Anthony Dabbundo (@AnthonyDabbundo)
Neither team had played an official game of basketball in over two weeks.
Both No. 6 Phoenixville and No. 11 Wissahickon were dealing with extended layoffs since the conclusion of the regular season.
Yet when the two teams convened for the opening round of the 5A District playoffs, only one team let the rust oxidize. The other turned the rust into red hot shooting.
Wissahickon came flying out of the gates with a high octane first half, ending the Phantoms season with a wire-to-wire 67-48 win on Wednesday night.
Shane Ford and the rest of the Trojans squad took the 15-day layover in stride.
Having not played since February 7, when the Trojans finished off the regular season with a 20-point win over Quakertown, some rust was expected.
“It was the practices and the scrimmages that helped us stay in rhythm,” Ford said.
“We’re a very close team so it’s easy to stay in rhythm.”
They played two different scrimmages, against Council Rock South and Cheltenham, two teams who made the 6A playoffs, to keep themselves rust-free.
“The scrimmages against two top 6A teams helped us keep our momentum going, keep up our physicality,” Ford continued.
The Phantoms had an even longer rest between games. They missed out on the PAC playoffs on a tiebreaker with Norristown, so their last regular season game was an overtime win over No. 8 seed Upper Merion back on February 2.
A whopping 20 days later, the Phantoms looked like a completely different team.
“We scrimmaged Methacton eight days ago, it’s been a long ride,” Phoenixville head coach Eric Burnett said.
“You could clearly see our rust in the first half.”
In the opening half, the Phantoms basket was sealed closed. They shot just 2-of-12 (17%) in the opening quarter, and 4-of-11 (36%) in the second quarter. Combine the poor shooting percentage with eight turnovers, and the end product was a mere 17 points in the opening 16 minutes of basketball.
By the time they had shaken off the rust, they found themselves down 17 points heading into the break. From then, it was an obstacle too great to overcome.
Right from tip-off, Ford and the Trojans were in control.
Thanks to a hot start from the entire lineup, Wissahickon grabbed an early 7-0 lead, and never looked back. Ford and Zach Reiner were a combined 5-of-5 in the opening quarter, scoring 11 of the Trojans 16.
Ford, a 6-foot-4 senior, wanted to make sure tonight wasn’t his last high school basketball game. He finished with 20 points on 8-10 shooting, including 4-of-6 from beyond the three point arc.
“I was feeling it from the start,” Ford said, smiling ear to ear.
Joining Ford in double figures was Reiner, who added 17 while shooting 83% from the field, and junior guard Chaz Owens, who finished with 12 points.
Ford knew the offense would come, he knew the team just had to focus in on the Phantoms two leading scorers, Shyheim Abernathy and Avery Close.
“We knew offense would come we just had to focus on defense,” Ford said. “Our mentality was to stop their two best scorers.”
Close was held to just 9 points, which is well below his season average of 17.7 a game. Abernathy finished with 12, also below his season average of 15.2.
Despite multiple efforts including a mid-4th quarter run that found the Phantoms within 8, they never got close enough to really trouble the Trojans.
“It was 48-40 at one stretch and we were chipping away,” Burnett said. “You’re not going to win many games going 1-for-15 from three and missing chippy layups.”
“That might be a testament to the 20 days off,” he admitted.
After a 15 day break in between the regular season and the playoffs, Wissahickon now has just three days to get ready for another road trip, this time to Penncrest for the 5A quarterfinals.
With eight teams left in the district field, and seven of them qualifying for the state playoffs, the Trojans need just one win in any of the next three potential games to qualify.
In other District 1 5A action:
No. 1 Chester 75, No. 16 Upper Moreland 59
Jamar Sudan led the way for Chester as they downed Upper Moreland in the first round in 5A district play; the senior chipped in 16 points and 8 rebounds for the host Clippers. Upper Moreland trailed by seven at the break, but the perennial district powerhouse was able to hold on for the win. Ahrod Carter and Brian Randolph contributed 10 and 12, respectively.
No. 2 Great Valley 54, No. 15 Upper Perkiomen 43
After leading 21-15 at half, the Patriots of Great Valley never looked back as they defeated Upper Perk 54-43. Alex Capitano led all scorers with 16, including going 8-8 from the free throw line down the stretch. Great Valley as a team finished 18-20 from the stripe. For the visiting Indians, Ryan Kendra scored 16, while big man Nolan Graber added 10 points and 8 rebounds.
No. 3 Penncrest 51, No. 14 Harriton 44
Tyler Norwood scored 23 and Justin Ross added 14 as the Lions triumphed over the visiting Rams. That was revenge for Penncrest, which had lost to Harriton during the Central League season by six in late January. It was a 23-20 lead at the half for Penncrest, which widened that advantage to eight during the third quarter and then held on for the win.
No. 4 Bishop Shanahan 59, No. 13 Academy Park 39
The Eagles flew away from the Knights early, jumping out to an 33-14 halftime lead as Danny Browne scored all 11 of his points in the first half. Academy Park never threatened down the stretch as Shanahan moved on behind 19 points from senior forward John Kozinski and a 12-point, eight-rebound outing from junior forward Kevin Dodds. Senior guard Nick Simmons led AP with 17 points.
No. 5 West Chester Rustin 57, No. 12 Glen Mills 50
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No. 8 Upper Merion 55, No. 9 Strath Haven 45
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No. 10 Springfield (Delco.) 58, No. 7 Holy Ghost Prep 42
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