TOWAMENCIN >> In a blink, North Penn’s lead over Upper Moreland had shrank to just four points.
After Shane Stone’s steal and layup with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter, North Penn called a timeout to settle things down. The Knights weren’t panicking — they just needed to make sure they closed the game out.
Lance Ford decided to start grabbing every rebound in sight, the Knights knocked down some free throws and they locked up a 44-32 win over the visiting Golden Bears in an SOL Challenge game Saturday afternoon.
“When we lost that lead, I thought we lost our poise,” Knights coach John Conrad said. “We were able to get it back after that timeout and our guys played well down the stretch.”
Offensively, it wasn’t a great day for either team, with Upper Moreland having a cold spell from beyond the 3-point line and North Penn missing some good looks. For the Bears, the offense went cold quicker and harder, as North Penn pulled away in a lopsided second quarter.
North Penn (9-3, 4-0 SOL Continental) defended well and used its bench to full effect on both ends of the floor, a definite edge with both teams coming off Friday night games. With forward Reece Udinski struggling to find the range and power forward David Giuliani having to contend with Stone and Jake Villanueva down low, the reserves were a big help in opening up a 25-13 halftime lead.
Noah Kwortnik and AJ Catanzaro each had six off the bench at the halftime break, giving the Knights a cushion they would need before the closing stretch.
“We were kind of flat-footed, we didn’t play with any pace on the offensive end,” Conrad said. “A lot of times when we’re able to get stops, we’re able to transition pretty quickly into offense. That third quarter, they were able to score and set up.”
Ford, who had a team-high 11 points, started the third quarter on a roll, scoring five in a row as North Penn zipped out to a 32-18 edge before the Bears (6-5, 2-3 SOL American) started clawing back. It started with a Damian Washington 3-pointer, one of just three makes from distance for the whole team, then continued when Stone stole a ball and found Casey Decker for a layup after a 2-on-1 break.
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) January 8, 2017
Stone scored inside and made a pair of free throws to end the third with UM down 32-26. The teams traded a pair of baskets to start the fourth before Stone made his steal and coast-to-coast finish to slice it down to 36-32.
“When you play a good team like that, you can’t lose the second quarter 14-4 and expect to win,” Bears coach Matt Heiland said. “We were (3-of-20) from 3-point range and they were good looks. A lot of them, we said that was the look we want. We missed open shots.”
Heiland felt his team played solid half-court defense, but noted North Penn was able to beat his team on transition and second-chance points, which was due to guys like Giuliani, Ricky Johns and even guards like Chris Coleman and Nate O’Donnell pursuing offensive rebounds.
After Conrad’s timeout with 4:47 left, the Bears wouldn’t score again. What helped that was North Penn’s foul shooting as the Knights made six of eight down the stretch, forcing Upper Moreland to take 3-pointers to try and cut down the lead again.
It also helped that as noted, Ford started rebounding every miss he possibly could, ripping down half of his 10 boards in the fourth quarter. The senior guard started at point in the absence of the injured AJ Mitchell (sprained thumb) and went 3-of-4 at the line over the final 1:32 of the game.
“He played well for us defensively and offensively,” Conrad said. “We’ve been moving Lance around, but we’re comfortable putting him in there to start, especially with AJ hurt.”
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) January 8, 2017
Despite adding Saturday’s setback to a tough loss to Wissahickon on Friday, Heiland likes where his team is at, heading into a tough week with games against Plymouth Whitemarsh and Upper Dublin. With the midway point of the season looming, the Bears are where they want to be.
North Penn, which is the last unbeaten team in SOL Continental play, faces a tough test on Tuesday against Pennridge. The Rams are a little similar to Upper Moreland in that Pennridge has guys who can mix it up inside and some solid shooters, and sophomore Sean Yoder has been getting better each week.
“We had a tough game last night at South and I was proud of how our kids responded today,” Conrad said. “With Pennridge, Dean (Behrens) always does a nice job and those guys are always tough.”
North Penn 44, Upper Moreland 32
Upper Moreland 9 4 13 6 – 32
North Penn 11 14 7 12 – 44
Upper Moreland (32): Casey Decker 1 0-0 2, Damian Washington 3 0-0 8, Ryan Coyle 1 1-2 3, Shane Stone 5 2-2 12, Jake Villanueva 2 0-0 4, Anthony Greene 1 0-0 3. Nonscoring: Brossman, O’Donnell, Jacob, Herb. Totals: 13 3-4 32.
North Penn (44): Lance Ford 3 3-4 11, Chris Coleman 3 1-2 7, Reece Udinski 0 2-2 2, David Giuliani 3 0-2 6, Derek Heiserman 1 0-0 2, Noah Kwortnik 3 0-0 6, AJ Catanzaro 2 0-0 6, Ricky Johns 2 0-0 4. Nonscoring: O’Donnell. Totals: 17 6-10 44.
3-pointers: UM – Washington 2, Greene; NP – Ford 2, Catanzaro 2.
Top Photo: North Penn’s Dave Giuliani grabs a rebound in front of Upper Moreland’s Brett Brossman during their game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)