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Eagles ready for next test against state-ranked Steelers

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Youngsville’s Ethan Kesterholt (2) puts up a shot over Rocky Grove’s Reece Henderson (42) during the second quarter of their District 10 Class 2A quarterfinal game at Oil City High School, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. Kesterholt finished with seven points as the Eagles advanced to the semifinals with a 45-39 win over the Orioles.

Heading into Friday’s District 10 Class 2A quarterfinal game against Rocky Grove, Youngsville head coach Jesse DeLoof thought his team had played in, and won, just about every type of game there was.

He thought they had, anyway.

In their 45-39 win over the Orioles, the Eagles had to find a way to overcome as leading scorer Gage Hendrickson went to the bench with foul trouble late in the third quarter. It was the first time DeLoof could recall the senior being in foul trouble all season.

“I thought we’d seen it all,” DeLoof said.

Not only did Youngsville find a way to hold off Rocky Grove, the Eagles did it as they have done most things during this three year stretch.

As a team.

The Eagles won despite not having a single player in double figures scoring. Hendrickson and Brady Olewine each finished with nine points. Austin Peterson had eight, Ethan Kesterholt seven and Joe Mack and Timber Bower six each.

“We won a playoff game without a scorer in double figures. If that doesn’t reflect a team effort, I don’t know what does,” assistant coach Dave Sherman said.

That ability to play multiple roles, have different players step up when needed, the oneness of a team has been a big part of what the Eagles have built since DeLoof took over in 2017.

“We’re all interchangeable,” junior guard Joe Mack said, using one of DeLoof’s favorite terms for describing the team. “We had every confidence we could still win (with Hendrickson in foul trouble).”

The win not only put Youngsville in the D-10 semis, it assured them a spot in the PIAA state playoffs and garnered the Eagles “Honorable Mention” in the latest Sunbury Daily Item state basketball rankings. Now 19-5, the Eagles could also pick up their 20th win for the first time since 1992.

The Eagles will look to add to that list of accolades tonight when they take on Farrell in the Class 2A semifinals at Oil City High School.

The Steelers are coming off an 86-31 thrashing of Maplewood in the quarterfinals and are ranked sixth in the Class 2A Sunbury Daily Item state rankings. Farrell is 15-7 on the year, but their losses have been to Kennedy Catholic (twice), Erie High, Shenango and three teams from Ohio–Lakota West, Boardman and Chaney.

For the Eagles to advance to the District 10 title game, they’ll have to find a way to slow Eric Hopson. The 6-1 senior guard is currently fifth in District 10 scoring with 21.29 points per game. In the Steelers’ quarterfinal win over Maplewood, he poured in 21 points. Hopson is primarily an inside scorer, but can connect from deep occassionally (21 3-pointers on the year). If he has a weakness, it’s at the free throw line where he’s currently shooting just 58.71 percent.

Senior Ben King is the Steelers’ primary perimeter threat with 48 3-pointers on the season. On a per game basis, he’s averaging just under 11 points (10.95). Senior forward Brian Hilton (6.62 ppg) and junior forward Adrian Daniels (6.00 ppg) provide the third scoring options.

The Eagles and Steelers open Tuesday’s double-header with a 6 p.m. tip-off. The Class 4A semifinal between Warren and Hickory will follow. Cambridge Springs and Lakeview will meet in the other Class 2A semifinal (6 p.m. at Slippery Rock University), with the winners to play for the D-10 title and the losers to play in a third-place game. All four semifinalists will advance to the state playoffs.

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