The term survive an advance tends to be cliche when talking about teams making a run through a postseason tournament.
Particularly so when the sport at hand is basketball.
There is, however, no better phrase to describe Littlestown’s 50-46 District 3 Class 4A semifinal victory over host and top-seeded Wyomissing on Tuesday night.
“We struggled a bit early and Jayden (Weishaar) had a tough game and guys just stepped up, it was a collective effort,” Thunderbolts’ coach Jonathan Forster said after the game.
Both teams struggled mightily from the floor early on and Wyomissing (12-4) lead just 2-0 four minutes into the contest. Dante Elliot got the Bolts (17-3) on the board with a triple shortly thereafter and a strong spurt off the bench from sophomore Lucas Denault helped the visitors to a 9-5 lead after the first quarter.
“It’s so big for him and I’m so proud of that guy,” Forster said of Denault’s energy off the bench. “He’s been working hard and he comes in and he’s a free spirit and he just plays hard. He plays 100 miles an hour all the time, but he’s controlled when he’s playing at that speed.”
Littlestown got out to a 13-6 lead early in the second quarter, but then Weishaar, who was held scoreless in the first half, picked up his third foul and the Spartans began to chip away. The hosts pulled within 15-11 late in the half, but Denault added another layup and Littlestown pulled out to a 20-15 lead at half.
The third quarter was a completely different game.
The two teams went back and forth with body blow after body blow. Five quick points from Weishaar, including a deep triple, gave Littlestown a 30-21 lead with 5:00 left in the quarter, but that kicked off a string of six straight 3-pointers between the two teams on the ensuing possessions, including three from Wyomissing’s Zach Zechman, who led all scorers with 23 points on the night.
The Spartans had closed within 40-36 late in the frame, but a layup from Jake Bosley with time expiring gave the Bolts a 42-36 lead after three.
“We just knew we had to keep up the intensity,” Bosley said. “We knew that they weren’t going to go away, but if we kept playing hard and executing our stuff that we would be okay.”
The final frame looked much more like the two first half quarters than the third, and Littlestown maintained it’s 42-36 lead with 5:00 left in the contest.
Freshman big man Christopher Meakin came off the bench to deliver a clutch layup to extend the lead to 44-36, but shortly thereafter Weishaar came out of the game after picking up his fourth foul.
Zechman followed immediately with a triple and while Bosley responded with a layup to make it 46-39 with under three to play, Zechman had an answer again, with yet another trifecta to close with four at 46-42 with 2:34 remaining.
The Spartans pulled within a possession at 46-43 after a Zechman foul shot, but Forster then called a timeout and the following Littlestown possession resulted in a wide open Rachard Holder layup to make it 48-43 with just over a minute left in the ball game.
“We called a timeout just to settle some things down and it worked,” Forster said. “We’ve been in this position before and we’ve done it in the playoffs. It gets antsy at this time of year and we just needed to settle them down.”
The Bolts then created another stop on the defensive end and Weishaar was fouled, sending him to the line for a 1-and-1 with 47 seconds to play. The senior 1,000-point scorer sunk both, pushing it out to 50-43 and despite a Julian O’Brien 3-pointer cutting it to 50-46, the Spartans could not get any closer.
Zechman had one last layup attempt with 10 seconds to play to cut it to one possession, but Meakin altered the shot and effectively ended the game, sending Littlestown to its first district title game since it won the whole thing in 1979.
Bosley finished with 10 points to lead the Bolts, who got scoring contributions from each of the eight players that saw the floor.
“It’s really exciting,” Bosley said of the win. “The whole town has come together behind us and it’s huge for us to have that support.”
Littlestown will take on Middletown, which came from behind to top Susquehanna Township 51-49, in Thursday’s championship game.
Clay Sauertieg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Littlestown 9 11 22 8 — 50
Wyomissing 5 10 21 10 — 46
Littlestown (50): Rachard Holder 4 0-0 9, Michael Gazmen 2 0-0 4, Lucas Denault 3 1-3 7, Braden Unger 1 0-0 3, Jake Bosley 5 0-0 10, Dante Elliott 2 0-0 6, Christopher Meakin 1 2-4 4, Jayden Weishaar 2 2-2 7. Totals: 20 5-9 50.
Wyomissing (46): O’Brien 2 1-2 6, Zechman 7 3-4 23, Doyle 1 5-6 7, Thompson 2 0-0 4, Brunner 0 2-2 2, Carter 2 0-2 4. Totals: 14 11-16 46.
3-pointers: L — Elliott 2, Weishaar, Unger, Holder. W — Zechman 6, O’Brien.