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Methacton defense shuts down Phoenixville to stay unbeaten

01/14/2022, 12:15am EST
By Ty Daubert

Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert

PHOENIXVILLE — As Methacton struggled to get much going offensively during the first half in a raucous Phoenixville Area High School gym, the Warriors fell back on what’s been present this whole 2021-2022 season — their defense.

Led by rim protector and anchor Cole Hargrove, Methacton’s early defensive success continued throughout Thursday night as it cruised to a 53-33 victory over Phoenixville in a Pioneer Athletic Conference matchup to improve to 11-0 on the year.

Cole Hargrove (above, at Norristown last week) and Methacton are now 11-0 on the season after shutting down Phoenixville. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“That’s kind of been the stability of our season this year,” Warriors head coach Pat Lockard said. “Even when shots aren’t falling, we have to commit to the defensive end.”

Methacton’s emphasis on defense has paid dividends so far this season, holding opponents to only 39.7 points per game. It starts with seniors Hargrove and Brett Byrne. Both are known for their ability to score the basketball and contribute on offense at a high level; however, Hargrove and Byrne have made the other end of the floor a priority as well. 

As the best two players on the team, the duo has embraced the challenge of locking up other teams, and their enthusiasm has rubbed off on others. With full team engagement, the Warriors have built a foundation for their team that’s helped carry them to success.

“Defense is mostly about will and effort with some scouting stuff in there,” Lockard noted. “Our top two guys, Brett and Cole, buy into that. Their leadership out there shows the rest of our guys that if our top two guys are bought into it, I need you to buy into it as well.”

The Warriors have a variety of helpful contributors on the defensive end. Byrne is a 6-foot-1 guard who is effective as a helper and interrupts entry passes to bigs. Junior guard Cameron Chilson and Matthew Christan produce steals and deflections in the passing lanes, while senior guard Colin Meyer knows the ins-and-outs of the proper positioning. 

Standing behind them, of course, is Hargrove, the centerpiece of Methacton’s defense. A 6-foot-8 forward, he directs his teammates, alters shots, grabs boards and brings physicality inside. The Warriors scheme is dependent on Hargrove and his immense impact, allowing them to take some gambles on the perimeter knowing he’ll be able to step up as the last line of defense.

“He’s such an intelligent and smart player,” Lockard said. “That’s why our defense kind of funnels offense to him. We’re going to live with the chances of him being that rim protector.”

At his size, most teams in the area stand little chance against Hargrove on both ends, which has been a major factor in Methacton’s dominant run. Phoenixville (6-4, 1-1) posed a bit more of a challenge on Thursday with an imposing big man of their own.

Cam Chilson (above) led Methacton with 21 points. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

While Hargrove defended him well to start the game, there was a stretch in the second quarter when 6-foot-6 Phantoms forward Gabe Massenburg got the ball deep and scored on three possessions in a few-minute span. 

Methacton defended well overall to take a 19-14 lead into halftime, but Massenburg had eight points going into the break. From that point on, Hargrove adjusted, keeping Phoenixville’s standout in check for the rest of the game. Massenburg finished with 10 points.

“It’s very few players in the area who can get up to my size,” Hargrove said. “It’s good to see how my game translates to someone who’s at my height as well.”

The in-game adjustment was a big sign for Hargrove and the Warriors as they vie for both PAC and PIAA District 1 6A titles later in the year. The deeper they go, the more likely they are to see bigger and better competition. Hargrove keeping up his production against other bigs of a similar caliber could be crucial.

When Methacton slowed Massenburg and continued to get stops, the Warriors began to pull away with better looks on offense. Hargrove had a solid second half in a 17-point performance while Chilson continued a hot shooting night in the final 16 minutes on his way to a game-high 21 points. 

“Our defense can translate to offense,” Hargrove said. “It helps out the flow of the game.”

That’s the biggest key when it comes to the Methacton defense. At the very least, it’ll keep the team in games when the ball can’t find the basket, which creates a high floor for the Warriors. But when the offense is rolling, the turnovers and key stops will only bring more open looks and scoring opportunities for players like Hargrove, Byrne and Chilson, who can all explode on a given night. 

Some nights will be better than others offensively, but Methacton should have a shot against anyone with its defense as a baseline.

“Offense comes and goes,” Lockard said, “but you need to be able to rely on your defense.”

By Quarter
Methacton:    7   |  12  |  18  |  16  ||  53
Phoenixville:  5   |   9   |   7   |  12  ||  33

Methacton: Cameron Chilson 21, Cole Hargrove 17, Colin Meyer 5, Jason Lagana 5, Brett Byrne 3, Matthew Christian 2

Phoenixville: Gabe Massenburg 10, Zavier Mayo 9, Jake Stec 6, Zach Bruni 3, Jackson Kuranda 3, Zahaire Savage 2   

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