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DeAngelo fights off pain, keeps Sun Valley alive

Sun Valley's Vinny DeAngelo, left, goes to the basket in the first quarter as West Chester East's Chris Anderson defends. The Vanguards went on to win the program's first district championship, 65-54. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

NEW HOLLAND TWP. – The tears in Vinny DeAngelo’s eyes Tuesday night weren’t caused by the ankle he sprained in the first round of the PIAA tournament last Friday. But the extra fire he brought to Tuesday night’s second-round matchup with Northern York was no doubt augmented by the pain in his leg, which kept him out of practice the last three days.

So with Sun Valley’s survival in the PIAA Class 5A tournament teetering in the face of a five-point Polar Bears lead in the third quarter, no one had to ask DeAngelo to do a little extra.

“I just couldn’t let that be my last practice,” he said, first as vow to himself, then as a postgame sound bite.

DeAngelo led Sun Valley with 26 points and 10 rebounds, but in shutting down Northern York’s Ryan McGill in the second half, he allowed the Vanguards to crawl back from that deficit to a 61-53 win Tuesday night at Garden Spot High School.

The win moves Sun Valley (21-7) into the quarterfinals to take on reigning PIAA champ Abington Heights. The District 2 champ eked by Mastery Charter North, 54-52.

DeAngelo set the tone defensively, blanketing McGill in the second half. The senior had 12 points in the first half, the metronome by which the Polar Bears’ offense marched. But DeAngelo, despite picking up four fouls, blanked McGill for the third quarter and limited him to seven points after the break.

“I just think for me, I’m not really a vocal leader,” DeAngelo said. “I lead by example. So I thought this was the perfect time to step up and show the guys, ‘we can do this. Don’t’ get down on yourself. One stop at a time, we can do this, we can do this.’”

With Ryan McGill shackled, the Polar Bears (23-6) sputtered. A 3-pointer by Nate McGill put Northern York up 36-31 early in the fourth, and they led 41-37 with two minutes to play in the frame. But then they went cold, Sun Valley rattling off 15 consecutive points to go up 11. Eleven of those belonged to DeAngelo.

The run stemmed from his defensive work. He led the Vanguards with two steals, turning over Northern York seven times in the second half after they coughed it up just once in the first. He had two blocks, including a swat of Dan Leitholf with less than two minutes to play when the Polar Bears could’ve cut the spread to three on a second-chance opportunity.

“If we’re trailing, I feel like we pretty much give the ball to our key players, Vinny and Isaac (Kennon),” guard Dom Valente said. “They’re like two coaches on the court, and they know what to do. They take control, and they’re good players.”

All things considered in a ragged first half, the Vanguards’ one-point deficit wasn’t bad. Northern York shot 6-for-14 from 3-point land in the first, including a Ryan McGill step-back triple at the buzzer to make it 31-30 at the break, and punished the Vanguards when they shaded to either McGill with crisp ball movement that got eight Polar Bears on the score sheet.

Figuring that the shooting would come back to earth if Sun Valley stuck to its principles, they cinched up the holes by unleashing DeAngelo on Ryan McGill. The result: A 4-for-16 performance from beyond the arc for the Polar Bears in the second half.

“We felt in the first half that we weren’t where we needed to be defensively,” DeAngelo said. “In our halftime talk, we said we have to get out to shooters, get them off the line, and key in on (the McGills), can’t let them hurt us. Me and Isaac, we just took pride in our defense. We didn’t yesterday to be our last practice.”

Valente kept Sun Valley in touch early, hitting three first-quarter 3s, mostly when Ryan McGill didn’t close him out. His 13 points is one shy of a career-high. Marvin Freeman scored seven points in the second quarter and finished with 10, while Kennon had eight. The Vanguards rectified a 9-for-19 start from the line to make 11 of their last 14 trips to the charity stripe, hitting more free throws (20) than field goals (18).

Those numbers are enough for the Vanguards to keep moving on, and enough to bring a tear or two to players’ eyes.

“It means so much,” Valente, a junior, said. “Coming from the dirt my freshman year, and coming up on top. To keep going, it feels amazing, and I hope it keeps going.”

“It means the world,” DeAngelo said. “We’re having so much fun on this run. We haven’t lost in like a month. We’re just embracing the moment, really enjoying it, and I think that’s part of it. We don’t want it to end because we’re having so much fun.”

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