Anthony Dabbundo (@AnthonyDabbundo)
As Mickeel Allen’s three pointer from the left elbow fell through the net, the sophomore wing turned, and looked up at the students and fans euphorically celebrating.
For Allen, it was all surreal.
He had just led his team back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit, tying the game with 57 seconds left, in front of the biggest crowd the Eagles had seen in years.
Led by a double-double by their sophomore star, the 5th seed Eagles took down 4th seed Methacton, overcoming a 12-point deficit in the final minutes to prevail 51-46 in overtime of the opening round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs Tuesday night
After that three, there was no doubt who was coming out on top.
It was Norristown’s night.
“It’s been awhile (since they had a crowd like Tuesday),” Norristown head coach Mike Evans said. “It was a great atmosphere. I enjoyed it, my kids enjoyed it.”
After his game high 14 points and 15 rebounds, Allen was carried out of the locker room by fellow students and friends, as they chanted his name in celebration of the standout performance on a colossal occasion.
It was a joyous moment on a special night for the Norristown basketball program.
The fans greeted the entire team as they exited the locker room, including fellow sophomore guard Xavier Edwards, who added a crucial 12 points and 10 rebounds in the Eagles’ historic night.
“I was thinking in my head that big time players make big time plays,” Allen said. “And when I made it I knew everyone was going to go wild.”
“I couldn’t even hear my teammates on the court.”
After the first two meetings in league play between these teams, another close finish was in the cards. In the first meeting, Methacton guard Pat O’Neill hit a buzzer beater to give the Warriors a 58-56 win.
In the second meeting, the Eagles held on late for a hard fought 43-40 win. Without that win, the Eagles wouldn’t have made the playoffs, as they snuck in at 8-5 on a tiebreaker edge over Phoenixville.
Lost in the midst of the raucous crowd and comeback with the stifling defense the Eagles displayed for the final eight minutes of the game. Despite trailing by 12 early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles used a 19-4 run to close out the win, including holding the Warriors to just 1-of-8 shooting in the overtime period.
The Eagles used a balanced scoring attack to fuel the comeback, along with swarming defense. They forced five turnovers on Methacton in the final five minutes, and finished with three players in double figures.
Trailing 42-32, Norristown locked up defensively, and continued attacking the rim at the other end. Darius McGowan started the late run with a layup, with the comeback charge eventually culminating in Allen’s three, leaving the entire Methacton sideline speechless.
Despite 14 points from sophomore sharpshooter David Duda, and 11 rebounds from freshman center Jeff Woodward, the Warriors struggled with protecting the basketball down the stretch. They ended up with 16 turnovers, very uncharacteristic for the very well coached, fundamental, Warriors.
Riding into the playoffs on a high note after a huge win over Perk Valley last Friday, the Warriors failed to match that performance, this time in a hostile environment.
“They thought they were going to come here and they were going to have a louder crowd, but not this time,” Allen said.
“We knew it was going to come down to the wire, and it was going to come down to who wanted it more and who played better defense,” Evans acknowledged.
Next up for Norristown is top seed Perkiomen Valley (19-3, 11-2), who enter the semifinals as the number 1 seed in District 1 6A.
While the Eagles know the challenge ahead of them Friday night in the semifinals, after having lost both regular season meetings, they will be eager to get a third shot at the title favorites.
One thing is for sure: Norristown is riding a wave of momentum, and the Vikings, despite being the higher seed, will be headed into a hostile environment at Norristown Friday night.
“We expect the atmosphere to be even better than it was tonight, it’s going to be a great final four night,” Evans said.
“We lost to them by 11 last time, but this time, it’s going to be a big upset,” Allen said. “We have something coming for them.”