By NEIL GEOGHEGAN
DOWNINGTOWN – The defense has pretty much been a constant all basketball season. And at various times, Bishop Shanahan has shown an ability to knock down important perimeter shots. But on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Ches-Mont Boys’ Tournament, the Eagles put it all together, and it was a sight to behold.
With the program’s first-ever berth in the championship game hanging in the balance, Bishop Shanahan proceeded to rain down 3-pointers at one end, and keep American Division champion Great Valley in check at the other. And the end result was a thoroughly efficient 52-29 victory for the Eagles.
“It’s the first time Bishop Shanahan’s ever been in the Ches-Mont final,” said head coach Ken Doyle. “It’s a great honor, but we still aren’t done. We’d like to try and get one more and bring a title home.
“I told our kids to be proud of themselves — that we’ve done something that the school’s never done. But we are not satisfied.”
Now 17-6 overall, the Eagles will face Coatesville on Thursday for the championship at Downingtown West. The Red Raiders won the C-M National and nipped West Chester Rustin in the other semifinal. Shanahan and Coatesville split a pair of regular season meetings.
“We played well against them both times,” Doyle said.
“Knowing that we can beat them is important,” added senior Dan Browne.
The Patriots (17-6 overall) had a great regular season, but came out a bit listless at the start and never fully recovered. In all, Shanahan knocked down 10 from beyond the arc, which would have been enough points to squeak by right there. And the Eagles wound up connecting on 52.6 percent of their long distance offerings.
“We were not counting on them to shoot like that,” said Great Valley head coach Paul Girone. “This is my fourth time seeing Shanahan and in two of those they didn’t shoot very well. I knew they were capable, but we had to pick our poison.”
The game plan called for extra attention on inside players Kevin Dodds and Thomas Ford. But that provided an opening for junior guard David Angelo, and he went out and buried six of eight of his 3-point attempts.
“(Angelo) has been good all year, but he was a little stronger tonight,” Doyle said.
“The whole team just gets energy off my 3’s,” added Angelo, who admitted that his listed height (5-foot-10) may be slightly exaggerated. “And if I get going, everybody gets going. It’s not just good for me but for the whole team.”
The Eagles also did something you have to do against the very patient and deliberate Patriots: take command early. Shanahan raced out to an 8-0 lead and forced Girone to call a timeout. And then when the Eagles scored the first five points of the second quarter, the Pats called another timeout. But it was already 18-5 and Great Valley was in trouble.
“We’ve been playing good defense all season but we’ve really been trying to play a little faster,” Doyle explained. “It was very important for us to get out fast.”
Angelo said: “Getting on them early was huge for momentum. (Great Valley) had a big student section behind them, so didn’t want them to have the energy early.”
Down by 11 at the half, Great Valley got untracked offensively in the third quarter and eventually pulled to within six. But Angelo then responded with a trio of back-breaking 3-pointers, and the Pats never seriously challenged again.
“Tonight we were able to hit some shots that we usually get but don’t always hit,” Doyle said.
“Our goal defensively was to take out (Kevin) Dodds and (Thomas) Ford, and we did a good job with that,” Girone added. “But Angelo was terrific and (Shanahan) was 10 for-19 overall. Once those shots start falling, they are very hard to beat.
“We finally started to get our offense to click, and then ‘boom,’ almost effortlessly they start hitting from distance. It’s demoralizing.”
Shanahan then pulled away in the final period with Browne leading the way, scoring nine of his 15 points in the quarter. His bucket with 2:51 remaining not only put the Eagles ahead 46-29, it enabled Browne to eclipse the 1,000 career point milestone.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders,” Browne said. “It’s something I’ve been looking to do before I even entered high school.”
Angelo led all scorers with 20. Liam Ward paced the Patriots with 14, but none of his teammates managed to score more than five.
“We have a lot of energy guys and that’s what we’ve built our team off of,” Doyle said.
“Getting a chance to win the league title has been a goal of ours since the beginning of the season,” Browne added. “Nobody really thought we could do it, but we knew inside our locker room that we had all of the pieces to do it. We had confidence in ourselves and that’s all that really matters.”
Bishop Shanahan 52, Great Valley 29
GREAT VALLEY – Capitano 1 0-0 2; Geiss 1 0-0 2; Ward 4 3-4 14; Porreca 1 0-0 2; Long 2 0-0 4; Graeff 2 1-2 5. Totals 11 4-6 29.
BISHOP SHANAHAN – Dodds 2 2-2 7; Angelo 6 2-2 20; Ford 0 0-2 0; Browne 6 0-0 15; Kozinski 2 2-4 6; O’Malley 2 0-0 4. Totals 18 6-10 52
Great Valley 5 6 14 4 – 29
Bishop Shanahan 13 9 17 13 – 52
Three-pointers: Ward 3, Dodds, Angelo 6, Browne 3.