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A ride to remember

Greencastle defied most odds in its posteason run

Greencastle defied most odds in its posteason run

March 25, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The Greencastle-Antrim boys basketball team proved it has a lot of guts in Friday night's PIAA Class AAA state championship game at Penn State University's Bryce Jordan Center.

And although, in the end, their guts were trumped by General McLane's game-winning shot with two seconds left, when the Blue Devils reflect on their season - and especially their playoff run - they'll realize just how much glory they've earned.

"They'll appreciate that game, this entire season and the support the entire community gave us," Greencastle coach Garon Gembe said. "They'll appreciate all of it."

No one could have predicted the success Greencastle enjoyed after a regular season filled with injuries and suspensions, especially early.

"The whole experience, it was an up-and-down ride, but when we had everyone, it was a lot more up than down," senior guard Jaren Gembe said.

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When the District 3 playoffs started, the Blue Devils were 13-10 and far off the radar when it came to teams believed to have a chance to win a state title. At that point, just making the state tournament would have been considered a success.

A state tourney berth became more difficult after a district quarterfinal loss to rival James Buchanan, but Greencastle won its next two consolation games to finish fifth in the district and wrap up a spot.

That's when the Blue Devils really hit their groove. They traveled to South Philadelphia High School and upset third-ranked Franklin Learning Center by nine points in the first round, knocked off Phoenixville - which entered the second-round game with just four losses - by seven, then stunned top-ranked West York by two in the quarterfinals, erasing a 16-3 first-quarter deficit on the way.

Already riding an emotional high, Greencastle soared even higher with its victory over the rival Rockets in Tuesday's spirited semifinal at Shippensburg University's Heiges Field House.

Then on Saturday, when they trailed by nine with three minutes left against General McLane and all looked lost, the Blue Devils proved once again they can never be counted out. They rallied to tie the game, and only a great shot separated them from a state title.

"We didn't quit because we have great kids with great character," Garon Gembe said. "They've been through so much, they know they're not going to give up, they'll play until the final whistle blows."

"That's the character of our team, battling back," Jaren Gembe said. "We've done it all year and we did it (Saturday). ... It was a great ride, one we'll all remember."

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