Ryan Moffatt (above) was stellar from the foul line as Hempfield beat Coatesville in the opening round of the 6A bracket. (Photo: Michael Bullock/CoBL)
Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
LITITZ — As Ryan Moffatt stood in a back hallway early Saturday evening, just outside his team’s emptying locker room, Hempfield’s talented senior admitted he’d had an issue earlier in the season with his effectiveness at the foul line that he’d had to work through.
All the 6-foot-5 youngster wound up adjusting was his pre-shot routine and, in Moffatt’s particular case, that meant taking just one dribble instead of the two-bounce pattern he’d habitually followed.
Well, the reason Moffatt was discussing his efforts at the free-throw line was because the fundamentally sound youngster had just completed a remarkably efficient performance at the foul line that snugly framed his latest outing — and the Black Knights’ latest success.
Pocketing 29 points — including a 21-for-24 outing at the stripe — Moffatt’s burst played a mighty significant role throughout as Hempfield turned back Coatesville 66-53 in stop-and-start fashion in the opening round of the PIAA Class 6A tournament at crowded Warwick High School.
Anthony Alston added 15 points and matched Moffatt with 10 rebounds as Danny Walck’s Black Knights (24-4) took control before the halftime break, bent a little as the second half played out and ultimately stamped their ticket into Wednesday night’s second round opposite Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln dispatched Upper Darby 67-46 in another opening-round game.
“We found a way to win, that’s what’s most important,” Moffatt admitted.
What made Moffatt’s effort even more notable is Hempfield performed efficiently without foul-plagued starters David Martin-Robinson and Elijah Washington for lengthy stretches before both wound up fouling out. Those two wound up sharing 11 points, while Washington snared five rebounds.
“What I saw was a senior who didn’t want to go home,” Walck said of Moffatt’s effort. “He was going to do whatever he possibly could. Doesn’t always work that way, but he put us on his back and said let’s go. He has great teammates around him and I’m just thrilled for all of them.
“His work ethic and his passion was rewarded today by his performance.”
Inspired play by reserves Adam Wernoch (6 points) and Ronnie Swantner helped the Knights prevail, while Donovan Green chipped in five points and one board. Green moved into the starting lineup when usual fifth man Teagan Hazel suffered an injury that’s kept him idled.
“When your number’s called, you’ve got to be ready,” Walck said. “And they answered the call.”
What also made Hempfield’s mission more difficult was the presence of slashing sophomore guards Jhamir Brickus and Dapree Bryant. Brickus collected 20 points — career point No. 1,000 arrived early in the fourth quarter — while Bryant checked in with 11 more.
Eastern Kentucky recruit Tyrel Bladen was the other member of the Coatesville lineup (22-7) to reach double figures, as the 6-9 senior scored 12 points and snared nine rebounds.
Fouls also plagued Chuck Moore’s Red Raiders, as Brickus was assessed three personals before the break (two on charge calls). Bladen, Tione Holmes and Avery Young also accrued two first-half fouls.
By the time halftime arrived, Hempfield was sitting on a lead that reached 12 (32-20) at the buzzer when Alston drained one of his high-arching pops from the right corner. A 9-0 burst at the start of the second quarter also helped the Knights erase the 13-11 deficit that stood after eight minutes.
“Huge shot,” Walck admitted. “I thought we had pretty good bounce [after that fell]. That probably took our bounce to another level.”
“That was big,” Moffatt said, referring to Alston’s half-ending rip. “That was really big.
“He’s a very important part of our team’s success. Everyone who’s in the game, we like to feed off of each other and normally the scoring isn’t this lopsided, but obviously we had foul situations and the game happens. He stepped up big time today and that’s huge for us.”
Moffatt, who rang up nine first-half points on a stickback and 7-for-8 shooting at the foul line, was really just getting started. So was Hempfield, which sported an 18-point lead with 5:23 left in the third quarter once Alston found Moffatt for a finish at the hole. Blowout in progress? Hardly.
Coatesville dug in, slicing the Knights’ lead to 10 (46-36) by the end of the third quarter.
And while Hempfield was content to work some clock in an effort to locate a really, really good shot and shorten the state opener, Moore’s Red Raiders were within five (58-53) with 1:26 to go.
They never got closer, however, as Moffatt knocked down five more free throws and then set up Alston’s game-ending finish. Moffatt’s work at the line in the fourth quarter (10-for-12) was enhanced when Bryant was whistled for a personal with just 54.8 seconds to play.
“Yesterday, I did take a few extra after practice,” admitted Moffatt, who has yet to reveal where he’ll play his college basketball. “At this time of the year, you’ve got to make foul shots. I was doing what I could do to get to the line, they were playing physical and the refs were calling it pretty tight.
“I was doing whatever I could to knock them down.”
Bryant was subsequently assessed a technical foul, extending Moffatt’s stay at the stripe — and Hempfield’s lead in the closing moments. The Knights, in fact, closed with an 8-0 spurt.
While Moffatt’s double-double and the one recorded by the active 6-1 Alston — Moffatt also dealt four assists — the experience Hempfield carried into Saturday’s fray after reaching the state quarterfinals a season ago also was a plus. Coatesville dropped its 2017 state opener to Carlisle.
“Our first-round game last year was right here,” Moffatt recalled, referring to Hempfield’s 62-57 conquest of Allentown Allen. “Similar team we played, so I think from an experience standpoint it helps a lot. Knowing that we’ve been in this situation before, we can go back and we can do the same thing.”
“That experience said if we follow the game plan, we have a chance to play another day,” Walck added. “If you don’t want to follow that game plan, then we’re not gonna play again. What helps is that reference point that it worked — so you have buy in.”
Whatever it was, Moffatt’s day at the stripe symbolized Hempfield’s day as the Knights collectively canned 31 of their 36 pops from the line. And while the game was choppy with all the stops and starts and whistles, that matters little to Walck’s crew as they’ll be readying to play again.
“It’s playoff basketball, win or go home,” Moffatt added. “Anything to win. That’s what we were talking about in the locker room before the game, ‘Do whatever it takes. Do whatever you need to do to keep on playing in this playoff pressure.’ We just love playing with each other.
“We’re glad to be playing another game on Wednesday.”