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Reporter Basketball Notebook: Dock Mennonite’s Scialanca a model of consistency

Dock Mennonite's Jackson Scialanca drives to the basket during the Pioneers' game against Holy Ghost Prep on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

If Dock Mennonite boys basketball coach Mike Fergus had one word to describe senior Jackson Scialanca, he’d likely choose “consistent.”

Scialanca has been Mr. Consistent as a four-year starter for the Pioneers and on Friday night, the guard reached a personal milestone when he scored his 1,000th point as part of a 23-point effort in a 70-46 win over The Christian Academy.

“The nice thing about Jackson is that he’s just really consistent,” Fergus said. “He’ll have a game where he gets into the high 20’s but for the most part, he’s going to score around 15 points every game, he takes his shots in the flow of the offense. We run a lot of stuff for him but he scores out of our offense.”

Scialanca, a tri-captain with classmates Nolan Bolton and Troy Vesey, has been one of Fergus’ most reliable players on both ends of the floor. The longtime coach, now in his fifth season at Dock, mused that the only knock he has with Scialanca is that sometimes he has to urge the guard to shoot more.

It’s not often a coach says that about a 1,000 point scorer, it’s even less often they say it about someone on the cusp of a school record. Fergus said Scialanca is only 114 points away from breaking Dock’s career scoring record, but don’t expect the senior to suddenly start gunning for it.

“He doesn’t hunt shots and doesn’t hunt points, he really is a team player,” Fergus said. “He’d just as soon pass to someone for a better shot that what he’s got. I have to tell him to shoot, I’m always telling him to shoot more. He really doesn’t care how many points he scores.”

Bolton is also a four-year starter and he’s also on the verge of a couple school records. The guard, who is signed to play baseball at Liberty, is just 11 assists away from the school’s record and while he already owns the career mark for charges taken, Bolton needs three more to break the single-season record.

As he was reflecting on Scialanca’s mark, Fergus couldn’t help but wonder how many of Bolton’s assists had gone to his classmate over their four years together.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship, one helps the other and it’s true teamwork,” Fergus said. “I have no way of knowing how many of Nolan’s assists have gone to Jackson, but it’s kind of cool because they’ve been playing together since middle school and they know each other’s moves by heart.

“They’ve been the anchor of our program as we’ve built some things up at Dock that are going pretty well now.”

Fergus said Messiah, Gwynedd Mercy and Juniata have shown a lot of interest in Scialanca, who is an excellent student on top of his basketball abilities.

A true two-way player, Scialanca has grown into the Pioneers’ best on-ball defender. He wasn’t a top defensive player as a freshman, but the senior put in the hours to become the model of consistency on offense and defense.

“There was a stretch earlier where he wasn’t scoring as much and he said ‘if my shot’s not dropping, then I just have to play defense,’” Fergus said. “He’s got a great attitude and he’s a gym rat. He’s made himself into a really good player.”

BROTHERHOOD

First year Cheltenham boys basketball coach Patrick Fleury divided the season into four quarters.

The first was the nonconference part of the schedule and first half of SOL play, where the Panthers took a couple lumps. Now in the heart of the second quarter, the second half of conference play, the Panthers are playing their best basketball.

With four games left, Cheltenham finds itself a game behind Abington in the American standings. The Panthers finished a regular season sweep of PW on Thursday behind a breakout game from junior Jaelen McGlone and a steady game from point guard Zahree Harrison.

With nine guys who have solidified rotation spots and a couple more capable of spot minutes, Cheltenham has built a nice cache of depth as well.

The Panthers, who host Abington to close the regular season, could be playing for a conference title that night and if a couple other games go their way, could find themselves as part of the SOL tournament in two weeks.

Yet, for all his team’s success so far, Fleury doesn’t want to take any credit for where the Panthers currently sit.

“It’s the kids and the coaches,” Fleury said. “It has very little to do with me. It’s about relationships and they’re forming that relationship because they all live close to each other, they love each other so for me, I’m just blessed that I have the group that I do. It’s very little of me and a lot of them.”

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

It speaks to the abundance of talent in the area that it’s felt like there’s been a “Game of the Year” candidate every week of the season so far.

Last week, it was Bonner & Prendergast visiting La Salle in a high-stakes PCL contest won by the Explorers. Abington’s win over Sankofa Freedom on Saturday even had an argument as the Ghosts’ Eric Dixon poured in 47 points while Sankofa’s Scott Spann had 40 points.

This week, it could be Roman Catholic’s visit to La Salle on Friday with first place in the PCL potentially at stake, Abington’s boys visiting PW on Tuesday or an intriguing nonconference tilt as Reading visits Pennridge on Saturday.

There have been plenty of high-level girls games as well. Germantown Academy played a thriller with Upper Dublin right before the new year, then topped Archbishop Wood in a see-saw game a few weeks later. Abington’s girls had a classic with Neshaminy earlier this month, just scratched out a win at UD and head to Souderton on Thursday for a nonleague game.

Some of these contests are a natural result of league schedules, but it’s also a testament to area coaches who aren’t afraid to put their teams in challenging situations throughout the year. Teams don’t just waltz into district or state titles and every year, the team that hoists those trophies is always among the most battle-tested.

Plymouth Whitemarsh went all the way out to Erie last weekend to play in Erie Cathedral Prep’s Burger King Classic and got a game against a stacked Kennedy Catholic team out of it.

