Abington & Pennridge were winners in Saturday’s SOL Tournament. Photos provided courtesy of John Gleeson. Check back for galleries of both games.
ABINGTON 77, PENNSBURY 47
Abington coach Charles Grasty has enough going on during games he can't chart players' shooting numbers.
So, he was a little shocked to hear just how efficient Eric Dixon was Saturday afternoon. Grasty knew Dixon was on his way to yet another monster game in a season full of them, but he hadn't realized that after missing his first shot, the senior forward hadn't missed again all game.
Dixon went 15-of-16 from the floor, scored 33 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Ghosts rolled over their former SOL National nemesis.
"I didn't even realize he shot that efficiently, we knew our size advantage would hurt down low but anytime you go 15-for-16, even if you're by yourself in the gym, that's tough to do," Grasty said. "It's all credit to Eric. We works his butt off and he's not one of those guys who just thinks it comes to him. He's in the gym working and people don't see it but kudos to him."
Abington may have moved to a new conference, the American, but the Ghosts kept winning titles by going unbeaten through the conference. Moving out of the National left a big void at the top, one the Falcons were happy to slide in and fill.
Riding an unbelievable January by Gary Francis, Pennsbury won the conference title and got a chance to see its old rival in a playoff setting.
Dixon showed early on he was in for a big day, tipping in his only miss for the game's opening bucket and later slamming home a dunk as part of an eight-point opening frame. By halftime, Dixon had 14 points, including a clean 3-pointer, and had helped put Francis on the bench with three personal fouls.
“I just played aggressive, tried to get to my spots and knock down my shots and that’s what happened,” Dixon said. “It’s Pennsbury, we’re not in the same league anymore but we still view them as our rival. I knew they’d come out with energy, we had to take their punches and not let them back in the game, so I tried my best to make sure that didn’t happen.”
Abington led 39-21 at the break with the senior trio of Dixon, Lucas Monroe and Darius Brown doing most of the damage. Monroe turned in another all-around effort, adding 15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals to the book for Abington. His second quarter dunk capped off a terrific end-to-end sequence that saw Dixon block a shot, Manir Waller steal the ball and then drop a pass to Monroe for the finish.
Brown was especially solid in support, scoring 13 points and connecting on 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc, giving him 24 made threes in his last 10 games.
"As a team, we’ve been playing together since eighth grade, so we’ve always been able to play well together,” Brown said. “I think over the years our chemistry has grown a lot. We know how to feed off each other and where to be at the right times.”
Francis, who led the Falcons with 14 points, came back to start the third and it got the offense going. Pennsbury, which hit 10 3-point shots in the game, connected on five of them during a blistering third quarter effort.
"They’re always going to play hard, Bill (Coleman) does a good job with those guys every year,” Grasty said. “They play his style and they’re not going to back down from anybody.”
As well as Pennsbury played in the third, Dixon was a one-man wrecking crew. Every time Pennsbury seemed to be gaining some momentum - the Falcons cut the lead to 12 three times - Dixon seemed to come back with an answer.
About the only thing that slowed Dixon was when he picked up a cut on his hand while drawing a foul scoring through a triple-team of defenders. Joey Brusha stepped in to make the foul shot for Dixon, who quickly returned to the game.
The 6-foot-7 forward went 6-of-6 from the floor in the quarter, scoring 12 points and ending the period with a thunderous buzzer-beating dunk as part of an 8-0 spurt that gave the Ghosts all of their 20-point lead back.
"I took my time really,” Dixon said. “I thought about trying something a little more crazy, but I knew I wouldn’t have time for that. I wanted to get up a good, strong dunk.”
Cooper Arnold and Xavier Barron both scored nine off the bench for Pennsbury, both connecting on a trio of 3-point shots to do so. The Falcons, who had 10 three-pointers, connected on just 17-of-56 shots from the floor (30 percent).
Dixon scored seven in the fourth quarter before exiting the game as Abington moves on to face Pennridge in the SOL championship game, Monday night at Bensalem at 7:30 p.m.
EXTRA SHOTS: The Ghosts connected on 30-of-44 shots from the field for what could well be a program record 68.1 percent. They were 13-for-16 at the foul line (81.2 percent) and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Abington had only six turnovers.
