River Gets Win Over Strasburg

Photo by Seth Staskey River’s Lukas Isaly drives to the bucket during the Pilots’ game against Strasburg on Tuesday.

BYESVILLE — For the River Pilots, it’s gotten to the point where they honestly hope that people continue to pick against them.

Evidently, their 23 wins entering Tuesday’s Division IV Eastern District semifinal at Meadowbrook High School still wasn’t enough to garner much respect from hoop fans from throughout the area.

Maybe, just maybe, River’s performance against top-seeded Strasburg officially started the process of changing some opinions.

Even if knocking off the Tigers by a 61-54 count and earning a berth in Friday night’s district championship game against Hiland isn’t enough, it’s OK with Romick.

“I had a coach call me (Tuesday) and say, ‘There are people who are saying you guys will probably get beat by 15 or so,'” Romick said. “We tell our kids there are people who look at us and think, ‘I have no idea how they have the record that they do.’ Our kids have a tremendous amount of heart and play until they almost drop every night.”

Having the Eastern District’s premier Division IV player in senior standout Lukas Isaly certainly hasn’t hurt the Pilots’ efforts. But, he’s by no means alone and that was proven against Strasburg.

The Pilots found themselves in a 21-21 deadlock at halftime. It wasn’t the low score that led the defensive-minded Pilots to feel confident. It was the fact that Isaly had connected on just one 3-pointer and missed his lone free throw for three points in the first 16 minutes.

“We felt comfortable in our game plan and I felt like we executed it pretty well in the first half, but (River’s) other guys stepped up,” Strasburg coach Adam Hall said. “They made plays. Give River credit. They’re a really good team and they’ve improved a ton since we watched them play Hiland. I feel this was as good as River has looked as a complete team in all of the times we’ve seen them.”

That point would certainly be tough to argue. And that was case even with River playing basically the entire game without senior Drew Dietz, who appeared to have re-aggravated an injury during the first quarter and didn’t return.

With Isaly being bottled up pretty well by a wide variety of Tiger defenders, he still found ways to impact the fact. The beneficiaries were Stone Thompson, who hit a pair of big 3s in the first half and added another in the third quarter before finishing with 10.

Cody Hupp also benefitted on the interior. He had two conventional 3-point plays in the first half, which allowed the Pilots to have the tie game at half. John Murphy was another on the interior who turned in a brilliant performance on both ends. He scored 15 points and was a force on the offensive glass.

“Stone Thompson did a super job off the bench, John Murphy had a great game against some really nice post players and Cody Hupp shows up every night,” Romick said. “In the last two games, Lukas has put up huge numbers and people think we’re a one-trick pony, but this game shows we’re not.”

In the third quarter, the Pilots really got the offense going. They stretched the lead to as many as nine before the Tigers got within four at 39-35 at the final break.

Isaly started to get going. He hit pull-up treys on back-to-back trips and Murphy had a pair of and-ones on the interior and Thompson — off an Isaly feed — dialed long distance from the corner.

“We talked all week that other guys had to step up and I have confidence in all of these guys’ ability to score,” Isaly, the Pilots’ unquestioned leader, said. “Stone, John and Cody all played a heck of a game. Whether it was Stone hitting 3s or John and Cody getting buckets underneath, they all played (great). Hopefully, we see it again the next game, too.”

With Isaly starting to get it going, the Pilots — as they’ve done time and time again — put the ball in his hands for basically the entire final eight minutes and told him to go win the game.

“At the end of the third quarter, Lukas looked our bench and said, ‘We’re fine,'” Romick said. “That’s the kind of leadership he provides. The other kids look at him and think, ‘You’re right. we’re fine.'” They just draw from him.”

In that fourth quarter, despite facing stiff Strasburg pressure, Isaly scored 18 of his game-high 29 points and became River’s all-time leading scorer — regardless of gender — in school history.

A couple of nifty coast-to-coast efforts really seemed to break the Tigers’ spirit, who got as close as two in the fourth, but could never get the lead back. Isaly also sank seven-of-eight from the foul line in the final quarter.

“I think our guys wore down and we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Hall said. “I think we got tired. It’s tough chasing (Isaly) around for an entire game.

I can’t say enough about how well River played. They won the game and that’s the bottom line. We’re giving up 37 a game offensively and they got us for 61.”

Strasburg was led by Mitch Niedenthal’s 21. Jacob Farthing added 14 and Mike Niedenthal went for 11.

Next up for the Pilots is a Friday night rematch at Cambridge High School with the club that handed them their lone blemish … the Hiland Hawks, who dispatched Malvern. The winner will be headed to the Division IV regional at Ohio University in Athens on March 13.

“Hiland is just a solid basketball team that’s very, very good,” Romick said. “We will have to bring our ‘A’ game once again.”

Division III

Garaway 59, Union Local 39

CAMBRIDGE — After producing an 8-0 run early in the second half, Garaway put together another one this time an 11-0 one as it defeated Union Local. After the Jets seemed to cut the Pirates’ lead in half, Garaway scored their 11 unanswered in the victory.

Cal Kildow paced Union Local with 14 points while Ty Kildow netted 10. The Jets finished their season with a record of 20-4.

For the Pirates, Ethan Rodan led the way with 17 points while Trevor Donaldson secured 15.