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Greencastle's loss is a laughing matter

March 03, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

HERSHEY, Pa. - Garon Gembe was a man of first impressions on Thursday.

"If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that we were going to be second in the district, I would have had two reactions," the Greencastle-Antrim basketball coach said. "First, I would have laughed at you and then I would have been very pleased."

Gembe smiled and was satisfied on Thursday. That was about all he could do after the Blue Devils were sentenced to second place in the Pennsylvania Class AAA District 3 tournament after a 56-46 loss to Susquehanna Township at the Giant Center.

It was the best of worlds while being the worst of worlds for the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (22-6). They fell short, but it was the school's first-ever attempt to win the district title, which was a plus.

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Greencastle lost because it was unable to cope with Susquehanna Township's defense.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Gembe said. "Their defense on the perimeter really stepped it up. They were quick and had active hands and we didn't go a good enough job of handling the pressure."

That meant the Blue Devils were unable to use their long-range shooting attack to reel in the big one.

The Indians won the title by holding Jaren Gembe to 11 points, including one 3, and minimal shots.

"We used the old Ali saying: 'Beat the head and the body will die,'" Susquehanna Township coach Emery Cook said. "(Jaren Gembe) is a rhythm player and we knew we had to control him. He is beautiful to watch, but we knew we had to defensively control the rhythm because he is such a good shooter."

The Indians failed to control the rhythm on Feb. 14, when Greencastle defeated the Indians 65-58 in the Mid-Penn Tournament as Gembe scored 25 points. He never quite found the beat on Thursday.

Susquehanna's defense took away the outside shot and tried to force the Blue Devils to match it inside on a physical level. Greencastle couldn't counterpunch the Indians' leading jabs.

"We were very comfortable coming in, but we knew they would play a lot harder than they did the first time," Garon Gembe said. "We knew they would come out hard, but we didn't know they would be so physical."

Both teams started tight, having trouble hitting from the outside. They played to a 13-13 tie after the first quarter before Susquehanna Township (22-6) shut Greencastle down in the second quarter.

The Blue Devils' starting inside tandem of Adam Wiestling and Dameatric Scott were on the bench with two fouls each as the Indians began to establish their foothold.

Susquehanna slowed down the game and turned it into a halfcourt affair, scratching out a 23-18 halftime lead.

"When we slowed it down, it was like a heavyweight boxer trying to feel out the opponent," Cook said. "We were trying to see early if they could take our shots and we used the rope-a-dope a little by coming out in the halfcourt game and then attacking."

The second half didn't get much better as Susquehanna scored the first five points of the half to take a 10-point lead it nursed for the rest of the game while keeping the Blue Devils at arm's length.

Kirk Peters led Susquehanna with 19 points - all in the paint - while Jeremy Thrush added 11, including three 3s, to get the Indians over the hump.

Only Jordan Gembe was able to find the consistent long shot, finishing with 12 points, all off treys. Other than that, the Devils struggled getting inside to the hoop and scoring.

Greencastle has a week off until the start of the state tournament, another chance to make a run at the big prize.

"We will put this out of our minds," Garon Gembe said. "These kids are resilient. They'll have it out of their heads by the time we are on the way home on the bus. Now we'll see how long of a run we can make at states."

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