BENSALEM – Before the season started, the thinking was that Holy Ghost Prep (HGP) – without a single starter back from last year – was going to get off to a slow start this season.
After last night’s 52-40 win over Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) rival Valley Forge Military Academy (VFMA ) Dec. 11 at Chapman Gymnasium, that thought can be erased. The Firebirds remain unbeaten at 5-0 and are 2-0 in the BAL.
“You have to figure without any experience from last year, you’re going to struggle early and it’s going to take a while to be cohesive and put things together,” explained Chapman. “But so far, we’ve played like they’ve been playing together for a couple of years.”
For the second night in a row, Ghost was led by 6-4 senior Jack Coolahan, who tallied 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. The night before on the ‘birds home court, Coolahan hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left, lifting Ghost to a 62-61 win over Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) power Father Judge.
Against VFMA’s Trojans, consider the fact that the Firebirds were playing without the services of point guard John McCrane. Plus, one never knows how a team is going to react coming off an emotional win like the one the ‘birds pulled off Dec. 10 against Judge.
While the Crusaders hit a dozen 3-pointers vs. Ghost, the ‘birds countered with double digit points from Coolahan (21 pts.), junior Mike McFadden (19) and senior Julian Turner (12).
Chapman said he wasn’t sure how much energy his team would bring to the table.
“I wasn’t afraid of a psychological letdown; I was afraid of a physical letdown,” said Chapman. “I didn’t know how much we had left in the tank, physically.”
“But our kids are smart and they know what they have to do to win.”
Maybe not much in the first half. With a halftime score of 17-14, favor: HGP, the two teams combined on just nine points in the first quarter. Both squads shot abysmally in the initial frame with Ghost missing a bunch from the perimeter and Valley Forge failing down low in the post.
“We were fortunate to figure out in the second half to figure out a few things that they were doing, defensively,” said Chapman. “But they had us early on.”
The only Firebird with more than one field goal at the half was McFadden, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening period.
“It seemed like, for both teams it was a defensive battle and an offensive struggle,” said Trojans head coach Francis Bowe.
“We had some opportunities early that were easy baskets; we just didn’t make them. And they’re backbreakers; you gotta make the easy ones and you have to make the layups.
“All game, our guards were hesitant. They had the look and then we just dribbled into great help defense.
“When you have the open shot, you have to take it.”
Valley Forge’s effort was led by Abraham Deng with 17 points. But the big 6-10 sophomore didn’t really get going until the fourth quarter when he hit four shots from the floor and was 2-of-4 from the foul line.
“Our kids played smart. Julian Turner was a warrior down low; he really battled,” said Chapman. “Their big guy scored down there at the end. Julian was probably exhausted by then. For three quarters, he did a heck of a job holding him off the boards.”
Ghost got its offense going in the second half with Coolahan and McFadden hitting two shots each from the floor and big Jack adding a pair from the stripe.
The effort put the ‘birds on top by nine entering the fourth quarter which forced the visitors to pull Deng off the defensive boards. That opened up the lane for Ghost and they made the Trojans pay with Coolahan hitting three shots in the paint and McFadden hitting for six of his 17 points in the contest.
From the stripe, the ‘birds hit 9-of 12 shots in the fourth quarter and 15-of-18 for the game. Coolahan and McFadden combined to go 9-of-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, sealing Holy Ghost’s fifth win of the season and second against a BAL opponent.
According to Chapman, the quick start registered by the Firebirds is the product of a lot of hard work in the offseason.
“We played in a lot of good leagues and played a lot of good teams in the offseason and won very few games,” the coach explained. “I kept harping on them and telling them ‘we’re getting better; just keep working on your skills.’
“Now, it’s starting to pay off.”
Holy Ghost got its season started Dec. 4 with a 43-32 win over Manheim Township. Coolahan led the ‘birds effort that night with 23 points and was named Tournament MVP after Ghost dismantled Lancaster Catholic 57-36 the next day in the championship.
McFadden –who was named to the All-Tournament team – led the ‘birds with 20 points in the win over LC, and McCrane (15) and junior Aiden Bauer (13) also scored double digits.
Coolahan (21), McFadden (12) and Bauer (11) tallied double figures in the team’s BAL opener, a 57-45 win Dec. 8 at New Hope-Solebury.
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Holy Ghost Prep 52, Valley Forge Military Academy 40
(Dec. 11 at Holy Ghost)
Valley Forge MI 3 11 10 16 – 40
Holy Ghost Prep 6 11 16 19 – 52
Mike McFadden 17, Jim Armentani 2, Ryan Wade 2, Julian Turner 4, Ryan Staropoli 2, Aiden Bauer 5, Jack Coolahan 19, Luke McDonald 1; TOTALS: 17 15-18–52.
3-POINT GOALS: McFadden 2, Bauer.
Kai Amen-Ra 4, Myles Bunyon 4, Will Colleran 2, Abraham Deng 17, Spencer Robinson 2, Tarique Ryans 11; TOTALS: 13 7-11–40.
3-POINT GOALS: Ryans 3.
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