PENNSBURG >> In an era that’s been dominated by highlight-reel dunks, 3-point shooting and high-scoring games, the Perkiomen School boys basketball team is turning back time.
The Panthers are winning games this season on the foundation of their defense — the latest a 49-48 non-conference win over The Hill School on Thursday night.
“We’ve proven that we can grind it out and beat good teams, defensively,” said Perk School head coach Thomas Baudinet. “We told these guys before the game, it doesn’t matter if we win 90-85 or 40-35. We’ve got to find a way to grind out stops on defense. That will at least give us a chance.”
The key stop came with less than a minute to go with Perk clinging to a one-point lead. The Hill School offense worked the ball into the paint, but senior guard Chandler Brooks ditched his man and got a hand on the ball to force the turnover and seal the eventual win.
Perkiomen School improves to 12-4 overall and posts its fifth game holding an opponent to 50 or less points. Hill School drops to 11-6 overall, the Blues now in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Perk senior Nick Guadarrama scored a game-high 17 points, including a pair of thunderous put-back dunks, while point guard Tautvydas Kupstas scored 11.
Now in his second season with the Panthers, Guadarrama has become a key contributor with his team, especially in the wake of some roster adjustments the past few weeks.
“We’ve got to grit it out together as a team,” he said. “We can’t hope to blow everybody out by 20 or 30. If it’s a close game, we’ve got to grind it out until the end. I think we’ve done a good job of that all season.”
In what stood as a back-and-forth affair all evening, Perk entered the fourth quarter clinging to a 38-37 lead. Bolstered by Guadarrama’s four-point play early in the frame, Perk took its biggest lead of the night, 46-41 with 5:39 to go.
The Hill would answer right back, though, pulling within one after consecutive baskets from 7-0 center Seth Maxwell and forward Nick Alikakos.
On Perk’s ensuing possession, Kupstas put up a 3-pointer while Guadarrama charged into the paint, rose above the defense and slammed a put-back dunk that shook the entire gymnasium to make it 48-45.
“We made a couple nice plays down the stretch, forced some bad shots defensively,” said Hill School head coach Phil Canosa. “But that’s a good team. They’re really tough to guard, especially with us being a little bit bigger, trying top match down to them. They’ve got five talented guys on the floor at all times.”
After a made free-throw by Brooks, Maxwell added another bucket before Xavier Mayo hit a free-throw attempt to make it 49-48.
In the waning seconds, the Blues got the ball in the corner with an open look from three, but couldn’t convert.
On the night, Maxwell finished with 13 points while Alikakos and William & Mary commit Chase Audige each finished with 12.
Although they came away with the win, Baudinet and the Panthers know there is plenty to work on.
“We had chances to put the game away at the end,” he said, “but we had three missed front-ends of the one-and one (free throws). That’s six points we left on the board late. We can’t do that and expect to win games, even if our defense is making big plays for us.”
The Panthers will travel to take on Shipley School on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Canosa and the Blues head back to The Hill amid their longest losing streak of the year.
Although it’s certainly not what he had hoped for, Canosa knew that this would be among the most daunting stretches on the schedule.
“Looking at the calendar, we knew this stretch was going to be tough,” he said. “I’d like to be in a different spot over these last few games, but we’ve just got to come out and take care of business against Mercersburg on Saturday.”
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