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Pennridge locks down Cheltenham in Suburban One League semifinals

Pennridge’s Sean Yoder (4) delivers a layup after a steal against Cheltenham during their SOL semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

NORTHAMPTON>> Sean Yoder figured out really quickly he was going to have a tough afternoon.

Not only did he miss his first seven shots, Cheltenham point guard Zahree Harrison zipped right by Yoder on their first possession matched up against each other. But Yoder doesn’t often get fazed, and it showed in his play.

The senior nearly reached a triple-double as he and Jon Post led the Rams on both ends in a strong second half to top the Panthers 60-42 as part of the Suburban One League tournament Saturday at Council Rock South.

“When he took that first one by me in the first quarter, I thought ‘this is going to be a rough day,’” Yoder said. “I knew I had to keep competing, that’s what it’s all about and that’s all I did.”

Cheltenham’s Justin Moore (0) drives the ball against Pennridge’s Nick Dunn (10) early in the first quarter of their SOL semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

Pennridge (21-2) got off to a slow start offensively as Cheltenham’s length and athleticism as the Panthers got into the lane and created their chances that way. Freshman Justin Moore came off the bench and quickly went on the attack, swiping an inbound for a layup and getting another bucket off a drive as Cheltenham went up 14-8 after one.

Moore had a terrific first half, scoring 10 points and prompting the Rams to make a couple adjustments at halftime. Yoder finally got on the board with 2:20 left, turning a steal into a layup but his imprint was still all over the game.

“He’s the engine but it’s not always about scoring,” Rams coach Dean Behrens said. “We had Sean on Harrison, who is a tremendous player and if you don’t stop Harrison, it’s over. You can’t stop Cheltenham without stopping him, he’s going to get his points but I thought Sean did a nice job defensively.”

Cheltenham (15-7) got a bucket by Kyin Healey to take a 25-18 lead to start the third quarter, then the Rams’ seniors took over. Yoder found Post for a bucket, then Post kicked out to Yoder for a 3-pointer. While the SOL Continental champs were happy to see the offense kick into gear, their defense was the real difference-maker.

Yoder, who has a couple inches on Harrison, limited the Panther point guard’s drives into the lane, the Rams took away Moore’s lanes and the rest of the team was ready to help as needed. Post noted his team’s communication on the back end was terrific all game and really helped Pennridge keep Cheltenham on the perimeter.

“We got more stagnant, we weren’t making our reads to our third or fourth options,” Panthers coach Patrick Fleury said. “They’re a good team. It’s the first time this year we’ve had back-to-back losses, so it’s about bouncing back and coming together as a group. We’re going to stay focused on what the larger goal is at hand.

“We weren’t reversing and attacking the way we had intended to, but that’s more on me than on them.”

Post, who didn’t miss a shot and scored eight points as part of Pennridge’s 22-point third quarter, hit two free throws with 3:32 left that kicked off an 11-1 quarter-ending run. The 6-foot-6 senior was really good at using his strength to his advantage, as well as feasting on the passes Yoder kept shoveling to him.

“I started off with a jump shot, that kept the defense honest, then I was able to get into the paint for some finishes and credit to Sean,” Post said. “I feel like every bucket I get, the pass is coming from Sean. It’s great having a guard who’s always paying attention and looking for that kick-out.”

Pennridge’s Jonathan Post (44) makes a contested layup to increase the lead over Cheltenham in the fourth quarter of their SOL semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.

Post shot 8-of-10 overall and 5-of-8 at the line to lead all scorers with 21 points, adding six rebounds and an assist. He scored with 6:10 left in the final quarter to wrap up what had blossomed into a 17-1 run that gave the Rams a 48-35 edge.

“A bunch of our guys came in and gave us a jump,” Post said. “Luke Yoder was getting a bunch of rebounds and that frustrates a team when you’re getting offensive rebounds and putting up points. You get in their heads a little bit, they go down the other end and are rushing shots and we were capitalizing off it. We weren’t forcing too much and we were finishing.”

Pennridge held Jaelen McGlone to just one point, kept Moore to only three after halftime and limited Tim Myarick to six points as the Rams held their ground defensively.

Yoder had quite the game, finishing with 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. On top of that, he held Harrison to 10 points, poked away two steals and drew at least two charges on the defensive end.

“If the shot’s not falling, I have to find the other guys and Post came up huge tonight,” Yoder said. “My shot’s not always going to fall, but I can do other things to help the team win.

“We’ve focused on coming out with energy all year and I think we did that coming out of the half.”

Pennridge plays either Abington or Pennsbury in the SOL title game Monday night at Bensalem. Cheltenham is off until Friday when it hosts a first round District 1-6A playoff game.

“I told them, our losses go on me in terms of making sure they’re prepared but they’re looking forward to districts,” Fleury said. “For a lot of them it’s their first time going as rotation guys and they just need to understand each moment and each possession is important.”

Cheltenham Zahree Harrison (1) looks to move the ball inside in during the Panthers’ SOL semifinal against Pennridge on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

Behrens said he designed his team’s nonleague schedule to be challenging and felt Saturday’s game only added to that slate of experience. Yoder and Post felt their game against Reading last week helped them against Cheltenham and their coach is never going to pass up a chance to play a good team.

“You think of the competition they’ve faced and look at their nonleague schedule, that’s a battle-tested team,” Behrens said. “We’ve never won in the SOL tournament so these guys got a chance to so something  no one else has done.

“If they’re playing and they’re keeping score, we’re going to play hard. It’s an honor to be here, there’s 22 teams in the league, there’s no guarantee you’re going to be playing here every year, there’s just not.”

Pennridge 60, Cheltenham 42
Pennridge 8 12 22 18 – 60
Cheltenham 14 9 12 7 – 42
Pennridge Sean Yoder 5 8-10 19, Jon Post 8 5-8 21, Luke Yoder 1 0-0 2, Jon Dominic 1 0-0 2, Trent Fisher 4 0-0 8, Jack Gillespie 3 0-0 8, Nick Dunn 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 13-18 60
Cheltenham Zahree Harrison 2 5-8 10, Tim Myarick 2 0-0 6, Jaelen McGlone 0 1-2 1, Mike McClain 1 2-2 4, Kyin Healey 3 2-3 8, Justin Moore 5 2-2 13, Brandon Scott 0 0-0 0, Jalen Mickens 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 12-17 42
3-pointers: P – Gillespie 2, Yoder; C – Myarick 2, Harrison, Moore.

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