EAST MARLBOROUGH >> With just above four minutes left in the fourth quarter Friday night, Downingtown East guard Malik Slay approached the free throw line in hopes of taking the lead back from Garnet Valley. The Jaguars had just taken the lead for the first time with a pretty back-door pass and layup from Austin Laughlin to Greg Vlassopoulos.
As Slay received the ball from the official, he acted out his best Kevin Durant impression. Two dribbles, a deep breath, another dribble and a shoulder shake before letting the ball fly. The first shot allowed Slay to tie the game. Once the second shot came down, it gave Downingtown the confidence to close out the game.
The Cougars went on to beat Garnet Valley 61-56 in the season opener for both teams.
“We knew the run was coming,” said John Goodman. “This is a team that can score in the 80s and we held them to five points in the first quarter. I just flat out said at halftime they are going to start making threes. I think Laughlin had one point in the first half. He’s a thousand-point scorer and we knew he was going to make a couple. I think we responded well. We lost the lead, but we came down, scored and got it back.”
In the first half, Garnet Valley could not score or contain Cougars’ Andrew King. The Downingtown East forward scored 13-points, but was even a bigger nightmare on the defensive end. King had three blocks and two steals on top of his production on the glass. The six-foot six King seemingly grabbed every rebound possible.
“I just never stop working during the game,” said King. “Defense is where my offense comes from. I’m more of a transition player and once we get defensive stops we can go. I worked my way up through my freshman and sophomore season and since I’ve been working so hard, it’s starting to pay off.”
“Whenever I can, I get it in to him [King],” said Slay. “If I don’t have a shot on the pick-and-roll I just hit him. That’s every situation. If he’s open or if he has a smaller guy on him, he’s getting the ball every time.”
Despite being down the majority of the game, the Jaguars adapted to Downingtown East’s tough defense and started to play their own game. Garnet Valley outscored the Cougars in the third quarter and brought the lead back within single digits.
Led by his uncanny ability to get to the lane, Connor O’Brien ignited the fuse by scoring 10 points in the third quarter. O’Brien scored in just about every way possible: layups, mid-range, fast breaks, and from deep, and was also able to get to the charity stripe a few times. However, once O’Brien hit a 3-pointer, it spelt bad news for East.
The basket sparked something in Laughlin and because of it, the thousand-point scorer hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter in crucial need-to-have possessions.
“The good piece was that we didn’t quit,” said Michael Brown. “We were down quite a bit and we could’ve rolled over. I told them that I was proud of how they came back, but we just came up short. Even in the end we gave up too many second-chance points. We have a lot to fix, but it’s December.”
Downingtown East 61, Garnet Valley 56
Garnet Valley: Laughlin 5 1-2 14, O’Brien 6 5-6 19, Stephens 1 0-0 2, Vlassopoulos 4 2-2 13, Clarke 2 0-0 4, Brennan 2 0-0 4, Guy 0 0-0 0, Palis 0 0-0 0, Louden 0 0-0 0, Beniwal 0 0-0 0, Schaller 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 8-10.
Downingtown East: Slay 4 6-8 14, Hernandez 2 6-7 10, Mujica 3 7-8 14, Kalim 0 2-2 2, King 7 5-10 19, Robertson 0 2-2 2, Stata 0 0-0 0, Caggiano 0 0-0 0, Umberger 0 0-0 0, Owsik 0 0-0 0, Riley 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 28-37 61.
Downingtown East 15 14 11 21 – 61
Garnet Valley 5 12 23 16 – 56
3-point goals: O’Brien 2, Vlassopoulos, Laughlin 3, Mujica.
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