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Abington’s experience shows in win over Bethlehem Catholic

WARMINSTER >> Experience can be the best teacher.

Having built a 15-point halftime edge over Bethlehem Catholic, the Abington boys basketball team didn’t come out with the same dominant energy to start the third quarter Saturday. As the Hawks started to slice into the Ghosts’ lead, and well aware of what previous transgressions had cost them, Abington got serious.

Much like they started, the Ghosts finished strong in topping Becahi 63-53 at Archbishop Wood’s Diane Mosco Foundation Shootout Against Cancer.

“We’d definitely rather have it happen now and be able to bounce back and get this win,” Ghosts forward Eric Dixon said. “We learned a lot from last year, we had a lead and let the game go so for us to lose it a little bit then get it all the way back was good.”

In the PIAA tournament last year, the Ghosts saw a big third quarter lead evaporate as they were bounced out of the first round and even at Wood’s showcase last season, Roman Catholic erased a pretty decent Abington advantage in the second half in a comeback win. Dixon, who led the Ghosts with 25 points, Lucas Monroe and Robbie Heath were all on the floor for those games, so they knew their lead Saturday wasn’t going to protect itself.

The Hawks are a very good team, one likely to contend for a District 11 title, but it was the manner in which Abington was giving up its lead that was the problem. On offense, players were settling for jumpers or making poor passes and several led to easy hoops on the other end.

Likewise, Abington was leaving Bethlehem Catholic’s shooters open and the Hawks were making the Ghosts pay by cutting the lead down to six with 1:17 left in the third.

“When  we came out of the half, we got lackadaisical because we were up 15 and we felt it was going to be a cakewalk,” Monroe said. “I think we might have been feeling a little tired and our communication was bad. Once we started communicating more, some of the guys came off the bench and gave us good energy and it was all defense. We picked it up on the defensive end.”

Abington, which also plays Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Carroll this month, sets up its schedule so the players are prepared for moment’s like Saturday’s third quarter.

“That’s a good team, we knew they were going to make a run and we were just trying to sustain it,” Ghosts coach Charles Grasty said. “We got some key stops and that helped us a lot. They would make their run then we got some big stops at the right time, because they could have really cut into it. We’re definitely happy with that win.”

Saturday was only Abington’s second game of the season and Dixon admitted he had to try and get back up to game speed during the first half. Becahi, led by Northwestern-bound big man Ryan Young, was set on taking Dixon out of the equation and he only scored two points in the first.

As he usually does, the 6-foot-7 junior got going but in the meantime, the Ghosts had Monroe. A 6-foot-5 junior guard, Monroe was feeling it early and much to Grasty’s enjoyment, came out assertive. Monroe scored 19 points but also posted six boards, five assists and four steals.

“I was feeling good but I think it comes from practice,” Monroe said. “We practiced really well all week leading to the game, we had a week off so my legs were pretty fresh. The game kind of just flowed and I think we all played pretty well, we’ve been going hard in practice and how you practice is how you play. It’s something our coaches harp on.”

Monroe scored nine points in the first quarter and chipped in five in the fourth quarter as Abington closed out the win. With teams so focused on slowing Dixon and Robbie Heath (12 points, six rebounds, seven assists), Monroe is the perfect guy to take advantage and he’s starting to show it.

“It’s all confidence. He took really good shots, he didn’t rush anything,” Grasty said. “We knew they were going to pack it in on Eric and Lucas stepped up, knocked some threes down. He’s a totally different player this year and teams are going to have to guard him. He’s making threes, he’s rebounding, he’s passing it well, he has his confidence and that’s what we need from him.”

After his slow start, Dixon was a force that Becahi couldn’t seem to slow down. He scored from outside, on the block and pretty much everywhere in between as his teammates got him the ball where he wanted it, another sign of the team’s experience.

The big man had nine in the second quarter, six in the third and eight in the final frame.

“I was just going hard,” Dixon said. “They had a few good big men, they’re really good players but I tried to go hard and get to my spots. We’ve been together for a while so they know where to hit my hand, how to find me.”

It’s a new season, so that means it’s a new bench mob for Abington but the reserves continue to provide the same thing previous units have with lots of energy and hustle. While Heath, Dixon and Monroe combined for 56 of the 63 points, the other guys provided plenty to the win.

Monroe said the team is “14 deep” this season and it takes all of them to play Abington basketball.

“Our motto is ‘anybody, anywhere,’” Grasty said. “We’re going down to Florida and Montverde Academy later this year, we’ll have a little fun but we’re also going with a purpose. We like the challenge and we’re up for it. We’ll see where it goes.”

ABINGTON 63, BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC 53
ABINGTON 16 15 11 21 – 63
BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC 10 6 20 17 – 53
A: Eric Dixon 11 1-4 25, Lucas Monroe 7 3-6 19, Robbie Heath 3 5-6 12, JP Nolan 1 0-0 3, Brandon Coffman 0 2-2 2, Darious Brown 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Bryan Coffman, Xavier Crawford, Maurice Henry. Totals: 23 11-18 63.
BC: Paz 7 0-0 17, R Young 7 1-1 15, K Young 3 1-2 7, Gardner 3 0-0 7, Kunci 2 0-0 4, Robinson 1 0-0 3. Totals: 23 2-3 53.
3-pointers: A – Dixon 2, Monroe 2, Heath, Nolan; BC – Paz 3, Gardner, Robinson.

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