North Penn stunned by Up­per Darby

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - OPINION - By An­drew Mar­cus

The North Penn boys bas­ket­ball team needed to mus­cle through one last screen to per­se­vere one more time. How­ever a six-foot se­nior point guard named Kuity Slanger si­lenced the vis­i­tors and helped his team avoid an up­set by drilling a three­p­oint bas­ket from the top of the key.

Sit­ting in the locker room de­jected back in Jan­uary with a 5-10 record, the Knights would have set­tled IRU D ORss LQ WKH fiUsW URuQD of the District One Class AAAA play­offs. But that is be­fore they ac­tu­ally took the flRRU DQD IRuQD WKHPsHOvHs sec­onds away from the sec­ond round. On Fri­day, the 45-44 loss to Up­per Darby left the Knights’ dev­as­tated and shocked.

“We gave this team that is ranked much higher than us a great game,” Knights’ se­nior cap­tain Michael Swan­son said. “I am proud of the way my team­mates and I fought and the ball just did not bounce our way at the end.”

A seven-game win streak to close out the reg­u­lar sea­son landed them the 24th seed and their de­fen­sive ef­fort against the ninth-seeded Roy­als al­lowed them to a hold a seven-point lead with two min­utes left in the fourth quar­ter. The va­ri­ety of zones and match-ups con­fused the sec­ond place team from the Cen­tral League. The Roy­als were un­able to get their guards space and they turned the ball over 20 times in the game. The Knights held a lead through­out the stopDQD-sWDUW fiQDO sHFRQDs.

“They have been un­der­sized all year and I thought they did a great job re­bound­ing,” Knights coach John Con­rad said. “We had a cou­ple chances down the stretch to make free throws and we FRuOD QRW DR LW. ,Q WKH fiQDO sec­onds we let them have too many re­bounds and it did us in.”

Af­ter miss­ing a few foul shots and fail­ing to pull down de­fen­sive re­bounds, the Roy­als re­ceived one last clean look with a side in­bound pass with 10.6 sec­onds left on the clock. It was the Knights’ abil­ity to re­bound that al­lowed them to take a 22-21 score and use a 22-6 run to es­tab­lish that the up­set was be­com­ing a re­al­ity. Lead­ing the charge on the glass was the 6-foot-1 Swan­son, who pulled in six boards and scored a game high 13 points.

“Coach had them on point and the game plan was ex­actly right,” Swan­son said. “I knew they could run a lit­tle bit, we knew their ten­den­cies and knew what each player could do. There were streaks when we were re­bound­ing and streaks when were not, but we played phys­i­cal un­til the end.”

Swan­son drained a three­p­ointer and hit two free throws in the fourth quar­ter and had the Knights at an­other level. Slanger was rel­e­gated to dish­ing to Qua- DLU 5LFH, ZKR fiQLsKHD ZLWK 13 points. The only time 6ODQJHU FRuOD fiQD DZDy around the Knights’ Stephan Brown was af­ter a time out on a play drawn up to get the ball in the hands of Roy­als’ go-to guy. With two three­p­oint­ers in the fourth quarWHU, 6ODQJHU fiQLsKHD ZLWK 10 points.

“Steph did a great job on him all game,’ Con­rad said. “They had to go out and gap block him to get open. They gave me that ef­fort all year and I am really proud of them. They played their hearts out and came out on the wrong end tonight.”

No one ex­pected the Knights to be even in the district play­offs even af­ter a fivH-JDPH ZLQ sWUHDN. 7KHQ at six in a row the 32nd seed and chance to lose to Ch­ester was an op­tion. But the 24th seed and sec­onds away from WKH fiQDO 16 WHDPs SODyLQJ LQ the district were not in the wildest dreams. There is no doubt that the de­jec­tion the Knights im­me­di­ately felt on Fri­day will quickly fade to pride.

“Right now it is painful,” Con­rad said. “Th­ese kids have taught me more than I have been able to teach them about be­ing tough. They never stopped bat­tling and I am so proud of them.”

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