It’s getting down to crunch time for Liberty and Freedom on the hardwood and time isn’t on their side.
The Hurricanes (7-8) and Patriots (6-9) have roughly three weeks left on the calendar and if they’re going to make a run at the playoffs, each game will have significant impact on their postseason ramifications, as both teams don’t have much room for error the rest of the way.
Bethlehem Catholic won another Escape the Rock title over the weekend and they did it without any of their wrestlers winning titles.
The Hawks squeaked out a 173-171.5 advantage over Cincinnati La Salle (Ohio) for the team title, as Ryan Anderson (138), Cole Handlovic (145), Luca Frinzi (152) and Robert Spezza (195) each found themselves in the finals but all came home with silver medals.
Even a dynamic shooting display wasn’t enough to extinguish Bethlehem Catholic last Friday night.
Freedom nailed 15 three-pointers against the Hawks, but couldn’t pull out the victory, as Ryan Young scored a game-high 31 points to help lead Becahi to an 81-76 win over the rival Patriots.
The win pushed the Hawks mark to 10-1 on the season, winners of eight straight and Friday’s contest was the closest anyone in the EPC has pushed them this season.
If there’s one sentiment that Freedom players should have taken away from their 81-76 loss to Bethlehem Catholic last Friday night, it’s that they can compete with anyone.
The Patriots (6-7) became the first team in the Lehigh Valley to push Becahi (10-1) to the limit in last week’s affair, but just as 10 other teams have tried this season to knock off the Hawks, Joe Stellato’s bunch came up on the wrong side of the box score in the defeat.
On the surface of Liberty’s 41-9 defeat to Bethlehem Catholic last week, it looks like the Hurricanes might be far off the Hawks path, but Liberty head coach Jody Karam likes to think they’re just a step behind.
Last week’s defeat was the first for the Hurricanes (14-1) this season and likely will be their last dual meet defeat heading into the postseason, but it wasn’t a giant step backward for the blue collar bunch, rather an opportunity to restore some hunger as they move forward this winter.
With the weekend bringing frigid temperatures to the area, Liberty looked to stay on a hot streak as they step into the new year with their 56-50 win over Southern Lehigh in the Yasso-Rothrock Christmas City Classic on Saturday night.
It was the third straight win for the Hurricanes (5-6) in January after ending December with four straight defeats to bring them back toward the .500 level and provide some momentum heading into a week with matchups against Allen on Tuesday night and Pocono Mountain East on Friday.
When Damen Moyer claps his hands at the center of the mat, it usually means good things. And those good things could have been heard across Bethlehem when Moyer put an exclamation point on a hallmark two days of wrestling for the Hurricanes at their own Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic.
Moyer’s fall over Blue Mountain’s Nate Stine in 4:32 of last Friday’s 195-pound finals gave all the Liberty faithful something to clap about, as the Hurricanes came away with three champions and their first ever team title in the 24-year history of the event.
Expect more of the same with Liberty’s wrestling program this season. It usually doesn’t matter who the Hurricanes graduate, they always are a team that wrestlers hard, is prepared and develops their own talent.
Following last season’s 15-7 finish, which saw them come away with a state runner-up in the graduated Luke Werner (Lock Haven), head coach Jody Karam enters year 25 leading Liberty’s program with expectations always to be a competitive force in the East Penn Conference.
Bethlehem Catholic suffered their first setback of the season over the weekend, falling to Abington 63-53 on the road Saturday night, giving the Hawks (2-1) their first taste of defeat on the young year.
Despite the loss, it was a test against a state qualifier from a year ago and undoubtedly one of the best teams the Hawks will come across throughout this season.
Expectations might be tempered for the Patriots heading into this season, but Freedom is always looking for improvement as head coach Brandon Hall enters his eighth season at the helm of the program.
The Pates are coming off a 13-9 season, bring back some valuable pieces, but also are young and inexperienced in other spots to make this winter’s campaign difficult.