ALTOONA — “Those last two minutes, they meant everything.”
That’s what Deshawn Millington wants to be remembered by. That’s what Nate Barnes, Ben Milligan, Ethan Houston and the other four seniors want to be remembered by.
That is entirely what Carlisle should be remembered by: the final two minutes of Tuesday night’s 65-60 loss to Pine-Richland in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals.
The Thundering Herd (21-9) believed all season their destiny was to hoist the trophy at the Giant Center, even when doubts swirled during a roller-coaster January, even when they lost to Harrisburg in the District 3 quarterfinals.
They believed, and they fought with reckless abandon — naysayers be damned.
Right down to the bitter end, even when Millington’s 3-pointer in the final few seconds of the already decided game missed, the Thundering Herd fought.
And those two minutes, as Millington said after an eternity in the postgame locker room, meant everything.
“If I have to (go out like that), yeah,” said Milligan, fighting the good fight against his emotions. “Just go out fighting with everything you possibly can. That just goes to show the type of team we’re capable of (being).”
For a stretch in the second half, it looked like Carlisle was going to limp out of Altoona Area High School rather than show the ferocity it has for much of the season, and much of the four years this senior class has been around.
Pine-Richland (28-1) cut a 28-22 halftime deficit down to just 32-31. For a stretch the Herd held it in check after that, but the Rams closed the third on a 10-3 run and opened the final frame with a 16-6 run.
Millington, the daredevil driver that he is, lost his touch on those acrobatic spins and flips that will be remembered for years. Carlisle lacked hustle on defense. Houston got flustered. Head coach Andre Anderson tossed his water bottle to the ground in frustration.
“We probably forced some shots in that third quarter, but we also had some point-blank shots that didn’t fall for us,” Anderson said of a team that didn’t play with its usual freedom and reckless abandon in the third quarter. “Obviously, if we could get that quarter back, I’d take that quarter back, too.”
The Herd trailed 61-45 late. Several fans, not all, tried to beat the rush to their cars. All hope seemed lost.
But don’t ever sleep on the Herd: That’s the lesson everyone was reminded of one last time. Shame on those that forgot the Emmaus comeback Saturday.
Gavyn Barnes, the fireball who will undoubtedly lead next year’s program, sparked a heart-pounding run. He picked up a foul and made one of two free throws, the foul sending Rams playmaking guard Andrew Petcash to the bench for good.
Then Millington went coast to coast. Then Ki Barnes found Houston for a triple. Then Gavyn Barnes drove hard to the lane and got a runner seconds later.
Suddenly it was 63-55. Then Barnes made a 1-and-1, and then he capped it with a 3 from the left wing and the score was just 63-60.
And all along Milligan, who saved the day Saturday against Emmaus, wouldn’t go down quietly. The 5-foot-9 gym rat picked up three steals that helped in the run.
It ultimately wasn’t enough. Andrew Kristofic put in the final bucket on a fast break inside 10 seconds to play, one of the easiest and most exciting buckets he will ever have. And it ended Carlisle’s season.
“We definitely went out with some dignity and some respect,” Nate Barnes said. “That last sequence was definitely what Carlisle basketball is all about: Lion-hearted coming back, always fighting.”
These kinds of losses can consume for days, weeks, months, years. There will be what-ifs. Nate Barnes, maybe the consummate fighter on the roster, will never get the revenge he wants, at least not while he’s playing football at West Chester next year.
But there will never be a doubt that this crew was a bunch of fighters.
“We had heart,” Millington said.
“I can’t say I’ve coached a better group of kids,” Anderson said. “They were just a great group of kids, and we’re saddened by the loss. We didn’t want this to be our last one.”
“And at the end of the day, I wouldn’t wanna do this with anyone else,” Milligan said.