READING — Faith in your teammates isn't always as easy at it sounds, especially in the craziest moments of competition.
Deshawn Millington undoubtedly possesses the talent and ability to take over in the clutch, but the Carlisle senior point guard showed Saturday night that he's also endowed with the gift of trust.
Behind Millington's unselfish late-game heroics, and some incredibly timely buckets from classmates Ben Milligan, Ethan Houston and Nate Barnes, Carlisle rallied for a thrilling 78-74 double-overtime victory over Emmaus in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal.
A packed house at Reading High School's Geigle Complex witnessed the Thundering Herd erase an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, with Milligan draining a game-tying 3-pointer in the final moments of regulation.
Finally, in the second overtime, Houston and Millington led the charge as the Herd (21-8) finished off the suddenly short-handed Green Hornets (22-7) to advance to the PIAA semifinals for the first time since the 1988 team that won a fourth straight state title. Carlisle plays District 7 champion Pine-Richland (27-1) Tuesday at Altoona High School at 7:30 p.m.
"The top game I've ever coached in," Carlisle's Andre Anderson said from the hallowed halls of the Geigle. "I've got to give it up to my players. Not just one player or two players; my whole squad, they stepped up big."
All five starters finished in double figures, and every point mattered — believe us, every single point mattered; more on that later — as the Herd battled back from deficits of 50-39 with 5:41 left and 56-46 with 3:08 remaining.
"I can't even explain it," Milligan said. "It feels so amazing."
Let's play extra ball
It was, in fact, Milligan, the 5-foot-9 floppy-haired guard who showed off his ice-water veins in the final minute of regulation.
Millington, who finished a rebound shy of a triple-double (16 points, nine boards, 11 assists), twice found the sharpshooter.
The first triple sliced the deficit to 60-59 with 15 seconds left.
Still, Emmaus, the fourth seed out of District 11, was exactly where it wanted to be when supreme talent David Kachelries, an NJIT commit, was fouled on a successful driving layup with seven seconds left.
A made free throw would have made it a four-point game, but the senior who scored a game-high 36 points, missed. Millington rebounded.
Again, Millington kicked to Milligan, and his 3-pointer at the buzzer was truth.
"The reason why I had that faith is because Ben is a great shooter, and he spends his time working in the gym shooting 3s and working on his game," Millington said. "All summer that's what he's been doing. I know when he's wide open, he's guaranteed to make the shot.
"That feeling was just crazy. I felt the vibe in my whole body from everybody. That was an exciting moment."
Carlisle, which held its only regulation lead at 3-0 on Houston's game-opening 3-pointer, was tied for the first time with the clock showing all zeros.
"Got our best player on the line," Hornets coach Steve Yoder said. "Certainly feel good about, but David didn't lose us the game. It's a team loss. There are a million other things we did in the first 31 minutes of the game that could have made it a seven-point lead or a nine-point lead or a 10-point lead. So I'm sure David's going to beat himself up about it, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
To Anderson and the Herd seniors, overtime meant a brand new chance to seize control.
"We just kind of knew that this was our season, and being such a senior-heavy team, we knew this is it for us," Milligan said. "This was our last chance. We just made sure we kept our composure and played our game."
Carlisle ignited its comeback with a full-court press that gave Emmaus trouble, the Hornets turning it over five times in the fourth quarter.
That strong defense continued through the extra sessions, and the Herd were able to grab their first lead since that 3-0 start.
Another 3-pointer by Milligan (12 points) put Carlisle in front 68-66 with 1:23 left in the first OT, and Gavyn Barnes (13 points) sank one of two free throws with 31 seconds left for a 69-66 advantage.
But Emmaus, which eliminated District 3 champ Harrisburg in the previous round, showed its own resilience.
Matt Kachelries, the twin brother of David who added 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals, was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left. He calmly sank all three freebies to tie, and Millington's jumper in the final seconds was off.
"They're tough, man. They're tough," Anderson said of the Kachelries twins. "We knew that coming in. We weren't going to sleep on them. They're Division I players, and they showed it. They have that takeover gene in them, and they went after us."
However, disaster struck for the Hornets early in the second overtime.
Gavyn Barnes was fouled by Daryn Lewis, the Emmaus senior's fifth foul, and Matt Kachelries reacted poorly and drew a technical, his fifth foul. Both starters were suddenly gone from the game.
While Barnes missed both of his free throws, Houston nailed both of the technical free throws. The 6-foot-6 senior finished with a team-high 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, making eight of 10 from the stripe along the way.
With possession still, Carlisle stretched its lead to 73-69 when Millington found Houston for a layup.
Millington then earned another trip to the free-throw line after Nate Barnes (12 points, 11 rebounds) muscled the ball away from the Hornets' Josh Artis (10 points, 10 rebounds) following an offensive board on the Emmaus end.
Millington made one of two for a 74-69 lead with 2:44 remaining, though David Kachelries soon answered with a 3-pointer.
Gavyn Barnes made one of two free throws with 1:17 left for a 75-72 lead, and Kachelries again responded with a runner for a 75-74 deficit.
Millington again went to the line, this time making both with 54 seconds left.
Barnes then rebounded a Kachelries missed 3-pointer, and Millington made it a two-possession game with another free throw with 24 ticks left.
That's the way it would end.
"Never counted them out, but I can tell you it was getting nerve-wracking there," said Anderson, whose team will meet District 7 champ Pine-Richland in Tuesday's semifinals at 7:30 at Altoona High School.
"But we got fighters, and I knew we hadn't given our best punch yet. You got to give it to these guys for having the energy to do that. That's a testament to our conditioning, and these guys just play together. They play as a unit, and it's fun to watch. It's fun to coach, man."
The heartbreak should eventually heal for the Hornets, whose only fault perhaps was not having the same depth as Carlisle.
"Game for the ages," Yoder said. "We talk a lot about owning the fine line, and we didn't quite own it enough down the stretch. We certainly put ourselves in a great position to win. And credit to (Carlisle). Someday we'll look back and probably appreciate being part of a game that's going to be talked about across the state for a long time, but right now it's a little bit hard to swallow that pill."
Notes & numbers
Remember how we said every point mattered? That was especially true after a wild sequence in the second quarter.
David Kachelries attempted an insanely athletic put-back dunk with 5:57 left in the half, and he was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Houston walked to the other end and made both free throws for Carlisle, but members of Emmaus' bench were standing and blocked the view from the scorers' table.
Somehow, Houston was awarded only one made free throw, much to the chagrin of Anderson and the hundreds of Herd fans in the seats.
Play continued, but the fans broke into a chant of "Twenty-one! Twenty-one!" (The score was 22-20 at the time, though it should have been 22-21.)
To the credit of the scorekeepers and officials, play was soon stopped, and the right person was convinced to accurately award the 21st point to Carlisle.
Ironically, the Hornets went on an 11-2 surge in response to the bizarre episode en route to a 33-28 halftime lead.
As mentioned earlier, all five Carlisle starters hit double figures: Houston 20, Millington 16, Gavyn Barnes 13, and 12 each for Milligan and Nate Barnes.
Houston and Nate Barnes both hit double figures in rebounds, as the Herd held a 49-45 edge on the glass. Millington added nine boards, 11 assists, two steals and two blocks. Houston blocked three shots.
The Kachelries twins shared 57 points for the Hornets, and Matt joined Artis and Zach Sabol with 10 rebounds each. He also had a team-high five assists and four steals.
David Kachelries, who finished 13-for-37 from the field, missed five straight free throws over the last 83 seconds of regulation and overtime. Would have been six, but he was whistled for a lane violation after missing another, taking away his one-and-one opportunity late in regulation.