NEWPORT — Needing something to erase a deficit late in the game, Upper Dauphin resorted to something that worked repeatedly back in the day.
Flashing a trapping 1-3-1 halfcourt zone from the middle of the fourth quarter through overtime enabled the Trojans to rally for a 53-45 victory over Greenwood in the Tri-Valley League’s boys basketball title game Thursday night at packed Newport High School.
Macklin Ayers popped a double-double, scoring 24 points and snaring 10 rebounds as the Trojans (18-6) ran their winning streak to three games. Al Laskowski’s club also picked up 12 points from Hunter Lentz — all splashed from beyond the arc.
Aaron Bollinger banked 18 points for Greenwood (13-10) — 16 of the 6-foot-1 senior’s output came in the first three quarters — which must put the loss in the rear-view quickly and turn its attention to Monday’s opening round of the District 3 Class A tournament and a home date with 10th-seeded High Point Baptist.
Bollinger and Steven Watts added nine boards apiece.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Troy Gantt’s Wildcats were sitting on a 39-34 lead and ready to lengthen each and every possession down the stretch. Unfortunately for the TVL West champs, Bollinger was on the bench with four fouls.
So, sensing an opportunity, Upper Dauphin slapped on a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap, parking the remarkably agile 6-4, 210-pound Ayers at the head of its press. Suddenly, the Wildcats had trouble getting into their grinding sets.
“The 1-3-1 was (the late) Gordie Foster’s defense,” said Laskowski, who didn’t plug the defensive look into his playbook until some three weeks ago. “In 1960, I played for him and that’s all we used. Over the years, it’s been a standard at Upper Dauphin.
“That defense won’t let you sit with the ball.”
While the pressure forced Gantt’s bunch to start their offense some 45 feet from the bucket, the Wildcats’ smaller backcourt players had trouble throwing the ball over or around Ayers and his active teammates.
“I thought we immediately got thrown back on our heels by it,” Gantt admitted. “Once we adjusted, we did a little better job — but it took a little bit of time to adjust.”
What followed was a 7-0 run triggered by an Ayers foul shot, and also included the last of Lentz’s four treys, a banked Ayers hoop from 4 feet and another Ayers freebie. Add it up and the Trojans were in front 41-39 with 42.8 seconds to go.
Bollinger buried a pair of free throws to pull the Wildcats even (41-41) with 23.2 showing. Upper Dauphin had decent chances to win just before the horn. However, Wil Laskowski’s short jumper was off the mark and so was an Ayers follow.
The Trojans had the gas pedal floored from the start of overtime, unloading a 9-2 salvo that stretched their lead to 50-43 with 1:50 to go on two Hayden Bellis freebies. A Nate Wise trey and Ayers’ conventional three-point play added to Greenwood’s issues.
A Tommy Pyle floater with 1:31 left pulled the Wildcats within five, but they never got closer as Wil Laskowski tacked on two freebies and Grant Stoner canned another.
Greenwood’s quest for a TVL crown was over, done in by a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap that flustered Upper Dauphin opponents as far back as the Eisenhower administration. Yet despite rust and accumulated dust, obviously it still works effectively.
“Give them credit,” Gantt said. “They did a nice job and made some plays when they needed to.”
At Newport H.S.
UPPER DAUPHIN 53, GREENWOOD 45 (OT)
Greenwood (13-10) 45
Avery Morder 2 0-0 5; Tommy Pyle 2 2-2 6; Mikey Strohm 2 1-2 5; Aaron Bollinger 7 2-2 18; Steven Watts 2 0-2 4; Brennan Miller 3 0-1 6; Tyler Sherman 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18 6-11 45.
3-point goals: Bollinger 2, Morder.
Did not score: None.
Upper Dauphin (18-6) 53
Nate Wise 2 0-0 5; Wil Laskowski 1 2-4 5; Hayden Bellis 0 2-2 2; Macklin Ayers 8 8-16 24; Hunter Lentz 4 0-1 12; Sam Kerwin 2 0-0 4; Grant Stoner 0 1-2 1. Totals: 17 13-25 53.
3-point goals: Lentz 4, Wise, Laskowski.
Did not score: Maison Grow.
Score by quarters
Greenwood`12`8`14`7`4 — 45
Upper Dauphin`14`5`13`9`12 — 53