By Joe Gilloway
CENTRAL DAUPHIN HS (Jan. 28) — Two rules for the high school basketball fan … (1) If you’re on the fence, go to the game. You never know what you may miss. And (2) if you think it’s over, stick around anyway. It may not be.
In arguably the biggest game in recent Central Dauphin boys basketball history, you had to be there, and you had to stay ’til the end. The Rams executed a frenzied 9-2 run down the stretch to overtake their cross-river rival, Cumberland Valley, and come away with a 62-61 brink-of-elimination win. Had things gone the other way, it was wave bye bye to a chance at the Commonwealth division title.
Senior captain Ben Stubljar led the way for the Rams with 19, matching the offensive output of CV senior Omar Tandir. It was a tale of two 19s though. Stubljar knocked down 12 of his in the second half, while 11 of Tandir’s came before the break.
The Eagles led by as much as 17 in the first half, but whatever CD coach Wayne Fletcher was putting down during their locker room breather, his team picked it up. They came out an altogether different team, and outscored CV 18-10 in the third, to cut the lead to two at the end of three. It was Disruption 101, and it carried over to the fourth quarter.
The Eagles spent most of the final 8:00 pushing back everything the Rams had to offer. They’d had the lead since 5-4 in the first, and played like a team who would somehow find a way to not give it up. But the Rams out-hustled and out-gutted the Eagles over the final three minutes, and a short baseline running jumper by CD’s Rance Russo with :03 left tied it at 61s. Oh yeah, and the foul!
After a Cumberland Valley timeout, Russo stepped to the line and coolly drained his and-1 shot. It was his team’s first lead since 4-2 … much, much earlier. CV then threw a 3/4-court inbounds pass that wasn’t able to get the Eagles the look they were hoping for. Buzzer sounds. Rams win. Court is rushed. Packed gym goes nuts.
Senior forward Jaraud Smith was an anchor for the Rams, scoring 11, playing great defense, and grabbing some crucial rebounds down the stretch. On the Eagles side, seniors Dylan Buzalka and Ty Banach had 14 and 11, to go along with teammate Tandir’s 19.
Noteworthy was both team’s execution from the free throw line. The Rams went 17-20 (85%), and the Eagles 20-26 (77%). The Eagles attempted 20 first-half free throws, but just six in the third and fourth quarters combined.
Pictured at top is the senior Rams captain Ben Stubjlar. (Photo by Neil Renaldi.)