Hempfield Lebanon Championship

Hempfield Lebanon Championship

Owen Lapp

Only a couple hours after the Hempfield girls team pulled off an improbable comeback, the boys were in position to do the same. They went down 24-12 at the half, having gotten lit up by Lebanon’s senior duo of point guard Luke Collins and center Isaiah Rodriguez. Collins had 9 points, Rodriguez had 7. 

 

It seemed like every Lebanon shot was falling, even when they got fouled, resulting in a ridiculous amount of and-1’s. Hempfield had six team fouls, and not one player with over 6 points. 

 

Coach Walck called his team together during a timeout just before the half, telling them to huddle up in a very stern and angry tone. I expected him to rip into his players, raising his voice and gesturing wildly, as most coaching rants go.

 

Instead, he crouched in the middle of the circle they had created around him, and calmly talked to them. I was sitting 4 rows away from their bench, and had been able to hear everything he said up until now, his voice was so soft.

 

Hempfield walked into the locker room very calmly for a team down 12.

 

In the 3rd quarter, they still had no answers for Collins, but slowed Rodriguez. Hempfield scored 15 points to Lebanon’s 8, playing great team basketball. Similar to the semifinals, no one player dominated, which was a key difference between Hempfield and Lebanon.

 

They cut the deficit to 5 going into the 4th quarter. Miguel Peña hit a three to start the quarter, and suddenly it was a one possession game. 

Luke Collins is only 5’7”, but got physical on defense, racking up four fouls. He almost got a technical foul for arguing the fourth one, but was able to calm himself down enough to end his conversation with the ref with a side hug, which was a great look for the referees.

 

In the final two minutes, Lebanon lost their two stars, as they both fouled out. After receiving his fifth foul, Collins stormed to the Lebanon bench, and fired his mask towards the seats. Of course, it was a mask, so it gently fluttered to the ground, but the frustration was clear.

 

With 16 seconds left in the game, Lebanon hit two free throws to put them up 41-39. Miguel Peña took the ball upcourt, directing traffic. He was quickly running out of time, and dished the ball to Ryan Hilton (who was once again the team’s second leading scorer in the game behind Peña), who drove to the right of the basket, drawing such a hard foul that he barely even got a shot off, eliminating the chance for an and-1 for the win. There were 1.6 seconds left.

 

Ryan went to the line to shoot two free throws. He had to hit both to tie the game. If he did it, the game would go to overtime, barring a half court miracle heave by Lebanon. All of the momentum would go to Hempfield in overtime, as Lebanon was missing their top two players. All they needed were two free throws.

 

Ryan hit the first free throw. Timeout Lebanon. A full minute. Hempfield discussed what to do if Lebanon tried to make the most of the remaining 1.6 seconds. “Don’t foul! Do not foul!” Ryan walked back to the line. The senior, playing in his final league game, took a deep breath. The Lebanon section rattled the bleachers. He bent down, rose, and shot.

 

The ball seemed to float in the air forever. It was perfectly straight, but went an inch too far, launching off the back iron, and into the hand of Lebanon. And that was it. Just like that, it was over. Lebanon rushed the court, as Ryan stood in shock, hands hanging by his side, as his teammates rushed to console him. 

 

They were so close. A different call here, a different shot there. Hempfield showed tremendous composure. A team mixed with sophomores, juniors, and seniors almost took down a team of mostly seniors. They may have lost this game, but guess who they get to play in the first round of district playoffs: Lebanon.