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Faith Christian tops Phil-Mont Christian, earns rematch with Girard College

Faith's Charles Ervin scores in the Lions' District 1-A semifinal against Phil-Mont Christian Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Souderton. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)
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FRANCONIA >> Faith Christian withstood Phil-Mont Christian’s best shots, and pulled away to a 72-60 victory in the District 1-A semifinals Tuesday night at Souderton Area High School.

“Back where we should be,” the Lions’ Landon Coyle said of the district finals, where his team will square off with defending champ Girard College for the second straight year.

Trailing by nine entering the fourth, Lyle Tipton and Michael DiBenedetto each hit threes — the fourth-seeded Falcons would have 10 in the contest — to pull Phil-Mont within 53-50.

But top-seeded Faith responded with a 10-0 run, keyed by Charles Ervin, Coyle and Darius Forney. Ervin was back after missing the BAL Playoffs due to a hip injury and supplied solid defense and 15 points. Forney scored 12 and Coyle had the game high with 17.

The win advances Faith to Friday’s final against No. 2 Girard, at Bensalem at 6.

Phil-Mont Christian’s Daniel Olinger make his way to the net during the Falcons’ District 1-A semifinal against Faith Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Souderton. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Faith fell 72-40 to Girard in the district final last year but battled hard in a state semifinal rematch, falling 67-58.

“Any time you take a butt whipping like we did in districts, you wanna answer the bell. You wanna answer the call,” Lions coach Tony DaCosta said of upcoming rematch. “We play this game because we wanna play at a high level, and (Girard) was worthy of getting back to the championship and so were we.”

A tough basket by Coyle underneath widened the gap to 55-50 with four minutes to play. Derian Bradford passed to Coyle on a fast break to increase the margin and a drive down the lane by Forney made it a double-digit lead again, 60-50. The Lions were on their way.

“That’s what we like to do. We got out and pushed it,” Coyle said of the 10-0 run. “We got out to a bigger lead and never looked back from there.”

Lyle Tipton had a strong game for the Falcons (13-12), providing a team-high 14 points.

Phil-Mont played aggressive on the defensive end early, pushing to an 11-5 lead by the end of the first quarter. Trevor Tipton hit a three and Lyle Tipton scored off an intercepted pass to key the early jump.

But Faith began to settle in.

Faith Christian’s David Forscht makes a 3-point shot during the Lions’ District 1-a semifinal against Phil-Mont Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Souderton. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

The Lions got tremendous contributions from their bench, especially the long-range shooting of Isaiah Robinson. Robinson’s pair of threes helped Faith swing their way into the lead.

“Isaiah came off the bench, made a couple big shots that got us going,” Coyle said. “We just rolled with it.”

Robinson went to the floor to come up with a steal, then passed to a Josh Forker for a breakaway layup.

A shot down low by Sawyer Smith settled in, and Coyle’s 11 second-quarter points sent Faith to the locker room with a 30-25 edge at the half.

“I just got into a rhythm,” said Coyle, who buried a trio of threes in a pivotal second quarter, “and started knocking down shots.”

Faith (24-2) tightened its control in the third quarter.

Faith’s Sawyer Smith rises to score against Phil-Mont Christian during their District 1-A semifinal on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Souderton. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

A strip and score by Ervin got the Lions going, and Coyle’s turnaround jumper stretched the lead to double digits for the first time, 38-28.

Ervin came over to help on defense and came up with another steal, leading to one of two free throws made, and a running jumper down the lane moments later by Forney gave the Lions a 41-31 advantage.

Phil-Mont stayed in it with its outside shooting, threes by Lyle Tipton, Trevor Tipton, DiBenedetto and Joshua Blackburn keeping it close. But Coyle and Forney notched threes of their own, helping Faith take a 51-42 lead into the fourth.

Faith survived one final surge by Phil-Mont to advance and clinch a spot in states (three qualify).

“(Phil-Mont) hit some tough shots. They hit some threes, they had some guys shoot the basketball really well,” DaCosta said. “So I can’t take anything away from them. (Coach) Glenn (Dolton) did a great job with his team, getting them prepared and having them compete.”

Phil-Mont Christian’s Daniel Olinger makes his way to the net during the Falcons’ District 1-A semifinal against Faith Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Souderton. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Phil-Mont still has a chance at states, taking on Plumstead Christian in the third-place game. The Falcons executed well in spots on Tuesday but the Lions forced enough turnovers to tilt the game their way.

“Their pressure is really, really good,” Dolton said of Faith, “and if you turn the ball over, you’re gonna get hurt. And we had too many times where we turned it over and it led to points.”

Phil-Mont will travel to Plumstead on Friday night.

Faith now has a shot at the district title.

“I’ve been waiting for this ever since I was in middle school,” Coyle said. “We didn’t get it last year but we’re looking to get it this year.”

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