In some cases, there is simply too much about a game to fit into a game story. That was the case last night when William Penn erased a 13-point second half deficit and escaped Spring Grove with a narrow 45-43 victory. You can check GameTimePA.com for video and a recap. Here, I’ll delve a little deeper into the game and hand out a few awards as well. Enjoy.
Best performance in a losing effort: The Rockets’ role players.
Yes, Eli Brooks and Darin Gordon filled the stat sheet. They’ve proven that they’re going to do that on most nights. They both looked composed, made big plays and carried the team through stretches of the first half. Coming into Friday’s game, no other player on the roster had more than nine points total on the entire season. But against William Penn, Grant Wierman scored 10, including a big put-back late in the fourth quarter that gave the Rockets a 43-40 lead. Erik Myers scored five points including a deep 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Freshman Drew Gordon capped off a 17-1 Spring Grove run with an and-1 on a layup. Even more importantly, they did not look rattled facing one of the league’s toughest teams.
Biggest run: Bearcats’ third-quarter performance.
While the Rockets’ 17-1 run in the first half was a huge confidence boost and got the home crowd into the game, the Bearcats ending the third quarter on a 14-4 run brought them all the way back. William Penn’s leading scorer Jahaire Wilson, who was held scoreless in the first half, scored 10 points in the quarter and capped off the run with a high-flying dunk. The Bearcats finally found their offense and seemed to realize that they excel in the transition game. A few Rockets turnovers resulted in fastbreaks for William Penn and prevented Spring Grove from setting up their zone-D that had been so successful in the first half.
Most important number: 26.
26 consecutive wins for William Penn over Spring Grove and the streak was this close to coming to an end. The last time a Rockets team knocked off the Bearcats? December 2001. Spring Grove leading-scorer, sophomore Eli Brooks was an infant when that happened. Yikes.
Coaching genius part one: Spring Grove using a 2-3 zone.
The Rockets immediately went into a 2-3 zone on defense when the game started. It worked. It bogged the Bearcats down and kept them from getting out and running. The Bearcats, who came in averaging 77 points per game, were held to a season-low 45.
After the game, head coach Troy Sowers complimented the Rockets’ defense and said the Bearcats were too content firing away from long range, while Spring Grove sat back in the zone. Three of the Bearcats’ leading scorers – Montrel Morgan, Brandon Smallwood and Trey Shifflett – were held to a combined seven points.
Coaching genius part two: William Penn holding the ball for 2 minutes, 30 seconds late in the fourth quarter.
This one was a little more controversial.
The Bearcats gained possession while leading 44-43 with 3:01 to go in the game. Instead of having his team run a play, Sowers told his guards to pull back to halfcourt and dribble the air out of the ball. His guards obliged and held the ball until there was less than a minute remaining in the game. The home crowd hated it. They booed loudly, but this was a staring contest between the two teams and since the Bearcats had the luxury of a one-point lead, they weren’t going to blink first. After originally telling his team to sit back in the zone and not break out, Spring Grove head coach James Brooks eventually had to tell his team to foul.
“I wish they would’ve attacked us and fought it out,” Brooks said of the Bearcats’ strategy. “But credit to them, that was good coaching.”
It definitely stalled a very entertaining fourth quarter, but you play to win the game and that’s what York High did. Maybe there should be a shot clock?