CARLISLE — Many of the faces have changed over the course of Carlisle’s recent basketball rivalry with Reading. The intensity level has not.
The Thundering Herd and Red Knights conjured up that old playoff atmosphere Saturday night at Carlisle High School’s Gene Evans Gymnasium, where the squads again engaged in a back-and-forth, up-tempo affair that was in doubt until the final seconds.
This time it was Reading’s Daniel Colter supplying the heroics, as he buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1.2 seconds remaining to give the Red Knights a 61-58 victory over Carlisle in the teams’ non-conference matchup.
Colter’s big shot was set up by teammate Wesley Butler, who dished to the forward when the Carlisle defense collapsed on the Red Knights’ standout in anticipation of the final shot.
The senior guard had scored 21 on the night despite a series of exotic defenses from Carlisle and his basketball sense paid off on the final play.
“They came out on a screen-and-roll, and Wesley made the right basketball play,” Reading coach Rick Perez said. “Your best player doesn’t have to take the shot. The ball just has to be in his hands. Then you trust that he will make the right decision. And Wesley will always make the right decision.”
Colter’s shot spoiled what had been a sterling effort from an energetic Herd squad. Senior guard Howie Rankine tallied a game-high 23 points, including a three-pointer that had knotted the game at 58-58 with 22 seconds remaining.
The night featured contributions from throughout the Carlisle lineup, including 18 points from senior guard Clay Burkett and four blocks from senior forward Trevor Hamilton.
“I can’t say enough about how hard these kids fought in that game,” Carlisle coach Andre Anderson said. “If they go out and play like that and trust each other and believe in each other, we can give the rest of these teams some problems. These kids believed in themselves tonight and played one of the toughest teams even. They just lost on a buzzer-beater.”
The contest featured runs from each squad, with Carlisle getting the better of action in the first half. The Herd led 27-17 after Burkett knocked down a triple off a dish from Rankine with 3:21 to go before half — the biggest lead for either squad on the night.
“A lot of it was mental, just being ready for the game and focusing,” Rankine said. “It brought out how hard we really can play. (Friday’s) win against Mifflin (County) was a good bounce-back, and it gave us the confidence to come in today and be ready to play.”
Reading chipped into the lead a bit before break, closing to within 31-25, and then the second half saw a smoother, more flowing Red Knight offense gain traction. Butler’s 3-pointer with 2:28 to go in the third put Reading up 34-33, the Knights’ first lead since the end of the first quarter, and signaled the start of a frantic sprint to the finish.
The teams had seven lead changes and six ties over the game’s final 11 minutes, and the Herd finally appeared to be on the ropes after a 7-0 Reading run capped by Jose Brea’s 3-pointer gave the Red Knights’ a 58-55 lead and the ball with 41 seconds to go. But Carlisle got the ball back after a pair of missed free throws and Rankine hit the tying 3-pointer at the other end. Colter finally ended things 20 seconds later.