JENKINTOWN >> When the paced quickened in the third quarter, the Jenkintown boys basketball team could not keep up with Girard College.
The second-seeded Drakes had their offense in sync and knocked down jumpers in building a five-point halftime advantage in Tuesday night’s District 1-A semifinals. They pushed the lead to seven early in the third, but the No. 3 Cavaliers’ aggressive, pressing defense pushed the contest to their tempo.
Girard flipped the game with a 14-1 run in the third, while Daiquan Copeland had the answers for the Cavs late, finishing with a game-high 31 points as Girard held off Jenkintown 65-57.
“I think we as a team got sped up and instead of playing to our pace we played to theirs. Which usually we’ve been really good with,” Drakes senior Mike DiValentino said. “We’ve been able to take a team who really likes to get out and run and we’ve slow them down and played at our pace. I think at times we were sped up by what they were throwing at us so that caused some trouble.”
Jenkintown (15-9) was within 47-44 at the end of the third with a DiValentino 3-pointer cutting the margin down 55-53 in the fourth. A missed Girard field goal gave the Drakes a chance to tie or go up, but Jenkintown was called for a charge.
Copeland responded with a three-point play at 4:10 then scored another basket to give the Cavaliers a 60-53 advantage. Jenkintown could only close the gap to five as Girard College clinch a PIAA berth in advanced to the district final – both for the first time since 2010.
The Cavaliers face top-seeded Faith Chrsitian — a 57-46 winner over No. 4 Plumstead Christian — in the district final 8 p.m. Saturday at Council Rock South
“Their pressure in the second half really affected what we were doing,” Drakes coach Wes Emme said. “I thought that the ball really popped in the first half and didn’t stick with one guy. We weren’t over-dribbling and credit to them, their pressure got us going downhill – which was a good thing, we got them in foul trouble.
“If you saw our shot chart, nearly all of our shots in the second half were at the rim, which is ideally a good method for success. Unfortunately, we missed a lot of those. And then when we got to the free throw line, the few opportunities – we weren’t awful at the line, we didn’t do ourselves any favors from the line either.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 1, 2017
DiValentino scored 14 points in the first half and hit five 3-pointers in finishing with a team-high 19 points. Jenkintown can still earn its second state appearance in three seasons in the district third-place Friday game against Bicentennial Athletic League Presidents Division rival Plumstead.
“It’s tough right now. A lot of guys, including myself, we’re upset, we’re struggling right now,” DiValentino said. “But that doesn’t matter. After tomorrow, this is the past. We’re coming to the gym tomorrow now we got a chip on our shoulder ready to get off and we have to get to work and get back to that good defense that we played and the good team togetherness that we have. Which we will – Plumstead will be different, I assure that.”
Jenkintown and Plumstead split their two regular-season matchups, each side winning on the other’s home floor – Plumstead taking the first contest 52-47 Jan. 25, with the Drakes earning a 52-48 victory Feb. 10.
Plumstead, both members of the Bicentennial Athletic League Constitution Division, won on their other’s home floor this season – the Panthers 52-47 on Jan. 25, the Drakes evening the series 52-38 Feb. 7.
“It’s going to be a good chess match in terms of how we have to play and how they have to play against us,” Emme said. “So, the main thing for us, though, is we have to defend. And that was something that we did not excel at tonight. I felt like we were on islands a lot.”
Jameson Kolb went 11-of-13 from the foul line in adding 18 points while Jason Plange scored 10 points for the Drakes.
Girard College’s Mikael Jones had 16 points — 14 before picking up his fourth foul with 2:28 in the third — while Craig Logan posted 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
A drive by Kolb in the final second of the first half gave the Drakes a 34-29 edge at intermission. Jenkintown twice extended the lead to seven – the last when a Plange jumper made it 38-31.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 1, 2017
But Girard’s pressure began to force Jenkintown in offensive mistakes and the Cavaliers capitalized. Down 39-33, Girard College scored the next 12 points. Logan’s three-point play put the Cavs up 40-39 at 4:50. A Jones free throw at 3:42 before four straight from Copeland had the visitors leading 45-39 with 2:08 to go in the third.
