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Youth-driven Methacton gets its PAC championship moment

POTTSTOWN >> Three years ago, David Duda sat in the stands as an eighth grader and watched as Methacton hoisted the Pioneer Athletic Conference plaque while hundreds of fans stormed the court in celebration with the Warrior players.

From that moment, he and his teammates had a goal for the future.

“We watched all of those guys win the championship that year and knew we wanted to get to that point ourselves,” said Duda, now a junior with the Warriors. “We definitely looked up to that team, which is the greatest team in Methacton history.”

Methacton senior Noah Kitaw, center, lifts the PAC championship plaque while flanked by Marcus Girardo, left, David Duda, right, and other teammates after defeating Spring-Ford, 72-60, Tuesday night at Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

On Tuesday night, the Duda-led Warriors took their own step toward greatness, putting together a 72-60 win over Spring-Ford in the PAC championship game at Pottstown High School, the program’s first conference title since that 2014-15 season.

As kids, most of whom competed with the Audubon Recreational Association (ARA) together, the Warriors were at an advantage having jelled with one another long before their high school careers — let alone this season — got underway.

“We all lived within five minutes of each other,” Duda said, “so we were used to playing at the courts and going to camps together. We’ve been playing together a long time and I really think that’s made all the difference for us.”

That chemistry and continuity made up for only featuring one senior – Noah Kitaw – and the rest juniors and sophomores.

Methacton’s David Duda shoots an off-balance shot as Spring-Ford’s Nestor Diaz defends during the PAC championship game Tuesday night at Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Methacton’s offense has been lethal from the get-go this winter. Boasting a bevy of pinpoint shooters along with the presence of 6-9 sophomore center Jeff Woodward under the basket, Methacton’s offense has so much balance that it would make a trapeze artist jealous.

And they put it on full display against Spring-Ford.

Duda caught fire in the second half, at one point scoring 17 straight points for the Warriors on the way to a game-high 38. He finished 13-for-13 at the foul line and hit five 3-pointers in the win. Woodward was a force in the paint, scoring 17 points including a put-back dunk in the second half that sent Strom Gymnasium into a frenzy. Senior wing Kitaw scored 11 points and spent most of the game with his hands full guarding Spring-Ford’s standout junior wing, Noah Baker.

“We’ve all been playing together for five, six years now, some of these guys even more,” said Woodward. “And I think we’re getting better and better each season and each game.

With fans cheering below, Methacton senior Noah Kitaw celebrates after cutting his piece of the net following the Warriors’ PAC championship win over Spring-Ford Tuesday at Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“We talk about it all the time — we’re a unit and we’re a family. We’re gonna play and we’re gonna fight together every single game. We’re gonna lose some, but we always know that we have each other’s backs.”

When Methacton head coach Jeff Derstine took over with the Warriors eight seasons ago, he set out to establish a connection with the youth around the area to build up the future. Even in those earliest days, he knew he had something special coming up through the ranks.

“The fact that they were seeing us succeed when we were having our solid four-year run (2011-2015) was huge for these kids,” he said. “Seeing that and wanting to be a big part of it has been motivating for these guys. To see them step onto the court and do the same thing we did a few years back is rewarding for me.”

Perhaps the most important element to the Warriors success is that they all want to be great. Not great individually necessarily, but great as a unit. Greatness in numbers.

“This is an incredibly unselfish group,” said Derstine. “They just want each other want to do well and want the best for one another.

“Brett Eberly is a perfect example of that. He scored 19 points the other night (semifinal against Upper Perkiomen), and he only had one point tonight. But he doesn’t care. He wants our team to win. That’s everyone’s mentality.”

The Methacton boys basketball team poses with the PAC championship plaque after defeating Spring-Ford for the league title Tuesday night at Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

There’s no way of telling how many members of the Methacton youth may have been inspired by this current crop of Warriors’ efforts on Tuesday night. Only time will tell.

One thing remains certain, though: the Warriors won’t soon forget this ride … or the ones that may be yet to come.

“This year, we didn’t know what we would be because of all our youth,” said Duda. “But I knew that we were together and I knew that we had great team chemistry. All we had to do was stick together.”

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