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Dock Mennonite’s defense sets tone against Phil-Mont Christian

TOWAMENCIN >> The entire sequence only took about 15 seconds end-to-end but it nicely summized the Dock Mennonite boys basketball team.

Most pleasing to Pioneers coach Mike Fergus was the fact it started on the defensive end, with center Darius Ellis open-palm swatting away a Phil-Mont Christian layup attempt and Nolan Bolton wresting the rebound away from another Phil-Mont player. Pushing up the floor, Bolton attacked the rim and dished to Ralph Saint-Fleur. Midair, Saint-Fleur tapped the ball to a trailing Ellis, with his push-shot ending the sequence with a bucket.

Dock led wire to wire against a hard-working and good shooting Falcons team to pick up a 63-44 win to wrap up the BAL Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday night.

“Offensively, we’re a good team but I think we’re a better team defensively,” Fergus said. “A lot of our defense creates our offense. I love our attitude, I love how hard we play and defensively, we just get after people. We’ve always played that way but this team in particular is really focused on the defensive end.”

The Falcons, who lack size but not heart and hustle, presented Dock a difficult challenge on Saturday. Phil-Mont thrives on the perimeter, with four or five guys in every lineup capable and told to shoot threes when they’re open and creates plenty of them in the halfcourt.

Defense is Dock’s things however, and the Pioneers do a lot of conditioning so they don’t get winded on that end of the floor, or in transition. It let the Pioneers play pressure defense, close out on shooters with a hand up and most importantly, create early turnovers.

“The difference in the game was the turnovers that led to them generating points,” Phil-Mont coach Glenn Dolton said. “We had to get out of what we’re good at, which is staying in the halfcourt so we had to extend ourselves a little bit and it got away from us.

“If we didn’t turn the ball over, we could get it down where we could run our guys off screens, stay patient and get looks. We can shoot, we just have to be able to get to that point.”

Bolton was at the forefront of the defensive effort, showing the quick hands that make him one of the best baseball players in the area as he created five steals and helped hound the ball up the floor. The senior guard notched seven of his 14 points in the opening quarter as Dock took a 20-9 lead over the Falcons.

“Energy is the biggest thing we have going for us with this team,” Bolton said. “We always come out with energy and that lets us press and run. We were trying get out early; run the floor and have a fast-paced game.”

Phil-Mont got within 20-18 midway through the second quarter mostly by getting to the foul line, but they weren’t able to knot the game. Bolton, on a put-back, started an 8-0 run that gave the Pioneers some breathing room again and let them carry a 32-25 lead into the half.

The score at halftime showed the Falcons weren’t going anywhere and a three by Michael DeBenedetto (12 points) cut the lead to 32-28 to open the second half. Seeking a spark, Fergus turned to a freshman in Roman Kuhn and the move paid off.

Kuhn ripped the ball out of a Phil-Mont player’s hands for an uncontested layup, sparking a 10-1 spurt that included the end-to-end sequence kicked off and ended by Ellis’ block and basket. Ellis led Dock with 16 points and did a nice job of closing out on shooters defensively, getting a hand up as he got out to the arc.

“The way we play, we’re going to get a run sooner or later and the kids know it too,” Fergus said. “Once it goes, it’s hard to stop.”

Still, the Pioneers could only manage an 11-point lead after three quarters, building a 45-34 advantage going to the final period as DeBenedetto hit a late trey to keep his team in striking range.

Phil-Mont, now 6-4 on the season, saw a similar refrain on Saturday. Against some of the tougher teams on their schedule, including Bishop McDevitt in a season-opening tournament, the Falcons have hung tough but haven’t gotten over the hump yet.

That’s the last piece Dolton feels this group needs.

“It’s a great group of kids, we play well, we have a good concept of what we’re supposed to do when we’re out there,” Dolton said. “We want to get the one where we battle through and finish it. In my opinion, the game came down to the turnovers and points off them.”

Dock, after giving up a 3-pointer to start the fourth, broke off a 14-2 run over the next five minutes that finally put the Falcons away.

The Pioneers have a tough week on deck, with a visit to Lower Moreland on Tuesday and a home game with Plumstead Christian on Friday night.

“The middle of the season is that time we want to start moving and going as a team,” Bolton said. “This is a chance to try and pick up some quality wins that can help us looking toward the state playoffs.”

Saturday concluded a good weekend of basketball for the BAL, with the league’s teams putting together two good days of games in the Pioneers’ gym.

“I thought the turnouts were really good this year,” Fergus said. “We’d love to keep hosting it, I think we have one of the nicest high school gyms in District I and selfishly, I like getting to see all these teams in person and we get a home game. Plus, it’s for a good cause and most of the teams wore the pink socks, so that was cool to see.”

DOCK MENNONITE 20 12 13 18 – 63
PHIL-MONT CHRISTIAN 9 16 9 10 – 44
DM: Nolan Bolton 5 3-5 14, Jackson Scialanca 4 1-2 10, Ralph Saint-Fleur 3 0-0 7, Darius Ellis 7 2-2 16, Steve Martin 1 1-2 3, Antanas Tamulis 3 3-4 9, Dallas Wilder-Hamilton 0 1-4 1, Roman Kuhn 1 0-0 2, Devon Jainlett 0 1-2 1. Totals: 24 12-21 63.
PM: Rahiim McIntyre 3 1-2 8, Trevor Tipton 1 0-0 3, Michael DiBenedetto 4 0-0 12, Daniel Olinger 4 3-4 12, Joshua Blackburn 1 2-5 5, Nathan Blackburn 0 1-2 1, David Olinger 1 1-2 3. Totals: 14 8-15 44.
3-pointers: DM – Bolton, Scialanca, Saint-Fleur; PM – DiBenedetto 4, McIntyre, Tipton, Olinger, Blackburn.

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