Pennsbury 10-11-19-7 47
Abington 20-19-21-17 72
Pennsbury (47) – Kyrie Miller 6, Collin Connor 6, Gary Francis 14, Xavier Barron 9, Cooper Arnold 9, Luke Della Grotte 3.
Abington (72) – Darius Brown 13, Lucas Monroe 15, Eric Dixon 33, Manir Waller 4, Maurice Henry 5, Justin Brooks 2, Joey Brusha 1, Howie Burrell 4.
PENNRIDGE 60, CHELTENHAM 42
Recording a triple-double in basketball means a player left a major imprint on a game.
Pennridge's Sean Yoder didn't quite get all the way to double-digits in three categories but even if he had, it still wouldn't have come close to measuring the impact he had Saturday. The Rams’ senior point guard got off to a slow start offensively, at least in terms of scoring, but he locked in on defense, kept rebounding, kept finding teammates and let the points come when they were ready.
"He’s the engine but it’s not always about scoring,” Rams’ coach Dean Behrens said. “We had Sean on (Zahree) Harrison, who is a tremendous player and if you don’t stop Harrison, it’s over. You can’t stop Cheltenham without stopping him, he’s going to get his points, but I thought Sean did a nice job defensively.”
Even with a size advantage, Yoder didn't have an easy day guarding the crafty Cheltenham junior.
“When he took that first one by me in the first quarter, I thought ‘This is going to be a rough day,’” Yoder said. “I knew I had to keep competing, that’s what it’s all about and that’s all I did.”
Yoder finished with 19 points despite missing his first seven shots, added 10 rebounds, nine assists and a couple of steals. On top of that, he spent the entire game trying to keep Harrison out of the lane, where the Panthers guard is so good at scoring or creating shots for teammates and held Cheltenham's leading scorer to 10 points.
While he wasn't scoring, Yoder stayed calm on the court and he kept finding open teammates.
"We've focused on coming out with energy all year," Yoder said. "I think we did that today."
Cheltenham, which got a major first half boost from freshman Justin Moore, opened up a 14-8 lead after one quarter and took a slim 23-20 lead to the intermission. Moore had 10 of his 13 points in the first half and forced Pennridge to account for him out of the break.
Behrens cited the quality and toughness of Cheltenham's lineup, noting outside of Harrison, all the Panthers players are at least 6-foot-2 with long arms and plenty of athleticism. Playing Reading last week certainly helped, as did the Rams' commitment to talking on defense.
"Defensively we're one unit, there's not one player who's that much better than anyone else," senior forward Jonathan Post said. "I feel like we always have help and we work together. We're always talking, Coach preaches it in practice and it becomes a natural habit in the games."
Post, who led Pennridge with 21 points, helped kick the offense in gear in the third quarter, but the Rams still trailed after Harrison found Kyin Healey for a three-point play and 34-31 advantage. With 3:32 left in the third, the Rams senior stepped to the line and knocked down two free throws to kick off a game-changing run.
The Rams outscored the Panthers 11-1 to end the third quarter and added the first six points of the final frame to go up 48-35. While they were making shots, Pennridge's defense did a good job of keeping Cheltenham out of sync.
"We got more stagnant, we weren’t making our reads to our third or fourth options,” Panthers coach Patrick Fleury said. “They’re a good team. It’s the first time this year we’ve had back-to-back losses, so it’s about bouncing back and coming together as a group. We’re going to stay focused on what the larger goal is at hand."
Six of Yoder's nine assists went to Post and the Pennridge forward flashed a nice array of skills, hitting some mid-range jumpers and showing touch around the rim. Post went 8-of-10 from the floor, and missed just one shot in the second half as he helped Yoder close out the fourth quarter.
The two seniors scored the last 14 points for Pennridge.
"That frustrates a team," Post said. "When you're getting offensive rebounds and putting up points, it gets in their head a little bit, then they go down the other end and rush their shots and we capitalized. We kept it slow, didn't force too much and were finishing."
Pennridge will face Abington in the championship game Monday night at Bensalem at 7:30 p.m.
Cheltenham 14-9-12-7 42
Pennridge 8-12-22-18 60
Cheltenham (42) – Justin Moore 13, Zahree Harrison 10, Jaelen McGlonne 1, Mike McClain 4, Kyin Healey 8.
Pennridge (60) – Luke Yoder 2, John Dominic 2, Sean Yoder 19, Trent Fisher 8, Jack Gillespie 8, Jon Post 21.