Milton Hershey boys basketball team exceeding expectations

HERSHEY, Pa. - They set goals, they pass goals.

"I stopped setting them," said Milton Hershey head basketball coach Mark Zerbe.  "They've all exceeded my expectations, so I'm just taking it one day at a time."

One of five local teams still alive in the postseason, the Spartans will be playing in the PIAA semifinals for the first time since 1981.  That's also when Milton Hershey won their only state championship.

The Spartans are led by a pair of senior co-captains, Don'yae Baylor-Carroll and Pedro Rodriguez.

Leading the team in scoring with an average of 23 points per game, Harrisburg's Baylor-Carroll is what Milton Hershey people call a "lifer," since he started at the boarding school when he was just 4 years old.  So to him, teammates are like family.

"In frustrating times, they know what to say to bring you up," Baylor-Carroll said of his teammates.  "When you're not having such a good day, they tell you what you need to know to make you happy again."

Meanwhile, coach Zerbe calls Rodriguez by far the most improved player on the team from last year to this year.

"He'll remind me that I should've been playing him more last year," Zerbe said with a smile.  "And I stand corrected with that."

Rodriguez attributes the improvement to his attitude and confidence.

"I was coachable before, but I was struggling a bit to listen to the coaches and follow what they wanted me to do," admitted Rodriguez.  "They saw a lot of potential in me, but I didn't see it in myself until this year."

The senior from Allentown is definitely not shy in front of the camera.  He even has his own segment on Milton Hershey game broadcasts, called "Post-Game with Pedro."

Asked why this group of players is so special, Rodriguez cites a true team mentality.

"The simple fact that we're not selfish," said Rodriguez.  "Everybody plays unselfish and nobody thinks they're bigger than the team."

Coach Zerbe gives all the credit to his players.

"We're trying to cherish the moment and enjoy it," said Zerbe.  "It's been a great run, but again it's great leadership from the players and we've just got some special kids."

The next goal for the Spartans?  A trip back to Hershey for the state final.

Milton Hershey will face Mars in the 5A semifinal on Monday at 7pm at Altoona.