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Warner, Yoder help Pennridge hold off North Penn in District 1-6A 2nd round

Pennridge's Sean Yoder sets to shoot during the first half of the Rams' District 1-6A second round game against North Penn on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

EAST ROCKHILL >> Once one 3-pointer went down, Ryan Warner was sure more were on their way.

“I saw my first shot and I took it and right when it went in I felt something,” he said. “I thought I was going to get hot and they kept on finding me wide open for shots and I kept on taking them. They trusted me.”

As a defensive battle broke out between the Pennridge and North Penn boys basketball teams in their District 1-6A second round contest Tuesday night, Warner was the host Rams’ only consistent offense in the first half — draining a trio of threes, with his third triple giving the sixth seed a five-point edge at the break.

“He really gave us a little spark there,” Pennridge coach Dean Behrens said. “Nine points out our him, that was huge. We needed that.

While Warner connected one more time beyond the arc, it was Sean Yoder who took over the scoring for the Rams in the second half, collecting 11 of his game-high 13 points in the final two quarters as Pennridge held off the No. 22 Knights 43-41 to clinch a berth in the PIAA tournament.

Pennridge’s Tyrese Lewis scores during the first quarter of  the Rams’ District 1-6A second round game against North Penn on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

“We just didn’t have the offensive firepower tonight but I told the boys to win a game in the playoffs you got to limit your turnovers — which I think we were 10 or under — rebound and play good defense,” Behrens said. “Cause you have to win games ugly like this, especially playing a team a third time.

Warner finished with 12 points as the Rams (18-6) defeated their Suburban One League Continental Conference rivals for the third time this season to earn their first spot in states since 2015. Pennridge advances to visit No. 3 Lower Merion in the district quarterfinals. Friday. The Aces topped No. 14 Conestoga 76-59 in their second-round matchup.

“That’s great, that was one of our goals in the beginning of the season,” said Yoder of reaching states. “We’ve worked so hard, these group of guys, I can’t say enough about them, have so much conference in them and we’re going to keep working.”

Joey Lindsay — who hit three 3-pointers — David Robinson and Chris Coleman all scored nine points to pace North Penn (13-11), which was trying qualify for PIAA play in consecutive seasons by pulling off a second-straight upset. The Knights knocked off No 11. Spring-Ford 52-50 in the first round last Friday.

“We watched the film on the last game (a 57-43 Rams win Feb. 8) and we thought that was more North Penn beat North Penn than they beat us. But not tonight,” North Penn coach Jon Conrad said. “I thought we played well tonight, I thought they just played a little bit better.”

The Knights are still alive for a state bid, but now to so they must win twice in the ninth and 10th place playbacks, starting on the road against Conestoga Friday.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Conrad said. “We’ll lick our wounds tonight but we’ll be ready tomorrow, go back to practice.”

North Penn trailed 37-30 in the fourth after a Yoder bucket but a Mitchell three and a Robinson free throw had the Knights within 37-34 with 2:53 remaining. Tyrese Lewis put the Rams up five before Robinson answered to make it 39-36. North Penn got a chance to tie when Pennridge was called out of bounds on the sideline with 1:31 to go. After Lindsay could not hit from three, Lewis, Robinson and NP’s AJ Catanzaro all grabbed the rebound, which resulted in a jump ball and the possession arrow favored Pennridge.

“I felt like they played really well defensively. We couldn’t really get anything to go, they couldn’t get anything to go, we were playing well defensively,” Warner said. “It was just whoever could play better defense towards the end, I felt we played a lot more defense, came down to that one rebound.”

North Penn’s AJ Mitchell (11) sends a pass towards David Robinson (15) during the second quarter of the Knights’ District 1-6A second round game against Pennridge on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

Jake Pestrak was fouled on a drive with 48.9 seconds, made the first of two at the line for a 40-36 lead while North Penn was called for traveling at 35 seconds.

Mike Molettiere hit the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17.8 seconds to make it a five-point lead. Coleman’s bucket at 4.7 seconds cut the margin to 41-38 but Yoder hit both ends of a 1-and-1 at 4.1 seconds to seal the Pennridge victory. Lindsay hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

“I’m so happy for them,” Behrens said. “I’ve been to the states once, OK, this is only the second time in Pennridge history we’re going to states. I’m really happy for the four seniors. I told the younger guys don’t take it for granted like hey we’ll do it next year. When you have the opportunity take advantage of it.”

Yoder’s two points in the first half came on a transition jumper in the second quarter but he opened the third scoring on a drive to give the Rams a 21-14 lead and finished with seven points in the quarter en route to his game-high 13.

“I think just taking it to the basket a couple times got my confidence up,” Yoder said. “When I can drive to the basket, two guys collapse on me, I can kick it out and have confidence in a guy that can know it down, helps a lot.”

North Penn threw a variety of zones as Pennridge and in the first half to slowed down the host’s attack yet the Knights could not take advantage as the Rams were solid as well on their defensive end.

“We tried to mix them up and play a couple different zones. Based on the score I thought it was effective, it’s just they made one more play defensively than we were able to make,” Conrad said.

Pennridge led 12-8 after the first eight minutes. North Penn tied the game twice in the second quarter, the second time at 14-14 before the Rams scored the half’s last five points for a 19-14 lead.

Both teams began to find some offense in the third thanks to long-range shooting — the Knights hitting four 3-pointers, the Rams making three in the quarter.

A Lindsey three had North Penn within 24-22 before triples by Yoder and Warner made it 30-22 Rams. After a basket by Jon Post inside had Pennridge leading 32-25, a Coleman three cut the Knights’ deficit down to four but Jake Pestrak’s trey had the Rams up 35-28 entering the fourth.

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