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Penley, Knights think this could be the start of something big

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NEWTOWN SQUARE >> On the first possession Friday night, Tyler Penley took a chest pass from Jacob Bronkema, squared for a 3-pointer from the wing, rose over a defender in his face, and just knew.

“At the beginning, I try to get a feel for the game,” the Delco Christian senior wing said. “I wanted to come out, start hot and get us a lot of energy. Once I hit that first 3, it looked good, it felt good, and I was like, ‘Oh, this could be something good.’”

Penley picked a fine time for his best game of the season, a career-high 25 points to send No. 2 seed Delco Christian past No. 3 Calvary Christian, 64-52, and into the District 1 Class 2A final next Saturday.

The win also vaults Delco Christian (16-9) into the PIAA Class 2A tournament, the Knights’ fourth states appearance in the last five seasons.

Normally a streaky shooter, Penley’s form never went cold Friday. He was 10-for-17 from the field and 3-for-7 from 3-point land on a night where the Knights shot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc (5-for-9). Penley had 12 by halftime, as the Knights trundled through a stretch with Jackson Piotrowski and Obinna Nwobodo both sitting with two fouls, and then scored seven points in the third quarter as the Knights withstood Calvary’s best punch.

“He knocked down a few 3s early and he just kept getting open,” Bronkema said. “So having him out there, if you’re going to kick it out, he’s either going to knock that down or he’s going to have a great drive and set someone else up.”

Nwobodo was on his way to a stellar game until the whistles intervened. He finished with 11 points, including five in the fourth quarter, and 11 boards. Bronkema and Piotrowski chipped in 11 points and four assists each. The Knights balanced sloppy decisions (22 turnovers) with crisp ball movement (15 assists on 24 made baskets).

DC also adapted to Calvary big Sean Walsh, who scored 12 points in the first half, but was limited to just three after the break and a total of 6-for-16 shooting.

“We had to adjust,” Penley said. “He got hot early and got easy dump-offs. We focused on packing it in and making their guys hit shots from the outside.”

DC held Calvary to just 29.8 percent shooting (17-for-57) overall. Josh Buck scored 12 points, and Vijay Nalliah added 10.

Calvary got within four at 51-47 with four minutes to play, thanks to three consecutive DC turnovers.  But DC just as quickly compiled a 6-0 march via two Penley buckets and two Piotrowski assists, to see the Knights accomplish one of their perennial goals.

“At the beginning of the season, we always lay out our goals, and getting to the district championships and states, that’s always been the No. 1 priority,” Bronkema said. “It’s really exciting.”

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