As I write this, it’s been about two hours since I departed from J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster, where rivals William Penn and McCaskey engaged in an absolute classic tonight.
Looking back, I remember less a basketball game, and more a blur of fastbreak lay-ins, clutch jump shots and crowd-rousing, momentum-changing plays. All the while there was me, trying — and partially succeeding — to keep pace on my score sheet. Believe me, it wasn’t easy.
When it was all over, the scoreboard read 98-94 in favor of the visiting Bearcats. No, not in four overtimes. In regulation. As William Penn coach Troy Sowers said: “That’s not a high school game score.”
Wednesday night’s game had a playground feel to it. Players looked for long outlet passes after every basket. Other players cherry-picked, encouraging more of those full-court heaves. And like any great game, this one featured two great players dueling it out, trading big baskets and willing their teams forward.
William Penn junior Kelvin Parker and McCaskey senior Leontae Turner were nothing short of brilliant. The duo — who often guarded each other — combined for 75 points, with Parker dropping 40 of those. Turner scored 18 points in the fourth quarter alone.
There are so many angles to cover for a game like this. I’ll try to tackle as many as I can here — in notebook fashion — after the jump.
More points for Parker
What more can you say about about Parker, the junior guard who has established himself as an elite player in the county. I won’t drone on-and-on about his 40 points on Wednesday (I already did that in the game story). But I will say that many of those baskets came at key points, either halting a McCaskey run or giving William Penn some much needed momentum. His coast-to-coast layup with 25 seconds left put the Bearcats up for good.
Most of Parker’s buckets came in close, including a one-handed slam on a fast break in the third quarter. He and senior guard Jevaughn Murphy almost connected on an alley-oop later in the quarter, but Parker’s slam hit the back rim and catapulted up into the air.
“We do that in practice all the time,” a smiling Murphy said afterward, lamenting the missed opportunity.
Parker recovered nicely, scoring 13 of William Penn’s 23 fourth-quarter points. He’s now averaging 21.5 points per game this year, which puts among the YAIAA’s early scoring leaders. Dallastown junior Four McGlynn is averaging 23.1 points per game, while Red Lion senior Spencer McCreary is right behind him (22.8).
“I knew he was going to give us that,” Sowers said of Parker’s scoring streak. “It’s a surprise to some people, but I knew he was capable of this. I see how hard he’s worked.”
Speaking of Murphy, he’s been instant offense off the bench this year for the Bearcats. He came of the pine to score 21 on Wednesday, flashing a quick first step and solid pull up jump shot.
He’s one of four Bearcats averaging double-digits in scoring this year (13.4 ppg, to be exact), along with Parker and seniors Ryan Matthews (14.9) and Chemin Lambert (10.9).
Newby stands tall
Like Murphy, Bearcats reserve forward Zachary Newby didn’t start Wednesday night. But he was front-and-center for some of the crucial moments of the contest.
The 6-foot-5, junior forward made two huge plays in the final 30 seconds against McCaskey. First, he intercepted a long Red Tornado outlet pass, setting up Parker for the game-winning basket with 25 seconds to go.
Then, Newby ripped down Turner’s airball on the ensuing possession, and knocked down a pair of clutch free throws with 3.2 seconds left to ice the game.
“He’s our best free-throw shooter,” Sowers said. “I know some of our fans probably would have rather had Jevaughn or Chemin up there, but we were happy.”
Newby ended up playing early and often Wednesday, thanks in part to foul trouble. Two William Penn starters — Matthews and forward Malcolm Murray — had three fouls by halftime.
But really, Newby has been a key part of William Penn’s big-man rotation this year. He’s averaging 5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game off the bench so far.
Who needs rest?
After such an exhausting game, one would think Sowers might take it easy on the Bearcats in practice the next day, right?
Well, not exactly.
“I’ll probably run them hard tomorrow,” Sowers said. “These guys are strange. They like to run.”
That’s been evident for William Penn, a team that relies heavily on its transition game for buckets. Sowers has placed a premium on conditioning, making it one of his team’s calling cards. It gives the Bearcats the ability to run up and down the court on teams, even late in games. It just so happens that Wednesday, they found a team that could keep up with them for 32 minutes.
To their credit, Murphy and Parker looked pretty fresh in the aftermath Wednesday night. Both cracked knowing smiles when asked about having to practice the following day.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Murphy said. “Ever since we started playing basketball, it’s been all about running.”
The final word
When asked to describe what it was like to play in a such a game, Murphy used one word: “Shocking.”
Parker, standing next to him added “It was fun, though.”
Sure was, fellas. Sure was.