The Northeastern Knights are a veteran team that knows how to close out the big games. The Knights also have an arsenal of talented underclassmen to provide a spark off the bench.
Saturday night, the Knights won their biggest game of the season, handing a determined Hagerstown Tiger team a 55-41 loss to hoist the sectional championship trophy.
The Tigers showed that they deserved to be in the championship game. They performed at a high level for 32 minutes, but eventually the depth and size of the Knights wore them down.
The Tigers struck first, taking a 2-0 lead on a Mason Romack field goal, one minute into the game. Keaton Mikesell scored for the Knights to tie the score, and second later Grant Luebbe scored to give the Knights a lead they would never surrender. Sam White scored on a rebound basket with 40 seconds remaining to give the Knights a double digit lead at 16-6. A Kaagen Kendall jump shot late in the period made the score 16-8 at the end of the first quarter. Anthony Kelley hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter that cut the Tiger deficit to five points at 16-11, but they never got closer. By halftime the Knights had expanded their lead to 27-19.
The Tigers made little progress on the scoreboard in the third quarter. They fell behind by ten, cut it to six, fell behind by ten, and went to the final period still trailing by eight points.
The Tigers made another move midway in the fourth quarter, pulling to within six points at 40-34 on a basket from Braydon Favorite with 4:23 remaining. The Knights had a quick answer with back-to-back three pointers that broke the game open. Michael Henry III buried a corner 3-pointer at 4:11, and Caleb Harmon hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at 3:46. The Tigers never recovered.
Eight Knights scored in the game. Senior Grant Luebbe, who had an outstanding tournament, led the Knights, and all game scorers with 20 points, running his three-game sectional scoring total to a tournament leading 58 points. Senior teammate Keaton Mikesell also reached double figures with 11 points.
Eight Tigers scored, but none reached double figures. Cole Tracy led with eight points, Carter Jenkins and Kaagen Kendall each added seven points.
It was the last time in a Hagerstown High School basketball uniform for seniors Braydon Favorite, Carter Jenkins, and Mason Romack.
Northeastern head coach Brent Ross complimented both teams. “I have said all year that Coach Doerstler has done a great job.” Ross said. “They played as well as I have seen them play in the last few years last night against Knightstown. We were hoping that would not carry over. We were able to withstand the runs they made and wore them down. I am proud of this team. Now they get to play again next Saturday.”
Hagerstown head coach Mark Doerstler talked about the game and the season. “This whole school year I have come in at 7 a.m. so the kids who wanted to come in to work on shooting could.” Doerstler said.
“They just told me they want to continue to do that. They want to improve, and they are willing to work to do it. There were times tonight when some of our kids lost their composure, but they are competitors. We can use this experience as a building block for next season.”
Grant Luebbe said the Knights are excited to go back to Greenfield Central. “We had a chance to play a regular season game there this year, so we are familiar with the facility.” Luebbe said. “I thought our senior leadership was the difference tonight and I can tell you that we will be prepared. We don’t want this run to end.”
The Knights will play against Parke Heritage for the regional championship on Saturday March 11, with the tip time scheduled for 4 p.m.
Northeastern (21-5) 16 11 13 14 54
Hagerstown (8-17) 8 11 13 9 41
Northeastern scoring – Carson Terrell 4, Dae Lundy 6, Mikesell 11, Landon Scarrette 3, Henry 3, Karsen Scarrette 0, Logan Seal 0, Tre Vanlandingham 0, Nolan Drake 0, Luebbe 20, White 4, Harmon 3 – Total 54 – Hagerstown scoring – Drew Williamson 0, Issac Schmitz 3, Mason Rhoades 0, Kelley 5, Jenkins 7, Tracy 8, Favorite 2, Romack 5, Kendall 7, Landon Lawson 4, Griffin Doerstler 0 – Total 41.
A version of this article appeared in the March 8 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.