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Norristown beats Upper Merion for 12th straight win

Norristown's Tyler Lyons battles Upper Merion's Lukas Kim and Collin Bowman for a loose ball during their game on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

WEST NORRITON >> Norristown extended its winning streak to 12 games Friday night with a 65-46 Pioneer Athletic Conference cross-divisional win over Upper Merion at Norristown Area High School.

“We are playing solid defensively,” Norristown coach Binky Johnson said. “The guys are reaping the fruits of their labor. They work so hard. The coaching staff is working so hard and you can preach some things, you can talk the talk but you have to walk the walk. We try to tell them that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

The Eagles, who haven’t lost since opening night against Plymouth Whitemarsh, have relied on their defense all season and did it again against the rival Vikings. Norristown forced 23 turnovers in the game and didn’t allow any Upper Merion players to score in double figures.

Norristown’s Mickeel Allen goes in for a layup during the Eagles’ game against Upper Merion on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“Defense is what we are,” Norristown guard Xavier Edwards said. “Defense is our main thing. If we’re not playing defense than we’re not being Norristown basketball. It starts off with defense.”

“They’re a tough team,” Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer said. “Whatever gameplan you have coming in, they’re going to make you change it. Just a little bit too many turnovers in some key possessions.”

It was a balanced effort for the Eagles (12-1, 9-0 PAC). Nizer Kinney led the way with 19 points — 14 in the second half — while Edwards added 12 and Mickeel Allen and Tyler Lyons each had 10.

Dom Breece led the Vikings (6-6, 4-5 PAC) in scoring with nine points. Nick Shepperd and Matt Choi each had eight points and Ty Jones had seven.

Norristown built a 17-13 lead after the first quarter. The Eagles started fast, forcing three turnovers in the first 90 seconds and got the scoring started with a Lyons three. They led most of the way, with Upper Merion taking two brief one-point leads.

Upper Merion’s Ty Jones drives to the hoop near Norristown’s Aaron Reddish during their game on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The second quarter was sloppy for both sides. Upper Merion turned the ball over nine times in the eight-minute stretch while Norristown coughed it up six times. Despite the six giveaways, Norristown was able to build up its lead in the second. Allen had six in the quarter and Edwards and Marcus Sanford each added four to make it a 33-21 Norristown advantage at the break.

“I thought they showed some poise after the nerves,” Quenzer said. “We played a good first quarter. Second quarter just some turnovers that we don’t really make. The pass — looking the other way and two guys have their hands up. There was a lot of that, which (Norristown) will do to you.”

Upper Merion got back into the game after the half. The Vikings rattled off a 7-0 run to start the third quarter to make it a 33-28 game.

“It was great,” Quenzer said. “I don’t think it was anything I said. They just put the ball in the basket and played the right way and they got a nice little run. But credit to Norristown, they didn’t really get phased.”

Norristown’s Xavier Edwards drives to the hoop during the Eagles’ game against Upper Merion on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

That’s as close as Upper Merion would get. Norristown responded with a 10-1 spurt to build the lead up to 43-29 and went to the fourth ahead, 43-32.

“We had to come out and play our game,” Edwards said. “Third quarter it started clicking more. I wouldn’t say we put the pedal to the metal, it’s just we started vibing a little bit better as a team and as a unit.”

The Eagles kept the energy up in the fourth to close out the win, 65-46. Nizer Kinney scored 10 points in the frame and Willie Anderson, Edwards and Lyons each had four.

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