John Seidman (above) and Haverford put on a defensive clinic to shut down Garnet Valley and advance to the Central League final. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Mitchell Gladstone (@mpgladstone13)
NEWTOWN SQUARE — You looked up at the scoreboard after one quarter and thought there was some kind of malfunction.
Haverford 8, Garnet Valley 0.
It just didn’t seem right. No points for a Jaguars team that had steamrolled through the Central League, scoring at least 50 points in its first 21 games of the season, seemed infeasible.
But you only had to look back to last Thursday — a 51-48 home loss to these very same Fords — to know that you weren’t crazy.
With a defensive performance as impressive as any all season long, Haverford upset top-seeded Garnet Valley 36-30 in a Central League semifinal matchup Monday night at Marple Newtown, sending the Fords into Tuesday’s title game.
Coach Keith Heinerichs didn’t necessarily want to make too much of what’s certainly become Haverford’s identity, but when you hold one of the area’s top teams to just eight made field goals on 48 attempts and two quarters of six or fewer points, it’s an outing more than worthy of recognition.
“We play defense,” Heinerichs said. “That’s what gives us a chance. We’ve been working on it since the first week of the season, and our defense wasn’t where we like it this winter. We just stuck with it and around January 11, our defense started to turn.”
And with that turn came crucial wins. First a win against Strath Haven, then a pair of road victories at Lower Merion and Conestoga.
The Fords followed that run up with three more Central League wins in a row to close the year, capped by that stunning victory at Garnet Valley last week.
There was no question Haverford had all the momentum in the world. But it didn’t necessarily convince John Seidman that things were going to go the way they did Monday.
“I was surprised,” Seidman said of holding the Jags without a field goal for nearly the first 10 minutes. “I knew we had a chance and I knew it was going to be a good game. … They’re a really good offensive team, we’re a really good defensive team, but I didn’t expect that.”
But a strong start wasn’t going to be enough, especially with the Fords up just 20-11 at halftime. Garnet Valley pulled to within one, erupting out of the break with a 10-1 run that brought life to a student section which had been all but silent for the first 20 minutes.
And that was the cue for Seidman to seize control.
“He calms everyone down,” Heinerichs said. “Sometimes we look at him too much. I told the kids, when you move, he’ll find you.”
Instead, it was everyone else finding Seidman. Haverford’s start put up 19 points, including 12 after halftime, although it didn’t come easy — the junior needed 16 shots from the field and was 1-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Seidman’s night also included a critical assist to Hunter Kraiza late in the fourth quarter. Down just 28-27, the Jaguars went into their full-court press, hoping to grab their first lead of the night.
Instead, the Fords skipped a long pass to Kraiza in the far corner, and the junior canned a massive 3-pointer that all but iced the game.
Seidman then knocked down five of his seven fourth-quarter free throws, ensuring that Garnet’s Valley’s final surge would ultimately be too little, too late.
“We kept saying, ‘We’re stilling winning,” Heinerichs said. “If we’re still winning, we can play our game. … When they went on the run, I said to the guys, ‘Who’s wining?’ And they said, ‘We are.’”
Haverford will now have a chance to claim its first Central League title in school history when it plays Penncrest Tuesday night at Harriton. The program was last in the hunt for a league title during the 1992-93 season, but there were no playoffs at the time.
If the Fords are going to keep winning, they’ll have to handle a Lions squad that beat Haverford on its home floor a little more than a month ago.
“It’s going to be a hell of a game,” Heinerichs said.
Haverford: 8 | 12 | 5 | 11 | 36
Garnet Valley: 0 | 11 | 13 | 6 | 30
Haverford: 11-38 FG, 2-13 3PT, 12-17 FT
Garnet Valley: 8-48 FG, 6-31 3PT, 8-11 FT
Haverford: J. Seidman 19, Kraiza 8, Higson 7, Colucci 2
Garnet Valley: Schaller 9, Beniwal 6, Coyne 4, Langan 4, Apostolopoulos 3, Jackowski 2, McKee 2