Abington coach Charles Grasty, who sent his team to Washington D.C. in December and Pittsburgh earlier this month, summed it up well on Saturday after topping Sankofa.

“We feel like we see it all then we come back and still see something different,” Grasty said. “We’re seeing a lot of different looks and it’s helping us. We’ve seen teams like this that want to get up and down, we’ve seen teams that want to slow it down against us. Out in Pittsburgh they played a different style, so we’re seeing all of it.”

DOUBLE TEAMED

College coaches love multi-sport athletes, but it’s also an age where more and more up-and-coming talents focus on just one sport.

For many athletes, diversifying their experience can make a huge impact and, at least locally, there are still plenty of multi-sport athletes hard at work. Nobody would have blamed Abington senior Cam Lexow if she focused solely on soccer, given that she made all-state and the All-American game this fall and is signed to play at national power Virginia.

But Lexow enjoys taking a couple months away from a soccer field and playing basketball and her future coach at UVA, Steve Swanson, has even told her that he likes the fact she’s a two-sport standout. Given that Lexow’s been in plenty of high-pressure basketball games the last four years, she’s also getting something out of it.

“These kinds of situation can only help and I’m sure it probably helped her in soccer this year,” Ghosts coach Dan Marsh said. “She’s been through this stuff for years, she’s been to a district championship. She’s going to play big-time soccer, so I think it’s tremendous for her.”

Lexow isn’t the only case either. Pennridge senior Jon Post returned to the football field this fall after a year off and all he did was set the Rams’ single-season record for touchdown receptions, Germantown Academy’s Elle Stauffer, Lindsay Putnam and Maddie Vizza all play water polo and Souderton’s iron man Andrew Vince is the football team’s starting quarterback and safety.

North Penn’s Matt Swanson and Kolby Barrow are key rotation guys who also expect to see big roles for the baseball team this spring while Chris Caputo and Mike Chaffee were key members of the boys’ soccer team and Solomon Robinson was the quarterback on the District I finalist football squad.

Lower Moreland point guard Shane Cohen is going to college to play basketball, but he also won a state cross country title this fall. Like Lexow, GA’s Maddie Burns is a valuable contributor for the Patriots’ basketball and soccer teams despite committing to play lacrosse at Michigan.

Hatboro-Horsham’s Emily Thomas and Cam Ryan are indispensable players for both the Hatters basketball and girls soccer teams while Lower Moreland’s Nicole Castor is another all-state soccer player who also owns a starting role on her school’s basketball squad.

Methacton senior Abby Penjuke’s college future is on a softball diamond at West Chester, but she’s the leader for the Warriors basketball squad while junior Sydney Tornetta, an excellent lacrosse player, is their leading scorer.

Wissahickon’s Eddie Fortescue is an even rarer breed, the three-sport athlete who also plays a pivotal role in each season. An all-league soccer forward, the senior is also all-league in hoops and baseball and it’s hard to imagine any of those three teams without his energy and contributions.

PICK AND ROLL

Schedule-wise, it’s a pretty big week.

Things start Monday when La Salle (17-0, 10-0) travels to Archbishop Carroll (9-8, 5-4) with the Explorers trying to maintain their perfect record both in the PCL and overall. If they can do that, a massive showdown with Roman Catholic at home awaits on Friday.

On Tuesday, Pennridge’s boys welcome Central Bucks South to the barn for a game that could well decide the SOL Continental title. The Rams (15-2, 7-1 conference) have a game in hand on the Titans (13-4, 7-2) so a win would put them in pretty good shape going forward.

Also on Tuesday, the SOL American-leading Abington boys (17-1, 10-0) visit Plymouth Whitemarsh (11-6, 7-3) for the first time in the Colonials’ new gym. With Abington’s Eric Dixon (47 points) and PW’s Naheem McCleod (41) coming off huge games over the weekend, they’ll likely be eager to improve on their low scoring totals from their first matchup this season.

Wood’s girls host West Catholic on Thursday in a key game for PCL seeding. The Burrs (13-4, 8-1) are in a three-way tie for first with Carroll and Neumann-Goretti while Wood (9-10, 6-3) is technically in fourth.  With three PCL losses already, the Vikings would like to avoid a fourth and hold on to a home quarterfinal playoff game.

Friday night, aside from Roman at La Salle, Bishop McDevitt’s boys host Father Judge. The Royal Lancers (14-4, 8-2) are one of four teams in the PCL with two losses and are trying to position themselves for at least a guaranteed spot in the league quarterfinals.

On the girls’ side Friday night, Upper Dublin treks to PW as the Cardinals (14-3, 9-1) now try to stay tied atop the SOL American with Abington. PW (16-2, 8-2) has a chance to play spoiler twice, first traveling to Abington (15-2, 9-1) on Tuesday before hosting UD on Friday.

UD is also a headliner on Saturday, when the Cardinals travel to CB West (11-7, 6-2 SOL Continental) for a key late-season nonconference game. A few hours later, the Pennridge boys host Reading a year after they beat the Red Knights at the fortress known as the Geigle Complex.

Sunday ends a busy week as St. Joe’s Prep (12-6, 7-3) visits Archbishop Wood (11-6, 6-4). The young Vikings are currently in the play-in realm of the PCL standings, so they’ll be looking to take any chance to climb a few rungs up the ladder against a pretty tough closing slate.

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