Connor Delaney (above) helped seal Episcopal's 47-39 win with six foul shots in the final two minutes. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Earlier this month when Episcopal Academy and William Penn Charter faced off in an Inter-Ac battle to open the conference slate, it was a slow-paced, grind-it-out game. Which worked in the Quakers’ favor, as they pulled off a big upset over an EA squad with eyes on a league title.
With so few games played in the Inter-Ac and no postseason tournament to decide who wins the league, this early league loss provided for an immediate sense of urgency for the Churchmen.
“I think we were all shocked after the first game, but we all knew that we still controlled our destiny,” junior guard Connor Delaney said. “If we won nine games, we won the league.”
Four down, five to go.
Episcopal got their revenge on Wednesday afternoon, beating Penn Charter 47-39 to keep pace with Malvern Prep and Germantown Academy in a three-way tie for first midway through the six-team league's round-robin season.
Although “revenge” is not how head coach Craig Conlin put it.
“It was more a game of redemption for us, because how poorly we played in the first game at Textile, we needed to get redemption,” he said. “I’m not sure of what team that was or who that was, hopefully today we were seeing more of who that is.”
Early on, it looked like the game would be played right into Penn Charter’s hands. The Quakers led the first matchup 6-5 after one quarter, and though it was 9-4 Episcopal in the same time frame in the rematch, it had that same physical feel.
Where things finally broke open for Episcopal (13-5, 4-1 Inter-Ac) was in the third quarter; though the Churchmen only extended their lead from 18-16 at the half to 28-23 entering the fourth quarter, they were turning the pace more in their favor and getting the looks they wanted.
“The adjustment we made at halftime was, we got to get into the lane and we got to get to the rack,” Conlin said, “I think that’s where Connor Delaney did a really nice job in the second half, getting a piece of the paint and scoring which really opened some things up.”
Delaney ended the game with 10 points, eight of which came in the second-half. He got started early in the half scoring a quick two, followed by a no-look pass to junior forward Nick Alikakos down low for the layup.
Alikakos, a 6-7 forward and Division I recruit, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Churchmen, who play next against The Haverford School at home on Friday night.
Delaney, a 6-foot guard who’s committed to Villanova as a lacrosse player, knew that shot selection was going to be important in the game, in order for the end result to be different from their January 8 matchup.
“We weren’t able to just get into the paint easy, they clogged it up,” Delaney said. “Just being smart with our shot selection and taking what they give us.”
The movement was allowing Episcopal to get those inside looks, something that they seemed to lack in the first meeting.
“The first Penn Charter game we seemed to give the ball to Nick and everyone just stood there and watched no one was moving,” Conlin said. “So we’ve been drilling and training about passing and cutting hard, screening hard, and getting our offense more movement instead of being stagnant.”
Penn Charter coach Jim Phillips was still happy with what he saw from his team, keeping it within reach the whole time. Though the Quakers (9-6, 2-3 Inter-Ac) got within a single point several times in the third quarter, they were never able to take the lead at any point.
“Did they punch back a little bit more this time? Yeah, yeah I think they did,” Phillips said of Episcopal. “I think last time, they kind of were like, just thinking it was a phase and I think one of the things that was most impressive about the first game was, it was 32 minutes (of effort).”
The Quakers, led by junior guard Adam Holland's 10-point effort, would always find themselves getting just close to tying the game, but the Churchmen always seemed to have an answer.
The final hope for Penn Charter came after a late timeout with under two minutes to go in the game, which led to a quick three by sophomore wing Mason Williams. Williams finished with eight points in the game, five of which came in the fourth quarter.
That brought the Quakers within two, but clutch free throws down the stretch from Delaney--six in the last minute--helped to close out the game.
“I knocked two free-throws down before and I just feel like we work on it a lot in practice,” Delaney said. “I feel very confident for myself and for the team that they can count on me to make two free throws.”
Penn Charter will look to get back on track on Friday night with a home game against Malvern Prep that will also serve as the team’s senior night.