WHITEMARSH — Marvin Freeman took his first deep warmup shot Friday at Plymouth Whitemarsh and watched it twist and spin cleanly into the net. He did the same with his second. And his third. And he knew.
“For 20 minutes, I was feeling it,” Freeman said. “So I said to my teammates, ‘Do you have a good shot on these courts? Because I am feeling it right now. I don’t know. They might be in trouble.’”
The Sun Valley senior was right. For as it would happen, Garden Spot would be in trouble early and late in a PIAA Class 5A opening-round boys basketball game. With Freeman dropping three 3-pointers in the first quarter, five overall, 17 of his 22 points in the first half and his first career in-game dunk just before the horn, the Vanguards advanced with a rugged 65-44 victory.
In a game so rough that Sun Valley would take 31 free throws and win despite not making a third-quarter field goal, Freeman was able to spring to the perimeter and do what he always has done best, if with his own style. His unorthodox shot twirling sideways rather that with the traditional spiral, his outside play was the difference on a night when everything else was happening inside.
“I’ve been shooting like that my whole life, since I was so young,” Freeman said. “And I tried to fix it, but it didn’t work. My dad (Marvin) told me if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. So I’ve got to just keep shooting like that.
“It goes in. So I am not going to be fixing it any time soon.”
There would not be time for re-inventing much anyway, with the Vanguards set to play in Round 2 Tuesday against Northern, a 65-52 first-round winner Friday over Southern Lehigh. In improving to 20-7, Sun Valley, the No. 1 seed out of District 1, appeared championship form, calmly making 26 of 31 free throws, including a 14-for-14 display by Vinny DeAngelo.
“We practice foul shooting all the times in practice,” Freeman said. “Even when we are tired, we have to knock our foul shots down because they are important. Luckily, right now, we are on a roll with our foul shooting. We have been making a whole lot of our attempts on the foul line.”
That was plain in an odd third quarter when Sun Valley made 10 free throws and no field goals to repel a Garden Spot threat. After trailing, 30-18, at halftime, the Spartans drew within 36-24 on a John Dykie bucket. With DeAngelo in control at the point and consistently able to maneuver inside to draw fouls, Sun Valley was able to create more separation.
“We always preach that good teams have to gut games out,” Vanguards coach Steve Maloney said. “And there are a lot of ugly games. We didn’t have field goal in the third quarter but we have been shooting really good from the line. We rely on seniors in games like this. We got in a little foul trouble. But we came ready to play.
“Survive and advance. It’s March.”
DeAngelo paced Sun Valley with 24 points. Isaac Kennon added 14.
Garden Spot, which finished its season at 18-13, was led by Andrew Zentner, who rumbled inside for 13. Matthew Sharp added 11 for the No. 8 seed out of District 3.
“We rely on the seniors in games like this,” Maloney said. “We’ve been waiting for this. When I got the job five years ago, I knew these guys were in eighth grade. And I said, ‘All right, four years from now, let’s give it everything we’ve got and see where we are at.’ And we’re here.”
With that, the senior nucleus of Freeman, DeAngelo, Kennon and Lance Stone will try to keep the Vanguards going for at least another round.
“It’s March,” Maloney said. “You have to win ugly games. You have to win good games. As long as we’re playing Tuesday, we’re good.”
Before warmups are over, Freeman likely will know how good.
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