Matthew Ryan (@matthewryan02)
To play cornerback, you need to have instincts. You need to be able to anticipate and react to your opponent's moves in a split second.
It's something Ivan Thorpe knows a thing or two about, being he's a CB on the Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy football team. But on Friday night in front of a packed senior night crowd against Malvern Prep, those skills Thorpe learned on the gridiron played dividends on the hardwood in the game's biggest moment.
Ivan Thorpe (above) had a crucial steal to help SCH hold off Malvern Prep on Friday night. (Photo: Matthew Ryan/CoBL)
After Malvern had mounted a furious comeback from down 12 entering the fourth quarter, the Friars had the ball with under 30 seconds to go, trailing by just one. Trying to set up their offense for a potential go-ahead bucket, Malvern tried to get the ball into Ryan Williams' hands, but it never made it there.
Thorpe jumped the pass, stealing it and taking it back for a wide-open layup. The play gave the Blue Devils a three point advantage, one they would not relinquish, hanging on for a 56-53 upset victory.
"Cornerback instincts," Thorpe said. "I knew it was coming.
"It was counting down from 30 seconds [...] I just (knew) that we needed a big stop. [...] I know that I'm the guy that they count on to play defense. (We're) on defense for a big stop; just know I'm going to do that. So I (saw) that pass coming, I intercepted it."
Thorpe, who is committed to play wide receiver at Virginia Military Institute, isn't usually in the starting lineup for head coach Julian McFadden, but because it was senior night, he and Billy Donato got the nod in the opening five, joining fellow senior Darius Isaac.
“It felt good today especially because it was senior day, we got the biggest crowd of the year,” Thorpe said of his start and strong play. “Everybody believed in me, I believed in everybody else, and I just did what they believed I would, and that’s carry the team along with (Alassane Amadou), Darius (and) every other player on the team.”
Thorpe's steal and layup was one of many big plays from the Thorpe and Isaac duo that combined for 25 points. While Thorpe did most of his damage late, scoring seven of his 12 points in the second half, including five in the final frame, Isaac was a key reason to SCH ending the first quarter up 19-10. The guard scored eight of his 13 points in the first eight minutes, knocking down two threes over that stretch.
The win pushed Springside to 15-6 on the season and 6-3 in Inter-Academic League play. It was a big win against a very good Malvern Prep team, and it is only fitting that Thorpe and Isaac led the way on Friday.
"I think it was really important for us to get this win for our seniors," McFadden said. […] "I think it really comes back to my senior leadership; Ivan Thorpe, Darius Isaac, Billy Donado, who's not a known name, but these guys, they mean a ton to this program, so this was big for us."
"This is storybook,” McFadden said of his seniors’ performance on their big night. “[...] This is the type of stuff you see in the movies Thunderstruck and Blue Chips. You don't see this type of stuff all the time, so I think it's phenomenal for them to be able to see a bunch of people back in the gym watching them play basketball again. It feels really good. For my seniors, I'm just really happy that it could happen to them."
On the other side, the loss was a significant one. Malvern (14-7, 7-2 Inter-Ac) entered the contest one game ahead of Penn Charter in the league standings with just two games remaining.
The two teams had split their earlier games meaning that a win on Friday or a Quakers' loss to Germantown Academy would guarantee the Friars at least a share of the Inter-Ac title, but neither happened. In an equally close game to the one at SCH, Penn Charter knocked off the Patriots in overtime, 78-77, keeping the league title up for grabs.
Now tied atop the standings, a win by either team in the final game of the season guarantees them at least a share of the title. Penn Charter faces SCH on Tuesday at 7:00 while the Friars return home to play Germantown Ac. earlier that day at 4:00.
"Obviously, that's a big game," Malvern head coach Paul Romanczuk said about his team's upcoming contest against the Patriots. "That's our biggest game of the year now. And that's the way we've approached the whole season [...] We don't want to look ahead whatsoever."
The game was sloppy for the visitors as turnovers were common and costly. They went down big early and had to claw their way back. But, in the end, they still had a chance to escape with a win.
It was a gritty comeback attempt that fell short in an ever-important game. But in a few days, Malvern has another chance to do what they failed to on Friday and clinch a share of the league title, defending their unbeaten Inter-Ac title from two years ago.
"It was nice to see the fight in my guys. That's really the bottom line,” Romanczuk said. "I know if we come out with that fight each and every game right from the beginning, I still think we're a very good basketball team."
Malvern Prep: Andrew Phillips 20, Ryan Williams 17, Joey Vandergeest 9, Chase Reardon 5, Tyler Lauder 2
Springside Chestnut Hill: Alassane Amadou 14, Darius Isaac 13, Ivan Thorpe 12, Camden Burns 10, Ron Brown 7
Malvern: 10 | 8 | 14 | 21 || 53
SCH: 19 | 12 | 13 | 12 || 56