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District 1 6A: Penn Wood boys continue strong postseason push

03/02/2022, 12:00am EST
By Missy Dougherty

Missy Dougherty (@Missyingyou)

“I just wanted to send us home a winner,” Penn Wood sophomore guard Anthony Murray said when asked what was going through his head in the final seconds of his squad’s narrow 50-46 victory over host Haverford High School in PIAA District 1 6A boy’s playback action Tuesday night.

Making an assortment of winning plays throughout the contest, Murray finished with a team-high 12 points to go along with two steals and three assists. The sophomore guard went 2-for-4 from the free throw line and added another bucket in a tightly-contested fourth quarter to help the Patriots (14-7) fight off a valiant comeback by the host Fords (18-7) and remain alive in the hunt for the ninth seed out of District 1 in the PIAA 6A state tournament.

Anthony Murray (above) and Penn Wood won for the third time in four District 1 6A playoff games. (Photo: Missy Dougherty/CoBL)

“We want to get the highest seed possible for states,” Murray said. Seeded 17th in the district tournament, Penn Wood will be able to continue their quest to raise their seed number for state play on Friday night against host West Chester East.

Before they could move on, the Patriots had the challenge of coming into Haverford and beating the Fords, seeded fifth in the district tournament, on their home floor. 

“We are very familiar with each other,” Penn Wood head coach Matt Lindeman said. “These kids play against each other year-round and respect each other.”

The familiarity contributed to the Patriots’ game plan of taking the Haverford shooters out of the game. “We wanted to make them play through their non-scorers,” Murray said in reference to Penn Wood’s focus on defense. “We wanted to make the other players beat us.” 

The defensive script seemed to work to perfection in the first half as Haverford managed just seven field goals. Seeming to convert every Fords’ turnover into points, Penn Wood raced out to a 28-18 lead at intermission.

“We turned it over too much in the first half,” Haverford head coach Keith Heinerichs said. “We gave them too many easy baskets.

Echoing the familiarity the programs had with each other, Heinerichs added, “they didn’t do anything, we didn’t expect.”

What Lindeman and the rest of his coaching staff expected was that the Fords would not go away quietly after intermission.

“We tried to warn the players at halftime that Haverford would come out ready to give its best punch,” LIndeman said.

The predicted comeback did in fact materialize as a Googie Seidman 3-pointer in the opening minute of the third kicked off a 14-4 spurt that tied the game at 32-32 with three minutes left in the period. 

Turned away from the basket many times by Penn Wood’s tough, interior defense, the Fords seemed content to “punch” from distance as they nailed four shots from behind the arc over the course of the third quarter including another one by Seidman.

“We shot it much better in the second half,” Heinerichs said. That they did, as the Fords made seven 3-pointers over the final 16 minutes.

Two of those long-distance bombs came on Haverford’s first two posessions of the the fourth. Senior JR Newman connected from the right wing, before junior reserve Kevin Gannon followed from the right corner to pull the Fords with one, 41-40, and force a Penn Wood timeout.

Murray had the subsequent answer for the Patriots coming out of the time out as he connected on a driving layup for the visitors.

“We knew they were going to be pressuring us,” Murray said. “The coaches have faith in each of us to go by our man.”

While Penn Wood continued to aggressively probe the paint, the Fords remained forced to the outside as the Patriots’ defense notched seven blocks in the game.

Gannon made sure to make the most of the space on the perimeter as he knocked down his second 3-pointer of the night  from the left corner to give Haverford the lead, 46-44, with 2:13 left on the clock.

A bucket from Penn Wood’s Naeem Purnell knotted the game at 46-46 on the next possession, setting up a tight finish.

The Fords came up empty on the offensive end three times in the final minute, while the Patriots went 2-for-4 from the free throw line. A basket at the buzzer against Haverford’s full-court pressure accounted for Penn Wood’s margin of victory.

Newman and Seidman both finished with 12 for the Fords, who will host Downingtown West on Friday night to determine 11th and 12th place for the state tournament.

“It was a great high school game,” Lindeman said. “Every time we play each other, it is always close. I am proud of the guys for buying in and staying with it.”

By Quarter
Penn Wood: 15  |  13  |  11  |  11  ||  50
Haverford:    12  |   6   |  16  |  12  ||  46

Penn Wood: Anthony Murray 12, Naeem Purnell 8, Sahmir Massenburg 7, Mekhi Shillingford 7, Evan Borward 6, Sadiq Fountain 6, Kelvin Crawford 2, Jalen Mahan 2

Haverford: J.R. Newman 12, Googie Seidman 12, Nick Colucci 7, Tommy Wright 7, Kevin Gannon 6, Brian Wiener 2

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