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Miller’s 300th win displays Upper Darby’s depth

UPPER DARBY >> There were the customary handshakes on the court, a quick cheer led by the players in the locker room … and that was about all that feted Upper Darby’s victory Friday night.

Never mind that it was the 300th in the coaching career of Bob Miller, split between Interboro and now his 23rd season at Upper Darby.

But if the celebration is to be tailored to the man of the hour, then the understated vibe fit perfectly. Even Miller, in recounting the 299 wins which preceded Friday’s 54-46 Central League decision over Haverford, started just about everywhere but with himself — a rattling off of assistant coaches he was fortunate to work with and a rapid turn of the spotlight onto the players.

Upper Darby coach Bob Miller directs his Royals en route to a 54-46 win over Haverford Friday night. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“There’s been so many great (assistants) that have done so much, and you can’t win without players,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, 300 is nice, but it’s about Upper Darby’s kids.”

“It means a lot because he emphasized this season that we have to play hard, work hard in practice and do a lot of the things we were doing last year,” senior guard Magd Abdelwahab said. “And this year, I think we’re a lot better than we were last year and a lot more focused. So 300 wins is a great accomplishment for him, and we’re all happy for him.”

There was plenty for Miller to highlight in win No. 3 of a season packed with possibility for the Royals, a night where they led by 16 before the Fords dropped in the game’s final eight points to cushion the final margin. Contained within Upper Darby’s performance were eight players who hit the score sheet, six who scored five or more points in liberally spreading the scoring load.

They outjumped Haverford on the boards, 36-18, and pocketed 12 steals to force 18 Haverford turnovers, giving the Fords fits with a full-court press and varied zone-defense looks.

Add in spurts of clutch shooting and the penchant for quickly filling the scoreboard when they limit their own turnovers, and the danger that the Royals (3-1, 1-1 Central) pose is obvious, especially when Miller rolls his bench 10 players deep.

“I know I can trust my team that when I go to the bench to rest … a lot of people on my team can come in and bring a lot of energy,” point guard Jalun Trent said. “And I trust my teammates with everything.”

Kymir Roper led Upper Darby with 13 points. Abdelwahab chipped in 10 points, including 3-pointers on runs in the first and third quarters that opened up the margin between the teams.

Trent provided nine points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Diby Keita contributed seven points and six rebounds, and Nasir Greer added six points.

In each of the first three quarters, Upper Darby set itself up with strong starts. It led 13-2 in the first, on the way to never trailing in the game, then put together a 6-2 run to open the second. An 8-2 run out of the second-half gates studded by two baskets from Abdelwahab and a triple from Trent put UD in cruise control.

Haverford (0-3, 0-1) struggled to adapt early to Upper Darby’s zone and press looks. The Fords finally figured it out with an 11-0 run powered by three Danny Roe 3-pointers in the second quarter to claw within six at halftime.

Upper Darby Trent Jalun tries to drive through a blanketing Haverford defense of J.T. Smyth (30), John Seidman (24) and Jake Ruane (21) early on Friday night in Upper Darby’s 54-46 victory over the Fords. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“Their point guard (Trent) was long,” Roe said. “We had to get used to getting the ball to the middle because at first we were turning the ball over. We were able to get shots and we made a couple in the beginning, got on a little run.”

The preponderance of second-chance points surrendered proved to be unsustainable. Roe finished with a game-high 14 points, and JT Smyth got to the basket to tally nine points. But the rest of the Fords not named Roe were just 1-for-11 from 3-point range until the final minute of the game. With shots not falling and the one-and-done trips piling up, Haverford wasn’t in a position to climb out of the deficit.

That made for Miller’s muted celebration, in which the most relief may have been gleaned from Miller being grateful to shift the focus to the less heralded win No. 301.

“The best thing about getting it out of the way is because most of these guys knew about it,” Miller said. “We had a chance (Tuesday) at Lower Merion to do it which would’ve been pretty incredible to start 3-0. I’m glad it’s over because now, don’t worry about me and let’s just play basketball.”

In nonleague action:

Glen Mills 47, Central 29 >> Tarik Bey scored 11 points, and Shyheem Bacon tallied all eight of his points in the second half as the Battlin’ Bulls (1-2) notched their first win of the season. Khalen Kirkland added 10 points.

At the Kreul Classic:

Bonner & Prendergast 57, Westminster 53 >> Isaiah Wong was a perfect 16-for-16 at the line to collect 20 points as the Friars (4-0) surmounted a two-point deficit after three quarters in the tournament in sunny Florida.

Ajiri Johnson paired 13 points with 12 rebounds, Tariq Ingraham poured in 11 points and Mike Perretta hit three 3-pointers for his nine points.

In the Bicentennial League:

Phil-Mont Christian 49, Christian Academy 44 >> Brandon Rochester, Grant Sareyka and Luke Sareyka tallied nine points apiece, but the Crusaders were outlasted in double-overtime.

At the Mercer Invitational Tournament:

Peddie School 55, Episcopal Academy 47 >> Alex Capitano scored a game-high 28 points for the shorthanded Churchmen, and Andrew Alikakos added eight, but EA (3-4) fell into the consolation bracket where it will next meet Knox School (N.Y.) in the three-day tournament.

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