PHILADELPHIA >> The lasting image of the 2017-18 Penncrest team falls somewhere between the extremes of the players who got the first grasp of the District 1 Class 5A trophy Saturday afternoon.
On the one side was Tyler Norwood, he of the silky jumper and one of the most prolific scoring careers in Delaware County history. On the other was Chris Mills and his home-white shorts, splattered with blood — his, his teammates, his opponents, whatever.
The dichotomy reveals how deadly effective the Lions were Saturday in destroying second-seeded Bishop Shanahan, 50-28, to repeat as district champions. The final margin didn’t quite encapsulate it all — the way Norwood wouldn’t be denied on one end, and the way that the Lions’ defense blanketed and battered the Eagles into submission and an early surrender.
“We joke around that Ty scores all the points and we just defend,” Mills said. “It’s kind of a joke, but it’s kind of true, too.”
First, as usual, is Norwood, who took whatever he wanted on the offensive end, scoring 27 points. Not until the final minute of play did the Eagles surge ahead of Norwood, by then the game was settled and two of Shanahan’s starters had fouled out.
Norwood scored every which way. He knocked down a 3-pointer on the first possession of the game. He drove the basket, pulled up for jumpers. He occasionally was given enough space to size up his defender, gaze with a look that seemed to say, “you sure you want to give me that much space?” and then knock down the shot. Norwood hit 11 baskets on the day. Shanahan? Eight.
Part of the motivation was Norwood’s entertainment on the ride over: Video of last year’s final, a 39-37 win over Upper Merion in which Norwood scored 26 points. Saturday’s star turn was on par with that virtuoso performance.
Norwood shooti…dishing to Antonelli. After 3, Penncrest up 32-18. pic.twitter.com/cwnJD78UiL
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) March 3, 2018
“Ty’s a player. You can’t even describe it,” Mills said. “I see him work out in the gym all by himself all the time. He never gives up. He’s been practicing since he was five years old. He never gives up and he can take over a game by himself. He’s a great player.”
“I came out of the gate firing, and I decided I was going to come out the gate just firing,” Norwood said. “I’m lucky it went in. I shot a good game, but I owe it to my teammates and my coaches.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop Shanahan vs. Penncrest
And just when the defense keyed on Norwood, after 13 first-half points and a third quarter where he outscored Shanahan 8-4 by himself, he would engage the rest of his repertoire, like a dump-off to Gee Antonelli just before the third-quarter horn to make it 32-18 Lions.
The output gives Norwood 1,669 career points, pushing him into 13th place on Delaware County’s all-time scoring list. The win also moves Penncrest even with the school’s 1968 team for wins in a season with 25.
Then there’s the defense, which while less easily quantified was just as vital. Shanahan shot a putrid 8-for-41 from the field (19.5 percent) and just 1-for-20 from 3-point range. The frustration spillover led to an 11-for-20 performance at the free-throw line.
The key was muzzling Kevin Dodds. The forward had nine points and eight boards at the half, his seven second-quarter points getting the Eagles even briefly at 14-all. But he was shut down after the break and finished with 12 and 12 but only a fraction of the impact that suggests.
The key was two-fold: Collapsing on Dodds in the post with double-teams and rapidly executing the switches to close down on outside shooters.
“We had a plan put in place all week,” Mills said. “Matt (Arbogast) was going to start out but we gave Matt help. We were forcing him baseline so he didn’t have anywhere to go, and we worked extra hard on executing that.”
“Coaching at the college level, for a high school team to be able to come with a defensive scheme against a high-caliber offense like that says so much to these kids’ attention to details and how much they want to win,” Lions coach Mike Doyle said. “The defensive slides were almost perfect. The doubling from different angles, we had to double from different angles from the baseline side because when he skipped he had the shooters we had to take out. It comes from just a will to want to do it, to practice this and then come out and do it.”
Party time. Penncrest knows the deal. pic.twitter.com/XOwEx0eSir
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) March 3, 2018
The struggles rippled throughout the Eagles roster. David Angelo was 0-for-6 from the field with just four points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Joe O’Malley endured an 0-for-11 night from the field. Tom Ford paired eight points with eight boards, but needed 15 shots to get there.
It wasn’t until Tom Ford hit a runner with 40 seconds left in the third quarter that Shanahan had its first field goal of the second half. The second one came with 1:42 to play and the lead stretched past 20 points.
By that point, all doubt as to the superior team had been erased. And for a second straight season, Penncrest is on top of the heap in the district, this one carrying a slightly different feeling to Norwood.
“It feels a little better to know because coming in, all year, we had a target on our back and everyone was coming for us,” Norwood said. “Winning this game, I feel like, we took a little pressure off ourselves.”