Bensalem won with a buzzer beater in Tuesday’s SOL Featured Game, sponsored by the CR North Boys’ BB Booster club. To view game photos, please visit the Photo gallery.
NEWTOWN – Julian Hyden didn’t think he got the shot off in time. Dovanta Newkirk admits he thought Bensalem wouldn’t even have the opportunity to get that last shot.
But the basketball gods were smiling down on the visitors on this night. With 3.6 seconds remaining on the clock and the Owls down one, Newkirk inbounded the ball from in front of the Bensalem bench and found Hyden by the foul line. Hyden took the pass and drove in for the layup as time expired, and the Owls pulled out a stunning 43-42 win over Council Rock North on Tuesday.
“It seemed like it took forever because we couldn’t get the inbounds in,” Hyden said. “I went to the elbow (the intersection of the foul line and the side of the key) and I saw my player overplaying me so I just went backdoor, found the ball and went in. I thought the time ran out when I was going up, but I just kept going and got off the shot.”
“You want to put the ball in the hands of the players you think can make the plays,” said Bensalem coach John Mullin. “Dovanta made the play and Julian and the other seniors came up big for us.”
The buzzer-beater capped off a chaotic final minute of play and spoiled Rock North’s Senior Recognition Night. The fourth quarter began with Bensalem clinging to a one-point lead. The Owls extended it to five, but the hosts came back, and an Aaron Morgan three-pointer knotted the score at 39-39 with 2:35 remaining, setting the stage for the dramatic ending.
Both teams made uncharacteristic turnovers down the stretch. Leo Vincent was called for travelling while protecting the ball from a double-team. Morgan stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive. With 14.7 ticks left and the Indians trailing 41-39, Morgan was fouled while attempting a three-pointer but sank only one of three from the foul line.
A long inbounds pass gave Vincent trouble, and he was again called for travelling, giving the ball back to North with 6.2 seconds remaining. Arron Goodman broke clear for a clean layup, but Newkirk came in from behind to swat the ball away. Newkirk, however, was called for goaltending, and the points were awarded to the Indians, giving the hosts a 42-41 lead with 4.2 seconds remaining.
“We thought (the inbounds pass) was going to go to Morgan,” Newkirk said. “Goodman made a good play. I tried to get it and they called goaltending on me. Honestly, I thought it was over. I kept telling my teammates to keep their heads up, but honestly, in my mind, I thought it was over.”
The Owls quickly inbounded and got the ball into the offensive zone, then called a timeout with 3.6 seconds left … enough time for the stunning final play.
“I asked my coach, can we run a play and I’ll throw it up,” Newkirk said. “I was just waiting for someone to get open and Julian was the first one to get open and he scored.
“This means a lot. To beat a real good team in their house. It means a lot to me. We stuck together, got it done and won the game.”
Defensively, Bensalem was on top of its game all night. The Owls kept the high-powered Rock North offense off-balance for much of the night, denying rebounds and forcing the Indians into low-percentage shots. Though the Indians put together a few runs, they were never able to settle into an offensive rhythm.
“We wanted to deny Aaron Morgan the ball because he’s a catalyst,” said Mullin, who credited Austin Nyekan for his efforts on the defensive end. “I thought Nyekan was the player of the game on defense for us. And Dovanta’s a very good defender. Over his years with us, has done a good job with Goodman. Dovanta’s athleticism is a problem for a lot of people.”
“Newkirk was great,” said North coach Derek Wright. “He’s a great kid, he’s always got a smile on his face. He was on every loose ball, he denied everything, he intimidated our guys, and he made the play at the end of the game.
“I was not surprised by how hard and smart Bensalem played. They played great. They flat-out wanted the game more than we did. We can X and O all we want, they flat-out wanted the game more.”
In addition to his defensive efforts and his inbounds pass on the buzzer-beater, Newkirk led all scorers with 13 points, including a highlight-reel layup on an alley-oop pass from Deion Jones that gave the Owls a 20-12 lead midway through the second quarter. Hyden scored six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, and Jones and Vincent each chipped in with seven.
With the victory, Bensalem improves to 12-8 overall, 9-4 in the National Conference (tied with Pennsbury for second place). Council Rock North falls to 15-5, 10-3, but remains in control of its destiny for the league crown.
“We didn’t play like a team tonight,” Morgan said. “They played harder than us tonight and we didn’t play our game. We need to come out more aggressive from the start. We need to come out like the game means the world to us and we didn’t do that.
“We’ve got to be there for each other, screen, rebound, play like a team. They played like a team tonight. We just didn’t play our game tonight. We defended well, 43 points is pretty good, but at the end we have to execute.
“But it happens. We don’t blame anybody. We win as a team, we lose as a team. I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Wright certainly hopes his squad is ready for tomorrow and the rest of the season. Losing two of their last three games – both to league opponents – with just two more games left before the playoffs has the North coach a little concerned.
“We’re not playing the right way,” Wright said. “It’s been close to two weeks now, we’re not making plays for each other, we’re stopping on offense, the energy’s not there from the start. We’re just not very good right now.
“There’s another opportunity after tonight. They’re the ones that play. It’s got to start with them. Certainly there are things we’ll look at as coaches and improve upon, but it’s their team, it’s their season, they’ve got to find a way to bring it together.”
Notes: In honor of Senior Recognition Night, Council Rock North started an all-senior lineup of Matt McCloskey, Aaron Morgan, Alex Corry, Owen Rice and Jason Cavell … Morgan led North with 12 points. Rip Engel scored nine in a solid performance, including five points in the third quarter. Goodman finished with eight.
Bensalem 14 9 8 12 – 43
Council Rock North 10 11 9 12 – 42
Bensalem (43) – Dovanta Newkirk 6 1-1 13; Austin Nyekan 1 0-0 2; Julian Hyden 5 0-0 10; Leo Vincent 3 0-0 7; Donnie Reed 2 0-0 4; Deion Jones 3 0-0 7. Totals: 20 1-1 43.
Council Rock North (42) – Alex Corry 1 0-0 2; Aaron Morgan 4 3-5 12; Kyle McCloskey 3 1-2 7; Matt McCloskey 1 1-2 4; Arron Goodman 3 2-2 8; Rip Engel 2 4-4 9. Totals: 14 11-15 42.
Three-point goals: Vincent, Jones; Morgan, M. McCloskey, Engel.