Methacton seniors (from left) Erik Timko, Jeff Woodward, Owen Kropp and Brett Eberly celebrate the Warriors' 2020 District 1 6A title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Standing in the cherry-and-white hallway outside the locker rooms at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, cradling the two-foot-tall golden trophy under his arm, Jeff Woodward was still trying to process what had just happened.
“I don’t know if it still has [sunk in],” the Methacton High School senior said, an enormous smile still plastered on his face. “I don’t think it still has yet.”
Just minutes earlier, it was a trophy that the Warriors’ 6-foot-10 big man thrust towards the sky as he skipped towards a massive student section occupying two sections of baseline bleachers, reveling in the cheers coming from a couple thousand fans packed into the lower sections of the 10,200-seat arena which typically hosts a high-level Division I program.
Yes, Methacton’s boys are District 1 Class 6A champions. And like it’s been just about every other time they played a team from the suburban Philadelphia district, whether that was in the Pioneer Athletic Conference or out of it, it was a dominant showing for a program that’s had its eye on the prize from the first day of preseason practices.
Even 10th-year head coach Jeff Derstine was able to enjoy the last few minutes, soaking it all in as the clock wound down on the program’s first-ever district championship in its first-ever appearance.
“You start pulling some of the starters out and just realize how much they’ve dreamed of things like this and they earned it, and here they are, they’re able to come out of the game and sit there and take it in a little bit,” he said. “To look around and see the impact it has on the community and alumni coming out and the crowd that we had tonight was awesome.”
Methacton’s 73-48 win over Cheltenham on Saturday night was the continuation of a run that’s seen the Warriors win each of their playoff games –– two in the PAC championships and four in districts –– by an average of 25.5 points, no team coming any closer than 23 in that span.
The way the Warriors (26-2) played Saturday night, the Panthers (24-4) didn’t stand a chance. Methacton’s four-out offense with Woodward in the center was clicking on all cylinders, hitting better than 61% from the field, and the defensive effort with the Colgate-bound big man in the middle was as strong as ever.
Senior guard Erik Timko hit his first seven shots and finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-6 from downtown. His classmates, guards Owen Kropp and Brett Eberly, didn’t need to take many shots but combined for nine points, seven rebounds, 11 assists and four steals.
Woodward, dominant in the middle on both ends, contributed 20 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks, shooting 9-of-12 from the floor.
“I felt like we came into this game really prepared and we knew what to expect,” Timko said. “I think we just came out and had a lot of confidence in our game, and that showed.”
“The start of that Chester game, we were getting adjusted to the arena, we’d never played in something this big...I think the setting threw us off a little, we were still getting our legs under us, still getting acclimated,” said Woodward, referring to the opening few minutes of Tuesday night’s semifinal, which saw Chester briefly take an 11-2 lead in a game Methacton won 81-54. “But I think midway through that first quarter there, we really hit our groove and I don’t think we ever lost that groove down here.”
Timko (above) had 27 points and hit his first seven shots to help Methacton out to an early double-digit lead that never let up. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Methacton’s lead was 19-7 after one quarter, with Timko scoring nine points on four shots in the opening eight minutes and Cheltenham connecting on just 2-of-12 as a team. The lead ballooned to 43-21 by halftime, as sophomore Cole Hargrove (9 points/5 rebounds) hit a pair from deep and his classmate Brett Byrne (7 points) contributed another.
By the end of the third it was 59-31, and the outcome –– which seemed all but assured even by the end of the first half –– was well in hand. And that’s not a slight against Cheltenham, which has been playing very well all year, led by senior Jaelen McGlone (11 points) and sophomore Justin Moore (8 points); the Panthers simply ran into a buzzsaw.
Aside from a two-point loss to District 3 6A champion Wilson West Lawn on Feb. 1, Methacton hasn’t played a game in the single digits since a 50-41 win over Boyertown on Jan. 9.
“You never want to lose a basketball game, but we know Wilson’s a really tough team and I think that game, they exposed some things,” Derstine said. “To our guys’ credit, they came right back the next week and understood we need to work on this, we need to work on (that), and they’ve been working at it.
“They’ve been playing great basketball since then, and hopefully we keep it riding here.”
As the No. 1 seed out of the district, Methacton gets matched up against the No. 6 finisher out of District 3 –– this year, that’s Harrisburg High (15-9), which finished the regular season as the No. 11 seed out of that district. That game will take place Saturday at a location and time TBD, though expect it to be much closer to Methacton than Harrisburg.
Cheltenham, the No. 2 seed out of the district, gets placed in the western half of the bracket, where they’ll face the No. 4 seed out of District 11 (Easton).
Should Methacton win, they’ll face either the No. 3 seed out of District 12 (Lincoln) or the No. 4 seed out of District 1 (Bensalem), who meet in the first round. Last year, the Warriors –– as the No. 7 seed out of District 1 –– advanced to the quarterfinals, where they lost to eventual runner-up Pennridge, 50-47. With Woodward, Eberly, Timko and Kropp getting their last shot at a PIAA title, there’s no doubt the goal is to win five more, and set the standard as high as it can go for Methacton basketball.
“It’s a Saturday night, let’s enjoy it...let’s enjoy the victory –– but listen, the goals coming into the season [were] win a conference championship, win a district championship, win a state championship,” Derstine said. “They know that’s out there, and they’re going to come out hungry next week and ready to work.”
Methacton: 19 | 24 | 16 | 14 | 73
Cheltenham: 7 | 14 | 10 | 17 | 48
Methacton: 29-47 FG (8-19 3PT), 7-10 FT
Cheltenham: 19-51 FG (5-19 3PT), 5-8 FT
Methacton: Timko 27, Woodward 20, Hargrove 9, Byrne 7, Kropp 6, Eberly 3, Merola 1
Cheltenham: McGlone 11, Coleman 10, Moore 8, Scott 5, Hawkins 4, Payne 3, Deary 3, Andinio 2, Emfinger 2