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Defense leads Wissahickon past Strath Haven, into District 1-5A quarters

Wissahickon's Carmen Ostroski drives to the basket as Strath Haven's Cooper Driscoll defends. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LOWER GWYNEDD >> After allowing a layup off of the opening tip, Wissahickon’s defense forced four straight Strath Haven turnovers.

That was a sign of things to come.

The No. 4 seeded Trojans forced 17 turnovers in a 67-48 win over the No. 13 seeded Panthers Wednesday night at Wissahickon High School in the first round of the District 1 Class-5A playoffs.

Wissahickon (17-6) will face No. 5 Great Valley Saturday for a spot in the district semifinals and state playoffs.

“With Cheltenham and PW we’ve continued to battle the past few years for the top of the league,” Trojans coach Kyle Wilson said. “We’re pressure teams. We like to get out there, like to create havoc. I always feel if a guy is going to get a three, I’d rather him get it in the first 10 seconds than run his offense for 35 seconds and still get the same three. So let’s get after it a little bit and force the issue and be aggressive on defense.”

Wissahickon’s Eddie Fortescue goes the hoop as Strath Haven’s Cooper Driscoll defends during their District 1-5A first round game on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“We shouldn’t have let them score in the first four minutes,” Wissahickon senior Zach Reiner said. “That first tip play was just bad execution by us.”

The Trojans took advantage of the early turnovers and responded with an 8-0 run after falling behind 2-0. They forced seven total turnovers in the first quarter and led, 13-8, after eight minutes.

“They play a really good press,” Strath Haven coach Dan Spangler said. “They pressured our guys really well. We had some senseless turnovers. I think we had 12 turnovers in the first half. When you have 12 turnovers it’s hard to just turn that around into points.”

It was a close game at the half, with the Trojans holding a 23-17 advantage, but the hosts started to pull away soon after.

A 12-2 run in the middle of the third quarter helped Wissahickon build a 15-point lead, 38-23. The Panthers (10-13) trimmed their deficit to 10, 40-30, heading into the fourth.

Strath Haven’s AJ Santis works the ball up court as Wissahickon puts on a full court press during their District 1-6A first round game on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Trojans opened the fourth on a 7-2 run to go back ahead by 15 and never looked back en route to the 67-48 win.

Reiner led Wissahickon with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Max Rapoport added 13 points and Eddie Fortescue and Anthony Lawrence each had 12.

Reiner and Lawrence – the Trojans two forwards – combined for 22 points in the second half.

“Max and Eddie’s shots weren’t falling in the first half,” Reiner said. “I knew we had to get inside, get some easy buckets and that’s what happened.”

“We feel like we’re built for the playoffs,” Wilson said. “If the threes aren’t hitting, let’s get to the rim. If we’re not getting to the rim, let’s get our shots going. Tonight we were able to get some other aspects of our game – Anthony rolling to the basket, Reiner stepping outside drawing the big guy out. Just a nice game to see our guys win in a different way.”

Wissahickon’s Zach Reiner drives against Strath Haven’s Chris Rosini during their District 1-5A first round game on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Jordan Graves led Strath Haven with 16 points. Cooper Driscoll added 12 and Ryan Morris had nine.

The loss brings an end to the Panthers season.

“Ending the season with seven seniors that I personally started with as their freshman coach and then two years of JV with them their sophomore and junior years and this is my first year as a varsity coach,” Spangler said, “I couldn’t have picked a better group of guys to take this four-year ride with. It’s really personal to me. I love each and every one of these guys. Sad to see it end.”

WISSAHICKON 67, STRATH HAVEN 48
Strath Haven 8 9 13 18 – 48

Wissahickon 13 10 17 28 – 67
SH: Graves 5 4-7 16, Santisi 0 1-2 1, J Morris 1 2-2 4, Rosini 1 0-0 3, Driscoll 4 3-4 12, R Morris 3 2-5 9, Pio1 0-0 2, Carmichael 0 2-2 2. Total 15 14-22 48.
W: Oliphant 1 0-1 3, Fortescue 5 2-2 12, Williams 0 2-2 2, Willis 1 0-0 2, Rapoport 6 0-0 13, Saffier 0 0-2 0, Lawrence 6 0-0 12, Ostroski 0 6-6 6, Reiner 7 1-1 17. Total 26 11-14 67.
Three-point goals: SH: Graves 2, Rosini, Morris. W: Oliphant, Rapoport, Reiner 2.

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