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Blue Devils can prevent being blue Devils

March 07, 2006|By BOB PARASILITI

The Greencastle-Antrim basketball season took a turn for the surreal on Thursday.

The Blue Devils traveled an hour away to have an out-of-body experience.

It wasn't the thrills and chills that usually come with the rides on a trip to Hershey, Pa. The pounding hearts and lumps in the throats were for a different reason.

The Blue Devils stood in a row across the foul line at the Giant Center and just stared.

They eyes were fixed on the activity just 60 feet in front of them - at the celebration of Susquehanna Township after it defeated Greencastle 56-46 for the Pennsylvania District 3 Class AAA championship - but the gaze was a million miles away.

They stood in the middle of more than 1,000 adoring fans, friends and family, but they were all alone. They were lost in their thoughts.

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It hurt, getting that close to putting a huge exclamation point on an historic event for the quiet little town. It was the deepest a Greencastle team had ever played into the district tournament.

Getting there, to the Giant Center for the finals, was something few would have predicted for the Blue Devils. Being there was astounding. And winning it all, at least for now, is still beyond imagination.

The Blue Devils had climbed the mountain, growing in stature and confidence on every step along the way. The proof came in the form of a Mid-Penn Capital title and comeback victories, much like the one they enjoyed over Susquehanna Township just 16 days earlier in the Mid-Penn Tournament.

The Blue Devils rushed to get to the top of the mountain ... the view on top is supposed to be so much better. The problem was, Susquehanna Township had just cut in line ahead of them.

All Greencastle had was a view equal to what the second dog on an Iditarod race team sees every day.

Lucky for the Blue Devils, disappointment has a way of making one want to climb even more ... and the one hard-to-swallow loss gives them so much to draw from for this weekend's start of the state tournament.

First, is the confidence of their coach Garon Gembe, who has great respect for his team. He has employed a style which allows it to use its strongest asset - the ability to hit long-range shots through motion offense. The Blue Devils are like West Virginia, only without a certain local 6-foot-11 tattooed center.

The Blue Devils also turned a few heads in the Harrisburg area, where they are spoiled by championship teams. Greencastle had a few wondering what might be ahead for the Blue Devils when they get a little more seasoning and experience.

Second is the education the Blue Devils got by playing in the district final. From here on out, Greencastle will have to be prepared to play physical basketball. The tendency in major tournament basketball is to let the players play, partially to stay on a strict time schedule.

Greencastle didn't fare well against Susquehanna Township's sticky defense and physical inside play, which will force adjustments needed to advance on the state level.

Third, and maybe most important, the Blue Devils have captured the imagination of their hometown. Classmates are excited. Parents are proud. Townspeople are captivated by the team's success.

They are all turning out, following the team wherever it plays. A three-busload throng showed up in Hershey for Thursday's game. They, like the Blue Devils, left disappointed but vowed to be back.

The feeling of being loved, being prepared and feeling at home even on a neutral court can only add to the comfort zone of a long climb to the top.

And that is about the time the surreal becomes real.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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