Chris Cowles (above) and Unionville are in the 5A second-round after downing King on Friday night. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Ari Glazier (@AriGlazier)
If you’re a fan of backdoor cuts, you would have been in heaven watching Unionville dismantle Martin Luther King in the first round of the 5A State playoffs at South Philly HS.
Unionville’s motion offense was at its most effective in the 54-29 rout, with King defenders chasing the ball around until they overcommitted, at which point Unionville would more often than not hit the open man for an uncontested layup.
This style of play demands players to constantly criss cross through screens on offense, a tough task when you’re running a five man rotation for most of the game.
“That’s what we do every day in practice,” junior guard Sean Nylon said. “I feel like it’s almost our second nature.”
Senior forward Logan Shanahan doesn’t have to do as much running around as the other Unionville players on the floor, but the little bit he does get do gives him some perspective.
“When I have to switch out in the fourth quarter, I switch out as a guard, and that gets really tiring,” Shanahan said. “I don’t know how they can do it the whole game. It’s pretty impressive.”
While the Unionville guards were able to keep up that fast-paced offense until the game was out of reach, it clearly affected tired out the Cougar defense.
Point guard Jon Passarello was responsible for dishing many of those backdoors, racking up assists. The rest of the Unionville lineup got in on the action as well, with every starter recording an assist.
“We try to play with max effort, and we also play with max unselfishness,” said Unionville head coach Chris Cowles. “Which means if you’re tired, no one really cares.”
Avoiding the burden of chasing the ball as it zooms from player to player by going zone may have been an option for the Cougars, if not for Unionville’s stellar outside shooting. They shot 6-for-9 from deep.
Unionville’s dominance extended from buzzer to buzzer. They jumped out to an 11-4 lead early in the first quarter, which became a 14 point lead at the quarter’s end. That advantage ballooned up to 26 after the first half.
Unionville’s ability to run a frenetic, four guard lineup, is dependent on the play of senior forward Logan Shanahan. The 6-foot-6 Emory commit started hot, dropping 11 points in the first quarter including two from deep. He would only record two more points in the game, but shored up the boards with six blocks and 11 rebounds.
“When he plays like that, we’re really good,” Cowles said. “When he walls up and doesn’t foul.”
Despite MLK’s size advantage, Unionville comfortably outrebounded them 29-17. Aside from Shanahan, senior guard Bryce Whitlock grabbed six rebounds to go along with his 12 points. Senior guard Peter Kucharczuk also grabbed 5 boards.
Neylon had a game-high 14 points, many of which were uncontested layups, for Unionville (19-8).
MLK’s offense was the polar opposite of Unionville’s movement. The Cougars, who were without all-Pub honoree Semaj Oliver, were far too often guilty of standing around or trying to force difficult shots past the teeth of the defense. They shot 21% from the field compared to Unionville’s 63%, while only taking 8 free throws.
Junior guard Nymir Porter finished with a team-high 12 points, most of which came off of difficult layups and midrange jumpers.
The loss marks the end to a so-so season for MLK, at least by head coach Sean Colson’s lofty standards. They finished with a solid 18-9 record, but were never able to get over the hump of the top tier Pub teams. They’ve played Imhotep Charter, Lincoln, and Math, Civics and Sciences extremely close, but didn’t record victories over any of those teams.
The beating at South Philly HS came a week after MLK came within three points of one of the PCL’s best Archbishop Wood in the District 12 championship, making their showing on Friday all the more surprising.
Unionville has already surpassed their previous season, in which they failed to make the state tournament altogether. It wasn’t without its disappointments though. They lost the Ches-Mont American regular season title by a game, lost in the Ches-Mont tournament finals to West Chester East, and lost in just the second round of the District tournament.
Unionville now heads into a matchup with a familiar foe in West Chester Rustin, the team team that edged them out by one game to win the Ches-Mont American, and knocked them out of the District 1 5A tournament by 11 points. Overall, the Tuesday, March 10 meeting between the two squads will be their fourth on the year, with West Chester Rustin holding a 2-1 series lead.
Unionville: 19-30 FG, 6-9 3PT, 10-15 FT
MLK: 10-48 FG, 2-14 3PT, 5-8 FT
Unionville: Kucharczuk 4, Neylon 14, Shanahan 13, Passarello 6, Whitlock 12, Nowoswiat 3, Reqenue 2
MLK: Montague 2, Robinson 7, Hunt 11, Smalls 4, Andrews 3, Gadsden 2
The reigning 1A state champs, Sankofa Freedom, didn’t have much trouble in their first matchup in this year’s bracket, defeating Linville Hill 73-21.
Linville Hill hung tough for most of the first half, hitting a few threes while the Warriors left points on the table. However, Sankofa started to assert themselves late, taking a 20-12 lead at the end of the frame. The Warrior’s defense hit another gear after that somewhat underwhelming start, not allowing Linville to score another point until midway through the third.
The Warriors’ airtight defense prevented Linville Hill from ever looking composed, and created numerous fast break opportunities at the other end. By the end of the fist half, the Warriors led 49-12.
While Sankofa did win the 1A tournament a year ago led by Khalil Turner (Rider) and Scott Spann (Chestnut Hill), this time around they field an almost completely different squad.
Sankofa used their size and strength advantage to get easy looks at the rim and dominate the boards. Warriors forwards Josiah Johnson and Nymier Brooks played critical roles in the second quarter burst that all but put the game away, combining for 14 points and five blocks.
Junior wing Symier Priester was able to penetrate with little resistance, scoring a game-high 16 points, all on two-point field goals.
Sankofa Freedom advances to the second round, where they will meet Lancaster County Christian on Tuesday, March 10th.
Sankofa: Priester 16, Boswell 2, Brooks 14, Wilbanks 3, Johnson 12, Millburn 2, Whitaker 9, Oliver 4, Alston 7, Saleem 4
Linville: Stoltzfus 1, Lapp 3, Nate Fisher 3, King 11, Martin 3
Mt. Calvary Christian 63, North Penn-Liberty 57
Nativity BVM 74, The Christian Academy 71
Lancaster County Christian 59, Northumberland Christian 51
Sankofa Freedom 73, Linville Hill Christian 21
St. John Neumann 79, Conestoga Christian 70
Southern Fulton 67, Halifax 66
Notre Dame ES 71, Sullivan County 64
Chester Charter 57, Greenwood 41
Vincentian Ac 93., Allegheny Clarion Valley 63
Berlin Brothersvalley 73, Geibel Catholic 37
Cameron County 61, Williamsburg 38
Commodore Perry 87, Bishop Canevin 35
Elk Co. Catholic 56, Imani Christian Ac. 34
Cornell 74, Saltsburg 29
Shade 63, Nazareth Prep 55
Bishop Carroll 62, Clarion-Limestone 60
West Chester East 53, Gettysburg 33
Pottsville 61, Northern York 43
West Chester Rustin 60, Wallenpaupack 44
Unionville 54, Martin Luther King 29
Archbishop Wood 72, Strath Haven 45
Pittston Area 42, Penncrest 40
Dallas 69, Frankford 57
York 69, Southern Lehigh 69
Muhlenberg 72, South Fayette 66
Shippensburg 60, Greater Johnstown 53
Archbishop Ryan 62, Penn Wood 50
Elizabethtown 58, Mars 56
York Suburban 57, Laurel Highlands 56
New Oxford 70, Thomas Jefferson 48
Obama Academy 73, Penn Hills 63
Milton Hershey 78, Chartiers Valley 74