Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Coaches love to talk about playing a complete game.
Abington’s Charles Grasty got to see something even better on Friday night in the District 1 AAAA title game.
He saw his team play close to a perfect one.
From start to end, the Ghosts dominated almost every single minute of their game against Plymouth Whitemarsh.
They held the Colonials to just two points in the first quarter, and were up 27-11 at the half. The third quarter was more of the same, with a 45-20 advantage going into the fourth.
Plymouth Whitemarsh never scored more than four points in a row the entire game, while Abington had four runs of 7-0 or more. The list goes on and on.
And in the end, the 53-35 final score doesn’t really quite say just what Abington did to win its first District 1 title game since 1986.
There was Matt Penecale’s lockdown defense on Plymouth Whitemarsh star guard Jimmy Murray, who was held to just two points on the night--on a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter. Amir Hinton slashing through the P-W defense at will to his 20 points, and he could easily have had 30 if the situation called for it.
Even Abington’s role players got in on the action. Senior forward Brian Close had seven points, all during the third quarter. Freshman guard Robbie Heath had eight, including two 3-pointers. Another senior forward, Brendan Gallagher, knocked down a trey of his own.
It was thorough, it was dominant, and it was impressive for all 32 minutes.
“This is in my eyes, the first complete game we’ve played all four quarters together,” Hinton said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Sure, there were moments where it looked like Plymouth Whitemarsh might gain some momentum. Four early points in the second quarter made it a 10-point game, but they were answered with a 9-2 run. The Colonials ignited their crowd with a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, but the Ghosts answered with seven straight.
It was as complete a game as you could get, and Grasty knew it.
“I think it was,” he said. “We made some mistakes like every team will, but I thought that in that third quarter, we were able to keep our composure. They made some shots and could have gone on a run but I thought we just handled it.”
Though Plymouth Whitemarsh was the No. 4 seed in the district, there were quite a few who saw them as the tournament favorite headed in. Abington, at No. 6, was certainly up there with the leaders after making a run to the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals last year, but after barely surviving North Penn in the opening round of the district tournament this year, it didn't look like they would end up taking home their first banner in 29 years.
The only one in the building who didn't seem shocked about the final score was Abington's fifth-year head coach.
“I’m not going to say [I'm] surprised about the margin," Grasty said. "I thought that our guys followed the script and I thought that our guys made them take tough shots and we knew that if we could make them take tough shots, we felt like we could rebound the ball, we felt like we could get out in transition.
"We weren’t really concerned about what the final score would be, we just wanted to take care of what we wanted to take care of.”
Recent history made it easier for Abington to keep a heavy foot on the gas the whole way through.
In the district semifinals against Pennsbury, a 12-point halftime lead vanished quickly in the third quarter, and the Ghosts actually trailed the Falcons for a time before rallying in the fourth for the victory.
By the time they slowed up, the outcome had been well decided.
"We know what happened last game, and so we came out with a lot of energy," Penecale said. "I think we kept great composure throughout the game, we turned it over a couple of times towards the end, but luckily the lead was big enough where...it wasn’t as costly a mistake as it could have been.”
As the District 1's top seed, Abington will face J.P McCaskey, the eighth seed out of District 3, in the first round of the state bracket on Saturday.