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HERSHEY—With its 1-3-1 zone defense, Middletown had a way to hold in check Lancaster Catholic’s 6-foot-5 big men Sean Landis and Danny Bomberger.
The Blue Raiders starting lineup of five guards really had no other option if they were going to win the PIAA District 3 Boys 4A basketball championship game Thursday night at Giant Center.
Unfortunately for Middletown, it just could not make its game plan stick for the full 32 minutes. Lancaster Catholic mounted a rally and won in overtime 86-78.
Landis and Bomberger had just six points combined midway through the third quarter and the Blue Raiders were in charge with a 29-21 lead in a game dominated to that point by Middletown’s zone defense, which kept the Crusader big men away from the basket and off of the offensive glass, and Lancaster Catholic’s sticky man-to-man defense.
But from then on, Landis, Bomberger and Crusaders found a response.
Landis finished strong with a game-high 26 points and Bomberger added 10 as Lancaster Catholic rallied to force overtime and then take command in the extra period to win the district championship game 86-78.
Middletown, trying to pull off a district football-basketball championship daily double this school year, grabbed the lead early in the first quarter and didn’t give it up until Catholic’s slick point guard Jon Ware gave the Crusaders a 61-60 lead with a free throw with 1:27 left in regulation.
Ware made his own impact with 24 points, scoring repeatedly on driving layups off the dribble.
Mark Cannon made one of his clutch three-pointers to put Catholic up 64-62 with 46 seconds left but Middletown’s Ryan Hughes drove hard to the basket and finished to tie the game and force overtime.
In overtime, Landis scored 13 of Catholic’s 26 points.
Middletown attacked Catholic from every spot on the court, making three-pointers and slashing to the basket.
Luke Mrakovich led the Blue Raiders with 22 points. Tre Leach has 20, Hughes and Christian Plummer each scored 17 points.
After Middletown led 21-17 at halftime, the shooters caught fire as the teams combined for 126 points over the final 20 minutes of basketball.
With its first district championship since 2011 and third overall, Lancaster Catholic opens the PIAA state basketball tournament next weekend against the fourth-place team from Philadelphia’s District 12.
Middletown, which had not been to a district championship game since 1993, faces either Athens or Danville from District 4 in its state tournament opener.