It would have been easy for the Bermudian Springs basketball team to roll over and accept defeat after falling behind early in Tuesday’s District 3 Class 4A playoff game against Bishop McDevitt.
After all, the Crusaders came in as the higher seeded team in the 7-10 matchup, with more history, and with a loud home crowd on their side. So when McDevitt raced out to a 6-0 lead inside of 30 seconds, it would’ve been understandable had the Eagles, all of whom were making their first playoff appearances, patted themselves on the back for a strong season and packed it in.
That didn’t happen, however. Instead, Bermudian Springs came roaring back and pushed the hosts all the way to the wire before eventually falling, 63-57.
“Any time you start your playoff run there’s a bit more nerves. There’s a bit more indecisiveness. It’s just nervous energy,” Bermudian coach Jared Nace said of the start. “We came out and played a little bit like we were nervous, and you kind of expect that. Once we took a breath and realized what we were doing, why we were here, and gathered ourselves, we were able to go out and execute the things we needed to do.”
Following a timeout from Nace, the Eagles (11-7) went on a 16-4 run over a six-minute span, buoyed by a pair of 3-pointers from Connor Shaw and another from Jacob Schriver. The Crusaders (11-7) hit back, however, and we ended the first quarter tied at 16-16.
Bermudian started the second quarter strongly as well and after a deep triple from Jaylen Martinez, led 25-19 with 5:30 to go in the half.
“They really controlled the game from start to finish,” Bishop McDevitt coach Mike Gaffey said afterward. “Yeah, our press might have bothered them a little, but they were fantastic, and offensively they ran their offense the way they normally do and they got good shots and guys hit ‘em.”
Once again, however, McDevitt had an answer, as Lek Powell capped an 8-1 run with a pair of free throws to give the hosts a 27-26 lead late in the half. Ethan Beachy then answered right back with a 3-pointer for Bermudian and the Eagles went into the break leading 31-27.
“If we can run our halfcourt stuff, we think we can get open looks,” Nace said of the first-half lead. “We were able to do that, and Connor (Shaw) was able to do that and he shot the ball well.”
Shaw scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the first half.
The second half began much like the first one ended, with the two teams punching and counterpunching. McDevitt immediately tied the score with a quick 4-0 individual run by Kenyon Elliott, who led all scorers 20 points, including 14 in after the break.
The Crusaders briefly took a 37-35 lead mid-way through the third, but Blake Young responded with a 3-pointer, his only points of the night, to put the visitors back on top.
A Shaw triple with under a minute to play saw the Eagles take a 45-42 lead into the final quarter, but those would be his last points of the night.
The fourth quarter largely belonged to Elliott. He hit a pair of free throws early in the frame to put the Crusaders ahead 48-47 and the two teams went back and forth on the seesaw for the next four minutes, with McDevitt leading 54-52 with just 2:22 left in the contest.
“It’s no secret that we don’t shoot the ball very well,” Gaffey said. “In the first half there was a couple possessions where every once in a while we’d take a deep three. So in the second half we said we’re going to reverse the ball and attack the basket. That’s what we do well and Kenyon did that well down the stretch.”
Schriver hit a free throw to pull the Eagles within one at 54-53 with two minutes remaining, but on the next trip down, Tristen Watters drilled a 3-pointer from the wing for the last of his 17 points on the night to give McDevitt a buffer at 57-53.
The Crusaders eventually pushed the lead out to 61-53 and despite a Martinez layup, the last of his 14 points, to pull it back to 61-57 with under 20 seconds remaining, the Eagles couldn’t quite get back in it.
“Ethan Beachy and Connor Shaw both did a tremendous job handling the ball against their pressure, but the problem with that is sometimes it can wear you down,” Nace said after the game. “Maybe your layups don’t go in or you miss free throws toward the end, and we were suffering that a little bit.”
Young, Martinez, Schriver, Shaw, Brandt Yurick and Brock Carpenter all graduate from an Eagles squad that Nace said after the game was one of the most committed and hard-working that he’s ever had.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals where they will take on second-seeded Middletown.
Bermudian Springs 16 15 14 12 — 57
Bishop McDevitt 16 11 15 21 — 63
Bermudian Springs (57): Ethan Beachy 2 2-4 7, Blake Young 1 0-0 3, Jaylen Martinez 6 1-1 14, Jacob Schriver 3 5-8 12, Brandt Yurick 1 0-0 2, Connor Shaw 8 0-0 19. Non-scorers: Carpenter. Totals: 21 8-13 57.
Bishop McDevitt (63): Watters 8 0-0 17, Powell 0 4-4 4, Elliott 7 6-8 20, Deily 2 0-0 4, Vellios 0 1-2 1, Keith 1 0-0 3, Russell 1 5-8 7, Scott 3 1-2 7. Totals: 23 17-24 63.
3-pointers: BS-Shaw 3, Beachy, Martinez, Schriver. BM-Watters, Ketih.