Buckhorns clinch a trip to the PIAA tournament
If you're searching for a feel-good story on the winter sports scene, look no further than Wallenpaupack Area's boys varsity basketball team.
Under the direction of rookie head coach Jim McGinnis, the Buckhorns have clinched a berth at this year's PIAA state tourney.
Thanks in large part to electrifying performances from Gabe Springer and Derrick Vosburg, Paupack defeated Dallas by a score of 60-50 Tuesday night in the District Two Class 5A consolation contest.
With this win, the Bucks finished third in the bracket and sealed the deal on a trip to Hershey.
“I'm very pleased with how the boys played,” said an elated Coach McGinnis.
“We had some butterflies the first two minutes, but after that we were really dialed in especially on defense. The effort was just fantastic and I couldn't be prouder of this team.”
Paupack is set to open its PIAA championship quest Friday, March 8 against a team from District One.
Likely first round opponents include Sun Valley, Pottsgrove, WC East or Penncrest.
“I'm excited to see what we can do,” said Coach McGinnis. “We've come a long way as a team this year and I'm confident we can go down there and make some noise.”
On the Attack
Paupack struggled early in the first quarter against Dallas, falling behind 9-2 in the opening minutes.
However, the Buckhorns battled back, eventually forging a 14-11 lead after one. They then extended that advantage to 29-20 at intermission.
Paupack put the pedal to the metal right out of the gate in the third quarter, going on a 10-2 run that had Dallas on the ropes at 39-22.
Springer was slowed by injuries early in the season. However, he's been nothing short of terrific since returning to the line-up.
On Tuesday against Dallas, Gabe ruled the paint offensively and on defense. He powered his way to a game-high 20 points, while also hauling down 14 rebounds and blocking three shots.
Springer's highlight reel on this particular evening included a pair of rim-rattling dunks early in the third quarter. It was the kind of performance Coach McGinnis expects from his talented junior center.
“Gabe was dominant,” he said. “There's just no other way to say it. He's our difference-maker. Gabe is a big athletic kid who can be very intimidating at both ends of the court.”
Vosburg contributed key plays as well. Derrick slashed his way to the basket, but also terrorized Dallas defenders from the perimeter. He closed out the night with 17 points including three deep treys.
“Derrick played like a senior leader,” said Coach McGinnis. “He made some big shots in key situations when we really needed it. Derrick did a really good job defensively, too.”
Elijah Rosenthal also turned in a stellar effort.
The silky-smooth junior guard tickled the twine for 15 points. Included among these were four clutch free throws in the final two minutes of regulation.
“Elijah is our main guy,” Coach McGinnis said. “We rely on him a lot and he was lights-out tonight.
“Elijah can hit a three-pointer from five feet behind the line or drive to the basket if you step out to guard him. It's like a 'pick your poison' type of proposition.”
Sealing the Deal
Dallas made a run at the Bucks late in the third and early in the fourth.
The Mountaineers were paced by Dylan Schuster. A fiery junior guard, Schuster came off the bench to ignite two separate rallies. He finished up with a team-high 16 points including four treys.
Dallas also received key plays from the likes of Jack Farrell (10 pts), Justin Finarelli (8 pts), Luke Del Gaudio (8 pts) and Nick Nocito (6 pts).
Paupack had its hands full down the stretch.
The Bucks only outscored the Mounties by a margin of 31-30 in the second half, but Coach McGinnis' lads always came up with the big play when it mattered most.
“I think everybody played well defensively,” he said. “But, I have to mention Izaiah (Santiago). We put him on their point guard and he just did a phenomenal job.”
Freshman Jack Smith chipped in with five points off the pine, while Wyatt Peifer chipped in with two and Santiago added one.
Dallas ends its season with an overall record of 14-11. The Mountaineers went 1-2 at districts with a win over Pittston Area and losses to Abington Heights and Paupack.
The Buckhorns are now 18-7, third place medalists in District Two Class 5A and reigning Lackawanna League Division II champs.
Score by Quarters...
WAL (18-7) 14 15 12 19 - 60
DAL (14-11) 11 9 13 17 - 50