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Harrisburg forces the issue in win over Downingtown West

ENOLA >> Whatever Harrisburg watched on tape about Downingtown West, the Cougars exploited it to a king’s ransom.

The Cougars forced more than a dozen turnovers Friday night and never trailed in handling the Whippets 55-34 in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A boys’ basketball playoffs, held at East Pennsboro High School.

The gambling high-pressure, frenetic pace seemed to overwhelm Downingtown West from the start. An 11-0 Harrisburg run to close the first quarter was partially the byproduct of the Cougars’ trap press, which would flash full- or half-court and produce three turnovers during that span.

That run turned a sloppy but tight 7-5 start into an 18-5 lead for the District 3 champions, who already count potent Reading — featuring Miami-bound All-American Lonnie Walker — as one of its postseason scalps, having defeated the Red Knights in the D-3 semifinals.

“It was one of the better defensive games that we’ve played and that’s what we wanted to do,” veteran Harrisburg head coach Kirk Smallwood said. “We didn’t know that we would control it like that, but we were willing to take the chance. It was a good team effort, as far as energy is concerned, and this time of year you have to bring it every night.

“That was part of the plan. Get some turnovers, get some easy shots, some easy looks. And our kids put in the effort to make that happen.”

The only Whippet to find the basket with any regularity was forward George Gordon. Gordon managed to free himself in the paint to a team-high 15 points, running into the likes of future Penn State footballers Micah Parsons and Damien Barber while probing. No other Downingtown West player came close to double-digits.

Neither Parsons nor Barber chipped in much from the other end — each had four points — but their physical presence and ability to eat up space in the paint stifled Downingtown West’s ability to create anything down low.  The whippets’ only run, a minor one, was a 6-0 spurt at the end of the third quarter that only knocked the deficit down to 40-25.

“Everybody knows their role, they know they’re gonna play, ‘Smallwood said. “But they also know when they get in there, they’ve got to do something. That’s what happened tonight.” Ten Cougars found the scorebook, paced by Quintyn Flemister’s 12 points.

Harrisburg effectively salted the game way by midway through the third period, when a 7-2 run gave the Cougars a 40-21 edge. The gym emptied out in the fourth quarter with Harrisburg holding leads as large as 21 three times, including the final margin.

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