Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
SHILLINGTON — In its breakout 1974 single “Waterloo,” which catapulted them to international fame, ABBA — in a song about falling in love, tying that back to Napoleon’s most famous military defeat — includes a poignant line:
I feel like I win when I lose
The Swedish pop group might not have had in mind the exact feelings Devon Prep Jason Fisher was enveloped by on Saturday afternoon, but he echoed the Eurovision champions’ sentiments after his Tide fell a point short to Trinity, 64-63 in an overtime classic of a PIAA 3A quarterfinal.
Lucas Orchard (above) finished with 16 points in his final game in a Devon Prep uniform. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I don’t know if we lost that game,” he said, and it wasn’t denial that drove those words. Fisher was well aware his team’s season was over, the end of the road for a special group of seniors who’ve taken the Tide to places that seemed unimaginable when they started out.
“We always stress that it’s not about winning and losing games, that it’s about constantly growing,” Fisher said. “I know Trinity had more points than us but I don’t know if we lost that game, if that makes sense. We did a lot of good things.
“Those seniors left such a mark on the program — forget about the state championship, really, the culture has really changed with these guys because of these guys. It’s tough today, of course, you never want to lose a game. But I hope they will, at some point, be able to step back and look at what they did, and how they completely changed everything.”
The senior group that turned Tide from afterthought to 2022 3A state champions and brought them back into the state’s Elite 8: Jacen Holloway and Lucas Orchard, the program stalwarts and multi-year starters; Tyler Scarpulla, the reserve-turned-starting guard and defensive force; plus deeper reserves Jack Regan, Daniel Harrer and Gavin D’Iorio.
When they arrived at the school, the Tide’s Class of 2023 were joining a program that had just joined the Catholic League in 2018 as one of the weaker programs in the state’s powerhouse league, which had never really been a force on the area’s hoops scene.
By the time they were juniors, Holloway and Orchard were starters and major pieces as Devon Prep made its first trip to Hershey count.
“Before they got there, we’re not even thinking about state tournaments or anything like that, let alone playing in a game like today,” Fisher said. “I’m sad to see them go, it hasn’t really sunk in that I’ll never get to coach those guys again in a Devon uniform. They changed the program, literally they changed Devon Prep basketball.”
A repeat wasn’t in the cards, a terrific Trinity squad making one more play in a game that went back-and-forth until the very end, Shamrocks center Mike Bednostin’s post-up bucket with 18 seconds left the final point, delivering Larry Kostelac’s bunch into the state semifinals for the “14th or 15th” time, according to the 39-year head coach.
Mike Bednostin puts @RocksBoysBball up 64-63. Devon Prep brings it up and calls timeout with 7.4s left. Hold onto your hats. pic.twitter.com/TI1VtKlf0J— Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) March 18, 2023
“Each team put their best foot forward and we feel extremely fortunate to be the winner today,” Kostelac said. “Today happened to be our day, you play [that game] 100 times and it would be 50/50, that’s the bottom line. We’re just lucky today was our day and we’re moving forward, we’re very happy, we’re proud of our kids’ performance, came up big, we ran that play very well at the end for Mike to get the ball in the post.”
Trinity will face another Catholic League school, West Catholic, in the semifinals; the Burrs beat Executive Education 59-43 on Saturday afternoon. Kostelac said he’s already seen West Catholic in person, against MCS in the District 12 championship game, and is well aware what his team is in for as the Burrs go for their first-ever state championship, starting with Adam ‘Budd’ Clark and Zion Stanford.
“They’re outstanding, the two guards are very, very good,” Kostelac said. “I think our kids will rise to the occasion, I think it could be a great game. It’ll be a very, very interesting game. But hey we’re there, we have a couple more days to bounce back, get some guys healthy.”
Bednostin, a 6-foot-11 post from Ukraine, finished with a game-high 19 points and 14 rebounds, with a built-in advantage as he had a good half-foot on everybody on the Devon Prep roster. Holloway (6-3), Orchard (6-4) and sophomore Zane Conlon (6-5) doing their best to out-work the lanky stretch-forward, each having their moments.
Orchard led Devon Prep with 16 points, adding seven rebounds; Holloway had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, working in the middle of Trinity's zone defense.
Devon Prep, as it did all season, lived and died by the 3-pointer, taking 33 of its 48 shots beyond the arc, going hitting 13 triples (39.3%); the Tide shot 22-of-48 overall (45.8%), while Trinity was 25-of-49 (51.0%) overall and 8-of-17 (47.0%) from deep.
