Bishop Shanahan won its first Ches-Mont title with a win against Coatesville. (Photo: Owen McCue/ CoBL)
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Danny DiBeneditto made his way through the crowd on the floor at Downingtown West High School with a blank stare and a smile on his face.
His head swiveled, taking in the chaos around him as he tried to process exactly what had just happened. Even after the final buzzer sounded, the celebration with the student section and the championship trophy ceremony, the Bishop Shanahan senior guard still had a look of disbelief.
Who could blame him?
After 15 years of waiting, he and his teammates had just delivered the Eagles their first ever Ches-Mont League title with a 60-58 win against Coatesville on Tuesday night.
“We’ve been dreaming of this moment since freshman year when we all came together,” DiBeneditto said. “Just the fact that we did it and it happened, I was just in awe. It was just amazing.”
When DiBeneditto came to Bishop Shanahan in 2014 with classmates Kevin Dodds, Tom Ford and David Angelo, Bishop Shanahan coach Ken Doyle had a feeling the group was set do to something special at program he had been trying to turn into a winner for six years at that point.
All four spent their first year on the junior varsity squad, although Dodds did see some action for the varsity team before starting as a sophomore.
“We looked at them when they came in as freshmen that they were going to do some big things as the four years went along,” said Doyle, now in his 10th season at Bishop Shanahan.
It was a process to get to Tuesday night though.
After an 11-win season 2014-15, Bishop Shanahan won 15 games and went 7-5 in the Ches-Mont during the 2015-16 campaign. Last year, the program took another step forward, winning 19 games, posting a 10-2 league record and going to the Ches-Mont League final for the first time in school history.
The Eagles couldn’t quite finish the job, falling to perennial Ches-Mont power Coatesville, 43-37, in overtime as the Red Raiders captured their second straight league title. However, they were on the brink.
“Just watching each other and how we’ve grown over the past four years is just ridiculous,” Ford said. “I would have never pictured this when we were freshman.”
“It really came to us last year when we came here,” he added. “This year, we definitely knew we had the experience and that we could definitely win the Ches-Mont this year.”
Heading into this season with three starters back in Dodds, Ford and Angelo to go along with junior guard Joe O’Malley, who saw plenty of action as a sophomore, Bishop Shanahan was poised to make a run at its first Ches-Mont title.
The Eagles once again went 10-2 in the league to earn another trip to the Ches-Mont playoffs. They took care of West Chester Rustin in the semifinals as Coatesville outlasted Great Valley in overtime of the other semifinal to set up a rematch of last year’s championship.
“We set it as a goal in the beginning of the year and then we rarely talked about it,” Dodds said. “We just took it a game at a time until we finally got here.”
The teams split their two regular season meetings with Bishop Shanahan picking up a close win in December before Coatesville handed the Eagles a lopsided loss in late January.
Coatesville looked like it might have Shanahan on the ropes early in Tuesday night’s game, using some defensive pressure to jump out to a 17-10 lead after one quarter. The Red Raiders hit a three to start the second quarter, putting Doyle’s team down by double digits.
The senior-laden group took the hit and responded well though. Bishop Shanahan outscored Coatesville by 17 the rest of the quarter to go flip a seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead, 33-26, by halftime. Angelo, Dodds and Ford combined for 28 of the Eagles’ first half points. For the game, Dodds had 14 points, and Angelo and Ford finished with 13 points each.
“We could have just started playing a different way and not stick to the game plan and stick to what we're trying to do,” Doyle said. “But we stayed with it. We did what we’re supposed to.”
Coatesville sophomore guard Jhamir Brickus, who scored a game-high 26 points, ensured the Red Raiders would not lie down. He scored Coatesville’s first 13 points of the second half before senior forward Chuck Smith gave the Red Raiders back the lead. A nice post move by Dodds made it 42-41 Bishop Shanahan entering the fourth.
Bishop Shanahan went on a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter. Junior guard Phil Chenard blocked a shot then knocked down a three on the other end to put the Eagles up 52-43 with 4:39 left. The Red Raiders had one more run in them though.
“We knew they were going to come at us,” Doyle said. “We knew we were going to get everything they had because this is their league. This isn’t just the first time They’re not just repeat (champs), they have multiple repeats, so this is something that we knew was going to be all the way until the end.”
Fueled by their defense, the Red Raiders got within one point, 56-55, with 36.9 seconds left when Dapree Bryant got a tough take to go.
When Coatesville tried to foul on the other end to send Bishop Shanahan to the line, the referees assessed a flagrant foul. O’Malley, who tied for the team lead with 14 points, knocked down both free throws and Dodds went one-of-two when the Eagles got the ball back after the technical to make it 59-55 with 23.6 seconds left.
Fouled on a 3-point attempt, Brickus knocked down three free throws. A missed free throw by the Eagles gave Coatesville a final chance down by two. The Red Raiders advanced the ball to midcourt, called timeout with 3.8 seconds left and got a decent look off the inbounds play.
Angelo watched the ball, thinking it might go in. There was some confusion if the game was over or not even when the final shot fell short, but DiBeneditto said when he saw the refs head off the court, he realized the game was over.
The five Eagles on the floor sprinted to center court where they were mobbed by the Bishop Shanahan bench. It didn’t take long before Ford led them over to the student section, who had started to make their way onto the court to join in the celebration.
The long wait was over for a Ches-Mont championship. One could argue it was the biggest win for Bishop Shanahan since winning the Class 2A state title in 1985.
“Making history is something I know coach has been building toward for the last 10 years at this program,” DiBeneditto said. “If you look back at the history and what it’s grown to from what it was, it’s really remarkable that we’ve come this far.”
“It’s definitely cool to get our year up on the banner in the gym,” Angelo said.
Next up for both teams is the district tournament.
Coatesville is off until next Tuesday when the Red Raiders, who are the No. 5 seed in the District 1 Class 6A bracket, will host the winner of No. 12 Downingtown East and No. 21 Penn Wood.
Bishop Shanahan is the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A bracket. The Eagles host No. 15 West Chester East next Wednesday. As the No. 4 seed last season, they fell to Upper Merion in the district semifinals, something they hope to avoid this time around.
“Last year we came up short, and we’re hoping to bounce back like we did here at Ches-Monts,” DiBeneditto said.