The Old Forge boys' basketball team has won six of the last seven PIAA District 2 Class A championships.
After losing the title last year, the Blue Devils brought the medals back to Old Forge with a thrilling 47-42 win over Susquehanna.
Ever since Susquehanna defeated the Blue Devils in the PIAA District 2 Class A championship game last year, Old Forge was left with a bad taste in its mouth. The only way to get rid of it was to win the title back.
"We thought last year we let it get away," said Old Forge boys' basketball coach Al Semenza. "The schedules came out and we saw Susquehanna twice during the year. We wanted them to get to the district championship. We wanted Susquehanna to be here tonight."
One of the goals for the Old Forge basketball team before the season started was to beat Susquehanna twice in the regular season and then a third time in the district title game. That goal was achieved as the Blue Devils were able to take the district title back to Old Forge where they feel it belongs.
"It means so much after losing it last year," said Old Forge junior Jake Manetti. "Having it five years in a row, to lose it last year, we knew we had to get it back. We wanted Susquehanna. They took it from us last year."
The title game was a tight game with several lead changes and, in the last five minutes of the game, the Old Forge defense really took control. Manetti had a key steal, which resulted in him scoring and getting fouled. That was one of the turning points in the last few minutes of the game.
"We pride ourselves on defense, we are going to struggle on offense some nights," Manetti said of the defensive effort. "We are always undersized compared to other teams, we just battle. It is about heart."
Old Forge also hit its free throws down the stretch to get the win. Dave Chromey, who is no stranger to knocking down tough free throws, stepped up and knocked down a couple of key free throws for the Blue Devils.
"I have been in two situations like this before against Riverside and Susquehanna," Chromey said. "I just try to block out the crowd and I really don't feel that much pressure at all."
Jimmie Aversa led Old Forge with 16 points and Brian Tomasetti added 11 points, with point guard Brenden Wahl playing a solid all-around game.
The win not only helped Old Forge earn another district title, but it also advances the team to the PIAA Class A state playoffs. With just one spot for District 2 in the PIAA Class A playoffs, Old Forge had to win.
"It feels super to get it back," Semenza said. "Our kids were so focused and played so hard. It was a year of adversity with kids being hurt. We had some problems in the second half, lost a couple of close games. People said Old Forge couldn't win a game in the second half. I knew down deep that our kids are tough kids and they are going to battle. They came through tonight."
The regular season didn't go as Old Forge would have liked. They lost some close games, but the coaches understood the playoffs are a brand new season and records don't matter once they begin.
"The coaches kept a positive attitude around practice and the game," Cromey said. "Even if we were losing, they said just to keep going, let's keep playing. Once playoff time came they told us it was a new slate and we all bought into it."
Now that the PIAA District 2 playoffs are over another part of the season starts. Old Forge will begin its quest to make a strong state run on Friday night against Pius X at 6 p.m. at Lackawanna College.