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Energetic Pennsbury boys basketball races past North Penn

North Penn's David Robinson gets behind Pennsbury's Josh Arruda for a shot during their game on Tuesday night, Dec. 12. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

TOWAMENCIN >> While not every shot the Pennsbury boys basketball team was wide-open Tuesday, it sure felt like it.

The Falcons flew out of the gate bombing away, and making shot after shot, leaving North Penn’s defense spinning its wheels trying to keep up. Even when the Knights rallied near the end of the first quarter, the Falcons just hit more shots.

Eventually, the gap widened and Pennsbury took home a 63-39 win, leaving the Knights to reflect on a disappointing effort in their home opener.

Finding the catalysts to Pennsbury’s outburst wasn’t hard either. It came down to feisty defense and really good ball movement.

“The honest to God truth, I scrapped my entire practice plan yesterday and we spent an hour and a half on people moving and ball movement,” Pennsbury coach Bill Coleman said. “It showed tonight. It’s our mentality, man, we need to be unselfish as a group. We are an inexperienced group of players and we have to understand ball movement wins games.”

North Penn’s Nathan Hartman looks to crash through Pennsbury’s Jake Martell and Collin Connor during their game on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The Falcons raced out to a 9-1 lead before a driving dunk by North Penn’s David Robinson provided the Knights’ first field goal. With their crowd energized by the play, North Penn fought back within 11-9 before the Falcons buried a 3-pointer to end the period with a 14-9 edge.

Pennsbury tacked on another five points to start the second quarter and having taken a 10-point lead, continued to spin the ball around until the most open guy on the floor got it. On the other end, the guards were scrapping for rebounds, hands were flying around and the Knights were not finding the same kind of spacious looks the Falcons were.

After opening the season 2-0 and winning Upper Moreland’s tip-off tournament, it was a humbling experience for the Knights.

“They were quicker than us physically and mentally tonight,” North Penn coach John Conrad said. “Pennsbury is a good team. I thought they were tougher than we were, mentally and physically, they were much tougher. They won every 50/50 ball, if the ball was on the floor, they were diving and we weren’t. They played with a lot of pride tonight and I’m not sure we did.”

There weren’t a lot of bright spots for North Penn, but the offensive game AJ Mitchell had was one. The junior scored a game-high 21 points, hitting a couple perimeter shots but doing most of his damage by attacking the rim.

Coleman said his team’s defense was the one thing that still could have been better on Tuesday, noting help-side and on-ball as areas the team is still working on.

With the way the Falcons were playing though, their energy on defense made up for those areas and their offense was more than enough to cover for any missed assignments. Pennsbury hit nine 3-pointers, led by three from guard Raylil Winton, who also led the Falcons with 19 points.

“We played much better defense today, we got loose balls, we didn’t turn the ball over, our guards rebounded,” Winton said. “We got the rack real well and shot a lot of good looks for 3s. We made better decisions, we passed the ball around and made much sharper passes.”

North Penn’s David Robinson stuffs the ball through the net during the Knights’ game against Pennsbury on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Winton guarded Mitchell for much of the game and took blame for giving up a lot of the Knights’ guard’s chances. Even after graduating 10 seniors last year, the players in Pennsbury’s program have a lot of pride and Winton is one of those guys who wants to shoulder that responsibility.

Pennsbury scored 21 points in the second quarter and again in the third as it opened a 35-21 halftime lead and 56-28 advantage after three. Collin Connor and Gary Francis each scored 10 points behind Winton’s lead pace.

The Falcons opened against West Catholic at Archbishop Carroll’s showcase, face Archbishop Ryan on Thursday and finish their week against Coatesville on Saturday at Archbishop Wood’s showcase. Coleman said the tough schedule is by design, even with an inexperienced team.

“This is a great group of kids, they will run through the wall for me and it’s fantastic to see that,” Coleman said. “If we defend like we know we’re capable of defending, we can make a lot of noise and we’ll shock a lot of people. I think people are down on us just because we graduated a lot but this group knows they need to defend hard.”

The Knights have a week off between games and they’ll have to decide how to use Tuesday’s effort to drive them into their SOL opener. While North Penn graduated nine players last year, there’s plenty of good players on the roster.

They may still be figuring out who will play what roles, but Conrad was more concerned by his team’s lack of energy throughout the game. Shots aren’t always going to fall, but it’s up to individual players to decide how hard they want to play.

“It’s a matter of effort,” Conrad said. “There’s nothing they have to do in order to try, they just have to find a way to match it. It’s that simple, match their intensity.”

Last season, the Knights lost an early season game on the road at Pennsbury and went on to win the SOL Continental and make the state tournament. They also showed on the opening weekend they can play with intensity and win.

“That one hurts and it’ll stay with us,” Conrad said. “We have some things to work on the next week of practice. From myself on down the lineup, we have a lot to improve on.”

PENNSBURY 63, NORTH PENN 39
PENNSBURY 14 21 21 7 – 63
NORTH PENN 9 12 7 11 – 39
Pennsbury: Raylil Winton 5 6-6 19, Jake Martell 2 4-4 8, Collin Connor 2 4-5 10, Dahzier Long 2 0-0 6, Josh Arruda 3 0-0 8, Chad Weldon 1 0-0 2, Gary Francis 5 0-0 10. Totals: 20 14-15 63.
North Penn: AJ Mitchell 9 1-2 14, Tali McIver 1 0-0 3, Joey Lindsay 0 4-4 4, Chris Caputo 1 0-0 2, David Robinson 2 0-2 4, Chris Coleman 1 0-0 2, Nate Hartman 1 0-0 3, Ben Nwokolo 0 0-2 0. Nonscoring: AJ Catanzaro. Totals: 15 5-10 39.
3-pointers: P – Winton 3, Connor 2, Long 2, Arruda 2; NP – Mitchell 2, McIver, Hartman.

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