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PIAA state of mind

50 years later, Devils dance again

50 years later, Devils dance again

March 10, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

It's safe to assume the members of Greencastle-Antrim's boys basketball team have no problems wearing women's attire.

At least not on their feet - Cinderella's slipper is a nice fit for the Blue Devils.

It's been exactly 50 years since Greencastle last played in the PIAA state tournament - so long ago, teams qualified by winning their conferences instead of advancing through district play back then, according to Blue Devils coach Garon Gembe.

A magical run to the Mid-Penn Capital regular-season title and the District 3-AAA championship game has Greencastle (22-6) preparing for an opportunity few predicted the Blue Devils would have back in December. They open play in the PIAA Class AAA tournament tonight against Blue Mountain at Chambersburg. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

"I think our season, you could almost characterize it as not the flashiest or the prettiest basketball, but we have a way of gutting things out, scrapping and battling," Gembe said. "We've always had the ability to keep games close and we found ways to win down the stretch in close games. That's what we've done all year long. Those close battles have made us stronger and more confident so the next time we're in a close game we're confident we can win."

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No question, nail-biters bring out the best in the Blue Devils. They have a long list of thrilling victories in big games: 55-52 over Waynesboro on Jan. 20; 60-59 over James Buchanan on Jan. 31; 65-58 over Susquehanna Township in the first round of the Mid-Penn Tournament; 53-50 over Mechanicsburg in the District 3-AAA quarterfinals; and 54-52 over top-seed West York in the district semifinals. Only a loss to Susquehanna Township in the district final kept Greencastle from winning its first district title.

The Blue Devils look to senior Adam Wiestling and junior Jaren Gembe for leadership.

"You have to start with those two," Garon Gembe said. "They bring such a toughness to our team, and what those two have given to everyone else is confidence. I think the other players on the team are comfortable making plays because they feel Jaren and Adam have their backs. Those two players have really made everyone else around them better, maybe mentally more than anything. It starts there."

Greencastle's offense thrives on using screens to create cutting lanes to the basket or open 3-point opportunities. The Blue Devils are dangerous behind the arc, with Jaren Gembe and sophomores Jordan Gembe and Dameatric Scott all persistent threats.

"Jaren and Jordan certainly have been our most consistent perimeter shooters, and Dameatric also has the ability to knock down shots from the outside," Garon Gembe said. "The three of them consistently have been our biggest perimeter contributors."

Wiestling does the dirty work inside - an unenviable task for the 6-foot-1 forward, who is often battling through a mismatch in the trenches.

"He can have some problems, but he really is our first option and we try to utilize him in the post as much as we can," Garon Gembe said.

Wiestling gets help from Scott and junior Treavor Gelsinger, who are asked to penetrate inside on drives.

"We try to get Dameatric inside. He wants to play outside and we have to force him in," Garon Gembe said. "Treavor, even though he plays the guard position, has the ability to penetrate, get into the lane and make things happen."

According to Garon Gembe, the effort on the defensive end will determine just how long the Blue Devils' magical season will last.

"We have to be really solid defensively," he said. "We have to pressure the perimeter, contest the post and box out really well. That's really where we have to focus our main effort. ... We didn't win a lot of games because we flat out outscored the other team, we won a lot because we're pretty good defensively. That's what we have to continue to do in this run, and we'll see how far it takes us."

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