QUAKERTOWN >> Plumstead Christian was a feisty four seed, but Faith Christian’s balance and ball movement provided a 57-46 victory Tuesday night, and a ticket to states.
“It definitely feels good, but we’re not done yet,” said Landon Coyle, whose 14 points led a diverse attack. “We’re ready to get the district championship so we can be the first seed going into states, and hopefully we can get that Saturday.”
The win advances Faith to the District 1-A Final at Council Rock South, to take on Girard College. Meanwhile Plumstead will take on Jenkintown to determine the third and final spot in the state tournament.
The Panthers got as close as six in the fourth quarter Tuesday night at Quakertown High, but a jumper by Darius Fornay pushed the margin back to eight. Once more, Plumstead cut it to six, but Faith worked the ball around and got Charles Ervin to the foul line, where he sank both shots to boost the lead to 54-46 with 1:18 to play, nailing down the victory.
“I hope that’s the sign of a good team,” said Lions coach Tony DaCosta of his team’s ability to respond to every Plumstead run. “Throughout this type of tournament and these types of games, you’re gonna have a team make a run at you, and then to show some character, you gotta withstand the runs.
“A lot of that is maturity, guys growing together.”
Faith jumped out to an 8-0 lead early, a steal and layup by Ervin getting it all going.
A layin by Miki Vitek rolled around the rim before settling in, pushing the lead further, and then back-to-back baskets by Zeke Snowden had the Lions looking strong in the opening moments.
Faith (24-3) led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, with Coyle converting an errant inbounds pass by Plumstead into an easy two, and a pretty setup by Fornay led to a score inside by Sawyer Smith.
Plumstead (14-11) came to life with a three-point play by Brendan Provan — the first points of the game by the Panthers, coming with 3:30 left in the first — and Kyle Elton would bank in a three to bring Plumstead within 14-10.
However, Anthony Sessa restored order for Faith, answering with his own three at the other end to spike the Lion advantage to 17-10 at the end of the first.
Fornay’s pass to Vitek finished off a fast break early in the second, and the Lions would continue to lead by double digits for the remainder of the first half.
Coyle had nine points at the break for the Lions and the Faith bench outscored Plumstead’s by a 9-3 margin.
A Snowden-to-Coyle connection capped a fast break for the Lions, beginning the third quarter in commanding fashion.
In a later sequence, Faith snapped its passes around until Coyle popped open for a three, calmly sinking it to again inflate the lead to 11.
“I’m definitely always looking to score and get my points but it’s all about the team first and a lot of times, the points I’m getting are off of their good looks,” Coyle said of his teammates. “Basically communication and being patient (makes our half-court offense) go, and just looking for the best shot and not okay shots.”
Coyle dished to Fornay, who drove it all the way in to put Faith up 38-25 late in the third. Plumstead, led by Provan’s 14 and Kyle Elton’s 13, charged right back, getting within six when a three by Elton beat the third-quarter buzzer.
However Faith, with Snowden battling for 11 points inside and Vitek adding 10, outlasted Plumstead down the stretch.
“This team has been together for a while and ever since I took over the program I wanted to make sure every year we got better,” DaCosta said. “And I think every year we’ve done that. And I think we’re at a point now where a lot of the growing pains and failures we had before are paying off.
“We know how to win close games, we know how to do the things we need to do. And so I think this is a team that probably can compete pretty well (in states). We have the size — most people are surprised to see that we’re a single A team. We’re not your average bear, or lion I should say.”
Top Photo: Faith Christian’s Zeke Snowden reaches to score during the first quarter of the Lions’ District 1-A semifinal against Plumstead Christian at Quakertown on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)