Kevin Dodds (above) had perhaps his best career game as Shanahan advanced to its first district championship game in 23 years. (Photo: Tommy Smith/CoBL)
Austin Petolillo (@AustinPSports)
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter of a District 1 5A semifinal against Chester, Bishop Shanahan was leading by five.
Shanahan senior forward Thomas Ford drove in for a layup. The ball rolled around the back rim and fell right into trailing senior forward Kevin Dodds’ hands. Dodds then tossed it up from his stomach, off the glass, and fell right in the hoop.
“When I got the ball and I shot it, I spun and I was like ‘oh that felt good,’” the 6-foot-6 Dodds said. “And then it went in, and I was like ‘oh this is a good day’ and just ran away.”
That one reverse layup was two of Dodds’ game-high 23 points as the Eagles beat the Clippers 61-47 at the Liacouras Center on Wednesday night.
His 23-point, 15-rebound performance was his best performance ever, according to Dodds.
“We came out and knew had to play our best,” Dodds said. “Always 100 percent throughout that game, we had to make sure we always stepped up and we kept pushing and pushing.”
Senior guard David Angelo finished the game with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists for the Eagles Ford finished with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Wednesday’s semifinal game marked the third straight time the Eagles had reached the district semifinals.
Two years ago, they played in the old District 1 AAA semifinals at Wissahickon High School and lost to Lower Moreland. Last season, they moved up to District 1 5A in the new PIAA classifications, and lost to Lower Merion in the semifinals held at the Liacouras Center.
This time though, it was different. The final result didn’t end in heartbreak for the Eagles.
David Angelo (above) is another three-year starter for the Eagles, who had made three straight district semifinals. (Photo: Tommy Smith/CoBL)
Having already played inside the 10,200 seat arena on the campus of Temple University just last season, the senior-led Shanahan squad was on a mission.
“Last year I think we looked at the lights and the arena and the crowd too much,” Dodds said, “so this year we were used to it, and we were ready to go.
“I feel proud of my team to be able to play like this and we managed to get back here and didn’t lose,” he added.
With 4:27 to go in the third quarter, Shanahan called timeout after Chester got out to a 38-32 lead, and the advantage briefly hit seven out of the break.
“We knew we just had to get back to how we play,” Shanahan senior guard David Angelo said. “And we’ve been pretty resilient all year, and that’s what coach reminded us of. We knew we could battle back and that’s what we did.”
At the end of the first half, it looked like Shanahan was going to have to rely on Angelo and the other slew of seniors as Dodds was at three fouls at the break.
Instead, head coach Ken Doyle elected to keep him in.
“We start looking, my assistant coaches say to me, hey we need to get him out, but I’m like ‘no, I’m not taking him out even for 20 seconds at the end of a quarter,’” Doyle said. “He’s our backbone, and if we’re going down, we’re going down with him and going down swinging.”
A Gannon University (Pa.) commit, Dodds is known as a reserved, but very effective leader on and off the court.
“He is a quiet kid and he doesn’t say much but when he does say something, everyone stops and listens,” Doyle said. “He’s more of a lead-by-example type of person so when he does speak, he grabs control of the room.”
“From time to time he gets his buttons pushed and he becomes Mean Kevin, which all his teammates love. We just wish we got it a little more often at times, and you saw a little bit in the second half with how relentless he is.”
Towards the end of the game, a timeout was called. As the Shanahan players headed towards their huddle, they started waving their arms to hype up the student section. All of them, except Dodds, who was slowly strolling and clapping his hands.
“Usually Tom (Ford) and Dave (Angelo) are the hype men so I’m usually the quiet guy so when I do get hype, it’s kind of fun but sometimes I bring it back myself and stay calm.”
“I usually stay quiet and just play basketball, I don’t look at the crowd and when I do, it’s a distraction sometimes but this game it was fun to look at them when we won.”
For Chester, they were led by 11-point efforts from senior guard Brian Randolph II and junior wing Rahmaad DeJarnette. The Clippers will still advance to the 5A state tournament, but first they’ll play Wissahickon on Friday night for seeding purposes.
Dodds, Angelo and the rest of the Eagles will look to win their first district title since 1995 as they take on Penncrest in the 5A Championship game at the Liacouras Center on Saturday at 2 PM.
“It’s awesome. It’s awesome,” Angelo said. “I mean, last year we got here and lost, we had to play a consolation-type game, feels good to be coming back on Saturday and playing at Temple.”