For the first time in nearly 50 years, Exeter will play for a county title.
Led by a career night from senior center Anthony Caccese, the second-seeded Eagles defeated third-seeded Berks Catholic 59-45 in a Berks Conference semifinal on Wednesday night at Santander Arena to advance to their first county final since 1974.
“It means the world,” Caccese said. “It’s just great to make history.”
Caccese led all scorers with 27 points, tying a career high. The 6-8 big man had eight rebounds and dominated in the paint at both ends.
“I’m so proud of Anthony,” Exeter coach Matt Ashcroft said. “He’s playing better than he ever has. He’s aggressive, he’s smart (and) his footwork is tremendous.”
The Eagles (19-5) led 16-10 after one quarter, but Berks Catholic (20-4) responded with a 9-2 run to take the lead. Senior Josiah “JayJay” Jordan had eight points in the first half and finished with 14. Junior teammate Josh McCoy also had 14 points.
Exeter responded with a 12-5 run to close the half to take a 30-24 lead at the break. Senior Zyion Paschall had seven points for the Eagles in the second quarter and finished with 10.
“Just tremendous, intense defense,” Ashcroft said. “Defense and taking care of the ball (was important).”
The run set the tone for the second half, which Exeter controlled with rebounding and defense. The Eagles clogged the lane and forced turnovers, hindering the Saints’ offense.
“Defense wins championships, and I think that’s a staple of our game,” Caccese said. “We just had to come out here and lock them up.”
Exeter led 43-34 after three quarters and maintained a multi-possession lead for the entire fourth quarter. Berks Catholic cut it to seven points with a minute remaining, but that is all the closer it would get.
“Offensively, we were very selfish,” said Saints coach Snip Esterly, whose team will open District 3 Class 4A play in the quarterfinals on Thursday, Feb. 23. “You got to give Exeter all the credit in the world. They came to play and we didn’t.”
The Eagles will take on top-seeded Reading High in the final on Friday at 8 p.m. at Santander Arena. Exeter is looking to win its first title since 1974, when it defeated Muhlenberg. The Eagles’ only other title game in 1972, when they beat Cedar Crest.
“I’m excited for these guys,” Ashcroft said. “We still have more work to do. We’ll be ready.”
The Eagles will face the defending champions, who defeated Wilson 54-30 in the other semifinal on Wednesday night. Exeter lost to the Red Knights 65-60 in December in the only regular season meeting between the two teams.
Caccese scored 22 points in that one, helping the Eagles lead 17-9 after one quarter, 30-23 at the half and 46-44 after three quarters.
“We got a lot of momentum,” Caccese said. “We’re going to come out and play even harder in this next game, and we’re going to give them all we got.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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