Kids fall to ESS in finals; but season not over
When Spencer Cole’s three-pointer cut East Stroudsburg South’s lead to six points with a little less than three minutes remaining in the district 6A finals, the sea of orange on Northampton’s side were ready to blow the lid off Easton Middle School’s gym.
The Kids had cut the deficit to two possessions, a huge comeback after trailing by 13 points at the end of the first quarter. They got to that point by hitting six threes in the fourth quarter, including an Aidan Ellwood drive and foul, that brought them to the brink of tying the game with just two more treys.
Now, all they needed was a stop.
But the Cavaliers ensuing possession found Devin Lopez at the line shooting one-and-one. The quicksilver point guard calmly sank the two free throws to halt Northampton’s momentum. Even though the Kids were on fire from beyond the arc, Lopez and the rest of the Cavaliers never panicked down the stretch, converting their free throws en route to the 60-50 win.
Northampton head coach Coy Stampone said that they dug themselves a deep hole in that first quarter and had to fight back.
The Cavaliers sprinted out to a 12-0 lead until Ellwood found Michael Torres underneath for their first bucket.
The Cavaliers rushed right back down the floor and promptly hit a three as Brian Rodriguez hit from downtown, one of this three treys on the evening as ESS had four players in double figures, including Rodriguez who finished with 10 points.
But it was the Cavaliers ability to take any miss and turn it into a fast break that allowed them to take that early lead. That’s made even more effective by a lineup that features a number of skilled ballhandlers who can weave through traffic driving to the hoop. That ability was amplified by Jeremiah Anderson who finished with 19 points.
“They’re a very good team,” said Stampone. They’re very quick and very athletic, and it’s difficult to mimic that speed in practice. It took us awhile to settle down and get used to the speed of the game. Once we did, we played a lot better, but it’s tough to come back against a team like that.”
The Kids outscored the Cavaliers 48-45 after that rough first period, and Stampone credited his kids for scrapping till the final buzzer.
“The kids played hard; they never gave up,” said Stampone.
It was Northampton’s first appearance in the district finals since 1973, and the Kids tried to make another championship a reality with some torrid shooting in the second half. Torres was a bull inside as he converted two offensive rebounds into points on consecutive trips down the floor in the third quarter, while Cory Weisenberger started to heat up as well, knocking down three threes from beyond the arc to draw the Kids closer. Cole also caught fire, knocking down three threes of his own to help them claw back into the game.
Ellwood also found his stroke from beyond in the second half, scoring 13 of his team-high 17 points in the final two periods. The senior was tasked with facing man pressure every time he brought the ball up the court, but he still managed to create space and get open, especially in the fourth quarter as he sank three three-pointers.
Ellwood said that it took some time for them to find a rhythm, especially from the perimeter.
“In the first half we weren’t really hitting our shots, and then in the second half we started hitting some threes and found our rhythm, but it was a little too late,” said Ellwood.
Ellwood said that the Cavs played very good defense on him, making him work for his looks. It was that way for all the Kids as ESS challenged every attempt.
“They got in our face and irritated our shot,” said Ellwood. “That’s a good team there.”
The Kids will now advance to the state playoffs, and Ellwood said that it now boils down to one game. That reality will serve as their mindset when the PIAA tournament begins on Saturday. They’ll face St. Joseph’s Prep, the No. 3 team from District 12 at Pleasant Valley High School.
Stampone put the night into perspective, acknowledging the hard work that got them to the championship game.
“It took us 45 years to get to the finals, but we just fell a little short tonight to a very good team,” said Stampone.