Tyler Scarpulla (above) had six points, five assists, and played some key defense. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The most impressive effort was that put in by Scarpulla, who was tasked with guarding Trinity’s star sophomore Owen Schlager, a 6-2 guard who had 40 points in the Shamrocks’ second-round win over Math, Civics & Sciences. Schlager was held to only five shots, finishing with nine points, as Scarpulla chased him all over the court.
Schlager’s frustration was evident when, after he was knocked down in the second quarter, he rejected Scarpulla’s offer to help him off the floor.
“I don’t know what he held him to, but to go out there and completely deny, take him out of the game for 32 minutes, it was awesome to see, it really was awesome to see,” Fisher said before being informed of Schlager’s total, then adding “I mean, that’s spectacular. He had 40 last game, and he had nine points, two baskets.”
That defense was a big reason why Devon Prep was able to bounce back from an early 23-14 deficit, the result of Trinity senior and St. Francis (Pa.) football recruit Trey Weiand going 3-of-4 from 3-point range in the first quarter; he added one in the second, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-5 from deep. The Tide won the second quarter 16-8, pulling within a point at halftime on a deep 3-pointer by Ty Mishock, and from there it was game on.
Both sides traded blows all third and fourth, Trinity taking a four-point lead into the fourth that was quickly erased. Schlager put Trinity up three with 2:32 to play on a put-back layup off an airballed 3-pointer, but an Orchard bucket off a Scarpulla dish drew a foul, the freebie tying it up with 2:19 to go.
Those were the last points of regulation: Scarpulla drew a couple charges in the last two minutes to get Devon Prep extra possessions, but open 3s didn’t drop, nor did a pair of foul shots with two seconds left — Trinity had a final look under its own bucket, but an inbounds pass went off the side of the backboard, and an off-balance chuck at the buzzer didn’t fall.
Devon Prep slowed it down in the extra session, Mishock getting to the line a couple times, making three of four for the final of his 12 points. Trinity got a bucket from 6-7 senior forward Adelphe Cisse (13 points, 9 rebounds) to tie it up before Bednostin’s bucket put them ahead. The Tide’s last possession didn’t go the way they wanted, the ball squirting free and ending up in Schalger’s hands as the clock ran out.
Shane Doyle (above) hit three 3-pointers for Devon Prep. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Afterwards, though, Fisher was focused on all the positives, whether that was his team’s fight back and constant ball movement, with 17 assists on 22 buckets, or the return of Conlon after three weeks missed due to an ankle injury, or the sharpshooting of sophomore Shane Doyle (12 points), who also added in two blocks and a couple steals, a sign that he and Conlon are ready to take control of the program next year.
“It sucks to lose, it sucks to have your season end, but there were a lot of great things in that game that as a program we can learn from,” Fisher said. “And the seniors, it’s because of them.”
Fisher and his seniors aren’t quite done yet. He’ll coach Orchard, Holloway and Scarpulla — along with Radnor’s Jackson Hicke, Charlie Thornton, and Danny Orchard and others — in the Donofrio Classic , which starts March 27 in Conshohocken. It’s a group that’s played together on the grassroots circuit for years, most recently as Prim3Tim3 Hoops last summer. Playing in Donofrio under the PA Hoops monikor, they won’t play until April 5 at 8:30 PM in the event’s second round, with at most four games left together.
“We’ll get one more chance,” Fisher said. “I told them all, I was like, ‘I’ll sit on the bench, you guys are going to out and play, I’ll be your chaperone.’ I was like, this will be my turn to watch you guys and not actually coach you.’”
He couldn’t escape if he wanted to.
Devon: 14 | 16 | 15 | 15 | 3 || 63
Trinity: 23 | 8 | 18 | 11 | 4 || 64
Devon: 22-48 FG (13-33 3PT), 6-12 FT
Trinity: 25-49 FG (8-17 3PT), 6-8 FT
Devon: Lucas Orchard 16, Shane Doyle 12, Ty Mishock 12, Jacen Holloway 10, Zane Conlon 7, Tyler Scarpulla 6
Trinity: Mike Bednostin 19, Adelphe Cisse 13, Trey Weiand 12, Marice Brown 9, Owen Schlager 9, Cooper Manley 2
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