Hempfield followed the often-proven guide of “Learn from your mistakes” and advanced in the PIAA State basketball tournament.
The Black Knights rebounded from a District 3 6A boys championship game shellacking by Harrisburg one week ago to win their state tournament opener over Allen 62-57 Saturday night at Warwick High School in Lititz.
Hempfield once again was playing a team like the Cougars with more quickness and athletic ability.
The Black Knights have a game plan to counter those advantages.
They didn’t execute it against Harrisburg. They did against Allen.
“Against Harrisburg, we got too tight with our offense,” said lanky 6-5 junior guard Ryan Moffatt. “(Allen) is a really athletic team. We’ve got to spread it out against teams like them. They don’t like to guard a lot of space. Coach (Danny) Walck always says space and pace.”
That patience produced long possessions for the Black Knights that shorten the game, taking away opportunities for Allen to score.
On a number of offensive trips, Hempfield passed and dribbled for more than one minute before taking a shot.
That’s the Black Knights’ one weapon that the Allens and Harrisburgs don’t use. A style that’s easy for opponents to underestimate, suggested Hempfield coach Danny Walck.
Hempfield got off to a strong start, taking a 17-7 lead in the first quarter. Allen responded by turning up the pressure on defense and recovered to take its only lead of the game at 22-21 midway second quarter.
The BKs answered the challenge by scoring the final seven points of the first half to lead 30-23 at halftime. Junior Anthony Alston came off the bench to score five of his seven points during that stretch.
Hempfield’s lead grew to 53-42 with 2:31 left in the game.
But Allen charged back with its full-court press, shaking Hempfield to its core by forcing turnover after turnover.
The Knights couldn’t get the ball in bounds and up the floor.
And they couldn’t stop repeated drives to the basket by Allen’s major college basketball recruits Talek Williams and Tyrese Martin.
After outscoring Hempfield 11-1 over 78 seconds, Allen only trailed 54-53.
Time out Hempfield to figure out something to survive.
Then came the baseball inbounds pass from under the Allen basket to Moffatt, who had run past his defender to catch the pass over the center court line. He drew a foul and then made both free throws to put the Knights up 56-53 and put out the fire.
“Coach Walck called for it,” said Moffatt. “Times like that you’ve got to stay together. When you stick together it’s easy to play as a team. We’re close together on and off the court. Guys trust each other.”
Moffatt, who made six of eight free throws in the final 1:07 to finish off the Canaries, scored 23 points. David Martin-Robinson had 13 and Bryan Karl 12 points for Hempfield.
With 50 of Allen’s 57 points, Martin had 29 and Williams 21. The third-place team from District 11, the Canaries finished the season at 26-3.
Now 20-9, Hempfield faces 21-4 District 4 champion Williamsport on Wednesday in the second round of the tournament.
Hempfield is 4-9 in state playoff games and has only advanced to the state quarterfinals once (2010).