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District 1 6A: Iemmello, Matos lead sharpshooting Methacton past CB East

02/28/2024, 12:00am EST
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

EAGLEVILLE — Sal Iemmello’s varsity debut was a rough spot. 

It was two years ago, Methacton losing at home to Norristown in the District 1 6A semifinals, the Warriors ultimately putting up just 36 points in a 15-point loss. The freshman guard, who’d played only JV all season, heard his name called by Patrick Lockard for the first time. 

“We were struggling to get some juice,” Lockard recalled, “so I threw him out in the fourth quarter — which he was not prepared for at all. But it gave him a little taste of ‘hey, here’s some district level varsity basketball for ya,’ and I’d like to think that paid dividends going forward.”

Sal Iemmello (above) and Methacton knocked down 10 3-pointers and shot 56% from the field. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Fast-forward 24 months — well, three days shy of it — and he looks plenty comfortable on the court during the postseason. Now a 5-foot-10 junior, Iemmello is Methacton’s starting point guard, a key part of a state playoff squad and an even more important piece in their future plans. 

Iemmello impressed for Methacton in a District 1 6A seeding game against Central Bucks East on Tuesday night, helping the Warriors down the Patriots 80-73 as they moved one game away from determining their spot in the PIAA 6A bracket.

Methacton will play Coatesville on Friday for the 1-5 and 1-6 seeds. CB East will play Springfield (Delco.) for the 1-7 and 1-8.

A second-year starter, Iemmello scored 19 points and dished out four assists, hitting four clutch fourth-quarter foul shots to help the Warriors hold on. It was a fun, high-scoring, accordion of a game that saw Methacton open up multiple different double-digit leads only to see CB East mount multiple comebacks; a couple defensive stops in the final two minutes — and some timely foul shooting — made the difference.

Lockard’s Warriors (18-8) are a mix of veteran experience and some promising youth. He’s got wing Alex Hermann and shooting guard Manny Rodriguez, both of whom had 11 points against CB East, among four seniors who saw the court Tuesday night. He also played three sophomores, including a developing star in Christian Matos, who will form the core of their attack a year from now. 

Iemmello is the bridge between that gap. Next year, he’ll be one of the team’s no-doubt leaders, a third-year starter, likely their top defender. He’s got help leading the Warriors right now, but next year he’ll be The Guy, or one of them.

“We definitely have a lot of young guys on our team,” he said. “Next year, we’re going to be just as dangerous as we are this year [...] next year, we can do the same thing.”

Starting for the Warriors has been Iemmello’s plan for years, growing up a basketball-first kid, hoping to play beyond his high school years. 

“I’ve loved basketball since I was three,” he said. “It’s always been a big part of my life, I’ve been doing it every season, it runs my life pretty much.”

Lockard said Iemmello’s already taken a noticeable step forward in his assertiveness since his sophomore season, when he was still a deferential underclassman.

“We joked that his name was Shoot the Ball Sal last year, because it was like ‘shoot the ball, Sal, you’re open, shoot the ball,’” Lockard said. “The growth he’s shown from his sophomore year to his junior year, the confidence to be able to shoot the ball…everything he does is everything we need for him to do, and we’re always so thankful to have him on our side.”

Iemmello’s willingness to pull the trigger was evident in the first half against CB East, as he scored 14 points in the opening 16 minutes, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter. He was 5-of-5 from the floor early on, hitting a couple 3’s and both of his foul shots. 

That helped set the tone on a night where both teams’ shots were falling all game long. Both CB East and Methacton hit 27 shots, CB East doing so on 51 attempts (52.9%) and Methacton doing it on 48 attempts (56.2%). They combined to go 21-of-43 from downtown, CB East hitting 11 3s and Methacton 10. 

It wasn’t for lack of defense, either — both teams were competing on that end of the court, trying to do their best to make it difficult. CB East senior Tyler Dandrea impressed with 23 points, 16 in the second quarter, plus five assists and five rebounds, hitting all sorts of tough pull-up jumpers. Jake Cummiskey and Dhruv Mukund added 14 each for the Patriots (19-8), Mukund hitting several deep 3-pointers and Cummiskey slashing to the hoop while adding six rebounds and six assists of his own. 

Christian Matos (above) finished one off his career high with 25 points. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Methacton countered with Iemmello, Hermann, Rodriguez and were led by Matos, the 6-2 left-hander going for a game-high 25 points in the win. That included a half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter, a 9-of-13 shooting performance overall, and four foul shots in the game’s final 35 seconds to help the Warriors close out the game on a 9-0 run.

“We’ve been neighbors since we were growing up, he knows how to put the ball in the basket,” Iemmello said of Matos. “He has a lot of confidence, especially as a sophomore — a lot more than I did last year.”

Methacton opened up a 25-13 lead early in the second quarter only to see CB East battle back and take a lead in the second, Iemmello’s 3-pointer putting the Warriors up 40-37 at the half. They pulled out big again at the end of the third quarter, taking a 63-51 lead into the fourth, but the Patriots scored the first nine points of the final quarter to close the gap right back up, tying it at 65 midway through the quarter. 

Lockard was especially happy that his team got a couple stops within the final minute, a Hermann steal and a forced jump ball on back-to-back possessions to enable Methacton to put it away at the full line. That’ll pay off next year, when his returning young core will have to make similar stops if they want to try to win a PAC or district title, or beyond.

“For those guys to be able to see that and get out there and experience it themselves and get out there and embrace it, hopefully it’s shown them the hunger they need in the offseason,” Lockard said. “I think those guys have the drive to do that and it’ll be fun to see their growth both physically and mentally from here to there.”

By Quarter
CBE:  13  |  24  |  14  |  22  ||  73
MHS:  20  |  20  |  23  |  17  ||  80

CBE: 27-51 FG (11-23 3PT), 8-12 FT
MHS: 27-48 FG (10-20 3PT), 16-19 FT

CBE: Tyler Dandrea 23, Jake Cummiskey 14, Dhruv Mukund 14, Miles Demby 11, Bryce Lolas 7, Caleb Lyzinski 4

MHS: Christian Matos 25, Sal Iemmello 19, Manny Rodriguez 11, Alex Hermann 11, Lucas Leckerman 5, Mason Conrad 3, Wes Robinson 2, Jordan Savage 2, Anthony Daddazio 2

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