Boys knock off Trojans
The Whitehall boys basketball team backing into the District XI playoffs?
Not a chance!
The Zephyrs went into Parkland’s gymnasium last Friday night and grabbed that spot on their own, defeating the Trojans for the second time this season with a 41-39 victory that punched their ticket to the postseason dance.
Jubilation erupted once Tommy Buskirk deflected the inbounds pass with 2.1 second left on the clock, ultimately grabbing it to seal the win.
Parkland needed to go the length of the floor after Tyler Holubowski, who scored Whitehall’s final nine points, streaked up the visitor’s side of court, curled toward the basket and laid it up for the bucket, the Trojan defense unable to stop him.
In fact, that was the case on Whitehall’s final few possessions as Holubowski either scored or forced the Trojans into fouls as he patiently looked for an opening.
With the game tied 37-37, and just over 33 seconds left, Holubowski stood near midcourt, daring Trey Rolle to take the ball as he eyed the Trojan’s defense. His deft handle, one of his skills that can make a defender look silly, forced Rolle into a foul, sending him to the line where he converted both shots to give them the lead.
On Parkland’s next possession, Jarred Kucharczuk slashed to the basket and was fouled. Once he tied the game at the line for the Trojans, Holubowski went into action.
In that moment, one could sense that the senior wasn’t going to be denied. This was their time.
“We had a really good game altogether,” said Holubowski. “I was struggling offensively in the first quarter, and Dylan McGinley really stepped us for us tonight and had a big game.
“I don’t know how many points he finished with, but the team really stepped up, and then my shots finally started to hit toward the end of the game, and that was really big for us.”
Both Holubowski and McGinley finished with 18 points.
McGinley sparked the team to start the third quarter, scoring the first four points of the second half for the Zephs. And once the Trojans started to pull away later in the third, taking a 30-25 lead after Nick Rappa muscled inside for a layup, McGinley began pulling his team back into the game, scoring the next seven points with his trey cutting Parkland’s lead to a point, 33-32 as the fourth quarter got underway.
Later, Holubowski’s three-pointer gave the Zephs the lead, and from that point they never trailed again.
Holubowski stayed calm with the game tied and the ball in his hand. He said that you just have to stay composed, especially with a big crowd on hand. The senior said he welcomes the opportunity to impact the game in the final seconds. He responded with the game-winning basket which propelled them into the playoffs.
“I don’t know what to say, I’m just really built up with emotion right now,” said Holubowski. “This is our first district playoff in three years.”
He said that the team really played well defensively and that was the key to victory. It was their second strong defensive effort, and it’s something they can build on as the postseason approaches.
Head coach Jeff Jones had stressed the importance of seizing the opportunity to shape their own destiny. He didn’t want to get a free pass. He said that he reminded his players before the game that they’ve consistently defeated Parkland once during their two meetings the last few years. They’ve won both meetings in the past, but wasn’t sure how long it’s been and said this would be a good time to replicate that feat.
“This one would be a special one if we could do it over here and allow us to earn a spot in the playoffs, and that would be pretty sweet,” said Jones.
They accomplished that mission. The back door was closed.
“I can’t say enough about how hard these kids have played, how tough they are,” said Jones. “They’ve been awesome.”
Jones said that when they got the ball with nine seconds remaining, they wanted the ball in Holubowski’s hands. He’s been their best player and his mission was to get to the basket if he could, something Jones was unsure he’d accomplish in the waning moments against Parkland’s defense.
“It worked tonight,” said Jones.
He also thought their defense was superb, the final defensive stop by Buskirk who thwarted any chance of a Parkland miracle with a deflection and steal once Jones put him on the inbounds pass.
It was a long road filled with a lot of sweat and toil, and tonight was a culmination of all that hard work, said Jones. He said that everyone affiliated with the team works hard.
“To see them get something out of this, a little bit of a reward, a little carrot at the end for their effort, that’s what makes this special,” said Jones. “That’s why we do this.”