Pennsbury senior Billy Warren (13) is well-guarded by Bensalem defenders in Suburban One National League boys basketball action Tuesday night, Feb. 7 at the Falcons’ Nest. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)
FALLS TOWNSHIP – In a game both team absolutely had to have in order to make their game plans for the postseason, the duel between Pennsbury and visiting Bensalem did not disappoint.
Thirty-two minutes of action was not enough to decide a victor. Owls senior shooting guard Richard Dean Jr. made sure of that, leading his team with 26 points including a 3-point shot from the right corner that deadlocked the score at 46-all with 2.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending the side to an extra session.
Dean did everything he could to try to get his team the win including latching onto a rebound after a missed free throw then drawing another foul and making a pair of foul shots to set up his dramatic game-tying play. He also scored 12 points of Bensalem’s 17 second-quarter points, fueling a 30-19 halftime edge that favored the Owls.
Falcon forward Mark Flagg did a little more than Dean, however, and that’s probably the number one reason Pennsbury emerged victorious in the last game of the regular season.
Flagg hit a jumper and 7-of-8 shots from the foul line in overtime scoring nine of the Falcons’ 13 points in the extra session, sparking a 59-53 triumph.
“When he gets hot, we look to feed him in the post,” said Pennsbury senior Tyler Sessa-Reeves. “A lot of our offense ran through him. When their team started doubling him, he started kicking out and finding us.
“But we try to get the ball to him; he’s our primary scorer.”
Ranked fifth in the District 1 Class 6A listing, the Falcons’ were already headed to districts. Pennsbury wanted to compete in this weekend’s Suburban One League (SOL) boys basketball tournament, however, and needed a win over the Owls to get in.
Ranked 25th in a district seeding chart that only seats the top 24 in the D-1 Tournament, Bensalem needed to pull off an upset in order for their season to continue on Feb. 17 when district playoff action begins.
Trailing 15-13 early in the second quarter, the Owls proved they came to play, registering an 11-0 scoring run that put them on top 24-15. Dean posted up with eight of those points, starting the scoring string off with a 3-pointer and capping it off with a driving layup.
“He stepped up and he was playing big,” said Sessa Reeves. “We were having trouble staying in front of him – him and Ward (Roberts). That’s something we have to work on – staying in front and forcing people to the weak end.”
Dean’s play helped put the visiting team in front 30-19 at the half.
Despite the deficit, the Falcons assured they were not concerned.
“I never thought we would fall,” stated Flagg. “I got on the guys at halftime and told them we could come back easily on this team; we just had to pick up the defense.”
“Senior Night, coach just said the seniors had to step up, play better ball and lead the team,” said Sessa-Reeves. “We decided to band together and try to come out with a win.”
For the Pennsbury seniors, the second half was their turn to shine. Putting their full-court press into service, the Falcons limited the Owls to just four points in a third quarter performance that helped the home team close the gap to two points heading into the fourth period.
After recording 16 points in the first half, Dean was shut out in the third period.
The Pennsbury defense forced Bensalem into eight turnovers in the third period. The only basket by the Owls was a driving layup by Taco Douglas early in the quarter.
“We were just focused on getting stops really,” said Sessa-Reeves. “We knew our defense would lead our offense so we were really focused on stopping.”
Still, even with all those turnovers, Bensalem held a 34-25 edge with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
Finally, senior Vaughn Ward started the comeback bid by the Falcons, canning a 3-pointer from the right side that cut the Owls’ lead to six points with 1:30 to go in the period. Following another Bensalem turnover, Flagg poured both ends of a one-and-one into the basket then Sessa-Reeves followed with a steal then drew the ensuing foul that forced the Owls into giving the Falcons the bonus going into the fourth quarter. Tyler made both free throws, sending Pennsbury to the next period down 34-32.
Bensalem wasn’t going to give up the lead that easily, however. In fact, the Owls expanded their edge to four points, countering putback baskets by senior Joey Monaghan and Flagg with layups by Dean and Douglas. A 3-point play by Douglas put Bensalem up 41-37 midway through the fourth quarter.
With 2:16 to go in regulation, back-to-back three-pointers by Flagg and Sessa-Reeves finally put Pennsbury on top 43-41 for the first time since the first quarter.
The Falcons had a chance to close it out in the fourth quarter from the foul line but missed three of their last six free throws. Then Dean, personally, sent the game to overtime with a 5-1 scoring run to end regulation, canning a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to deadlock the sides at 46.
Up to that point, Pennsbury junior Raylil Winton Law hadn’t made a basket all game but he picked a good time to record his only, a 3pointer from the right side less than a minute into the extra session.
Flagg followed with a jumper then closed it out by making seven of his last eight free throws. For the game, Mark made good on 19 of 24 shots from the foul line.
“It’s a confidence-booster because all year, free throws have kind of been a hard thing for us at the end of the games,” said Flagg. We want our guys to have confidence at the line; we don’t want them thinking they’re going to miss.”
Even then, the Owls wouldn’t quit. Roberts came down the court and canned a pair of 3-pointers in the last 13 second to make things a little more interesting.
According to Flagg, it all just adds to the drama.
“I kind of like the comeback more than the blowout anyway,” said Flagg “I have a lot of respect for our guys not giving up, coming back and winning this game.”
Next, the Falcons face defending District 1 champion Plymouth-Whitemarsh Saturday at Bensalem in the first round of the SOL boys basketball tournament. Tipoff is tentatively scheduled for 3:45 p.m. though check individual team websites for confirmation.
Bensalem fell to 9-13 with the loss. Only the top 24 teams make it into the District 1 Tournament, slated to begin Feb. 17, so the Owls are going to need some help if they are to reach the postseason.
They may have gotten it. Sixteenth-ranked Garnet Valley nipped No. 24 Ridley 61-60 Tuesday night on the Jaguars’ home court. Sitting in the 23rd spot is CB South and the Titans lost 54-47 to 29th-ranked Souderton.
Pennsbury 59, Bensalem 53
(Feb. 7 at Pennsbury)
Bensalem 13 17 4 12 7 – 53
Pennsbury 12 7 13 14 13 – 59
BENSALEM (9-13) — Taco Douglas 2 0-0 4, Ward Roberts 5 3-4 15, Rich Dean Jr. 9 6-11 26, Josh Hill 1 0-0 2, Chris Shields 2 1-1 6; TOTALS — 19 10-15 53
PENNSBURY (15-7) — Raylil Winton Law 1 0-0 3, Vaughn Ward 1 1-2 4, Billy Warren 2 0-0 4, Tyler Sessa-Reeves 2 4-8 9, Joey Monaghan 1 0-1 2, Mark Flagg 7 19-24 34, Cory Dea 0 1-2 1, Nick Caywood 1 0-0 2; TOTALS — 15 25-37 59.
3-POINT GOALS: B — Roberts 2, Dean 2, Shields, P — Winton Law, Ward, Sessa-Reeves, Flagg.