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CoBL Winter Showcase: Tide rises as Columbia edges Upper Darby

12/08/2023, 11:15pm EST
By Matt Gaffney

By Matt Gaffney (@GaffReports)

EXETER TWP. — For a team hit hard by graduation following a 19-9 season that ended in the second round of the PIAA playoffs, Upper Darby coach Bob Miller expected his young team to experience growing pains early in the season. But he didn’t see it happening to this extent.

 “We knew in the beginning there was going to be some growing pains, but we didn’t think we would have this much trouble scoring the basketball,” said Miller following his team’s 43-40 loss to Columbia in Friday night’s opening game of the CoBL Winter Showcase at Exeter Township High School.

Upper Darby's Lovo Mulbah scored 13 points in Friday's loss. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Upper Darby came into the contest carrying an 0-3 record, including two-point and six-point losses. After falling to the Crimson Tide, the Royals departed Exeter not only still searching for their first win, but with leading scorer Gary Bonner sporting an air cast on his right arm.

Bonner, a sophomore, left the game in the second quarter after crashing hard to the floor  on his right arm. Miller said further evaluation will be needed to determine the severity of the injury.

 “It’s tough when you lose your leading scorer in the second quarter,” said Miller. 

In a game where the largest lead was four points, both teams struggled to score and hit shots on a consistent basis. Upper Darby struggled mightily against Columbia’s very active 2-3 zone.

 “We got lots of good looks, but some nights you just can’t throw it in the basket,” said the Upper Darby coach. “I don’t know what our percentage was but what it comes down to is - if they’re going to pack in a zone, you need to be able to hit threes. And we made almost nothing, and it makes it tough. I have to be able to do a better job to get them in situations where they are going to make shots.”

Upper Darby’s Lovo Mulbah, the only returning Royals player with varsity experience from last year‘s team, did his best to try and carry the Royals as he came up big with 14 points.

T.J. Jackson gave the Royals some quality minutes off the bench with six points and plenty of lane presence. The junior filled in admirably for Bonner, who had five points in the first quarter before being injured, and reserve guard Jude Ennis added two three-pointers. It just wasn’t enough for Upper Darby.

 The two teams played at a frenetic pace and with intensity but neither found much success in the early going, slugging it out to a 9-7 first quarter, with the Royals holding a slight advantage.

 Both teams started heating up a bit towards the end of the second quarter with the Crimson Tide’s Ladarian Miller hitting a three with under ten seconds left but Mulbah answered with  a buzzer-beating trey before the half to give the Royals a one-point lead at the break.

“Lovo has one desire and that’s to win,” Miller said. “He’s our only player with any experience and he defends and gets loose balls. He’s just a tough kid.”

Columbia's Artie Poindexter scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Though Upper Darby held a four-point advantage at the end of three, the Crimson Tide made a little run to wrangle the lead from the Royals. Part of it was sloppy play on the part of Upper Darby. The other part was Artie Poindexter, who made big play after big play on both ends of the floor to help turn the tide for Columbia, who improved their record to 1-1.

Poindexter scored ten of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and every one of his buckets came at critical times.

"We had too many sloppy turnovers and I thought we played decent enough defense but give them credit – they hit the big shots and we didn’t,” Miller said.

Upper Darby had multiple chances to tie it in the final seconds and Ennis missed a three at the buzzer.  Despite the loss, the Royals’ focus looking ahead remains the same according to Miller.

“Our expectations are always the same – we want to get to the Central League playoffs. And we want to get to districts and see what we can do. With a young team, you never know. But we are going to work hard every day and try to get better. That’s all there is to it.”

Columbia 43, Upper Darby 40













Upper Darby






Columbia: Poindexter 13, B. Miller 11, Poole 5, Siming 4, Moreta 4, L. Miller 3, Griffy 2, Hershey 1.
UD: Mulbah 14, Jackson 6, Ennis 6, Bonner 5, Gunther 5, Brown 4.  

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