Abington rallied from eight down in the fourth quarter to defeat Pennridge in Monday’s SOL title game at Bensalem. Game action photos provided courtesy of John Gleeson. Check back for a gallery of photos.
ABINGTON 62, PENNRIDGE 52
As Darious Brown saw things, it was simply a matter of effort.
He and the rest of the Abington boys' basketball team found themselves down eight points in the fourth quarter against a Pennridge team determined to win Monday’s SOL title game at Bensalem. For three-and-a-half quarters, the Rams were better, more energetic, more determined and had been rewarded for it.
It was a matter of effort and Brown made sure his counted.
"It’s our effort, the coaches can think up and give us plays all day, but at the end of the day, it’s how hard we play,” Brown said. “Once we started playing harder, things started falling our way. We have a lot of persistence to do a lot of different things. We’ve seen all types of zones and presses and we’ve found our way through it."
Pennridge played about as well as it could have hoped for 28 of the game's 32 minutes. The Rams packed the paint in their 2-3 zone defense, throwing bodies at Eric Dixon, keeping Lucas Monroe from getting close to the basket and forcing the Ghosts' supporting cast to take shots.
Abington, which missed its first eight 3-point tries, couldn't make Pennridge pay. The teams were tied 9-9 after one quarter and despite a growing heap of foul trouble for Pennridge, the Rams were down just 24-23 at the break. Considering starting forwards Trent Fisher and Jon Post had each picked up two fouls and Luke Yoder had three, the Rams were still in the game.
"Our kids played their hearts out, they came out with a lot of energy and we didn’t back down to them,” Pennridge coach Dean Behrens said. “I felt positive that we were able to get out and be up, I think eight, at one point. We had a couple tough turnovers in the fourth quarter, Brown hit a couple big threes, you gamble a little bit and don’t go out on him. He hits the two threes and give him credit for doing it.”
Dixon led all scorers with 27 points, shooting 12-of-23, but he had two if not three or more guys shadowing him on every shot attempt.
Once the third quarter started and with their starters back in, the Rams just took off. After Abington went up 29-23, Pennridge scored the next 11 points with Post playing the role of catalyst.
The senior forward was terrific, scoring inside, hitting jumpers and grabbing rebounds as he contributed nine of the Rams' 11 points on the run. Post led Pennridge with 19 points, but after the game took blame for not doing enough to help his team win, especially on the glass.
"All the guys in there wanted it more than anything,” Post said. “When you come up against a team like that with a bunch of great players who are known all throughout the state and even more than that, it gives you that extra little drive. We’re all out here to prove Pennridge can play with anyone and we didn’t come out on top, but I feel we can still do that."
After Post followed his own blocked shot for a putback, then found Sean Yoder on a brilliant cut for a layup, the Rams led 50-42 with 5:10 to play in the game.
"There was no panic,” Abington coach Charles Grasty said. “They trusted their hard work, they knew they could get shots and they knew they could get back in the game. Sometimes, you get down eight, cross half court and think there’s an eight-point shot, but they didn’t do that.”
Dixon cleaned up his own miss to make it a six-point game, but the Ghosts still needed something to really set them off. All game, the SOL American champions hadn't quite had that one defining play that they've had in other games to help turn the game around.
Luckily for Abington, Manir Waller was ready to deliver it. The junior forward exploded into the backcourt for a steal on the following inbound pass, swiping the ball and laying it in to chop the lead down to two. After a stop, Dixon scored to tie the game 50-50.
“It’s just hustle and anticipation,” Waller said. “When I saw the ball, I wanted it more than the other team and wanted to get the ‘W’ for my team."
The junior finished with nine points, five coming in the final quarter and nine rebounds, again with five coming in the fourth plus two fourth quarter steals. His sudden-burst layup was the spark.
“I felt like I had to give a lot of energy,” Waller said. “Coach asked me to bring that to the team because I’m one of the younger players, so it’s one thing I try to do on the offensive and defensive side. I tried to rebound, just do whatever my team needed me to do at the time.”
Post came back with a bucket, putting the Rams up 52-50 with three-and-half minutes left but Abington was preparing for its finishing run.
“A few turnovers go their way and they got some fastbreak points, (Brown) hit two big threes for them and they ended up making their foul shots, which hurt us,” Post said. “Instead of doubling Sean, they started doubling some of our other guys. I have full faith in all my guys, but some things just went their way and they capitalized off that.”
Brown had been cold all night but when Maurice Henry picked him out in the left corner with three minutes to go, the senior guard got nothing but net on the go-ahead three. Brown then came up with a steal and Henry again spotted him in the left corner.
The shot went up, the ball went in and Brown hung around for just a second as the bleachers of Abington fans behind him celebrated.
“I was just telling myself to stay solid and remain confident in my shot,” Brown said. “Usually, it will fall but we always have a hard time in this gym for some reason. I just had to trust the work I put in.
"I felt very confident, I just wanted to keep my shooter’s mentality, I knew it wasn’t falling in the beginning, but at some point, it had to fall for me.”
Brown now has 34 three-pointers on the season with 27 of those coming in the last 11 games.
“He saw a couple of them go through the basket – you see a couple go through, and he’s like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ and he got his confidence going,” Grasty said. “We’re yelling at him when he doesn’t shoot because he’s so unselfish. We thought that earlier in the year he was hesitant and it was hurting him. He would not take the good one and take the bad one, and they wouldn’t fall for him.
“Once he started seeing them go through – people are going to have to guard him.”
Abington closed the game on a staggering 22-2 run over the last five minutes as the Ghosts mostly kept the ball away from Post and Yoder. Brown added another steal, getting fouled in the process before sinking both his foul shots, giving him eight of his 13 points in the last stanza.
“I keep saying it over and over – we’ve got great leadership,” Grasty said. “Those guys just stayed the course. They could have come down and taken a bunch of quick shots, bad shots, but they stayed the course. They just played ball, chipped away, got some stops and those two threes (by Brown) were huge. They changed the game.”
EXTRA SHOTS: Dixon, who has 2,317 career points, now has 701 points on the season. He is the first Abington player to ever reach the 700-point milestone in a single season…Lucas had a pair of assists and now has 401 career helpers…Both Abington and Pennridge have opening round byes in the District One 6A Tournament. Top-seeded Abington will play the winner of the #16 Upper Dublin versus #17 Downingtown West contest in a second round game on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and fourth-seeded Pennridge will take on the winner of the #13 Spring-Ford versus #20 Council Rock North game.
Pennridge 9-14-23-6 52
Abington 9-15-14-24 62
Pennridge (52) – Sean Yoder 15, Trent Fisher 2, Jon Post 19, John Dominic 8, Jack Gillespie 8.
Abington (62) – Manir Waller 9, Maurice Henry 5, Darious Brown 13, Lucas Monroe 8, Eric Dixon 27.