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Dixon nearly perfect as Abington rolls Pennsbury in SOL semifinals

Abington’s Eric Dixon drives to the basket against Plymouth Whitemarsh's Naheem McLeod during their game on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

NORTHAMPTON >> The crowd was ready to react, the only question was if Eric Dixon would get up and finish the dunk before the third quarter horn sounded.

He made sure of it, forgoing any theatrics for a standard, destructive-minded two-handed power slam at the buzzer, capping off a perfect third quarter from the floor. It was pretty much the story of his night, as almost everything the Abington big man put up went in with his teammates following suit.

Dixon was a model of efficiency, missing his first shot then making his last 15 on his way to a 33-point night as the Galloping Ghosts rolled Pennsbury 77-47 in the Suburban One League tournament semifinals Saturday at Council Rock South.

“I just played aggressive, tried to get to my spots and knock down my shots and that’s what happened,” Dixon, who ended 15-of-16 from the floor, said. “It’s Pennsbury, we’re not in the same league anymore but we still view them as our rival, I knew they’d come out with energy, we had to take their punches and not let them back in the game, so I tried my best to make sure that didn’t happen.”

The Villanova-bound Dixon added 10 rebounds and a block as Abington met with its old SOL National Conference foe to cap a four-game slate at CR South. With the Ghosts moving over to and winning the SOL American this year, it removed a major roadblock from the Falcons path to a conference title which they went on to win led by Gary Francis.

After Dixon scored the game’s first bucket, a tip-in of his only miss for the day, the Ghosts set a tone on the defensive end with Lucas Monroe picking up two quick blocks on Francis, who earlier this season set a Pennsbury single-game scoring record. The Falcons just didn’t have the size to contend with Dixon or Monroe and the two Abington seniors kept feeding their teammates on the way to a 20-10 first quarter edge.

The prime beneficiary was senior Darius Brown, who got back on track from behind the 3-point arc and scored 13 points, behind only Dixon and Monroe on Abington’s chart.

“As a team, we’ve been playing together since eighth grade, so we’ve always been able to play well together,” Brown said. “I think over the years our chemistry has grown a lot. We know how to feed off each other and where to be at the right times.”

Francis got tagged for his third foul with less than 20 seconds left in the first quarter, leaving the Falcons devoid of their top player until the second half. The three-ball helped Pennsbury try to stick around, but with Dixon and Monroe combing for 10 and Brown and Manir Waller combining for nine points, Abington led 39-21 at the break.

Abington coach Charles Grasty said throughout the year, he would check the SOL standings and district rankings and late in the season, figured there was a good chance the Ghosts and Falcons would meet in the SOL semifinals. Dixon said he was excited for the chance to play Pennsbury one more time, given all the close rivalry games the programs have waged the past half-decade.

Grasty also knew Pennsbury wouldn’t be intimidated by a halftime deficit.

“They’re always going to play hard, Bill (Coleman) does a good job with those guys every year,” Grasty said. “They play his style and they’re not going to back down from anybody. Congratulations to them for winning the league and we knew when that happened, we could play them down the line. It’s always good to get an Abington-Pennsbury game.”

The Falcons were scorching from long distance in the third quarter, hitting treys on five of six straight possessions to chop Abington’s lead all the way down to 12 on a couple of occasions. The last got Pennsbury within 52-40 with 1:17 left in the third.

Maurice Henry then converted a traditional three-point play, Monroe found Dixon for a basket inside, Monroe split a pair of free throws then after the senior guard poked away a steal, he hit a fastbreaking Dixon for the buzzer-beating hammer. Dixon, who shot 6-of-6 in the quarter capped the 8-0 run as emphatically as possible and gave Abington a 60-40 lead.

“I took my time really,” Dixon said. “I thought about trying something a little more crazy, but I knew I wouldn’t have time for that. I wanted to get up a good, strong dunk.”

Monroe posted another excellent all-around game, scoring 15 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals. The senior, a Penn recruit, is now at 399 career assists, second all time in program history.

Dixon is now at 2,290 career points and continues to average nearly 30 points per game. The big man finished with seven points in the final quarter, scoring mostly around the rim and through more than a couple of triple-teams in the post.

Abington faces Pennridge, a 60-42 winner over Cheltenham in the other semifinal, in Monday’s title game, set for 7:30 p.m. at Bensalem. It will be a double-header for Abington, with the Ghosts girls playing Neshaminy at 6 for the SOL title.

The Ghosts beat the Rams by 20 way back on Dec. 15, but Grasty said that both teams have changed greatly since then and is expecting a battle.

“They’re tough, they play hard, they’re smart and they’re well-coached,” Grasty said. “Everyone talks about (Sean) Yoder, but they have a lot of nice pieces and really good players. We’re going to have to contest and bring a lot of energy.”

Abington 77, Pennsbury 47
Abington 20 19 21 17 – 77
Pennsbury 10 11 19 7 – 47
A: Eric Dixon 15 2-4 33, Manir Waller 2 0-0 4, Maurice Henry 2 1-1 5, Darius Brown 5 0-0 13, Lucas Monroe 5 5-6 13, Joey Brusha 0 1-1 1, Howie Burrell 0 4-4 4, Justin Brooks 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Derek Sussman, Jack Moynihan, Nick Zappone, Jason Scott, Zyeir Olasewere. Totals: 30 13-16 77.
P: Kyrie Miller 3 0-0 6, Collin Connor 2 0-0 6, Gary Francis 5 3-4 14, Luke Della Gralle 1 0-0 3, Cooper Arnold 3 0-0 9, Xavier Barron 3 0-0 9, Amir Johnson 0 0-1 0, McNair 0 0-1 0. Totals: 17 3-6 47.
3-pointers: A – Brown 3, Dixon; P – Barron 3, Arnold 3, Connor 2, Francis, Della Gralle.



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