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Seasoned Devils are where they want to be

March 14, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

ENOLA, Pa. - The Greencastle-Antrim boys basketball team may have taken a few detours this season, but in the end, the Blue Devils are right where they feel they belong.

Greencastle continued erasing regular-season disappointment with state-tournament glory Tuesday night at East Pennsboro High School. The Blue Devils dispatched favored Phoenixville 57-50 in the PIAA Class AAA second round.

Greencastle (18-11), which never trailed Phoenixville (26-4), was forced to fight through injuries and suspensions during the regular season. The Blue Devils are coming together at the perfect time of year.

"All year long, our goal was the postseason," coach Garon Gembe said. "Not that the regular season wasn't important, but we viewed it as an opportunity to prepare, and I said all along I would sacrifice regular-season success for postseason success. ... In a weird sense, we've done that."

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"This is exactly what we envisioned," senior Jaren Gembe said. "We had a goal to make it farther in the state tournament than last year, and we have already. The key is having all our guys."

The Blue Devils used four key moments to upset the Phantoms:

Jordan Gembe opened the game with two baskets, driving down the lane for a score, then pulling up for a jumper just inside the foul line. When Dameatric Scott tipped in a miss on Greencastle's third time down the floor, the Blue Devils had a 6-0 lead just 1:07 in.

"Jordan hit two shots, and that 6-0 run was big," Scott said. "I was thinking, 'Wow, we can play.' You always wonder how good the other team is, but after that first minute, everybody realized we could beat this team."

"I think not only does it settle us, it puts doubt on Phoenixville," Garon Gembe said. "Now they're on their heels, and they're wondering how good we are."

· Leading 18-13 early in the second quarter, Scott blocked a Phoenixville shot, raced the other way, pulled up and drained a 22-foot 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:39 left in the half that brought the Blue Devils fans to their feet. Scott finished with 15 points - 11 in the first half - and 12 rebounds.

"I think the key for me is to bring energy to the team by making shots and getting rebounds," Scott said.

Gregg Hamms followed with an aggressive move through the paint for a layup, and the Phantoms had to call a timeout at the 6:13 mark trailing 23-13, as the Greencastle student section started a "Let's go, Devils!" chant.

"The thing about our team is we have different guys step up in different situations," Garon Gembe said. "I think that's the key to our team. We don't want to be individuals, we want to be a good team, and when everyone's clicking, that's when we're at our best."

· Phoenixville fought back to trim Greencastle's lead to three at halftime. On the first possession of the second half, the Blue Devils ran a play for Jaren Gembe - who was held to just five points in the first half. He popped open in the right corner, drained a 3 and was on his way to 17 second-half points.

"I've been struggling a little bit, and the guys have been telling me to keep shooting, that I'll come out of it," Jaren Gembe said. "The guys have put me on their backs, and it was nice to help out a bit."

"We came out of the locker room with the set play to get Jaren the 3," Garon Gembe said. "If he makes it, it gets him going. If he misses it, maybe he disappears. So it's a gamble on my part but it was worth it, and he knocked it down and that got him going."

More importantly, Greencastle closed the third quarter on a 6-0 run - with Jaren Gembe scoring all six points - to open a 41-33 lead. Gembe scored off a backdoor cut, made a 3 from the right wing, then made one of two foul shots after Phoenixville coach Bill Detweiler was whistled for a technical.

"(The run) gave us some room for error going into the fourth," Jaren Gembe said. "When they go into their press, it becomes chaotic, but we didn't have to be perfect."

· Scott and Jaren Gembe each scored four points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, and Ty Thrush's inside basket off a Jaren Gembe pass made it 53-43 with 1:48 left.

The Blue Devils hurt themselves by missing the front end of two 1-and-1 situations, as Phoenixville made some incredibly tough shots to get within three at 53-50 with 18 seconds left. But Jaren Gembe made two foul shots with 16.5 seconds to play, and after the Phantoms missed a deep 3 at the other end, Jordan Gembe sealed the win with two more free throws with 6.6 seconds left.

Greencastle moves on to Friday's quarterfinals. The Blue Devils will play West York - the No. 1 team in Class AAA - at a site and time to be determined.

"We played them in the semifinals of the districts last year and beat them," Garon Gembe said. "We're not going to be intimidated. We're not going to back down. We'll give it our best shot."

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