WORCESTER >> It’s been a good week for Methacton boys basketball.
The Warriors are defending better and on offense, they’re just lighting teams up from every angle possible. It was the reason they’d won three straight games since Jan. 5 going into Saturday night’s duel with visiting Central Bucks West and it was the reason they extended that streak to four at the end of it.
Methacton zipped the ball around on offense, took advantage of what the Bucks gave and stifled West on the other end to pick up a 58-36 win.
“These last four games, we’ve really focused on moving and sharing the ball,” Warriors senior shooting guard David Duda said. “We’ve been blowing teams out and shooting the lights out. That’s not by luck, that’s by us cutting hard, setting great screens and we have a lot of great guys in there willing to pass.”
Duda, who will be heading to East Stroudsburg next year, set the tone by hitting nothing but net on his first two shots, both 3-pointers. Methacton (10-5, 4-2 PAC Liberty) went up 8-0, got a stop after West went nearly a minute-long on an offensive possession then Brett Eberly found Erik Timko for an 11-0 lead.
Five of the Warriors’ first six baskets were assisted and the team finished with 13 helpers on 23 made field goals. Coming out on such a roll offensively was nice, but Methacton really gave itself an advantage with its first half defense.
West shot just 6-of-24 in the first half and despite eight offensive rebounds, couldn’t get the ball to drop through the rim enough to keep pace as the Warriors led 15-5 after one and 32-15 at the half.
“We made a couple miscues mentally, we all have to be locked in because we win as a team and lose as a team, but all credit to them, they shot the lights out,” Bucks forward Jack Neri said. “We have to find a way to counter that.”
Neri, who had to guard Methacton’s 6-foot-9 junior center Jeff Woodward, led CB West (6-7, 2-3 SOL Continental) with 16 points. Despite taking an inadvertent elbow from Woodward, who he’s competed against since the fourth grade, in the third quarter, Neri battled all game long, as did his teammates.
They just found Methacton’s defense a tough wall to climb over. Warriors coach Jeff Derstine noted the Bucks are always a well-disciplined team offensively, so his players had to communicate well and put the effort in to either fight over or switch on West’s myriad of screens.
“We know how dangerous (Jack) Mulhearn and (Mika) Munari can be, they have great guard play and Neri is so tough inside so I thought our kids really worked well together defensively and forced them to take some tough shots,” Derstine said. “We talked at halftime, we gave up at least seven offensive rebounds so we were giving them some chances. They’re physical, they are going to attack the glass so we had to do a better job of that.”
It sounds simple, but it’s really come down to execution on both ends for Methacton during this win streak. Duda, who scored 17 points, noted the first half of the season was a little up and down, with the Warriors getting a big time win over Neumann-Goretti, but not executing up to par in losses to Perk Valley, North Penn and Lower Merion over the holiday break.
Methacton, which shot 12-of-18 in the first half, got good perimeter shots but also read the Bucks’ defense and turned some of CB West’s overplays into hard cuts for layups. Woodward, who ended the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds, didn’t take a shot in the first quarter.
The center did have two of his five assists in the frame as he continues to be a key asset to the offense with his passing ability.
“You have no idea, from having him as a freshman to now, he’s come such a long way,” Duda said. “That’s one of the great things about him, he’s such a team guy he can go without a shot in the first or second quarter and know we’ll get him shots because he distributes the ball so well.”
CB West matched its entire first half point total in the third quarter, but the Warriors still won the frame 18-15 to extend their lead to 50-30. Woodward had 12 of his points after halftime as he and Duda helped give Methacton a 54-32 lead before ceding the floor to the reserves.
The Bucks, who dropped to 6-7 with the loss, are right on the bubble of the District I 6A playoff field with now a little less than half the season remaining. While Saturday was a tough outcome, they get a chance to right the ship with their two biggest games of the season coming next week against sister schools CB East and CB South.
“It’s our rivalry week, so we have to put this one behind us,” Neri said. “We’re excited about it.”
Methacton has a three-game PAC week coming up as well, but Derstine said it’s just what his team wants right now. The Warriors are back in a rhythm after the holiday break and they’re looking forward to the challenge awaiting them next week.
“We’re looking really good but we have a big week next week and that will be telling of where our season is going,” Duda said.
METHACTON 15 17 18 8 – 58
CB WEST 5 10 15 6 – 36
M: Jeff Woodward 8 2-3 18, David Duda 6 2-2 17, Brett Eberly 2 0-0 5, Erik Timko 4 0-0 10, Ben Christian 1 0-0 2, Owen Kropp 2 1-2 6. Totals: 23 5-7 58.
CBW: Jack Mulhearn 4 0-0 11, Mika Munari 2 0-0 5, Jack Neri 6 2-2 16, Reed Zerweck 1 0-0 2, Danny Miller 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 2-2 36.
3-pointers: M – Duda 3, Timko 2, Eberly; CBW – Mulhearn 3, Neri 2, Munari.