TOWAMENCIN >> J.J. Melchior was feeling it early.
“You feel like the basket’s as big as the ocean,” said North Penn’s 6-foot-4 senior guard, who nailed four three-pointers in a big first quarter for the Knights. “(Exeter) then started to face-guard me tough, and I figured I had to distribute the ball and give it to my teammates. And they really stepped up.”
Eight different players scored for North Penn, including Melchior’s game-high 18, and the Knights played stifling defense down the stretch to roll to a 78-50 win over Exeter in a non-league game at North Penn.
The Eagles (1-3) closed to within seven points in the third quarter, but the Knights (2-1) did not allow them to get any closer.
“We knew we had to dig in defensively,” Melchior said. “And we got steals, we played hard, and got some easy buckets on the other end, which really helped us pull away.”
Matt Pickford intercepted an Exeter pass and took it all the way in for two, pushing the lead back to double digits, and a three by A.J. Mitchell would keep the Knights comfortably in front.
A jumper by Mitchell got North Penn off to a strong start in the fourth, up 59-44. The Knights would allow just six points in the final quarter in closing things out.
“I thought we got it done defensively — we scored a lot in transition,” North Penn coach John Conrad said. “I thought we were very unselfish tonight. I thought our big guys rebounded well, and the focus of (Exeter’s) offense is that they have three really strong guys inside, and I thought Derek (Heiserman), Lance (Lindsay-Ford), J.J. and Noah (Kwortnik) did a real good job defensively.”
Lindsay-Ford came up with another steal for NP and took it in for a layup and a 61-44 Knights lead, and the margin would grow to 22 when Melchior sank his fifth and final three of the game, making it 66-44 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left to play.
“I feel like we’re on the right track,” Melchior said. “With the conference schedule starting on Friday (at home against Central Bucks South), South’s a good team — they’re big, and I feel like our bigs have been playing well defensively. Everyone’s rebounding the ball. I feel like if we keep on this pace, we’ll be good this year.”
A layup by Kwortnik followed by a three by Melchior gave the Knights a 17-7 lead early, and NP would take a 22-12 lead into the second quarter.
There, the Knights got points from six different players and continued to hit from outside, with a jumper by Lindsay-Ford stretching the North Penn advantage to 28-14.
With Pickford and A.J. Mitchell driving to the basket, the Knights would lead by as many as 16 in the period. A runner down the lane by Mitchell gave NP a 37-21 lead before Keyshawn Slythe, who had a team-high 14 points for Exeter, nailed a three at the buzzer to trim the margin to 37-24 at the break.
The Eagles would trim the margin to seven in the third, but North Penn controlled things from there.