Warriors falls to Conestoga
They say defense wins championships. Well, in the second round of the District One Class AAAA playoffs at Conestoga High School on Tuesday, the top-seeded Pioneers rode a sparkling team defensive performance, including a big block late in the game by Martin Dorsey, to a thrilling 45-40 win over No. 18 Methacton.
The win qualifies them for the PIAA Class AAAA tournament and keeps their hopes of winning the district title alive. Conestoga will now play Central League foe Lower Merion Friday night at home for the right to go to the District One Final Four at Temple University. Lower Merion has defeated Conestoga twice already this season, but the Pioneers are happy for the matchup with the highly touted Aces.
“It was my main goal for our team before the season started to make the state playoffs,” Zack Yonda said. “And to get Lower Merion on our floor in the playoffs is what I live for. It is going to be a great game.”
Methacton must travel to Penn Wood on Friday in the play-back round with a state berth still possible.
Conestoga (22-4) had control of the game from the outset as the Warriors (169) struggled to make shots from the field. Methacton shot just 14-for-46 on the night and 5-for-23 in the first half when they fell into a 2013 hole.
Conestoga seemed a step quicker and were getting good looks inside due to some great interior passing from Darryl Caldwell and Dan Vila, while the Warriuors were settling for outside shots.
“We struggled to get our shots to fall,” Methacton coach Jeff Derstine said. “But we really battled back and had the (Conestoga) lead down to three. They are a very good team and they have a deep bench. There is not much drop off when they go to the bench. We started to hit some shots in the fourth period and I am proud of the way the kids battled back, but it is tough to win when you only score 13 points in the first half.”
Conestoga broke the game
21st Century Media News
There’s a reason that number-one seeded teams in the NCAA Division One tournament have never lost a first round game, and that there have only been seven two-seeds upset in March Madness history: top seeded teams are always really, really good.
Because of the nature of high seeds, people generally expect tournament games where high seeds take on low seeds to be bloodbaths.
This was not so on Saturday night, though, at Conestoga when the topseeded Pioneers faced the 32nd-seeded Norristown Eagles in the first round of the District One Class AAAA playoffs. The Eagles nipped at Conestoga throughout the entire contest — and found themselves down only four with less than a minute in the third — but fell behind in the fourth as their upset bid was soured in the Pioneers’ 47-34 victory.
“We expected Norristown to give us a tough game,” Conestoga coach Mike Troy said. “They’re well coached, and they always battle and battle and battle. They always play teams tough. We expected them to come in and give us a really tough battle.”
Well, a tough battle is exactly what the Pioneers got. Norristown actually held the first lead of the game, scoring the initial bucket and another shortly after to put Conestoga in a small 4-1 hole early. Though the Pioneers were able to battle back and take the first 18-9, the Eagles didn’t mail it in.
Using a strong six-point quarter by Chris Evans, Norristown chipped a point off of the Pioneer lead and went into the half down only 2719.
The first 7:57 of the third went even better for the Eagles, as they cut their deficit to four on a big three-pointer by Curt Lever within the final minute, and looked to be headed into the fourth down only 34-30.
The Pioneers weren’t quite done. With less than 10 seconds on the clock in the third, Dan Vila dribbled up the court looking to stifle any Norristown momentum, and did, nailing a buzzer-beating three pointer to stretch the Conestoga lead to 37-30.
Norristown wilted in the fourth, scoring only four points on Khalif Sinclair’s three and free throw en route to a final score that made the game seem less close than it actually was.
“We just missed baskets and missed defensive assignments,” Norristown coach Mike Evans said. “We didn’t make shots when we had to. That’s what it came down to — they made shots and we didn’t.”
Three Conestoga scorers finished in double digits. Darryl Caldwell, Zack Yonda and Martin Dorsey scored 16, 11, and 11, respectively.
With the loss, Norristown’s season is done. Chris Evans led the Eagles with 12 points, despite being shut out in the fourth. Sinclair finished with 11.
“We overcame a rough season,” Mike Evans said. “We weren’t able to practice (as much as we wanted). We just came out and worked hard. We overcame a lot, and I’m proud of my seniors for overcoming the obstacles that we went through. open in the third period, Yonda, who led all scorers with 15 points, and point guard Darryl Caldwell, were the key players in the uprising. When Caldwell scored off a turnover late in the period for a 30-21 lead, it looked like a decisive blow against the Warriors as they went into the fourth trailing, 34-23.
But looks can be deceiving. Sean Mann drilled a three-pointer from the left corner to make it 36-30 game with 5:43 to play and it was game on. Vila answered for Conestoga as he scored from in tight to bump the lead to eight.
Methacton scored four straight points to cut the advantage in half, and was looking for more. Up went Mann for another long threepoint try, but Dorsey flew up and blocked the shot. He gathered in the loose ball and fed Andrew Diehl, who threw down a monster slam for a 40-34 lead as the home crowd was on its feet.
“The same guy just hit a three-pointer for them, so when I saw them go for it again I knew I had to go get it,” Dorsey said. “And I was lucky enough to block it and give the ball to Diehl for the throw down. It was a tough game and they came back, so I knew I had to make a play. And to be honest, I am glad we are going to be playing Lower Merion. They have beaten us twice this season, but now we get them on our home court and this place will be packed and we hopefully can beat them and send the crowd home happy.
“We are excited to make states, but we want to win the district championship, so we have to get by Lower Merion to do that.”
Dorsey’s and Diehl’s heroics did not stop Methacton however. Mann came back down the floor and drilled another three-ball to cut the lead to 40-37 with 1:27 to play. Conestoga called time and coach Mike Troy had his team spread the floor and put the ball into Caldwell’s hands. The star sophomore dribbled off some clock, then was fouled and hit two free throws to make it a 4237 game with 1:02 to play.
Methacton’s cold shooting ways came back to haunt them as they couldn’t make a dent in the lead and the top seed was moving on.
“It is a great thing for these kids to make the state playoffs,” Troy said. “It is a tribute to how hard they have worked and their work ethic. Tonight, our defense and our defensive rebounding won the basketball game for us. To play Lower Merion, or anybody, is the same thing at this point. We just play who is in front of us and hopefully, try to get to our goal.”