After playing with unbridled passion this season, the Reading High boys’ basketball team found a way to play with even more fury in the Class 6A District 3 Semi-Finals.
Seeing injured teammate Daniel Alcantara in street clothes with a cast protecting his broken hand inspired the Red Knights in their victory over Cedar Cliff earlier this week.
They feel they can continue to carry that emotion, starting with the District Championship game against seventh seed Warwick (20-5) Saturday night at 7:45 p.m. at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“I want to try as hard as I can on the court because Dan can’t play,” junior Myles Gray said. “It’s always going to be a motivation, at least for me. We have a very close relationship with Dan.
Alcantara 6-4, Reading’s second top scorer (24-3), is out indefinitely after suffering an injury in the quarter-final against Wilson. He said he also suffered a chipped bone in his back when he fell to the ground after a dunk.
“He knows we’re going to finish this job for him,” said junior Amier Burdine.
Without Alcantara, a senior who averaged 16.4 points per game, the Red Knights have no one in their rotation taller than 6-2. He saw his teammates play superior defense against Cedar Cliff in a 46-39 win.
“We used that as fuel, but we didn’t make it a game of desperation to do it just for him,” said senior Xavier Davis. “We said ‘let’s keep our habits’. Let’s do everything we know how to do as hard as we can, harder than before, for him.
“Even if he’s not on the pitch, we try to be the best we can be.”
Reading are the first team since Carlisle (1984-88) to reach the District 3 final in the highest ranking for five consecutive seasons. The Red Knights beat Wilson 66-58 last year; lost to the Bulldogs 58-56 in 2020; fell to Harrisburg 64-60 in 2019; and beat the Cougars 46-43 in 2018.
They are aiming for their 23rd championship and their fourth under coach Rick Perez.
“It’s amazing,” Davis said. “It’s something I never thought I would do. It’s something I dreamed of when I was in seventh grade watching Lonnie (Walker IV) perform. There are a lot of things we’ve done that I’m very proud of, but I’m humbled. We have so much more to do.
Warwick reached their first District 3 final since 1984 with an impressive 74-57 semi-final win over third-seeded Central Dauphin. The Warriors beat Lebanon 58-49 in the first round, then knocked out No. 2 Cumberland Valley 58-51 in overtime in the quarter-finals.
Like Reading, Warwick are a guard-focused team that includes 5-11 senior Tate Landis, who is averaging 17.8 points per game and heading to York College.
Other starters are Avery Sapp senior 6-0, Carter Horst 6-1 sophomore, Trevor Evans 6-1 sophomore and Ryan Fink senior 5-10. They each score between 7.8 and 9.0 points per game.
“I see a team playing with a lot of emotion and very strong,” Perez said. “They can all shoot it. They can all handle it. There is an abundance of chemistry. I see a high level of emotion.
“I can understand why they win games. They do what they do well. They have a lot of guys playing inside themselves.
Warwick have won six of their last seven, their only loss to Hempfield in the Lancaster-Lebanon League semi-finals. Reading have won 13 of their last 14 games, their only blemish being against Muhlenberg in the regular season.
The Red Knights play at a high level and with inspiration.
“We’re not looking for external motivations,” Perez said. “We are playing for something much bigger, our love and our brotherhood. They are really the basis for us and what we play for. This emotion of Daniel’s situation will never end. It is something that we will carry for the rest of our lives. I don’t see any decline.”
Red Knights District 3 Title Games
2021: Reading 66, Wilson 58
2020: Wilson 58, Reading 56
2019: Harrisburg 64- Reading 60
2018: Reading 46, Harrisburg 43
2016: Reading 65, Central York 54
2010: Reading 54, Hempfield 46
2008: Reading 63, Central Dauphin East 51
2004: Reading 54, Red Lion 24
2002: McCaskey 55, Reading 41
1991: Harrisburg 77, Reading 69
1990: Steel-High 64, Reading 55
1983: Reading 56, Conestoga Valley 48
1981: Reading 38, Cumberland Valley 34
1979: Reading 41, Lebanon 32
1978: Harrisburg 59, Reading 52
1977: Reading 65, Steel-High 63 (3OT)
1976: Reading 30, Harrisburg 27
1975: Steel-High 64, Reading 60
1973: Reading 60, Hershey’s 43
1972: Reading 56, Center Dolphin 36
1971: William Penn (York) 62, Reading 51
1970: William Penn (Harrisburg) 75, Reading 42
1966: Reading 37, Conestoga Valley 35
1961: Reading 57, Gettysburg 39
1957: Reading 45, Hanover 34
1956: Reading 55, Carlisle 30
1955: Reading 75, Mannheim Township 35
1952: Reading 58, Hannover 39
1939: Reading 61, Hannover 21
1934: Reading 50, Lititz 27
1929: Reading declared champion