HOLLAND >> There was a time this season when Delco Christian would have struggled to overcome a nine-point deficit.
“We’re not the best at coming back,” said Obinna Nwobodo, the Knights’ sophomore big man. “Especially against Dock (Mennonite), the No. 1 team in the district.”
But this was the big stage, for the District 1 Class 2A title. The Knights believed they could bounce back from an anemic first eight minutes and go toe-to-toe with the top-seeded Pioneers. After all, the Knights defeated the Pioneers in the regular season.
Why not twice?
“After the first quarter, we all said, ‘Remember last year.’ We didn’t want this to be a repeat,” Nwobodo said, referring to last year’s loss against Dock in the district semifinal round. “That’s what got us going again.”
Delco Christian, the No. 2 seed, stormed out of the gates in the second quarter. The Knights scored 15 of the first 17 points in the period to take a five-point lead seemingly out of nowhere. A back-and-forth fourth quarter, filled with thrills, resulted in the Knights holding on to win the program’s third district title with a 44-40 decision over the Pioneers Saturday at Council Rock South High School.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) March 3, 2018
“We went out there, grinded it out and got it done,” said Nwobodo, who hauled in a defensive rebound off a missed Caleb Pfleiger free throw in the waning seconds of regulation. When the clock struck zero, Nwobodo chucked the ball high in the air to commence the celebration. “It’s a great win for our team.”
DC’s win would not have been made possible without the second-quarter performance of sophomore forward Jackson Piotrowski, who engineered the Knights’ comeback. He had five points, a steal and a blocked shot. Senior forward Tyler Penley also produced during the Knights’ 15-2 surge in the second quarter, scoring eight points to go with three boards and a steal.
Simply put, the second quarter belonged to Piotrowski, Penley and the Knights, who took a 26-18 lead into halftime.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Piotrowski said. “We’ve been working toward it the whole year and it finally paid off.”
Oh, and when the going got tough in the fourth quarter, Piotrowski banked the go-ahead jumper with a minute to play to give DC a 42-40 advantage. In the final stanza, Piotrowski scored nine of his game-high 19 points.
“It was all about having the enthusiasm (in the seocnd quarter),” said Piotrowski, who shot 5 of 9 from the floor, grabbed three rebounds and had two steals. “It’s something that we practice a lot. Sometimes we put ourselves in a situation where we get down and we have to fight back. That’s what we strive for. We knew they were going to go on a run and it was a matter of holding on and bouncing back.”
Dock showed its mettle with a strong second half, punctuated by Miz Nyagwegwe’s three-point play to tie the score at 33-all with less than six minutes to play.
Piotrowski countered with an and-1 play to give the Knights a 36-33 lead, but on Dock’s following position, Nolan Bolton drilled a 3-pointer to even the score. Nyagwegwe eventually gave Dock a short-lived lead, 39-38, but Piotrowski banked two free throws to put DC back in front by a point. Dock big man Darius Ellis knotted things up at 40 with a foul shot before Piotrowski hit the game-winning basket with a minute to go. He added two more points at the foul line after corraling a defensive rebound off a Nyagwegwe miss.
“We tried to claw our way back and that’s not how we like to do it,” said Dock point guard Jackson Scialanca, who led all players with four 3-point field goals. He finished with a team-high 14 points and three assists.
Ellis chipped in with nine points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. Penley tossed in 14 points and Nwobodo ended with six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“It was a battle,” DC coach Mike Walker said. “We’re obviously really happy. At the end of the first quarter, we tried to calm our brains down and tried to think about each play, let the score be what it is and eventually close the gap and go into halftime with a lead. It was a big moment for us. The kids really battled.”
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