CORNWELL HEIGHTS – With a 3-point lead entering the second period, Holy Ghost Prep (HGP) had everything under control in its District 1 Class 5A opener against visiting Springfield – or so it seemed.
Then, the Firebirds couldn’t buy a basket for the first six minutes of the second quarter and the Cougars scored 14 straight points to go on top, 22-11 and the boys from Bucks County were in trouble.
“We had great intensity early but I was a little worried at the end of the first quarter,” said HGP head coach Tony Chapman. “Even though we had the lead we had three or four turnovers and a couple easy baskets that we missed.
“If we played a little better in the first quarter we would have had a 7- or 8-point lead going into the second and that kind of changed the game.”
Still, a Mike McFadden 3-pointer and a couple of free throws by the big man Ryan Starapoli got Ghost’s deficit down to single digits and they trailed 24-16 going into the intermission.
After the break, things only got worse for the Firebirds. That’s because Springfield senior Kyle Sullivan hit back-to-back treys to open the Central League rival’s lead to 14 points and senior Kyle Sullivan hit another 3-pointer to put the Cougars up, 33-16, with 5:30 still to play in the third quarter.
“They’re more athletic,” admitted Chapman. “They’re bigger, they’re stronger they’re faster and they have seven or eight players.”
“Their seeding, with nine losses, is very deceiving. They’re playing 5- and 6-A teams all year and we’re not.
“It’s a step up in competition for us as far as the level of play, the physicality and the speed of the game.”
In between Springfield’s 3-point baskets, HGP senior Mike McFadden went down hard after an off-balance shot. And while he returned to action near the end of the third quarter, he was noticeably hobbled, favoring his left ankle, which he thinks may have broken.
While he wasn’t able to score another point, McFadden returned to the hardwood, as did all the seniors late in the battle, but by that time, the skirmish was long decided.
With a minute or so left, Chapman took John McCrane, Aidan Bauer and McFadden – the senior starters for Ghost – out of the last basketball game they’d ever play on Bristol Pike.
“It’s been a nice four years here; they have a great program here and a great family,” said McFadden. “And I love it. Coach makes you feel right at home.”
The 10th-seeded Cougars advance to face second-seeded Great Valley, a 54-43 winner over No. 15 Upper Perkiomen.
After helping the ‘birds win the District 1-AAA Tournament a season ago, McFadden’s final season faded into dust at 16-10.
Springfield starters Kyle Long and Great Orjih – both seniors – paced the Cougars with 16 and 10 points, respectively. Reserve guard Mike Webb gave his team a big boost with 10 points off the bench.
Ghost had 10 players reach the scoring column, however, none hit for double digits.
HGP sophomore Greg Sylvester hit a trey at the 4:45 mark of the third quarter but that was matched by Springfield senior Alex D’Angelis. Moments later, senior Joe Calvin put back a basket but Orjih returned the favor at the other end for the Cougars.
McCrane hit another putback at the 2:30 mark and classmate Jack Beck canned a jumper to close Ghost’s deficit to 15 but with a few seconds to go, Springfield reserve guard Mike Webb, after scoring twice in the second quarter, drained his third field goal to put the visitors up 42-26 heading into the final frame.
Webb finished with 10 points including two more field goals in the fourth quarter.
“He’s the perfect guy to bring off the bench; he’s a real spark,” said Chapman. “He might be their most athletic player. He’s a dart; he’s really fast and he plays with great intensity.”
Turnovers – too many to count – hurt Holy Ghost’s chances to win this one.
“We didn’t play our style,” admitted Chapman. “But you fall behind by that many, you have to take chances. When the game becomes ragged, it becomes more of a fast-break, semi-streetyard game, the advantage is going to go to the more athletic team, which clearly they were.”
In addition to the senior starters, the Firebirds wave goodbye to Kyle Cartin, Luke McDonald, Jack Beck and Joe Calvin.
Next year, Ghost will return to the hardwood with only junior Jack Elliot and sophomore Ryan Starapoli possessing any starting experience. And sophomores Greg Calvin and Greg Sylvester are the only others with significant varsity minutes.
Chapman’s not worried. It’s not in his nature.
“From a basketball standpoint, I think we’ll have as much talent, but it’s going to be young talent,” admitted the coach.
“We’re not going to be starting three of four seniors next year. We’ll probably start one senior with some juniors and sophomores.
“But I feel good about our chances down the road.”
NOTES: After scoring just two points in the first quarter, Long, a 5-10 junior guard for the Cougars, canned 10 points in the second and third periods, combined, when the outcome of the battle was still in question. In the final frame, he canned 4-of-4 shots from the foul line.
District 1 Class 5A First Round
Springfield (D) 58, Holy Ghost Prep 42
(Feb. 22 at Holy Ghost Prep)
Springfield (DC) 8 16 18 16 – 58
Holy Ghost Prep 11 5 10 16 – 42
HOLY GHOST PREP (16-10) — Aidan Bauer 6, Matt Savinon 3, Greg Sylvester 4, Ryan Starapoli 6, Jack Rittenmeyer 2, Mike McFadden 8, John McCrane 6, Sean Elliot 1, Joe Calvin 2, Jack Beck 4; TOTALS — 16 6-11 42.
SPRINGFIELD DelCo (14-9) — Kyle Sullivan 8, Great Orjih 10, Ja’Den McKenzie 5, Kyle Long 16, Alex D’Angelis 3, Justin Collins 6, Mike Webb 10; TOTALS — 19 15-23 58.
3-POINT GOALS: HGP — McFadden 2, Sylvester, Savinon; S — Long 2, D’Angelis, Sullivan 2.