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Yoder clutch on both ends late, Pennridge edges Lincoln in PIAA-6A 1st round

PHILADELPHIA >> Call it a victory wit.

Regardless of the outcome Saturday, the Pennridge boys basketball team was going to cap its trip down to South Philly for a PIAA Class 6A first-round contest against Lincoln by grabbing a couple cheesesteaks.

But Sean Yoder made sure the mood at that postgame meal ended up being a jubilant one.

The senior Navy commit hit two free throws with 14.5 seconds left to break a 45-45 tie then drew a charge on the Railsplitters’ Emeul Charleston with just 3.8 ticks on the clock as the Rams rallied after Lincoln’s fourth-quarter surge to claim a 49-45 victory at South Philadelphia High School.

“Pennridge hasn’t had a lot of state wins. We’re had one before this,” Yoder said. “And that’s what Coach was saying in the locker room before the game. It’s just coming in here, trusting my guys, every one of our guys trusting each other, I think that’s what it came down to but it just feels great to get a win.”

Yoder scored seven of his team-high 15 points in the fourth as the Rams, District 1’s fourth-place side, won its first PIAA game since 2015 to advance to a second-round matchup with Abington — a 69-44 winner over Cumberland Valley — Wednesday at a site and time to be announced.

It will be the fourth meeting this season between the Pennridge (24-5) and the District 1 champ Ghosts with Abington having won the previous three, most recently in the District 1 semifinals.

“We’re going to enjoy this tonight,” Rams coach Dean Behrens said. “We’re going to go right down 1.7 miles to Pat’s and Geno’s, we’re going to get that yellow bus down there and we’re going to get some cheesesteaks. That’s going to be an experience.”

Pennridge took a 34-26 lead early in the fourth but Charleston scored 10 of his game-high 22 points as Lincoln — which made last year’s 6A state final — went on a 17-6 run to go up 43-40 as Charleston got a jumper to rattle in.

Luke Yoder’s 3-pointer from the wing tied the game at 43 with 1:37 left. After Charleston made both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 45-43 Lincoln at 1:17, Sean Yoder found John Dominic for a layup to knot things up again at 45.

The Rams forced a backcourt violation with 24.4 seconds remaining, which led to Sean Yoder earning two free throws after Lincoln was whistled for a foul above the 3-point arc. He connected on both from the line for a 47-45 lead at 14.5 seconds.

“Everything you work for, when you’re in the gym by yourself, you’re thinking what if it ever came down to this,” Sean Yoder said. “I actually thought that before I shot the two. Luckily, they both went in.”

Lincoln brought the ball into its half of the court and called a time out with 9.4 seconds. Charleston made a drive to the basket, but Yoder — playing with four fouls — stayed in front of him, took contact at the left elbow and got the charge call with just 3.8 seconds.

“Face it, not a lot was called all game, lot of contact everywhere, kind of a hectic game but I thought I could beat him to the spot,” Sean Yoder said. “And he was going left, driving left and I beat him to the spot, I did, hit me right in the chest and it was a charge.

“Got lucky on that one, but I know I had four fouls, just had to play smart.”

Lincoln’s Assem Luckey had a chance to intercept the Rams’ inbounds pass as it sailed towards midcourt, but Sean Yoder deflected it away and Jack Gillespie corralled the ball and was fouled at 0.9 seconds. Gillespie hit his pair at the line, sealing the win.

“First of all, to be in the state playoffs is an absolute complement to our guys. The season that we’ve have is well deserved,” Behrens said. “Eighteen boys have really stuck together as one and has made this a lot of fun. Credit to the 18 guys that I’ve coached, it’s not cause of me, these 18 guys did it themselves.”

Pennridge trailed 14-10 after a quarter and was down 20-17 at halftime, but the Rams took control in the third — Luke Yoder opening the second half with a corner 3-pointer with a Trent Fisher basket making it 22-20 Pennridge.

Charleston’s jumper had the Railsplitters, who finished third in District 12, back level at 22 but a Yoder jumper in the lane and two from John Dominic off the steal had the Rams up 28-24.

“They were trying to more trap corners and they were living the middle wide open so we able to find man in the middle,” said Fisher, who chipped in all eight of his points in the second half. “They were leaving them wide open, so just right to the basket, turn around and they we wide open.”

A Dominic layup off a drive had Pennridge up 30-25 at end of the third while Fisher scored on a hook shot in the fourth gave the Rams their biggest lead at 34-26.

Lincoln, however, was not going out of states quietly. Charleston began to heat back up on the offensive end while the Railsplitters pressing defense got the Rams off-kilter.

“When you play Lincoln, they’re aggressive, they’re long,” Behrens said. “I mean, Charleston is tough, he just keeps coming at you 21. So, you never can feel comfortable.”

A Sean Yoder putback had the Rams up 38-31, but Lincoln proceeded to score 10 of the next 11 points –Luckey’s putback giving the Railsplitters a 40-39 advantage before Charleston hit the front end of a 1-and-1 to make it 41-39 with 2:39 remaining.

“When they went on that run, that was completely my fault,” Sean Yoder said. “Too many turnovers on my part, I got to clean that up as an individual but the team really stepped up for me and helped me out. You know, that’s what the team’s about.”

A Gillespie free throw at 2:30 had the Rams down 41-40. Charleston’s jumper dropped to put Lincoln ahead 43-40. but Luke Yoder buried a triple from to make it 43-43.

“He’s put in the work, it’s just a matter of him shooting the ball when he’s open,” said Sean Yoder of his brother. “Just him having confidence and we know we all have confidence in one another. That’s why this team’s been so close this year and that’s why we’ve had success.”

After Dominic’s basket tied it a 45, the Rams thought they had the ball back on a steal near the sideline but ended up getting called for a travel. But Pennridge’s aggressive defense soon paid off, as the Rams forced an over-and-back call at 24.4 seconds.

“I said we might as well go down swinging, so the last two minutes we were doubling the pick-and-roll and the doubling the dribble handoffs and said heck with it,” Behrens said.

The Rams started the game in a zone defense but had to go to man as Lincoln knocked down four 3-pointers in the first quarter — two coming during an 8-0 run that gave the Railsplitters a 14-6 lead.

A Sean Yoder basket and two Jon Post free throws with 2.1 seconds put Pennridge’s deficit at 14-10 entering the second.

“It was just like Temple, too (in the district semifinals), we were short on everything, we couldn’t really find our shot,” Fisher said. But then second half we really came out and we played really good defense.”

Patrick Obogo’s two had Lincoln ahead 16-10 before the Rams ripped off seven straight – Gillespie’s corner triple giving Pennridge its first lead at 17-16. But Charleston scored the half’s final four points, banking in a jumper to make it 20-17 Railsplitters at the break.

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