ATGLEN — When a team shoots 16-of-21 in the second half, it’s awfully tough to beat them.
That’s precisely what Octorara did Monday night, beating visiting Boiling Springs 76-60 in the first round of the District 3 Class 4A playoffs at Octorara High School.
The starting lineup of Leon Brown, Keith Lambert, Matt Keating, Alex Lantz and Naji Hamilton finished in double figures, propelling the No. 7 Braves to Thursday’s quarterfinals. They will travel to No. 2 Bishop McDevitt (19-3), for a 7 p.m. tip. The Bubblers’ season is over.
The Braves (14-9) did it despite missing Hamilton with four fouls for a large chunk of the second half. While the 6-foot-7 sophomore center still got his (10 points, 11 rebounds), it was his teammates that buried the No. 10 Bubblers (9-13) after intermission.
“They spread you out, and they’re looking to dribble-drive you, there’s no doubt. In the second quarter, we kept them in front of us, got some lockdown stuff,” Boiling Springs assistant coach Joel Martin said. “In the third quarter, they made some of those shots, they made some of those 12-, 15-footers.”
Braves head coach Gene Lambert said Hamilton tweaked his ankle last week and the team had a scrimmage without him. Their performance, the coach felt, gave them the confidence they could perform and win without their talented big.
“That’s what we preach — move the ball, get everybody an opportunity, nobody should be doing more than anybody else,” Lambert said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Hamilton’s a little different, know what I mean? But it’s OK if he leads and everybody else does that. … Our other guys did a nice job.”
And they did.
A first-half filled with runs ended with the Bubblers up 32-25, seemingly in control. But Octorara came out with a couple early buckets after the break, then simply kept it up when Hamilton picked up his fourth foul a few minutes in.
Keating scored eight of his 16 points in the third quarter as the Braves missed just three shots in the frame, flying out to a 53-44 lead with eight minutes left. Then he, Lantz (16 points) and Keith Lambert (17) put the finishing touches on the first-round win with a marathon of free throws.
Brown finished with 11 points.
“A lot of it was layups, but … Alex Lantz, he’s our senior leader,” Gene Lambert said. “He has to be. When things go bad, he gets blamed. When things go good, he gets credit. And tonight, things went good.”
The Bubblers were without longtime head coach Pat Dieter. Martin said after the game the coach with more than 30 years of experience was in the hospital. No other details were made available. Martin said the team hoped to win one for Dieter and was disappointed to fall short.
“It’s always tough because obviously he’s been here 36 years,” Martin said. “Even over the time he’s missed some games, but at the end of the day it’s his program. And when he’s not here, you certainly miss him.”
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Editor's note: Shortly after the game, an email circulated to area coaches reported Dieter had died. The Boiling Springs coaching staff confirmed the news.
Boiling Springs boys basketball head coach Pat Dieter has died.
The matchup between Hamilton and the Bubblers’ post pair of Gavin Donley and Grayson Hacker only sparingly lived up to its billing.
Hamilton had his way with Donley in the first quarter, scoring four points as Octorara went on a 12-0 run to end the frame up 18-12. He added four rebounds in that stretch while Donley was completely absent.
Martin then switched Hacker onto Hamilton in a small-ball lineup. The changeup worked. Hacker got into Hamilton’s chest more and contended with him on the boards. The result: just two points and two rebounds for Hamilton, while Hacker scored seven and snagged a couple off the glass.
.@grayson_hacker finding the cutter for a bucket. But @octathletics has inched back to within 37-35.— Jake Adams (@jakeadams520) February 19, 2019
Scratch that. Hacker just drew and and-1 chance and made it to make it 40-35. pic.twitter.com/ShL6GPOQtq
Hacker, who was hot in the first half but cooled down to finish with a game-high 19 points, said he wasn’t particularly impressed by Hamilton on this night.
“We knew it could potentially be our last game, so we just had to give it all we had,” Hacker said, adding later that he couldn’t get shots to fall in the second half, finishing 8-of-18 on the night.
“[Hamilton] does a nice job keeping the ball up high,” Martin said. “Hopefully you get enough of a piece of him that he can’t rebound offensively cleanly. I think overall we did a pretty good job of that.”
Boiling Springs was also haunted by a sloppy night with the ball, committing 17 turnovers to Octorara’s nine. And despite holding court on the glass through 16 minutes, the Braves dominated in the second half and won that battle 39-26.
Carson Myers had a hand all over the court for the Bubblers, finishing with 18 points (6-of-11 shooting), four rebounds, six assists and four steals. Donley opened up in the second quarter with six of his eight points, but was absent nearly the entire second half, a hole Octorara gladly exploited.
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