Rob Rose (@RobRoseSports)
Bensalem head coach Ron Morris borrowed from AFC Richmond and “Ted Lasso” for his team's motto against Pennsbury on Thursday.
The Owls lost their first game in nearly a month on Tuesday without two starters and stepped on the floor with a Falcons team that beat them in the second game of the season. So, Morris wanted his players to let go of the defeat and relayed the same message Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, had for Sam Obisanya when he struggled and wanted him to adopt the 10-second memory of what Lasso called the happiest animal on Earth.
“Be a goldfish, and forget what happened,” Morris said. “If you make a mistake on the court, forget about it and just keep playing hard.”
Morris’ message was meant to change the team’s mentality headed into a rematch with a league opponent, but it was really needed in the game’s final minute.
With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Bensalem built up a 16-point lead and forced a Pennsbury timeout. The Owls’ crowd cheered as it appeared the Falcons were flustered and had no chance to compete. That changed quickly.
Within 40 seconds the deficit was at 11. Four minutes later it was at four points and with 50 seconds left the game was tied.
Aaron Sanders (above) and Bensalem are closing in on the SOL Patriot title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
This was a familiar feeling for Bensalem, after Pennsbury trailed by 20 points back in December before a comeback won that contest, but senior Aaron Sanders and the Owls let go of the memories from the earlier collapse and followed Morris’ motto.
Sanders scored three of the team’s final five points on the foul line and Bensalem shut down Pennsbury in the final minute to secure a 42-37 win. Despite seeing the huge lead dwindle down, Sanders shrugged off any mention that the Owls (13-3, 10-2 SOL Patriot) were scared they would lose another big lead.
“No, not at all,” Sanders said. “We just keep that memory for 10 seconds and it's gone. So, we just play basketball. We have to play defense and that’s it.”
The senior scored a game-high 20 points in a game that ended up with a much lower final score than expected. Between Bensalem’s duo of Sanders (18.2) and Jeremy Rodriguez (15.4) and Pennsbury’s trio of Evan McNeely (17.2), Aidan McCormack (15.5) and Ty Kocak (14.9) several of the top scorers in the Suburban One League were on the floor.
The first game between the teams ended in a 73-63 win for Pennsbury (9-4, 6-4 SOL Patriot), but in this game the Falcons’ senior stars couldn’t score. Sanders took on the task of guarding McNeely and held him to six points, while McCormack managed nine while neither hit a 3-pointer. Rodriguez scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Kocak was the key in the Falcons’ comeback with five points in the fourth quarter. The junior fouled out in the final minute once the game was tied and Pennsbury didn’t score another point.
Sanders was the only top scorer that eclipsed his normal number, but he wasn’t complaining about how little offense was needed after he got the victory.
“As long as when the clock hits zero we’re up and we win, I'm cool,” Sanders said. “I love playing defense because my brother always busts my chops saying I can't play defense.”
While Morris wanted his team to release the memory of their loss, he also didn’t want them to get caught up in the win either.
The Owls hold a significant lead over second-place Neshaminy in the SOL Patriot division and won on Thursday without starters Jake Delange and Allen Myers. Morris said Myers might be able to return over the weekend after a player landed on his ankle on Saturday, and his size (6-7) adds a lot to a talented team.
After a slip up vs. Souderton down two starters, the Owls — who entered the night No. 5 in the District 1 6A power rankings — are confident they can reach their first goal of winning their division and head into the postseason positioned to be real players. With the potential of the team led by some star seniors, Morris wants the team to continue to have the short memory of a goldfish and hopefully end the season with gold medals around their necks.
“It's one game at a time,” Morris said. “That's our philosophy all the time is go one game at a time and try to be better today than yesterday. We don't look ahead. We honestly just take one day at a time and just continuously work hard and get better to prepare us for going on a nice run down here on the homestretch. Losing that game kind of humbles you, puts you back and true character comes from adversity. When you get knocked down, how do you respond, and I'm really proud of the way we responded after some adversity on Tuesday night.”
Bensalem: 13 | 9 | 7 | 13 | 42
Pennsbury: 12 | 2 | 6 | 17 | 37
Bensalem: Aaron Sanders 20, Jeremy Rodriguez 10, Tra Edwards 5, Jack Wineburg 4, Antonio Morris 3
Pennsbury: Ty Kocak 13, Aidan McCormack 9, Evan McNeely 6, Justin Hedges 5, Connor Taddei 2