West Xtra: Montour's valiant comeback effort comes up short
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For a few hopeful moments in an unfamiliar gymnasium hours from their Robinson Township campus, Montour's brace of outstanding athletes seemed poised to add another, final chapter to their three-year run of success.
Down by 11 points halfway through the fourth quarter in the PIAA Class AAA boys basketball semifinal to Archbishop Carroll on Tuesday, Montour had charged back to forge a 45-45 tie with a minute to play.
The Spartans had won 72 basketball games over the past three seasons, a handful with the same frenetic MO as the state semifinal. It was not unreasonable to suspect a dramatic 73rd victory was imminent.
But this time, the magic never fully formed, and Archbishop Carroll's eventual 50-45 triumph in Chambersburg brought an end to Montour's season, another 25-win year that this time fell frustratingly short of a third consecutive trip to the PIAA basketball championship game.
All playoff losses hurt because, as Montour coach Adam Kaufman noted, "There's nothing worse than losing the last game of the year. I know that's the case for just about everyone, but I hated it when I was a player and I hate it for my players."
Kaufman's words were the typical lament of a coach whose team fought hard -- very hard -- to keep its season alive, but the look on Kaufman's face transmitted the extra layer of pain that accompanied this loss.
Everyone around Montour acknowledges that the loss to Archbishop Carroll, a Catholic school from Radnor, a northeastern Philadelphia suburb, ended not just a season, but a terrific run of success that could fairly be called the Devin Wilson Era.
With Wilson, an outstanding two-sport athlete running point (literally, in basketball), the Spartans enjoyed heady success in both hoops and football.
The basketball team has produced a 72-18 record over the past three seasons, a string of success that includes a pair of WPIAL Class AAA boys basketball titles (2011 and this year) and, as previously noted, two trips to the PIAA basketball finals.
The Spartans' accomplishments in football, where Wilson was a star receiver, were only slightly less muted: a 33-6 record, a WPIAL championship in 2011 that resulted in a PIAA semifinal appearance and a WPIAL runner-up spot this past season and a 25-5 final record.
Combined, Montour football and basketball have been responsible for 105 wins, just 24 losses and innumerable memories over the past three years.
"This is my team; these are my friends," said Wilson following the game. "They never stop fighting, ever. And they didn't stop fighting [against Archbishop Carroll]."
It's impossible to get around the perception that the graduation of Wilson and several other talented athletes from the Class of 2013 has Montour heading for an athletic brick wall next season.
Maybe, maybe not, said Kaufman.
"A lot of people think we're going to be way down next year," Kaufman said. "I don't want to say that. We'll have a challenge, sure.
"I don't want to predict where guys are going to end up, but we'll work on that through the summer and see what works for us."
Asked if he felt his seniors, who include forward Justin Hill, guard Kevin Sculli and guard/forward Rob Julian as well as Wilson, had any real perspective on what they've accomplished, Kaufman smiled and said, "They have no clue.
"Give them some time and they will," Kaufman said. "It really won't have an impact until they get older and have their own kids who are going through this. Then they'll realize what they've done here."
Kaufman will have junior Kyle Kutchman, a 6-foot-1 forward who was fearless in the face of Archbishop Carroll's gigantic front line on Tuesday, as his primary building block. The rest will come from his bench and the junior varsity.
But the most difficult replacement will be Wilson, whose ability to shoot, drive, pass and direct from the point is college caliber. Since he made it known last month that he'll play basketball instead of football in college, the basketball offers have increased substantially.
First Published March 21, 2013 12:00 am