Every player on the Upper Merion boys basketball team has a role. That was never more evident than in the decisive fourth quarter of the Vikings semifinal win over Bishop Shanahan Wednesday night.
Aidan Newell took care of the ball at point guard and had a couple pretty finishes at the rim. Andrew Persaud hit back-to-back game-changing three-pointers. Ethan Miller and Matt Faw controlled the paint.
Everyone thriving in their own role led to a 25-point quarter and a 45-30 win to send the Vikings to the District 1 Class-5A championship Saturday against Penncrest at Villanova at 2 p.m.
“That’s something we’ve been preaching for forever,” Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer said. “We all know what role everybody is… We fit a lot of different positions very well. When they play team basketball like that (4th quarter against Shanahan), they’re at their best.”
Upper Merion has a very diverse team. There are 12 seniors in the lineup, many of which have experience playing big varsity minutes since they were sophomores. Four players — Faw, Miller, Chris Carita and Anthony Shepperd — stand at 6-foot-7 or taller. Guards Newell, Persaud, Tim Biegalski and Joe Breece all bring something unique to both ends of the floor.
The team will have to work together on the defensive end against Penncrest to win the second district title in school history and first since 1993.
The Vikings will be tasked with slowing down point guard Tyler Norwood — who scored 21 points in the Lions semifinal win over Great Valley.
“Their kid Tyler Norwood is an absolute handful,” Quenzer said. “He’s one of the better players I’ve seen. Just offensively his game is outstanding unlike anything we’ve seen all season. We know we have our work cut out to guard him. The rest of the team — they also play their roles and they’re really good at it. They’re a pretty good defensive team and the rest of the squad is just a good team — they play good team basketball. That’s kind of how they got here.
“They’re in a tough conference (Central League) and they’ve obviously gotten here, too. They’ve beaten some really good teams by playing their way.”
Quenzer’s message to his team for Saturday was clear.
“Once we get in that locker room and start stretching it’s just another basketball game. Everybody focus on what we need to do. Play with a sense of urgency in every second. That’s been the most consistent thing that we’ve shown as a team this playoffs — effort. They just want it so much. You can feel it.”
TOP PHOTO: Upper Merion‘s Matthew Faw enjoys the last moments of the District 1 semifinal against Bishop Shanahan. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)