FAIRLESS HILLS – At first glance, high school basketball prognosticators look to the Conwell-Egan Catholic (CEC) bench and notice the presence of 6-4 first-year head coach Bryan Caver, an early 1990s product of Seton Hall. But that’s not all that’s new about the Eagles this season.
After missing just about all of last year, 6-2 senior Delroy Gayle is back for his final campaign in an Egan uniform. Gayle made his presence known in Wednesday afternoon’s scrimmage with Suburban One National League rival Council Rock North.
Gayle, who was injured in an early season matchup last year, poured 14 points into the basket including eight of the 24 points the Eagles scored in the third period. For the game, Delroy drained four shots from the floor and was 4-of-5 from the foul line.
“He’s a great defensive guy, he rebounds, he’s a really smart kid,” said Caver. “He’ll do all the dirty work for me. He makes sure things get done.”
Gayle’s teammates like having him back in the lineup, too.
“He’s a good on-the-ball defender. He’s long; I like him,” said CEC senior shooting guard Patrick Robinson. “Delroy’s a good player and he’s been working hard.”
As was Robinson, who led the scoring effort for Egan with 26 points including 16-of-19 shots made from the foul line. With the Eagles up double digits in the second half, Caver wanted his team to abandon the shots from behind the arc, however.
“We were settling,” said Robinson. “We had a big lead and he wanted us to get to the basket.”
“We were just swinging up big shots. And if you’re not hitting, you have to get some inside and expand your range.”
Egan did just that, with Robinson driving the lane, drawing the foul and shooting 10-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. He was 14-of-15 on free throws in the second half after hitting just 2-of-4 before the intermission.
“Fourth quarter is crunch time – have to make all my free throws,” said Patrick. “I’m a good free throw shooter.”
Robinson had help on offense from 5-10 junior Terrance Jones Jr., a recent transfer from Lawrence High School. Jones hit four 3-pointers in the game including a pair of treys in the first quarter.
Joe Baldachino, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, also hit a 3-pointer in the third period that put the Eagles on top, 53-39. Robinson capped a 25-9 scoring run in the third period with a fast-break basket and the and-one for a 56-39 lead with just 14 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Back for his final year at CEC, is 6-4, 185-pound senior Eric Esposito, who hit for 13, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Espo got himself in a little foul trouble, which he really can’t do,” said Caver.
“He did a really good job for us in the second half. He was a little more disciplined, staying at home.
“The guys really protected the three-point line in the second half. We gave up four threes, early so i was really impressed with that.”
Two years removed from winning states in 2015, Conwell-Egan is coming off a campaign in which it lost in a PIAA Class AAA Round of 16 matchup with District 2 rival Greater Nanticoke.
“We have a history of losing playoff games and I don’t wanna be one-and done,” said Robinson. “I just want to keep going and going – go as far as we can and get another state championship.”
“We have big goals and we’re working hard to get them.”
Egan is coming off a roller coaster season under former skipper Eric Kindler. After going 4-4 in non-league play, the Eagles started out at 5-3 in Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) action including impressive wins over LaSalle, O’Hara, West Catholic and Saint Joe Prep, which went to overtime.
But after losing to Lansdale Catholic by one and to Roman by five, Egan suffered three straight double-digit losses, which included a deficit of over 30 points to Father Judge and more than 20 to Archbishop Carroll.
In a PCL quarterfinal matchup with Bonner/Prenderast, the Eagles lost 65-51 to the Friars.
Under Caver, it’s a whole new world on Wistar Road, says Robinson, however.
“The scheme of how we do things has changed completely,” said Robinson. “We’ve been working hard all summer. We’re running a lot; we’re conditioned. Defense is our first thing; offense will come with that. We have a few new guards, a few new shooters – we should be alright this year.”
“We want to be consistent across the board and finish lanes,” added Caver. “The kids get a little lax sometimes; I saw a little bit of that in the fourth quarter.
“Those are some of the things that we can work out right now. So that when we get down the stretch, we can finish games.”
Conwell-Egan tips off the season 3:15 p.m. this Saturday at home vs. Tacony Academy Charter, hosts Berks Catholic 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 then Bartram 1:30 p.m. Dec. 23. The Eagles also play Westhampton Tech in the ESCIT Holiday Hoops Tournament 2 p.m. Dec. 27 at Trenton Catholic.
Conwell-Egan 70, Council Rock North 53
(Dec. 6 at Conwell-Egan)
CONWELL-EGAN 16 16 24 14 – 70
CR NORTH 13 17 11 12 – 53
CONWELL-EGAN — Patrick Robinson 26, Eric Esposito 13, Delroy Gayle 14, Terrance Jones Jr. 14, Joe Baldachino 3; TOTALS: — 21 21-28—70.
CR NORTH — Harry Wyatt 4, James Duffy 2, Justin Walton 2, Brady Haggerty 27, Matt McAlister 11, Angad Ahluwalia 7; TOTALS: — 18 11-11—53.
3-POINT GOALS: C-E — Esposito 2, Jones 4, Baldachino; CRN — Ahluwalia, Haggerty 4, McAlister.
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