Anthony Dabbundo (@AnthonyDabbundo)
Entering this season, David Duda never expected to be a starter for Methacton.
After coming off the bench for the first 11 games of the season, and proving himself as one of the PAC’s best 3-point shooters, head coach Jeff Derstine moved him into the starting lineup.
“I only initially expected to play a few minutes a game, and hit a three or two,” Duda said. “That’s all I really expected, and things have really changed for me.”
On Wednesday, it wasn’t a typical game for the sophomore sharpshooter, making his fourth consecutive start.
While the guard scored 15 points, Duda found himself scoring off of floaters and mid-range jumpers, not the usual threes, en route to the Warriors 55-41 comeback win over Upper Perk.
“David is playing with a lot of confidence right now and he’s made big shots for us time and time again,” Derstine said. “Tonight was no different.”
Duda, the son of Saint Joseph’s assistant coach David Duda, was 4-for-4 from inside the 3-point arc, and 4-for-4 from the free throw line as the Warriors capped off a 23-7 fourth quarter to escape with victory.
Despite being held to only one triple on what was an off long-range shooting night, the 6-foot-2 lefty guard found a way to get himself involved to spark the comeback.
Now that he’s being tightly defended by most of the league thanks to his lightning-quick release and shooting ability, the sophomore has had to add a new layer to his game.
“I’ve been working with coach Derstine to put the ball on the floor and take more twos because I know everyone is going to face-guard me,” Duda said.
Whether it was pulling up just inside the arc for a mid-range jumper, or driving in to float the ball over taller defenders, Duda has shown just 16 games into his varsity career how effective he can be both spotting up and off the dribble.
His only three on six attempts on the evening came in the midst of a huge Warriors second-half run, where the sophomore scored 13 of his 15 points, to lead all scorers.
Trailing 32-21 midway through the third quarter, Methacton was getting desperate.
The Warriors, who usually rely heavily on 3-point sharpshooting, could not get a three to drop, shooting only 2-for-12 (17 percent) from three in the first half.
That was until they found the spark they needed, from Duda, and two other unlikely sources.
The crucial spark came from two bench players, Noah Kitaw and Brett Eberly, who provided the energy and sharpshooting to help Methacton close on a 34-9 run.
The run was started by Duda, who hit his only three of the night with 4:00 left in the third. He was immediately followed by Eberly, a freshman, who hit a crucial three to cut the Indians lead to just two points by the end of the third quarter.
Once Kitaw confidently stepped up and drained back to back threes to open the final quarter, the Warriors never looked back.
“The group that played in the third and fourth quarter made the difference,” Derstine said. “That’s what being on a team is all about.”
“Someone has to step up and make a play,” he continued.
With Eberly picking up his first meaningful varsity minutes, and Kitaw confidently stepping in and knocking down threes, the Warriors had completely turned the tides and flipped the script on an Upper Perkiomen team that is having an excellent season.
“I was excited to get in, and if my number is called I’ll always be there to help my team,” Kitaw said. “We needed to get back to playing Methacton basketball.”
After finishing 0-13 in conference play for five consecutive years, Upper Perkiomen, led by leading scorers Ryan Kendra (17.7 points per game), and Liam Boyle (11.9) finds itself at 4-4 in league play, with a real chance at qualifying for the league’s ‘Final Five’ come February.
Kendra was held to just 11 points, in large part to Warriors’ senior Crandall Jones, who scored nine points himself and made life difficult for Kendra to get into rhythm.
Jones hit a three midway through the fourth quarter that ultimately put the Warriors lead just out of reach, up by seven with three minutes left.
On a night where Upper Perk focused in on taking away freshman big man Jeff Woodward, Derstine made the decision to go small with his lineup in the second half, playing with basically five shooters, spreading out Upper Perk and opening up lanes in the paint.
That extra space on the interior made all the difference for Duda and Methacton.
“Once you get some shots to fall, everything snowballs in a positive sense for you,” Derstine said.
For the Warriors, it wasn’t just snowballs in the second half.
It was an avalanche.