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Sanders, Bensalem continue hot start against Neshaminy

01/04/2022, 11:15pm EST
By Rob Rose

Rob Rose (@RobRoseSports)

Aaron Sanders shares a nickname with his favorite NBA player, but against Neshaminy on Tuesday he didn’t try to play exactly like his idol.

The Bensalem senior goes by “AI” since his middle name is Isaiah, but loved Philadelphia 76ers’ legend Allen Iverson as a kid, despite not being born when Iverson won NBA MVP in 2001.


Aaron Sanders (above, in Dec.) and Bensalem improved to 4-1 in the SOL Patriot. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

As the Owls’ leader and lone returning starter from last season, Sanders is looked to by his teammates to put the ball in the net, but he struggled to start the game. Instead of forcing up difficult shots like Iverson was guilty of at times, Sanders let other Owls get going and only scored three points at halftime.

He finished with a game-high 16 points after a strong second half and more importantly a 64-54 road win, which impressed Bensalem head coach Ron Morris.

“He's done a phenomenal job being a leader. He just continues to grow as a person and tonight is a great example of that,” Morris said. “In previous years, maybe he didn't handle that the same way, but this year, he's just blossoming into that leader that I always knew he was. He doesn't force it, he lets it come and it'll just come naturally.”

Sanders and his fellow seniors stole control of the game at the start of the second half. With the game tied 29-29 headed into the locker room after Neshaminy won the second quarter, the Owls locked in.

Bensalem answered its coaches’ challenge to claim the first three minutes of the second half and held Neshaminy without a point for the first five minutes of the quarter. By that time the Owls had built up a double-digit lead that was too big to dig out of.

Neshaminy made a run to cut the deficit to five points with three minutes left behind a big second half by sophomore guard Emeer Coombs and senior guard Evan Esposito. The pair poured in 10 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.

Bensalem guard Jeremy Rodriguez scored 12 points and ran the Owls’ offense well. Forward Jake Delange added another 12 points and provided shooting. Inside, 6-foot-7 forward Allen Myers provided a presence in the paint on offense and defense with eight points.

With Sanders as his only full-time starter back from last season, Morris wasn’t sure how this group of seniors would handle the pressure of close contests, but he has liked what he’s seen in the Owls’ strong start to the season (6-2, 4-1 SOL Patriot).

“It's a very well balanced team,” Morris said. “On any given night, anyone can step up and contribute. That's what I like most about this team. Everyone's roles change each night; some guys can score (one night) and other games they don't.”

For Sanders, the Owls’ successful start to the season begins in practice. The coaches preach the importance that the team brings the same intensity every time they step on the floor. 

On Tuesday, that started on the defensive end and Bensalem showed its defensive abilities to start the second half when it shut down Neshaminy (3-3, 2-2) on its own floor. To make it back to the playoffs, Sanders knew his team would have to win games like this and wanted the league to learn what they’re capable of whether he’s scoring well or not.

“I think this is just a statement for us,” Sanders said. “This is the statement that this year we're not playing no games and this is how we're going every single night, night in and night out.”

By Quarter
Bensalem    17  |  12  |  18  |  17  ||  64
Neshaminy  15  |  14  |  11  |  14  ||  54

Scoring
B: Aaron Sanders 16, Jeremy Rodriguez 12, Jake Delange 12, Allen Myers 8, Jake Wineburg 6, Tra Edwards 5, Eric Gonzalez 5.

N: Evan Esposito 12, Emeer Coombs 9, Cade Benjamin 9, Nate Townsend 8, Joey Zack 6, Nunzio Zydzek 5, Sean Curley 3.


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