JENKINTOWN >> Carl Robinson drove off the left wing, approached the basket and lifted off.
The Jenkintown senior absorbed contact and while hanging in air, contorted his 6-foot-2 frame through it. From his outstretched arm, Robinson flipped the ball up and in the net early in the fourth quarter.
It was the most visually impressive of his plays on the night, but no more important. The senior’s 10 points all came at big moments and helped the Drakes to a 54-45 win over Upper Moreland in the championship of the Robert Hopf Memorial Tournament.
“He really stepped up for us,” Drakes senior Colin Mulvaney said. “He had a couple of looks and knocked them down. Those were huge for us when there were only a couple minutes left.”
Jenkintown survived another slow start, though Upper Moreland felt it let the game slip away. The Golden Bears are off to a nice start, thanks to their torrid 3-point shooting and a stout 2-3 defense.
Early on, both posed problems for the Drakes. UM guard Brendan O’Donnell was locked in early with seven first quarter points. His hot hand helped the Bears build a 13-9 lead, though Jenkintown closed well.
“Zone is a tough thing because you have to teach your kids to fight the urge to shoot the early semi-open one,” Jenkintown coach Wes Emme said. “You have to be patient and able to attack before you put up a shot. We were disciplined enough the majority of the time.”
Bears coach Matt Heiland said an off night was bound to happen eventually and he wasn’t worried about the shooting icing up in the second half. What did irk him were his team’s turnovers.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball and to lose the turnover battle, it’s all silly stuff too,” Heiland stuff. “It’s travels when we seen pressure and it’s all stuff we’ve seen before, that’s discouraging. It’s no different than PW, Cheltenham or Norristown that we see on a regular basis.”
Mulvaney, the tournament MVP, scored his team’s first four points, but the UM zone was still a barrier. What helped him and his team was the fact the Drakes started to hit their outside shots, something that hadn’t been there for them in recent games. Jenkintown sank six from distance, enough to stretch out Upper Moreland’s long-armed zone and get some stuff inside.
Meanwhile, Upper Moreland also had to go inside, but Heiland said it probably took his team a bit too long to start doing that. But once they did, Shane Stone feasted. The junior was a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor with 17 points and four offensive rebounds.
Jenkintown took its first lead at 14-13 and built it to 17-13 before UM’s Brett Brossman drilled consecutive triples and Stone put back a miss to restore a 21-17 lead. Jameson Kolb’s 3 sent the teams into the break with the Bears up one, 21-20. After the half, and another hoop by Stone, the Drakes ripped off a 9-0 run to go back in front, capped off by an acrobatic lay-in by Mulvaney, who ended the night with 16 points and six rebounds.
“We shared the ball and were getting open shots,” Mulvaney said. “I thought in the first half, we were forcing it a little bit. We were thrown off by their zone, we weren’t getting clean looks. I think we had nine turnovers in the first half, so we limited the turnovers and turned it around.”
A driving score by Frank Sobolewski put the Drakes up 31-24 but Stone roared back with seven of the next nine points. A pull-up shot by Mulvaney was the only thing that broke the streak and the only thing that kept J-town in front after Stone’s three-point play made it 33-31 with 3:10 left in the third.
Luckily for Jenkintown, it found a little more breathing room thanks to a putback by Andres Madden and a triple by Kolb and the home team took a 39-33 edge into the fourth.
“Guys are holding each other accountable,” Mulvaney said. “Now that we’re older, we can get on each other to say you’ll make the next one or you have to finish that and I don’t think we take it the wrong way but know we’re trying to get better.”
Robinson’s stellar hoop opened the fourth and after a UM score down low, the senior drilled a 3 off a Mulvaney assist for a 44-35 lead. Again it was a big bucket because Stone scored four straight to cut the lead to five with 4:19 to play.
Robinson also came up with a huge rebound later in the quarter with the Drakes clinging to a three-point lead. He wrangled down a missed 3 by Upper Moreland and Jenkintown turned into points when Mulvaney drove and converted a scooping layup around good defense.
“He’s one of my favorite kids I’ve ever coached and he’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached,” Emme said “That’s in terms of being a great person and he just really loves basketball. That’s a kid who worked on his game, he could barely walk and chew bubble gum as a freshman and now he’s stepping in, hitting contested 3, he’s driving in, ate contact and finishing, that’s a tough shot for anybody. I’m proud of him, he’s got a long way to go with us and I hope and think this isn’t the last year of basketball for him.”
Upper Moreland will try to shake off the setback with a tough stretch of Suburban One League American games coming up after New Year’s. Heiland said this group, which has matched its win total from last year, is playing with belief and confidence and has taken on a mantra of “on to the next,” meaning they keep moving forward from single plays up to games.