Eamonn Walsh (above) and Devon Prep have already doubled last year's PCL win total. (Photo: Ari Glazier/CoBL)
Ari Glazier (@AriGlazier)
Devon Prep spent the lionshare of of its first year in the Catholic League being beat up on by the rest of the conference, finishing league play with just one victory. This year, the Tide has already bested last year’s PCL and overall record.
Friday afternoon’s win at La Salle, the previous season’s PCL championship runner up, was the Tide’s biggest PCL win to date, pushing their season total to 6-2 and PCL standing to 2-3. And that improvement has made for a whole new attitude around the program.
“Last year we were like 3-and-18, it’s very difficult to continue to come to practice when you’re having those losses,” fifth-year head coach Jason Fisher said. “But when you have positive things, it goes a long way.”
Both teams banked on outside shooting for the bulk of their points. The Tide’s superior efficiency was the difference, as they went 11-for-19 to La Salle’s 12-for-29.
Junior forward Eamonn Walsh carried Devon Prep offensively, scoring a game high 25 points and snatching seven rebounds, going four-for-seven from deep. The Junior wing paved the way for Devon Prep’s comeback in the third quarter after La Salle extended its lead to eight, scoring 14 of the Tide’s 36 second half points.
Walsh flashed a sweet shooting form, and doggedness as a rebounder seeking out second chance points.
He was joined by senior point guard Nick Crowe, who scored six crucial points in crunch time, and shooting guard Chris Patton who put up 11 of his 17 in the first quarter. The Explorers were led by senior guard Jake Timby who posted 16 points, 12 of which came from beyond the arc. Senior forward Mike Dipietro also had a solid outing, scoring 14 points, although he went cold in the second half.
The win came at the heels of a 68-39 thrashing at the hands of Roman Catholic just one day prior.
“It’s been a tough week, playing Roman last night, and then coming back less than 18 hours later to play another game,” Fisher said. “I really have stressed with these guys that it's not necessarily about winning and losing games..even if we lost this game, we’re still trying to build and continue to get better. “
Being able to focus on more than just the two numbers at the top of it’s resume has been crucial for a Devon Prep team that is still very much in the process of proving itself as capable of consistently competing with league rivals.
To that end, Fisher sets concrete goals ranging from individual goals for from game to game, or team wide goals for the season, with the idea of giving players positive reinforcement and accomplishment, even while they are regularly dropping games by double digits.
“Some games it could just be literally standing up and applauding when kids come off the bench,” Fisher said. “it’s very difficult to continue to come to practice when you’re having those losses, but when you have positive things it goes a long way.”
Fisher attributes this method as having a hand in the Tide’s hot start. Another huge factor is Walsh himself. The coach singled out his star forward’s toughness as a key attribute, manifesting in his willingness to put his body in harm’s way. The third-year starter took 76 charges throughout his first two seasons, measuring out to almost two per game.
“I love to sacrifice my body for this team ‘cause I deserve it, they deserve it, and me sacrificing my body helps the team win,” Walsh said. “And I’m all about winning and I’m all about the team first. “
Walsh considered a few area schools, including Archbishop Carroll and Malvern Prep, but landed at Devon Prep thanks to encouragement from his brothers, both of whom were members of the Tide’s basketball roster. They sold him on the school’s small and friendly environment.
Devon Prep went 2-10 in conference play during Walsh’s freshman year. Back then, the Tide competed in the Bicentennial Athletic League. The transition wasn’t easy.
“Every night you’re facing a good opponent, and [show] the toughness you have to have each and every night,” Walsh said. “Everyone thought of us as an easy win.”
Going from struggling in a small-school conference to the area’s best was never going to be all smooth sailing, but the Tide’s improvement may signal that they are settling into the rigor and intensity of PCL play.
Having already played contenders Roman Catholic, Archbishop Carroll, and Bonner Prendergast, the remaining slate of games for the tide looks much more manageable. They play three PCL games against teams with losing records, two against .500 squads, and three against winning teams, plus a postponed matchup with Neumann Goretti.
Barring a few huge upsets, the Tide will lose more of those contests than they will win, but if they can eek out a few more wins, the season will have been a significant success in carving out a respectable position in the region’s most notoriously fraught league. And fitting in with Fisher’s philosophy of meeting small, measurable goals, it will have been a success.