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EPC boys basketball: Emmaus hangs on to beat Whitehall; Parkland wins at the buzzer; Liberty eliminates ACCHS

Emmaus coach Steve Yoder talks with his team during a timeout Friday night during an EPC quarterfinal against Whitehall. Yoder's team held off a late Zephyrs rally to post a 58-55 win. (Keith Groller / 첥Ƶ).
Emmaus coach Steve Yoder talks with his team during a timeout Friday night during an EPC quarterfinal against Whitehall. Yoder’s team held off a late Zephyrs rally to post a 58-55 win. (Keith Groller / 첥Ƶ).
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Fresh off their 52-40 upset of top-seeded Bethlehem Catholic in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference girls basketball tournament Friday night, members of the Emmaus girls basketball team made their way back to their home gym to root on their boys counterparts.

They cheered, held their breath and eventually celebrated when the third-seeded Green Hornets boys held off a late Whitehall rally for a 58-55 quarterfinal win that sends them back to PPL Center for the EPC semifinals.

Emmaus (18-5) will play No. 2 seed Pocono Mountain West at 6 p.m. Monday in the first game of the Final Four doubleheader at the downtown Allentown arena. The Panthers won their ninth straight game, rolling past seventh-seeded Northampton 52-31 in another quarterfinal.

Monday’s second game will feature fourth-seeded Liberty, a 50-38 winner over defending champ Allentown Central Catholic, going against No. 1 seed Parkland. The Trojans got a game-winning 3 by Jayden Thomas in a 38-35 victory over No. 8 Nazareth.

Rather than get a game-winning 3-pointer, Emmaus had to play quality defense and then hold its breath as both Whitehall’s Talon Dogmanits and Luke Keppel missed 3-point attempts in the final seconds.

All of this drama unfolded after the Green Hornets had a 54-43 lead with 4:23 remaining and seemingly had their third win of the season over Whitehall and second in five nights wrapped up.

But  missed free throws and turnovers by Emmaus and a big fourth quarter by Whitehall’s AJ Hines brought the Zephyrs from within one big shot of forcing overtime.

“I think we kind of thought the game was over and we tried to stall too much instead of playing our normal game,” said Emmaus senior Will Barber, who scored 22 points. “They have their two bigs [Hines and Gavin Roberts] and we had trouble boxing them out. That’s what helped them come back in the game.”

Hines, a 6-foot-7 junior center, scored 13 of his 19 points in the final period and most of them came during Whitehall’s rally. His three-point play with 26.2 seconds left got his team within three.

Jametric Harris, who scored 22 points in a Jan. 20 meeting against Whitehall and 15 Friday night, missed a pair of free throws with 22.7 seconds left. The Zephyrs rebounded the second miss, got the ball into the frontcourt and called timeout.

After a pass was knocked out of bounds, Whitehall had trouble getting an open look before Dogmanits got off a shot over the outstretched arm of Teague McCourt with about four seconds left. The miss bounced off the rim and kicked out to Hines who passed it to Keppel, who had two 3-pointers earlier. This attempt was more of a desperation heave and it only hit the backboard as the horn sounded and Emmaus students celebrated by coming on to the court.

“It was probably closer than it had to be,” Green Hornets coach Steve Yoder said. “We were 7 for 17 from the foul line and we’ve got to be better than that, but it was enough.”

Yoder said it’s tough to beat any team three times, especially one as good as Whitehall.

“There’s a lot of familiarity there and the league is such a grind that a lot of times it’s the first team to 50 that wins and this game showed a lot of that,” Yoder said. “It was very physical and points were tough to come by in the first half. It loosened up a little bit in the second half, but it was a pretty typical Whitehall-Emmaus game. It was a great high school playoff game.”

The Zephyrs, who also struggled at the line in making just four of 11 attempts, fell to 15-8 and will likely be off until the District 11 5A semifinals on Feb. 27 before playing again.

Emmaus meanwhile is in the league semis for the fourth time out of nine EPC tournaments since the current EPC began in 2014-15.

The Green Hornets are seeking their first league title since winning a Lehigh Valley Conference championship in 2012, but it will take two extraordinary efforts in Allentown next week to end the drought. Emmaus is tough in its cozy confines at home, but the area’s biggest indoor facility provides a much different atmosphere.

“We kind of struggled there last year with the big environment, big gym, but this school hasn’t won a championship in awhile,” said Barber, who made three of his team’s seven 3-pointers. “We’re really motivated this year and we’ve got a really strong, connected senior class that can do it.”

Emmaus 58, Whitehall 55

Whitehall 8 – 12 – 14 – 11 – 21 — 55

Emmaus 16 – 5 – 22 – 15 — 58

WHITEHALL (55)

Keppel 6-13 0-1 14, Talon Dogmanits 2-10 0-1 4, Orochena 1-2 0-0 2, Ringenberger 1-6 0-0 3, Hoderewski 3-9 0-0 7, Roberts 3-5 0-2 6, Hines 7-11 4-7 19. Totals 23-56 4-11 55.

EMMAUS (58)

Volquez 0-0 0-0 0, McCourt 2-2 1-2 6, Csensits 3-9 1-2 9, Harris 4-11 4-9 15, Terrero 1-2 2-2 4, Curley-Katrishen 1-6 0-0 2, Barber 9-14 1-2 22. Totals 21-44 7-19 58.

3-pointers: Whitehall (5-11) Keppel 2, Ringenberger, Hoderewski, Hines. Emmaus (7-13) Barber 3, Csensits 2, Harris, McCourt.

Rebounds: Whitehall 26 (Hines 7); Emmaus 32 (Curley-Katrishen 9).

Assists: Whitehall 6; Emmaus 13 (Harris, McCourt 4).

Turnovers: Whitehall 8, Emmaus 10.

Fouls: Whitehall 18, Emmaus 12.

Officials: Rob Bosak, Greg Haas, Jim Sands.

Other EPC games

Liberty 50, ACCHS 38

In a game that was tied at 17 at halftime and again at 30 after three quarters, the host Hurricanes (18-5) outscored the defending EPC champion Vikings 20-8 in the fourth quarter and earned their first appearance in the EPC semis since 2020. Caden Vermuelen scored 15 points while Blake Hargrove and Angel Holguin scored 13 apiece. Liberty made eight 3-pointers, including three each by Vermuelen and Holguin. The Vikings (17-6) got 15 apiece from David Fridia and Jahrel Vigo. Central’s Lucas Mushrush, one of the top 3-pointers in the league, was limited to one trey.

Pocono Mountain West 52, Northampton 31

The second-seeded Panthers (20-3) won their ninth straight game behind 16 points by KJ Coles and 15 by Devin Artis. Adrian Brito scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots. Northampton (14-9) was held to three points in the first quarter and five in the third. JJ Kolumber led the K-Kids with eight points. West will be in the semifinals for the fifth time in nine tournaments.

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