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Devils earn pedigree, want title

March 23, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Tonight's PIAA Class AAA boys basketball state title game is a tale of two teams that each believes destiny is on its side.

General McLane (27-4), of Edinboro in the northwest part of the state, could become the first team to win state titles in football and basketball in the same school year in 80 years. The second-ranked Lancers are favored to make history tonight at 8 at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

That's just fine with Greencastle-Antrim (20-11). The Blue Devils have been underdogs all tournament, thanks to a roller-coaster regular season full of injuries and suspensions. Yet, Greencastle has defeated third-ranked Franklin Learning Center, Phoenixville, top-ranked West York and Franklin County rival James Buchanan to reach the title game.

"We're comfortable," Greencastle coach Garon Gembe said of the underdog role. "I don't know if we've ever considered ourselves the underdog. We believe what other people think really doesn't matter. It's much more important that we believe in ourselves and we believe we can win. Hopefully, we can do that one more night."

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Greencastle, which qualified for the state tournament by finishing fifth in District 3, has won eight of its last nine games - the lone loss was to JB in the district quarterfinals - in making its remarkable run.

"It certainly seems like destiny is on our side," Gembe said. "Having to go to South Philadelphia to play the third-ranked team in the state, then having to play one of the better teams in District 1, and then West York, the No. 1 team in the state. It's fitting we have to play the No. 2 team in the state in the final. It feels almost scripted out."

The Blue Devils are led by the inside-out tandem of junior forward Dameatric Scott (15.8 points, 8.4 rebounds per game) and senior guard Jaren Gembe (16 points, 4.3 assists). Junior guard Jordan Gembe (10.9 points) is a dangerous 3-point shooter, while senior forward Treavor Gelsinger (6.1 points, 5.1 rebounds) and senior guard Ty Thrush (6.3 points) round out the starting lineup. Greg Hamms averages 6.7 points as the sixth man.

Greencastle averages 58.9 points per game and holds opponents to 53.5 points. One of the Blue Devils' best assets is their ability to play different styles, but they know it all starts on the defensive end.

"We know we have to defend really well," Garon Gembe said. "We have to eliminate their penetration and contest shots. If we get the opportunity to get in transition, we want to take advantage of every opportunity we get in transition. If we don't get out in transition, we're very comfortable in the halfcourt, and hopefully we'll execute our plays.

"We're pretty versatile and we can be successful playing different styles, and that has helped us along the way."

General McLane, the District 10 champion, has won 12 straight games and 25 of 26 - the Lancers' lone loss in that stretch was a two-point setback in overtime.

The Lancers are led by junior forward Shawn Walker (19.5 points, 11.3 rebounds), who shoots 67 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range. Senior guards Bob Stauffer (12.9 points, 5.6 assists, 4.1 steals) and Drew Astorino (10.5 points, 4.4 assists, 2.9 steals) also pose a formidable challenge, and General McLane boasts four other players who average more than five points per game.

General McLane averages 67 points per game and holds opponents to 47 points.

"They look extremely impressive on paper," Gembe said. "They look very athletic, very physical, very strong. Certainly, that goes hand in hand with a football championship. I think physically, it's going to be quite the battle."

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