Boys fall in state playoffs
Emmaus boys basketball head coach Steve Yoder has been a part of 11 season-ending locker room talks. Despite a loss in Saturday’s opening round of the state tournament, this year might have been the most pleasant he’s seen a locker room in his 11 seasons.
The Hornets, the fourth-place team out of District 11, played District 1 runner-up Coatesville tough for much of Saturday’s first-round state playoff contest. But Coatesville’s athleticism was too much to handle as the Red Raiders came away with an 85-74 victory behind 41 points from point guard Jhamir Brickus.
“I said this is the most upbeat after a season-ending loss that I’ve ever seen,” Yoder said. “There was some hugging. There were some tears. We built a lot of strong relationships with these guys over the years. Some of these guys I’ve known since they were six years old.”
The Hornets, despite getting into another hole early at 9-0, fought their way back.
Trailing by as much as 11 points in the opening quarter, Emmaus made it a four-point game on two occasions in the second. Ethan Parvel capped a quick 5-0 spurt with a three-pointer. Then, moments later, he made it a 33-29 deficit on a baseline driving layup.
Coatesville had an answer every time the Hornets made a run. Often that answer came in the form of Brickus, who nailed six three-pointers.
“I’ve always been someone who schedules a beefy nonleague schedule to get prepared for that [athleticism],” Yoder said. “But you only have so many nonleague games. We did run into it with [East Stroudsburg] South and Allen, but I think this team is on another level.
“It’s one thing to see it on film and work on it in practice. It’s another thing for them to roll out on the floor and see it. [Brickus] is a special player. He’s as good of a point guard as I’ve seen in a long time.”
Brickus drilled a step back three-pointer from the right wing that pushed the Red Raiders’ lead back to double digits early in the third quarter. That lead quickly diminished, and Emmaus got within 47-43 when Bryce Diel hit one from long range with 4:30 to play in the frame.
“Over the summer and during much of the season, we were a fast-starting team,” Yoder said. “We didn’t really pinpoint one thing other than the Allen loss kind of rocked them a little bit and it was hard to get back on track against East Stroudsburg South. But I think tonight’s slow start was just Coatesville.”
Coatesville kept its distance with 23 second-half points from Brickus. He pushed his team’s lead back to double digits with another three-pointer, making it a 57-47 in the third. Just before the end of the quarter, he connected on a reverse layup for a nine-point lead that halted a brief Hornet rally.
Brickus then connected on a three-point play early in the final quarter to push Coatesville’s lead to 68-58. He followed that up by dishing out one of his three assists to Dapree Bryant for a layup and a 70-58 advantage.
“We did a nice job breaking the press,” Yoder said. “In the second half I thought we did a better job getting layups off of it as well. We had it down to six and down to four in the first half, but every time we got within five or six they’d break our back with a three-pointer.”
Emmaus got to within eight points on three separate occasions down the stretch, but could not complete the comeback.
Bryant finished with 21 points as the two Coatesville guards combined for 62 of the Red Raiders’ 85 points.
Mark Swedberg, who scored 18 points in the second half, finished with a team-high 23 for Emmaus. Zach Sabol added 18 points and 13 rebounds. Diehl scored 17 points and Parvel pitched in with 11.
All four of those players will graduate in the spring, all part of a senior class that Yoder will have to replace next season. But for now, despite coming up short in capturing a league or district championship, Yoder reflected on what his squad accomplished. It was the fourth straight season his team qualified for states and the tenth straight season playing in districts.
“There’s just way too much to celebrate to get down on too much,” Yoder said. “I have to do a better job. We’re going to do a better job going forward if we can. I couldn’t be happier with the kids’ effort this year.”