By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
All season long, Lewisburg's Travis Conrad made great plays and stepped up on the court. He was, in many ways, the cog that made the Green Dragons run.
So anyone watching Lewisburg this year knew what Conrad could bring on a given day, but it was as though the senior waited until his final high school game to showcase it.
In the PIAA state playoffs, Conrad sank six 3-pointers en route to a career-high 29 points and almost single-handedly kept Lewisburg in the game until the final buzzer in a 60-55 loss to District 2 champion Holy Cross.
After the game, coach John Vaji simply said, "That may have been one of the best performances I've seen."
His all-around play and ability made Conrad the choice as The Daily Item Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Conrad was named to the HAC-I all-star team as a first-team selection, in addition to becoming the first Lewisburg player this century to be named to the all-state team with a third-team nod.
"He was like the glue to our team. He did everything, so much offensively and defensively, and he did the little things that may go unnoticed by people not on the floor," Vaji said of his senior. "(He) just really kept us together in tough times and he just really understood the game which made him so effective out there."
Conrad led the Green Dragons in total points (418), points per game (14.9), total field goals (143), field goals attempted (311), 3-pointers (57), 3-pointers attempted (130) and 3-point percentage (44 percent). That's not to mention a team-high 38 steals and second-best 72 assists.
While the stats are what people often use to gauge a player's season, intangibles should be taken into account, too. They often set Conrad apart.
For Vaji, it was the fact he was essentially a coach on the floor, and that leadership was key for Lewisburg.
"He did what we expected and he sort of expected he was just going to go head out and do whatever we needed to try to win basketball games," Vaji said.
"I think he did (embrace the leadership role). He just works so hard in the offseason from a conditioning and weight lifting standpoint, working on his game."
Anytime Lewisburg faced a tough opponent with a solid go-to player, Vaji had the confidence in Conrad to step up defensively and shut down anyone. That included Holy Cross standout Josh Kosin, a 6-foot-6 senior.
"That's the thing, he understood the game. We could put him on some of the team's better offensive players," Vaji said. "At times we tried to keep him fresh offensively, but at crunch time, we could put Travis on them on the perimeter and we could feel pretty confident he'd get the job done defensively as well."
The Green Dragon ended his career with 871 points. He started only the last two seasons after contributing as a sophomore.
Conrad is heading to Lebanon Valley after graduation.
"We were expecting big things from him this year, and he gave them to us," Vaji said.
n Coach Of The Year
After Milton celebrated the win over Athens in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals and the players had left the court and mingled in the stands with friends and family, Milton coach Steve DeLong walked back to his coaching chair, sat down and started to cry.
It was an emotional moment for sure.
After struggling to six wins a year earlier, DeLong had guided Milton to the district championship game in just his third season.
That turnaround alone put him into the Coach of the Year discussion, but winning the title against Shikellamy -- Milton's first District 4 crown since 2007 -- sealed the deal.
DeLong earned The Daily Item's Boys Basketball Coach of the Year honor.
"For me to get that means that we had a successful season, and that's really all that mattered to me," DeLong said of the honor.
Not many expected Milton to be anywhere near as successful as it was this season. Milton ended the year 16-9, winning more games this season than the past three combined.