HAGERSTOWN, Md. – The Cumberland Valley Christian Blazers battled back in the second half and defeated Highland View Academy 58-55 Tuesday in their non-league boys basketball season opener.
“Coming into this game, we didn’t really know what to expect when it came to our opponent,” Blazers coach Austin Sanders said. “We quickly realized that, size-wise, they were bigger than us, and we knew that was going to be a challenge.”
The Blazers led 29-24 at halftime, but Highland View greeted the Blazers in the second half by scoring nine straight points to go ahead by four. The Blazers trailed by two points, 46-44, at the end of the quarter but held Highland View to nine points in the final period.
Nollin Egolf scored 27 points to lead the Blazers in scoring and added a team-high five assists. Aaron Minnier contributed 13 points, led the team with five steals and tied teammates Evan Statler and Reece Hunsberger for the team high in rebounds with seven.
Hunsberger added eight points, Thomas Garvin five, Gage Brookens three and Statler two.
“Nollin and Thomas got into foul trouble early, but I was proud of our guys for staying disciplined and trusting the game plan,” Sanders said. “This team battled all night and were rewarded with a win.”
The Blazers come into the season looking to rebound from their 5-19 season of a year ago.
They are led by Egolf, a senior, who was the MDCC Player of the Year last year and eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark. “Nollin had a career year last year,” Sanders said. “The crazy thing is, he’s not satisfied with that and is willing and eager to get better.”
Minnier, also a senior, returns for his second season as a starter. “Aaron is a strong leader who makes good decisions in key moments,” Sanders said.
Juniors Garvin, Hunsberger and Statler are the other starters, with sophomore Brookens likely the first player off the bench. Also hoping to contribute are seniors Seth Bumbaugh and Jeff Noyes, juniors Will Anderson and Ryan Crawford, sophomore Nathan Minnier and freshman Josh Rudy.
“We are excited to have Thomas back; he is going to bring defensive energy and intensity as well as options on offense that we haven’t had in the past,” Sanders said. “Other guys like Reece, Evan and Gage have benefitted from the offseason and will give us the necessary quality minutes that we are looking for from our strong role players.”
Last year’s team came up short in multiple close games, but Sanders is hoping the experience of those close contests will pay off this year.
“Looking back at our team last year, we had a lot of young guys who had to grow up fast and adjust to the learning curve that is varsity basketball,” he said. “A lot of those guys are back and that experience is already showing dividends on and off the court. There is a lot of excitement around this team this year, and I am excited for what this season has in store for us.”