Kevin (left) and Justin Green (right) are both starters for the most successful team in Pope John Paul II history.
COATESVILLE — Justin Green backpedaled into the corner, looking back at the rim as the ball bounced once, then twice.
And as it dropped through the nylon, you could feel the sigh of relief that came from the Pope John Paul II bench.
“I don’t usually panic throughout the game,” coach Brendan Stanton said. “But when Justin got that and-one, I’d probably say I felt even more at ease.”
Green’s clutch bucket combined with Luke McCarthy’s perfect 6-of-6 from the line in the final minutes helped the Golden Panthers edge out Bartram 56-46 at Coatesville Friday in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Green finished with a game-high 18 points and five rebounds, but it was his younger brother Kevin Green who led PJP with a half-dozen boards against the Braves.
Combine the arrival of the Green brothers with the start of the Stanton era two years ago, and you can see two of the biggest reasons why the Golden Panthers went from four straight sub-.500 seasons to 33 wins in 51 games and a league title this year, which has been the best in the program's 10-year history in terms of regular-season wins and now overall wins.
“They’re the two best competitors I’ve ever coached,” Stanton said. “Kevin, even as a sophomore, he’s not afraid to get on himself or teammates, and Justin’s the same way. Sometimes they yell at each other a little too much — I wish they were a little bit nicer to each other, but they push each other to be better.”
Justin didn’t play his first year at PJP, however. The elder Green started out his high school career at La Salle College HS before opting to transfer.
And Kevin knew that he and his brother were always going to be a package deal. He too had planned on joining the Explorers, but once Justin found a home with the Golden Panthers, it was an easy call where he’d head next.
“Just having [Justin] on the court, I always feel safe,” Kevin said. “We know each other’s games so well.”
The timing of things just fell into place once the Greens began looking for a new school. They’d never met Stanton, but he was hired at PJP in May 2018, the summer before Kevin Green was set to start high school.
And like 13 of the Golden Panthers’ 22 current JV and varsity players, the Greens had played CYO hoops for St. Eleanor in Collegeville.
In Stanton and PJP, it was just the right fit.
“I just knew once Coach came here, this program was going to be on the rise,” Justin said. “And I wanted to be a part of that.”
Not only has this Golden Panthers team won the most games of any season in program history, captured a first league title and won a first District 1 championship, but Friday’s victory marked just the second state playoff win ever for PJP — and the first since the Golden Panthers’ inaugural season in 2010-11.
But it didn’t come without some stress. PJP trailed 24-21 at the half and was down eight midway through the third quarter — an 8-0 Bartram run had Stanton quite animated after the officials’ whistles stayed silent and the Braves seized momentum.
That’s when the Golden Panthers surged, jumping back into the lead with an 11-0 outburst of their own and closing the game on a 30-12 run.
And Justin Green came up huge with several buckets during that finish, including his big-time old-fashioned 3-point play that gave PJP an eight-point advantage with less than three minutes to play.
Buckets like those are certainly going to draw the attention of college coaches. Justin has been in contact with several Division III coaches as well as Princeton and Dartmouth.
But the junior has time to figure out where he’s headed next.
For now, he and the rest of the Golden Panthers are headed to the second round where they’ll meet Allentown Central Catholic Tuesday night.
PJP: 14 | 7 | 16 | 19 | 56
Bartram: 13 |11 | 10 | 12 | 46
PJP: 18-37 FG, 4-13 3PT, 16-23 FT
Bartram: 17-50 FG, 7-25 3PT, 5-11 FT
PJP: J. Green 18, McKeon 11, McCarthy 10, Workman 8, Smrek 4, K. Green 3, Baron 2
Bartram: Massey 15, Horn 9, Lavender 6, Mighty-McGee 6, Smith 6, Donzo 2, Nichols 2
Class 4A First-Round Results
Bonner-Prendergast 78, Eastern York 40
Valley View 70, Athens 58
Archbishop Carroll 44, Bethlehem Catholic 42
Bishop McDevitt 78, Wilson Area 58
Allentown CC 47, South Philadelphia 26
Pope John Paul II 56, John Bartram 46
Tamaqua Area 48, Danville 42
Susquehanna Twp. 64, Scranton Prep 54
Imhotep Charter 70, ELCO 60
Montoursville 66, Nanticoke 51
Lancaster Catholic 59, Ringgold 56
Belle Vernon 65, Clearfield 60
Highlands 50, Harbor Creek 40
Grove City 59, Bedford 43
Huntingdon 70, Blackhawk 57
Hickory 58, New Castle 48
Chester Charter 57, Greenwood 41
In a season full of firsts, Chester Charter can check off yet another box.
The District 1 champion Sabers finished strong, pulling away from Greenwood in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs at Coatesville for their first state playoff victory in program history. As is the norm with Dan Spangler’s deep veteran squad, Chester Charter used a dozen different players throughout the night, with only Damir Baez logging double-figure points.
“It’s fun and it’s nerve-wracking because it’s the hardest thing I’ve got to,” Spangler said. “All 12 have to get a shot, and then whoever is rolling that first half, we try to go with as the game winds down.”
But Baez didn’t necessarily have it going before the break. The 6-foot-5 senior was just 1-of-5 from the field in the opening 16 minutes before hitting five of his last eight shots en route to a team-best 13 points along with a pair of rebounds.
After leading just 22-16 at the break, the Sabers outscored the Wildcats 35-25 over the final two quarters and the outcome was never seriously in doubt.
“When you’re in it, it’s hard to think about what it means,” Spangler said of Chester Charter’s first-ever states win. “I keep telling these guys, whether you’re the favorite or underdog, a win is a win. You celebrate it, you enjoy it.
“We came out a little slow and sloppy — with District 1 only having seven teams…we went almost two weeks without playing. That’s a very difficult transition and we handled it well.”
CCSA: 16 | 6 | 20 | 15 | 57
Greenwood: 4 | 12 | 13 | 12 | 41
CCSA: 26-55 FG, 2-9 3PT, 3-5 FT
Greenwood: 15-40 FG, 5-13 3PT, 6-8 FT
CCSA: Baez 13, Showell 9, Cook-Stevens 8, Howard 7, Butler 6, Deshields 6, White 5, Smith 2, Rogers 1
Greenwood: Pyle 17, Bollinger 12, Morder 5, Miller 3, Strohm 2, Watts 2