‘Stoga and host Indians prevail in Unionville Tip-Off Tournament
EAST MARLBOROUGH – As season openers go, the Unionville Tip-Off Tournament was a success for the host Indians and visiting Conestoga because both prevailed on Friday despite some first-game jitters. It was, however, a struggle for the two Downingtown squads, as the East Cougars lost it early and the West Whippets dropped it late.
On day one of the two-day, four-team boys’ basketball event, ’Stoga scored nine of the game’s final 13 points to inch past Downingtown West 73-67 in the opener. And in the nightcap, Unionville used a massive 19-0 second half run to outlast Downingtown East 64-56.
“We are definitely disappointed, but it’s game one,” said East head coach John Goodman. “We started two seniors who were playing in their first varsity game. There are new guys and new roles.”
Experience certainly made a big difference for Conestoga as senior guards Zach Lezanic, Milton Robinson and Shane Scott combined to score 55 of the team’s 73.
“I thought our senior leaders did a great job, especially down the stretch. Their games are all different, but they are a terrific threesome,” said Pioneers’ head coach Mike Troy.
“It was a good first win for us,” added Lezanic, who scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. “Having three seniors as guards really helps. We are all starters from last year so we’ve been in these situations before.”
Deadlocked at 58-all with four minutes to go, Conestoga took the lead for good on a driving bucket by Lezanic that started a critical 6-0 run that gave the Pioneers a little breathing room. ’Stoga proceeded to knock down eight free throws in a row to end it in the final minute, with Lezanic and Scott each going 4-for-4.
“The composure we showed was impressive,” Troy said. “There was a stretch where we got (defensive) stops in three of four possessions and it kind of keyed our offense. We know we can score a bit but we have to make sure we can do the work on the defensive end.”
The Pioneers had a 10-0 run to take an early lead and Robinson had seven of the points. ’Stoga led by as much as eight in the first half but the Whippets staged a surge with Sean Kasier nailing three 3-pointers in period two, and West took a 40-39 edge into the intermission.
It remained very close until the Pioneers’ late surge.
“This was not a gimme. We needed defense to secure it at the end,” said Scott, who scored 20.
“We knew we had to buckle down defensively,” Lezanic added. “We focused solely on that and we knew the offense would come.”
Naseem Robertson and Kasier each had 15 points for West and Cam McCole chipped in 13.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ve got to keep our heads high because we have a game (Saturday against Unionville),” said Whippets guard Hunter Blair.
“We stuck together and we didn’t give up. But we were rushing on offense and we needed to get some more defensive stops.”
In game two, the Indians led by a point at the half despite connecting on just five first half field goals. But it all changed with Unionville’s game-altering rally that turned a 22-22 battle into a commanding 41-22 lead late in the third quarter.
“It was really about us being tough and sticking to our principles,” Cowles explained. “As a result, it is basketball karma and we started hitting shots because of it.
“It also translated to defense. And if we get three (defensive) stops in a row, (the players) get a pizza,” he added. “That’s just a little incentive for them. I’m not sure how many pizzas I owe them.”
Logan Shanahan kick-started the surge with back-to-back 3-pointers and ended up scoring eight of his 13 points during the run. Wyatt Hockenberry added seven of his game-high 22 over the same span.
“It was kind of crazy,” Hockenberry said.
“We held them to four points in the second quarter and (Unionville) adjusted,” Goodman pointed out. “We kind of got confused and we lost their shooters. Combine that with some turnovers and it got away from us.”
To its credit, East kept playing and actually pulled to within seven with just over a minute to play thanks to full-court pressure and a bunch of missed free throws by the Indians. In the final 1:03, however, Connor Ash (14 points total) and Drew Lenkaitis (12 points) went a combined 10-for-10 from the line to close it out.
“We didn’t really execute tonight, we turned it over a good bit and we didn’t hit our foul shots,” Cowles said. “We kind of lost our minds and still were able to win, so that’s kind of a relief.”
Unionville also survived without senior all-leaguer Bo Furey-Bastian, who is out with an injured hip. He is expected to return in a couple weeks.
“We kind of like folded and didn’t make our free throws, which is a pain,” Hockenberry said. “But that’s part of the first game of the year.
“Plus, not having (Furey-Bastian) and still winning is huge.”
Frontcourt players Andrew King and Dylan Rowe scored 18 and 11 points, respectively, for the Cougars.
“After (Unionville) made their run, our guys wanted to fix it, and everybody played to the end,” Goodman said. “We made (Unionville) sweat a little bit.”
Conestoga 73, Downingtown West 67
CONESTOGA: Brace 2 0-0 4; Lezanic 6 5-6 20; Medley 1 2-2 4; Robinson 3 7-9 15; Scott 7 4-4 20; Fox 1 2-2 4; Martin 1 0-0 3; Rush 1 1-1 3. Totals 22 21-24 73.
DOWNINGTOWN WEST: Howard 2 4-6 8; Luneberg 3 0-0 6; McCole 6 1-2 13; Robertson 4 6-10 15; Blair 12 5-6 8; Kasier 5 0-0 15; Hurley 0 2-2 2. Totals 21 18-26-67.
Conestoga 19 20 16 17 — 73
Downingtown West 14 26 14 14 – 67
Three-point goals: Lezanic 3, Robinson 3, Martin, Scott 2, Robertson, Kasier , Blair.
Unionville 64, Downingtown East 56
DOWNINGTOWN EAST – Rowe 5 1-5 11; Mujica 1 1-2 4; Burton 1 0-0 3; Kalim 4 1-4 9; King 8 1-2 18; Caggiano 1 0-0 3; Owsik 2 3-3 8. Totals 22 7-16 56.
UNIONVILLE – Kucharczuk 1 0-0 3; Ash 1 12-15 14; Shanahan 4 2-2 13; Hockenberry 8 1-2 22; Lenkaitis 3 6-11 12; Neylon 0 0-1 0. Totals 17 21-31 64.
Downingtown East 9 9 10 28 – 56
Unionville 15 4 22 23 – 64
Three-point goals: Mujica, Burton, King, Caggiano, Kucharczuk, Shanahan 3, Hockenberry 5.