’ll reignite their outlook.
Blackburn, for one, is glad his Class 5A Trojans won’t have to play Township again.
“They’re a handful and they’ve got a lot of great players,” Blackburn commended. “They really do.”
While he knows how much talent Martin has available, he’s also pleased how effective his senior-heavy club has been through its first 13 outings. Up next is another Keystone Division dandy Tuesday night at neighboring Lower Dauphin, a scrap that’s always a grind regardless of records.
So, maybe someone else will be the ‘Next Man Up’ for Blackburn’s rolling Trojans.
“They did a fantastic job,” Martin commended. “They beat us.
“Whatever we took away, they found the next answer.”