PHOENIXVILLE >> Phoenixville showed once again Tuesday night that it is definitely one of the boys basketball teams to be reckoned with in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and surrounding areas for the 2015-16 season.
The Phantoms did so against defending PAC-10 champion Methacton, which has a completely different look this year, on the Phantoms’ home floor.
Phoenixville raced to early leads of 12-3 and 19-5 in the first six minutes of the ballgame and proceeded to outpace the Warriors, 76-65.
Propelled by 6-4 senior forward Christian Kelly’s 27 points and 10 rebounds, Phoenixville got another solid effort from its entire lineup to open the PAC-10 season on a bright note after splitting its first two games in the Downingtown West Tournament over the weekend.
Jeff Conboy, a 6-5 senior forward, provided a rugged 15 points and six rebounds and Avery Close knocked down three 3-pointers en route to 11 points as the Phantoms (1-0, 2-1) put three players in double figures. Point guard Marquise McDuffee had nine points with one three and another strong floor game, and Shyheim Abernathy added eight points with two threes for the Phantoms, who held a 42-30 halftime lead.
The Warriors (0-1, 1-2) were paced by Patrick O’Neill and Stephan Savage, who each canned 12 points, and Jerry Cerchio, who finished with 10.
“It was fun,” said Eric Burnett, Phoenixville’s second-year head coach. “We preached to play strong from the get-go after we had a slow start in the first two games when we dug ourselves a hole. We wanted to get a faster start and maintain that style of play and play with intensity for the rest of the game. We have to learn how to finish these games.”
Kelly shot 12-for-15 from the foul line, and Conboy was 8-for-11 at the stripe as the Phantoms dominated play inside with their definite size advantage.
Phoenixville went on a 10-0 run to take a 12-3 lead early. Close hit a rebound basket, and Conboy nailed a three from the left corner off an assist by Matt McLaughlin. Close made another putback, and McDuffee buried a three from the left corner off a pass from Kelly.
The break did not halt the momentum though. The Phantoms came out of the break with two foul shots by Kelly, a driving layup by McDuffee and a 3-pointer from the foul line area to take their 19-5 lead with 2:19 showing in the opening quarter.
Following a blocked shot by Kelly, the Warriors did close out the first quarter with a 5-0 run to cut the Phantoms’ lead to 19-10 after the first eight minutes. Jones hit a free throw, O’Neill a steal for a layup and Jones a basket from the left wing to create the nine-point difference.
Burnett said the Phantoms still showed some play that is a result of inexperience, but overall he was pleased with the outcome.
“Jeff (Conboy) has been outstanding,” said Burnett. “Not only is he playing with physicality and intensity, but he had another 15 points and six strong rebounds, He has been great with his hustle and leadership on the court and has been a key for us.”
Burnett said Phoenixville emphasized playing a strong outing in the opening league game on its home floor, not about any paybacks for the Warriors’ excellent season last winter.
“It was how important this was to win on our home floor,” Burnett said of the crossover victory.
The Phantoms extended their lead to 67-45 by the end of the third quarter, and both sides substituted freely the rest of the way.
“We have a lot of guys getting their first taste of varsity ball this season,” said Methacton coach Jeff Derstine. “But give Phoenixville credit. They played extremely well. With mismatches, they were able to get the ball inside. They shot 36 foul shots so they got to the line.”
Derstine did say he was proud of his troops for clawing their way back into the game after falling behind 19-5 in the opening minutes.
NOTES >> Kelly’s big outputs in the first three games put his career total at 849 points in his quest to become the next Phantom to reach the 1,000-point club. … Phoenixville hosts Frontier Division rival Pottsgrove Friday night.