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Phillips gets past pain, TCA gets by Delco Christian

NEWTOWN SQUARE — There wasn’t a lot that adhered to the script for the coaches of Delco Christian and The Christian Academy Friday night.

No, first-year DC coach Reggie Parks wasn’t planning on deploying all 10 players on his roster before the first quarter ended. And no, TCA point guard Tehron Phillips probably wouldn’t have volunteered for double-overtime in his first game back after several weeks out with a concussion, hence bouts of cramping that severely limited him.

But when the Crusaders needed him most, Phillips showed up.

Phillips scored 11 of his 17 points in the third quarter as TCA overcame a nine-point deficit and gutted out a two-overtime, 75-72 win in a bonkers Delco Christian Tip-Off Tournament opener.

The game featured just about everything. Six players fouled out. The teams combined for 57 fouls and a sorry 40-for-78 from the free-throw line. And on the losing side of it all was Delco Christian’s Jackson Piotrowski, who went off for 37 points and 13 rebounds.

That’s because Phillips had the clutch baskets at key moments at the end of regulation and the first OT, even as he frequently visited with trainers in the second half. It perhaps didn’t help that his style – a consuming desire to get to the rim to either finish or dish – doesn’t lend itself to cramped legs.

“I’ve got to keep pushing through, fight for the team,” Phillips said. “… If I can get to the basket, I’m going to get to the basket. That’s what I do.”

Delco Christian looked set to put the game away with a 15-4 edge in the third quarter, leading by nine at 47-38 on Obinna Nwobodo’s putback early in the fourth.

But Phillips inspired the comeback, dishing to Luke Sareyka to tie the game at 49, then driving to the rack again to even it at 51. As the teams traded baskets in the final two minutes – the most sustained patch of shot-making all night – Phillips was TCA’s consistent answer.

Nwobodo used a power move to shed a double team and put DC up 57-55 with 37 ticks left, but Phillips’ solo sortie to the hoop with two seconds to play evened it at 57.

Piotrowski took over in the first overtime, after Nwobodo fouled out with 13 points and nine rebounds in limited minutes. The junior scored all seven of DC’s points in the first OT session, including a three-point play off a Jacob Bronkema bounce pass to put DC up 63-60.

“I’ve been trying my hardest to do whatever I can to win for the team, whether it’s me scoring, whether it’s someone else,” Piotrowski said. “Whatever it takes.”

Friday, it took better collective free-throw shooting in the first OT for DC, with Jamal Hairston missing two and Piotrowski only hitting one of two in the final minute. Grant Sareyka’s drive to the hole brought TCA within one, though he squandered a chance to tie at the line. With TCA down two, it was again Phillips whose number was called, Euro-stepping to a left-handed lay-in over Piotrowski with two seconds left.

“I want the ball in my hands because I want to be the playmaker, get everybody involved,” Phillips said.

The supporting cast picked him up in the second OT. Tamir Phillips, his younger brother, hit a jumper and converted from the line. Isaiah Mitchell, who played sparingly in regulation, hit two free throws.

“I feel as though anybody can do it on the team,” Tehron Phillips said. “If it’s not Tamir, it’s someone else that can step up and hit a free throw, like Isaiah Mitchell. He did that, too.”

Jourdan Greene, a transfer from Roman Catholic who spent grades 1-8 at TCA, added four points in the second OT. The 6-6 forward pressured Tyler Rossini’s desperation heave at the buzzer to make sure it was well shy of the target and was a prime reason for Nwobodo’s limited influence.

“It’s been hard. Being my first year here, we had to build a lot,” said Green, who scored 20 points. “But most of the guys I’ve played with before. And we’ve got heart. We hustled and we worked hard.”

Grant Sareyka tallied nine points and eight rebounds, Luke Sareyka added seven points and four steals and Parris Jones had seven points and six boards as TCA got contributions throughout the roster. Sam Geathers had eight points before joining the parade of foul outs.

Rossini had 11 points for DC, and Bronkema added 13 points, five assists and five boards.

It’s the first time since 2014 that a team other than DC will its tip-off tournament. Judging by the way TCA took to the court to celebrate, it meant plenty to Phillips and coach Malik Walker.

“This is Malik’s third year here,” Tehron Phillips said. “We feel as though we’re a really mature team and we can get the job done.”

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