POTTSVILLE >> It was not much of a shock for Landon Coyle and the Faith Christian boys basketball team when Millville opted to go with zone defense against the Lions Tuesday night.
“There might have been like two teams that played us man all year,” Coyle said. “So, when teams play zones, people have to knock down jump shots so they respect it.”
Coyle was the one who kept knocking down long-distance shots over the Quakers defense in their PIAA Class A second round contest. The 6-3 senior forward made five of Faith’s eight 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 18 points as the District 1 champs rolled into the quarterfinals with a 66-43 victory at Martz Hall.
“I go into every night hoping it’s a good night shooting,” Coyle said. “I mean, I was knocking down some shots in warmups and then I was able to hit them in the game, too.”
The Lions needed a bit to work out Millville’s 3-2 zone, but a few 3s along with a defense that created transition opportunities sent Faith Christian (27-2) to the state quarters for the second straight season. The Lions face Bicentennial Athletic League rival Plumstead Christian — which beat Sullivan County 67-50 in Tuesday’s opening game at Martz Hall — for a spot in the Class A semis Friday at site and time to be determined.
“Zones doesn’t bother us, I just think we needed to move more and get more ball movement. I think once we did that we were fine,” Faith Christian coach Tony DaCosta said. “Sometimes, you don’t want to get a team in a zone and be stagnant so it’s important hat we make sure we have ball movement and I thought that was lacking a little bit. But then we picked it up and we started having more movement, I thought that made all the difference in the world as well as our pressure as normal.”
Faith won its two previous matchup this season with Plumstead — which finished third in District 1 — rather convincingly, topping the Panthers 74-52 at home Jan. 30 then rolling 75-44 at PCS Feb. 5.
“They’re a solid team. Last two times we played them we didn’t have our big man Sawyer (Smith) so it’s going to be good to have him back against them,” Coyle said. “It’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be exciting. Lot of people will come out.”
Charles Ervin scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half while Owen Bradford added 10 points for Faith. Bradford scored the first six points of the second quarter to give the Lions their first double-digit lead at 21-10 and from there Millville could only cut the margin down to 10 — the last time at 34-24 in the third quarter.
“We look to run and we like to get up and down the floor and we’ve done that all season long so at this point in the season you got to stick to what you did best,” DaCosta said. “And our best is playing defense, running up and down the floor and when we’re healthy and getting healthy 3s and getting good looks, we take them. We take them.”
Will Holdren finished with 16 to lead Millville (22-4), the District 4 runner-up. Jaylen Reichner and Drew Shultz had 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Quakers, who also lost in the state second round last season.
A 6-0 run by Millville in the first quarter cut Faith Christian’s lead down to 9-8 before Smith connected on the Lions’ first 3-pointer. Zane Robbins had the Quakers within two before Derian Bradford’s trey before the buzzer had Faith up 15-10.
“At first, we were just trying to figure it out. Cause they really packed it in,” Coyle said. “But then once we knocked down a couple jumps shots and then transition offense really was big for us, too. We got out and ran and we got a couple open looks off of that, too, so that also helped.”
After Owen Bradford began the second quarter with six straight points, an Ervin bucket extended the lead to 23-10. A Holdren 3 ended the Lions’ run but then Coyle got going. First, he converted a 3-point play at 4:38 then buried back-to-back triples for Faith’s largest first-half advantage at 32-13.
“Obviously, it was good for me to break the ice and get my confidence going,” Coyle said. “It was also good for the team because then they had to respect my jump shot so then it would open driving lanes for my teammates. So it was just good for that cause then it helped them out and then I still got some more shots so it helped me out too.”
Millville, however, ended the half with six straight points — a Reichner basket in the final seconds making it 32-19 at the break. Reichner opened the third with a 3 to get the Quakers with 32-22. A Shulz bucket had Millville again within 10 at 34-24 but Faith Christian responded with the next seven to go up 41-24 after a Derian Bradford steal led to a Ervin fast-break layup.
“I think it goes back to our defense. Our defense really created the opportunities,” DaCosta said. “We work on drills — stop, score, stop, score or in some case we have to get three stops in a row to get off of defense. And that mentality serves us well in games like this.”
A Coyle trey gave Faith a 50-31 lead while a David Forscht 3 sent the Lions the fourth up 53-33. Faith’s largest lead came after an Ervin basket made it 64-35.
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