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Sure-handed Upper Darby holds on for win over Strath Haven

UPPER DARBY >> The execution, after two snow-bound and practice-free days, wasn’t always crisp, but the plan was sound for Upper Darby Saturday.

Nursing a lead in the fourth quarter, coach Bob Miller packed the backcourt with his two point guards, Jalun Trent and Mamadou Toure, to share ball-handling duties in the face of an aggressive Strath Haven half-court press. It’s a luxury most teams don’t have, two sure-handed vets in the backcourt.

The plan was blighted by a pair of late turnovers. But by and large the Royals held firm to the lead to preserve a 51-45 Central League win.

“It’s great because they’re able to facilitate on the floor, they’re able to get people open and they’re able to control the game since they’re the ball-handlers,” said shooting guard Magd Abdelwahab, a sturdy secondary option with the ball. “They’ve got good control down the stretch. It helps the team a lot.”

Toure committed those late turnovers as the Royals (7-3, 3-3 Central) tried to milk clock while defending an advantage that rose as large as 12 early in the fourth quarter, on a tic-tac-toe bucket by Chris Martin off crisp passing between Toure and Trent. Upper Darby wasn’t always successful in slowing the pace, with Cooper Driscoll cutting the deficit to two at 47-45 with 42 seconds to play. But the blueprint of a backcourt-driven Royals squad is a convincing model late in games.

“It keeps us from getting turnovers and gets us foul shots in the clutch to win the game,” Toure said. “… We’ve been good so far. We’ve just got to keep the ball under control, keep swinging it and not let us get trapped.”

Toure and Trent combined for 15 points, eight assists and two blocks. Trent added three steals with his lanky reach on the perimeter. The two rotated in and out for the first three quarters, keeping both fresh for crunch time. Upper Darby tallied 13 assists on 20 made baskets.

A portion of that total came from feeding Abdelwahab on the perimeter. The senior marksman was the only Royal in double figures with 16 points, connecting on four of his six long-range attempts, the Royals’ only makes in 13 efforts beyond the arc.

“I just let it come to me,” Abdelwahab said. “If I have an open shot, I take it. And I count on my teammates to get me open shots, so they did a good job doing that.”

Abdelwahab outscored Strath Haven, 8-5, in the first quarter as the Royals led wire-to-wire. He hit three 3-pointers in the first half while Strath Haven came up empty on its nine attempts from 3.

That lack of shot-making dug the Panthers (5-5, 2-4) too deep a hole to escape. Driscoll scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, but Haven still faced an eight-point halftime deficit.

“We don’t try to force anything,” said Driscoll, who added eight rebounds. “We just read the defense. If they’re giving us open shots on the perimeter, we’re not going to force it down low and have me double-teamed and lose the ball every time. We try to let it flow, but today it just wasn’t falling.”

Upper Darby turned to the post in the second half, getting to the rim and the line after not attempting a free throw in the first half. Kymir Roper scored all eight of his points in the second half to go with six rebounds, and Floyd Wedderburn Jr. added six points as UD held a 31-20 edge on the boards.

Strath Haven eventually found its range, with Chris Rosini splashing home a triple on the team’s 11th attempt. Driscoll hit one on a bizarre 5-point possession in the third quarter, an off-ball Upper Darby foul allowing Haven to keep possession. That stemmed the tide of an 8-0 Royals run that had stretched the lead to 13 and kept Haven in touch.

A Justin Morris 3-pointer kick-started a 7-0 spurt to get Haven within 40-36 in the fourth, though Abdelwahab provided cushion with a 3-pointer. But Jordan Graves countered with a 3, and Ryan Morris (10 points) drove to the basket to get within four at 47-43.

Driscoll was fouled on an up-and-under lay-in with less than a minute left but missed the free throw, and Trent hit four of six from the line to ice the game. For Upper Darby, which Saturday surpassed its win total from all of last season, learning to close out games is an area of improvement.

“It’s a big adjustment because we’re a way better team now,” Toure said. “There’s a lot of success this year and we can win a lot of games with the team that we have.”

Also in the Central League:

Penncrest 49, Haverford 18 >> Tyler Norwood filled the stat sheet with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Malcolm Williams flirted with a double-double of 13 points and nine boards as Lions (10-0, 5-0) led 18-5 after one quarter and remained in control.

Danny Roe led Haverford (3-7, 1-5) with six points.

Lower Merion 59, Marple Newtown 42 >> The Tigers were within six with less than three minutes to play, but the Aces rattled off the game’s last 11 points to win going away. Mike May led Marple Newtown (5-5, 2-4) with 12 points, and Tommy Gardler chipped in 10.

In the Bicentennial League:

Christian Academy 45, Jenkintown 40 >> Tehron Phillips scored 20 points, and Luke Sareyka added 12 as the Crusaders (4-6, 3-3) picked up a second straight victory.

In the Ches-Mont:

Sun Valley 66, W.C. East 58 >> Isaac Kennon scored a career-high 25 points, and Vinny DeAngelo added 22 as the Vanguards (5-4, 1-3) withstood a late Vikings charge. Shair Brown-Morris added 10 points; he, DeAngelo and Kennon combined to shoot 22-for-25 from the line.

In nonleague action:

Chester 55, Christiana 38 >> Brian Randolph scored 12 points to go with a career-high six steals, and Kylair Blackston posted his first double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds as the Clippers (2-5) snapped a four-game losing streak.

Academy Park 61, Neshaminy 58 >> Billy Martin had the game of his career with 20 points and eight rebounds, including a go-ahead putback with less than a minute left as AP scored the last five points of the game to win.

Naseim Harley added 15 points, and Kamrohn Roundtree chipped in 11 for the Knights (2-6).

Garnet Valley 79, Unionville 67 >> Austin Laughlin exploded for a season-high 36 points, including six 3-pointers, in his second straight 30-point outing for the Jaguars. Laughlin scored 13 points in the final quarter and was 8-for-8 from the line down the stretch.

Greg Vlassopoulos and Connor O’Brien added 15 points apiece for the Jags (6-3), winners of four straight.

Ridley 65, Octorara 46 >> Enoch Clark poured in a career-high 27 points to go with 10 rebounds, John Mastella added 14 points and Kyree Capers paired 12 points with nine rebounds as the Green Raiders (5-5) cruised.

Hatboro-Horsham 43, Radnor 37 >> Lewis Robinson and Vernon Harper scored nine points apiece, but Radnor (2-6) couldn’t overcome a 24-10 disadvantage over the middle two quarters. Harper added six rebounds.

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