“It’s tough to come off such a good first half and come out in the third and have such a speed bump like we did,” DiValentino said. “But it’s happened before and we’ve battled through it. And this is a great team we play with. There’s no double in my mind we’re done and we’re going to keep going.”
A three-point play by Plange at 1:56 ended the Girard run while a DiValentino bucket had the Drakes within 47-44 going to the fourth.
Copeland collected the first four points of the last quarter but Kolb hit four straight at the line to make it 51-48 at 6:25. John Contoudis’ basket had Jenkintown’s back within three at 53-50. After Copeland scored off a drive, DiValentino buried a corner three, getting the Drakes’ deficit down to 55-53.
But Jenkintown just could not stop Copeland. Girard College went to a spread offense in the third after Jones’ fourth foul and found success through Copeland, who beat defenders off the dribble and got into the lane. Copeland scored 11 of his 31 in the fourth quarter.
“If you would have told me that we would hold them to two offensive rebounds, I would say that we were going to win the game,” Emme said. ‘And if we were going to shoot 21 free throws. Our defense betrayed us tonight and a lot of that is the individual talent that they possess especially Copeland and Jones and that really hurt us.”
Copeland’s three-point play with 4:10 remaining put the Cavs up 58-53 then added his final points of the night to extend the lead to seven.
Two Kolb free throws made it 60-55 at 1:40 but a Logan got a bucket then hit 1-of-2 from the line at 32.5 seconds, extending the Girard lead to eight. A Contoudis jumper made it 63-57 at 25.6 before Jones tacked on two more Girard points from the foul line.
“I think in the first half we had a good team defensive concept and then once they started going away from the things that we were prepared for, we kind of broke away from what we are good at defensively,” Emme said. “Especially when they spread us out and allowed (Copeland) to iso from the top, those couples times where we forced him to give it up when ended up with a rebound. The other things where he was able to get an angle and get to our hip, he was able to finish and he did not miss.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 1, 2017
DiValentino and Kolb knocked down threes to give Jenkintown a 6-0 lead in the first quarter with Plange’s three-point play at 4:37 putting the Drakes up 12-5. The Cavaliers scored the next seven to tie the game and after a DiValentino bucket collected six in a row to hold an 18-14 advantage.
Kolb’s three-point play off a drive at 11.2 seconds made it 18-17 after a quarter.
Contoudis’ three put the Drakes back ahead with a DiValentino triple putting the lead at 23-18.
“Sometimes you show up in the gym and you got it,” said DiValentino, who made four of the Drakes’ six first-half 3-pointers. “It’s not any luck, it’s not any different preparation. We had a great couple days of practice and we came in and just had the ball and it was hot. And they kept getting it to me, my teammates found me when I was open and I just kept shooting the open shots, so it felt good.”
Girard College got within 28-27 after Brandon Smith scored and was fouled at with 2:59 left in the half – he did not convert the and-1 – but Jenkintown scored six of the next eight with Kolb’s late drive sending the host into halftime leading by five.
Girard College 65, Jenkintown 57
Girard College 18 11 18 18 – 65
Jenkintown 17 17 10 13 – 57
Girard College: Daiquan Copeland 13 5-8 31; Mikael Jones 6 3-6 16; Craig Logan 5 3-5 14; Brandon Smith 3 0-4 4. Totals 25 12-20 65.
Jenkintown: Mike DiValentino 7 0-0 19; Jameson Kolb 3 11-13 18; Jason Plange 4 2-3 10; John Contoudis 3 1-3 8; Patrick Morrin 1 0-2 2. Totals 18 14-21 57.
Three-pointers: GC-Jones, Logan; J-DiValentino 5, Contoudis, Kolb.