Achille's defense, foul shooting propels Pioneers to edge Barons 52-50 in boys basketball

With two seconds remaining, down by two points and coming out of a timeout, Manheim Central's free throw attempt bounced off the rim. Matt Achille leaped, grabbed the rebound, and held on ... as did the Pioneers, winning 52-50.

Once again, it was an inauspicious start for the Pioneers, who fell behind 9-0 out of the gate with Manheim Central controlling the ball for minutes at a time with long possessions, but aided by strong defense from Achille -- who had at least five steals during the game -- and some offense from Ben Sandberg, they battled back to finish the first quarter 11-6.

As the second quarter began, L-S's strong defense continued with Achille notching a few steals as well as some solid full court pressure, and the Pioneers managed several second chance points with solid offensive rebounding. Battling back to tie the game at 15 late in the first half, the Pioneers took their first lead late with two seconds to go, and ultimately were behind by just one at intermission, 17-16.
Matt Achille played excellent defense all night
long for the Pioneers, a key to their victory

Manheim Central had a plethora of opportunities at the foul line early in the third quarter, which contributed to the foul trouble in which the Pioneers found themselves down the stretch. Luckily for L-S, though, Central missed more free throws than they made in the first sequence of the second half. Meanwhile, the Pioneers' offense erupted especially in transition with a quick 7-0 run capped by an Achille steal and layup with three minutes remaining in the quarter. This prompted a Manheim Central timeout, and the teams went back and forth for the remainder of the quarter, with the Pioneers holding an eight-point advantage (39-31) entering the final quarter of play.

The fourth quarter got off to a slow start with the teams trading a few baskets before Sandberg, after a missed Manheim Central free throw, took a bounce past from Achille, drew a foul, and accentuated the point with a dominant dunk, which ignited the student section. It seems like a regular occurrence that at some point in the fourth quarter, Sandberg slams one down and the student section goes crazy, but the students went even crazier than normal, so much so that there was even a brief stoppage in play. Order restored, Sandberg made the free throw, and the Pioneers led 44-35 with four minutes to play.

L-S had an advantage as large as 10 before fouls sent Manheim Central into the double bonus; down the stretch, the Barons were much more consistent at the foul line, and with two minutes to play, Manheim Central had cut the lead to six, the margin thinning to two with a minute to play.

In the final minute, though, L-S executed its game plan flawlessly, getting the ball into Achille's hands to shoot clutch free throws, and he made three of four in the final minute, icing the game for the Pioneers, who led 52-49 with two seconds when they strategically committed a foul to send the Barons to the line. After Manheim Central made the first, L-S called timeout to discuss the strategy for the final seconds, and when the Barons intentionally missed the free throw to try to notch a tip-in to tie the game, Achille was there -- as he had been all game on defense -- to clinch the game for the Pioneers.

This week, the Pioneers showed they can win a blowout (82-40 over Lebanon Catholic on Wednesday), and win a nail biter. They now stand at 7-0.

View Lauren Mast's album of photos via Google Photos

--Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief

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