MALVERN – The ‘Battle of the Borough’ lived up to its advance billing, but you will forgive host Malvern Prep for not embracing the final result of Wednesday’s basketball clash against its neighbors from the Phelps School.
Seemingly in control much of the way, the Friars stumbled down the stretch, opening the door for the visiting Lions to stage a dramatic come from behind 69-65 triumph. Phelps wound up scoring 10 of the final 11 points to complete the stunner.
“We share a border, so it’s a big game for us. And it’s been a good rivalry with good games every year,” said Phelps head coach Brian Shanahan.
“We want to prove ourselves against the best team around the area, and one of those just happens to be across the woods,” added Malvern head coach John Harmatuk. “It’s a big game for us, and we certainly had our chances.”
In all, Phelps ended the game on a 17-5 run, and limited Malvern to just a single field goal in the final five minutes, 37 seconds. But the comeback didn’t start in earnest until the Lions’ Tim Perry, Jr., grabbed an offensive board and found fellow senior Kaleb Morton, who scored on a spin-move, to cut into a five-point lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Perry – the 6-foot-10 son of former Temple star and eight-year NBA player, Tim Perry, Sr. – then scored inside. And after Morton converted a pair of free throws with 1:10 on the clock, the Lions had their first lead since the first quarter.
“We had a little more grit defensively,” Shanahan said. “Malvern is great at pressing you and speeding you up, but down the stretch we were able to possess the basketball and get a little bit more poise out of our guards.”
In the final three minutes, Malvern turned it over several times and twice missed the front end of a one-and-one. That allowed the Lions to close it out at the free throw line, with point guard Jailen Jamison hitting three in the final minute.
“It’s been kind of an Achilles heel for us, but we were effective from the line in the last few minutes,” Shanahan said.
“We missed some free throws and got a little rattled versus pressure late,” Harmatuk added. “We have to learn how to finish these types of games. Layups, free throws and defensive rebounds – that’s how you win games, and we didn’t fare well in any of those areas.”
A native of Cherry Hill, N.J., Perry finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks despite missing a big chunk of the clash in foul trouble. Ukrainian Anton Loginov also scored 14, and Morton added eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter for Phelps (2-4 overall), who has already played a very ambitious schedule of top-notch opponents.
“We are still trying to figure out our identity,” Shanahan explained. “We had been used to pounding it inside to Timmy Perry, but when he wasn’t in there, the kids did a good job of figuring out how to play without him.
“(Perry) is a late bloomer, which is a lot like his father. Drexel was here today to see him. He is still raw but he has the potential to be very good.”
Guard Deuce Turner paced the Friars with 18 points, and fellow freshman Rahdir Hicks chipped in 13. Malvern falls to 1-1 overall.
“(Phelps) is a good basket team,” Harmatuk said. “They’ve played six games and that was our second. And I thought we really battled defensively, especially considering the size difference. What we have to do it learn from this.
“My kids were upset, but we don’t have time to be upset. We have to get better because we have a game Friday against (Monsignor) Bonner, and they are going to be tough.”
It took a while at the start for the Friars to solve Phelps’ zone defense. But when it happened, Malvern reeled off a 21-8 run to take a lead it would not relinquish until the final 70 seconds. The Friars wound up knocking down a total of 11 3-pointers, but only one came in the final period.
Perry scored eight of the Lions’ first 14 points, but was whistled for his second foul and had to sit. Malvern took the lead while he was sidelined, and led 35-30 at the break.
“It was a pretty good win,” Perry said. “We stuck together, even when times got tough. We have a lot of potential, but we haven’t played together for very long, so we are learning as we go.
“For me, I just play to have fun. If I get recruited, I get recruited – that’s what my dad always tells me. I go to him for everything. He’s one of my best friends. We have a great relationship.”
Phelps 69, Malvern Prep 65
Phelps 14 16 15 24 – 69
Malvern 14 21 18 12 — 65
PHELPS – Morton 3 7-8 13; Loginov 5 4-6 14; Small 1 3-4 5; Smith 4 1-3 10; Perry 7 0-0 14; Murcia 0 2-2 2; Bowser 1 0-0 2; Selcuk 0 4-6 6. Totals 22 24-35 69.
MALVERN – Baran 1 0-0 3; Corchran 2 0-0 4; Turner 5 2-4 18; Leach 2 0-0 4; Hicks 4 3-5 13; White 2 0-0 6; Wolfe 3 1-5 9; Corcoran 4 0-0 8. Totals 23-6-14 65.
3-point goals: Smith, Baran, Turner 4, Hicks 2, White 2, Wolfe 2.