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Malvern Prep downs Penn Charter, takes control of Inter-Ac

02/08/2022, 10:30pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

MALVERN -- For Malvern Prep to capture the 2022 Inter-Ac championship, it was going to take a full-team effort. That much was known.

That the Friars just happened to get the whole team working together on one of the most crucial plays of the season was only fitting.

“This year, [we] definitely had our ups-and-downs, learning to just play as a team and share the ball,” senior forward Tyler Lauder said, “and that play was a great example.”

Tyler Lauder (above) skies for two of his game-high 22 points in Malvern Prep's 57-48 win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

In the fourth quarter of a game against Penn Charter that had Inter-Ac title significance written all over it, Malvern Prep clinging to a five-point lead, the Friars combined for one highlight that defined their season.

With the ball loose rolling for the corner at Malvern Prep’s defensive end of the court, Penn Charter ready to retain possession if it went out-of-bounds, Malvern senior Joey Vandergeest hustled into the corner across from the Penn Charter bench, flicking the ball upwards and behind him with one hand just before it crossed the line. Junior wing Hayden Pegg leapt over the baseline to catch the ball in mid-air, finding classmate Andrew Phillips standing in-bounds, getting the pass off before he landed. Phillips took two dribbles and pushed the ball ahead to sophomore Ryan Williams, who paused near the 3-point line, pulled up and found a streaking Lauder headed to the hoop.

Lauder slammed the ball home, drawing a foul in the process, sending the Malvern student section into a frenzy. The free throw made it an eight-point game, and the Friars knew they had it in hand.

“I’m going to be totally honest, I thought Ryan was going to shoot that 3,” Lauder said, “but seeing him passing that up was awesome, and then getting that nice dunk out of it was great.”

It was five Friars working together, doing whatever they could to keep the ball alive, making the smart play instead of the heroic one.

Another 80 seconds had to tick off the clock for Malvern Prep to officially walk off the floor the victors, a 57-48 decision over Penn Charter putting the Friars in the drivers’ seat to capture the Inter-Academic League outright with two games left to play. But there’s no doubt when Tuesday afternoon’s contest actually ended.

“That play, definitely — all five guys touching the basketball, hustle, unselfishness, [there was] everything in that one play,” Malvern Prep coach Paul Romanczuk said. “That was fantastic and really, it was the exclamation point on the win.”

The win gave Malvern Prep (14-6, 7-1) sole possession of first place in the Inter-Ac, just ahead of Penn Charter (17-4, 6-2), but the league race isn’t over. The Friars still need to beat SCH Academy (5-3) on Friday and Germantown Academy (3-5) on Tuesday to win it outright for the second time in a row after going 10-0 in 2020; the league didn’t hold its formal round-robin competition during the COVID-shortened 2021 season.

Though the Inter-Ac doesn’t have a league playoffs, Malvern Prep’s acting like it does.

“We need to take this as this is our quarterfinal win,” Romanczuk said. “This is our quarterfinal win…on Friday, that’s our semifinal game against SCH at their place, another very, very good basketball team.”

Malvern’s win reverses a 72-60 Penn Charter win on the Quakers’ home court last month, when Penn Charter hit double-digit 3-pointers to run away from the Friars. Penn Charter was just 1-of-10 from deep on Tuesday.

There’s no doubt that the Friars have adjusted to Romanczuk in their first year under the former longtime Archbishop Carroll head coach, who came out of a three-year coaching leave to run the Malvern Prep program last summer. Though he inherited a program that had plenty of success under John Harmatuk, including that 2020 league title, the longtime Catholic League-r had to learn a whole new conference and styles of play, not to mention his new players. 

Paul Romanczuk (white shirt) is in his first year as Malvern Prep's head boys basketball coach. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

An early December win over Cardinal O’Hara was a sign that Malvern Prep might be ready to hang with preseason league favorites Penn Charter and Springside-Chestnut Hill, but they really turned it on after the new year, with only one loss since January. 

“I don’t know that there was one specific moment, but I felt the tide turning and us playing better and better as we got towards the league,” he said. “Right after Christmas, we really started reaching our peak, closing in on our peak, and I think we’ve kept it up and kept improving and it’s been a fun ride so far, but the job’s not done obviously.”

Malvern Prep wouldn’t have been the one celebrating if it weren’t for the game played by Lauder. The 6-foot-7 forward put together an impressive 22-point, 11-rebound double-double, his dunk the exclamation point on his outing. 

Winning league titles is hopefully going to be a regular thing for Lauder, who’s going to continue his hoops career with one of the most successful programs in the country, Babson College (Mass.) The Beavers won the 2017 NCAA Division III men’s basketball championship and have gone to March Madness five times since 2014.

That on-court success, as well as the college’s strong academic reputation, helped Lauder pick Babson over Franklin & Marshall and Catholic (D.C.). 

“I want to win — I mean, who doesn’t?” he said. “But not just that, I want to put in the work and I want the guys around me to all put in the work together to win, and I saw that culture at Babson, that’s what drew me to them, and I think we’ve got that culture here at Malvern.”

Lauder scored nine of Malvern Prep’s 15 points in the third quarter, a key frame which helped break loose a game that was tied after both one (12-12) and two (24-24) quarters. The Friars led by as many as 11 during the third, though it was a 39-33 game heading into the fourth.

Malvern Prep never relinquished the lead on its home court.

Phillips added 10 points for Malvern Prep; Williams, who has an offer from Temple, had eight points, five rebounds and four assists, while Vandergeest added seven points and three assists.

Joey Vandergeest is one of two seniors in the Malvern Prep rotation, along with Lauder. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Penn Charter was led by a 17-point, three-rebound effort from junior Mark Butler, while Isaiah Grimes added 14 points and nine rebounds.

Lauder was a sophomore on the end of Malvern Prep’s varsity bench when the Friars went unbeaten in league play two years ago, Deuce Turner and Rahdir Hicks leading the way for Harmatuk’s run-and-gun Friars.

“I think it definitely helps me to have seen it then,” Lauder said. “I remember, last time, one of our last games was against SCH on the road, and we were down, at that point I think it Haverford that was right behind us in the league, and we were down 12 at halftime against SCH, one of our last games. All the seniors in the locker room [...] are like we’re not losing this.

“We went back out and had a great second half and we won the league, and I think that’s the mindset we have to have going into Friday. We got a great win today, it’s awesome, we’re going to enjoy it, but the job’s not finished.”

By Quarter
Malvern Prep:  12  |  12  |  15  |  18  ||  57
Penn Charter:  12  |  12  |   9   |  15  ||  48

Malvern Prep: 18-44 FG (4-12 3PT), 17-24 FT
Penn Charter: 19-47 FG (1-10 3PT), 9-16 FT

Malvern Prep: Tyler Lauder 22, Andrew Phillips 10, Ryan Williams 8, Joey Vandergeest 7, Charlie Oschell 4, Chase Reardon 3, Hayden Pegg 3

Penn Charter: Mark Butler 17, Isaiah Grimes 14, Trey Shinholster 7, Scott Doran 4, Kai Shinholster 3, Colin Schumm 3

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