SOL Boys' Basketball PIAA Wrap (3-15-23)

(North Penn/Coatesville file photo courtesy of Jon Sklut)


Basketball isn’t Ryan Zeltt’s number one sport – the all-state quarterback is bound for Millersville University where he will continue his football career this fall, but there was no mistaking his disappointment after seeing the Knights’ season end in the second round of states on Wednesday night at Pottstown High School.

“We got a couple of guys that play baseball, and they’re not playing baseball right now,” Zeltt said. “But we don’t want to be anywhere else. We want to be here.

“We haven’t been to states since my freshman year, and that was a really fun time. We wanted to bring that experience to the younger kids, and it was fun.”

The Knights made history this season, winning the program’s first ever state playoff game with their opening round win over Central.

“The bar has been raised,” Zeltt said. “We left on a good note. We wanted to keep going, but we got one under our belt – the first in school history. We want to keep building and the younger guys can definitely do that.”

Zeltt was one of six seniors on this year’s squad that also included Mario Sgro, Ryan Deininger, Cole Legates, Luke Cody, and Nicholas Hoffman. Before heading to the locker room for his team’s final postgame meeting, coach John Conrad had an immediate response that asked what those players meant to his team.

“Just everything – they’re everything,” the Knights’ coach said of the seniors. “They instilled a winning attitude, a winning tradition. We’ve got six of them – they all get along, they fostered team chemistry. I haven’t said good-bye to them, but that will be tough.”

There were similarities to the first meeting between the two teams in a second round District 1 6A contest – a 64-60 North Penn win that saw the Knights rally from one down in the final minute to eke out the victory.

“Same game,” Conrad said. “They put in the five guards – they’re tough to match up when they do that. They spread you out, but I thought we had some good looks. We just didn’t convert in a couple of key moments.

“I just thought we made the last run the first game, and they made the last run this game. They’re a great basketball team, give them credit.”

Wednesday’s game got off to a promising start for the Knights. Teddy McAllister buried a 3 on his team’s opening possession, and when Mario Sgro scored on a drive, the Knights led 7-1. The Red Raiders pulled to within one (7-6) with three minutes remaining in the frame, but North Penn closed out the quarter with a 10-2 tear that began with Sgro kicking the ball out of a double team to a wide open Zeltt for a baseline 3 and also included a three-point play by McAllister, and after a Coatesville block was swatted back to him at midcourt, Zeltt sank a halfcourt shot at the buzzer that put the Knights on top 17-8.

“I think the (initial) shot got blocked,” Zeltt said of the wild sequence. “I picked it up, and I just chucked it up. That’s probably once in a million.”

The Red Raiders outscored the Knights 15-9 in the second quarter, but North Penn took a 26-23 lead into halftime. Ahmaar Godhania gave the Knights a lift off the bench in the frame, burying a pair of 3-pointers.

The Red Raiders exploded for 24 third-quarter points to go on top 47-40 heading into the final frame. The Knights pulled to within one after a McAllister bucket (47-46) with just under six minutes remaining, but that’s as close as they would get.

“They have a lot of speed over there,” Zeltt said. “It could have caught up to us, running up and down the court a bunch. Maybe a little fatigue, and they were hitting shots, and we weren’t. I think it came down to that.”

“They run 12 guys at you, they wear you down a little bit,” Conrad said. “It was just a game of runs, and they made two runs in that third quarter, and we couldn’t overcome that.

“They speed you up so much, they take you out of your rhythm. I don’t know that we ran our stuff efficiently in the fourth quarter.”

McAllister’s 12 points led a balanced North Penn attack. Zeltt finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, and Ryan Deininger had 10 points. Godhania added eight points off the bench.

Coatesville was led by Dior Kennedy with 23 points. Jeremiah Marshall added 16 while Zuri Harris and Amon Fowlkes both added 10.

“They’re a really good team – they’re there for a reason obviously,” Zeltt said. “It’s hard to beat a team like that twice. We gave everything we got.  The seniors – we left it all on the court. It stings to end like this.”

Conrad is hoping his returning players will build on this year’s postseason run.

“I hope they walk away wanting more from this experience, and that will fuel them in the offseason – fall league, summer league, spring league, all that good stuff – weight room,” Conrad said. “We thought we had a chance to win one today, so it’s obviously disappointing. We’ll look back and be proud of the season, but right now it’s tough.”

North Penn closed out its season with a 20-10 record overall, 12-4 in the SOL.

Coatesville                   8-15-24-14   61
North Penn                  17-9-14-15   55
Coatesville (61) – Zuri Harris 3 4-5 10; Dior Kennedy7 7-10 23; Lawrence Brown 1 0-0 2; Jeremiah Marshall 6 4-6 16; Amon Fowlkes 2 5-9 10; TOTALS 19 20-30   61.
North Penn (55) – Ahmaar Godhania 3 0-0 8; Mario Sgro 1 0-0 2; Norman Gee 1 0-0 2; Teddy McAllister 4 3-4 12; Ryan Zeltt 3 2-4 11; Lee Hammond 1 1-2 4; Ryan Deininger 2 6-8 10; Corey Meade 1 2-2 4; Robbie Sukaly 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 17 14-20 55.
3-point goals: Coatesville – Dior Kennedy 2, Amonn Fowlkes; NP – Ryan Zeltt 3, Ahmaar Godhaniea 2, Teddy McAllister, Lee Hammond.