Muhlenberg tops Gov. Mifflin, advances to Berks boys basketball semifinals

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Mike Drago, Reading Eagle, Pa.
·4 min read
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Feb. 24—Ever since Wilson's Stevie Mitchell dropped a program-record 41 points on Muhlenberg in an early January thriller, lots of people have been looking forward to a rematch.

Maybe the Muhls were too, and it nearly cost them Tuesday in a Berks Conference quarterfinal against Gov. Mifflin.

The third-seeded Muhls (14-2) allowed the sixth-seeded Mustangs (9-9) to hang around too long for Muhlenberg coach Tyrone Nesby's liking.

"I just don't understand why we had no energy tonight," Nesby said after the Muhls held on for a 58-56 win in Laureldale. "Nobody showed energy. We were not running the plays, not moving on defense."

The Muhls lost to Wilson 67-59 Jan. 8 in Laureldale. They'll get another shot at them in a Berks quarterfinal Wednesday at 7 at West Lawn. The winner plays for the Berks championship.

"They could have (had) their heads set (on Wilson), because they hear people saying all these things (about a rematch)," Nesby said. "I'm not thinking about Wilson; I was worried about Gov. Mifflin tonight."

The Mustangs have played their best ball of the season in recent weeks, winning seven of their last eight, and they played crisply Tuesday in what could turn out to be their final game.

They executed well on offense, attacked the basket and knocked down shots, which has been a problem at times.

Matt Gehris played an all-around strong floor game, hit 8-of-13 shots and finished with a season-high 18 points, the last coming on a 3 just ahead of the final buzzer.

"They got some good looks, they played their game, they did what they had to do," Nesby said. "Us? Our heads weren't in the game."

The Mustangs trailed by nine with 2 1/2 minutes left and held the Muhls scoreless on their final five possessions but never had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead down the stretch.

Greg Suber also scored 18 for Mifflin, 12 in the second half.

The Mustangs got six rebounds and six assists from Josh Klahr, and eight rebounds and seven points from Matt Harley, whose 3-pointer with two minutes left started a 7-0 finishing run.

In the end the Mustangs just couldn't contain Muhlenberg center Edwin Suarez, who had 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, six off the offensive glass.

"I told them I was proud of the effort," said Mifflin coach Kyle Conrad, "and proud of the way that they fought back from a 2-6 start to put themselves in position to play tonight."

Erron Archie again displayed his all-around game for Muhlenberg with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, many of them setting up easy Suarez baskets inside.

T.J. White scored 16 for the Muhls, including a pair of 3s early in the third quarter that helped them open a comfortable working margin after they led just 29-26 at the half.

The Mustangs began fouling in the final minute and the tactic worked as the Muhls missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones. They were just 2-of-5 from the foul line in the final quarter.

"We pulled it out," Nesby said. "I'm glad we got the win but it was a really poor performance for us."

The Mustangs don't know if their season is over or not. They have a game scheduled Friday against Lebanon, but that might not come off. They're on the outside looking in for the District 3 Class 6A playoffs, though that could change. A win over Lebanon would help their chances.

"We played hard," Conrad said. "It didn't go our way. Sometimes that's how it goes.

"I said to them in December before we got shut down, (and) I said (it) to them again now: Be grateful for the time we did get in the gym, because the alternative could've had us sitting at home (due to the coronavirus pandemic). Be grateful we were able to have the experience we had this season."

As for Muhlenberg, Nesby knows his team has to clean up some things in order to beat Wilson this time. The Muhls fouled too often in the first meeting, especially against Mitchell, who set a program record by making 18-of-22 free throws. They also need to protect the ball better; they turned it over six times in the fourth quarter and let a three-point lead slip away against the Bulldogs.

They led five times in the second half in that game, the largest at 54-51 with 4:30 remaining.

"We have to make sure we take care of the ball, try not to foul as much," Nesby said. "Last time they shot 40 free throws (actually 38), we shot 10. You can't win a basketball game like that."