TREDYFFRIN — All basketball teams that aspire to be championship quality need to do three things to succeed. They need to play tough, aggressive defense, share the basketball and pound the offensive glass.
Wednesday night at Conestoga High School, the host Pioneers did all three things in abundance as they rolled over Penncrest, 44-30, in a Central League clash.
The win keeps Conestoga (13-0 Central, 17-2 overall) undefeated in the league with four games to play. Conestoga had four players score at least eight points and held the Lions (7-6, 13-7) to just nine points in the first half. With Dan Vila, Martin Dorsey and Jack Lambert playing at a high level, the Pioneers owned the glass. Conestoga started out in a 1-2-2 zone defense, but also threw in a 2-3 and a tough as nails man-to-man defense.
“When we mix our defenses like we did in the first half, we can be a very good defensive team,’ Conestoga coach Mike Troy said. “I thought we did a nice job of not letting Penncrest get open shots in the first half. And Dan, Martin and Jack Lambert have been doing a great job on the boards all year. Even if we do not get a putback, with them hitting the glass, we can run more offense.’
The Pioneers outscored the Lions, 16-2, in the second period to open up a 27-9 halftime lead.
After holding an 11-7 adavantage after one quarter, Daryl Caldwell hit a long 3-pointer to open the second. Vila scored in tight to make it 16-7 and added a free throw to grow the lead to 10 points. Nick Ladd scored on a follow for the Lions to break into the scoring column, but they would not score another point in the period, shooting just 1 for 8.
“We look at it like we can control what we do on defense,’ Vila said. “Sometimes on offense the shots won’t go in, but if you work hard on defense, than good things happen. We only allowed them nine points in the first half and we would like to get a game where we allow nine points in both halves because the playoffs are coming up and we need to play at a high level.’
Caldwell drained a three at the start of the third to let Penncrest know there would be no great comeback on this night. The Lions shot just 11-for-44 (25 percent) on the night and did not get many open looks until the fourth period.
M.J. Lezanic scored on a medium-range jumper to give the Pioneers a 29-12 lead with 5:20 to go in the third. Penncrest got a long threel from Nolan Carroll, who led all scorers with 12 points, but Conestoga was completely in charge.
At the end of the third, the Pioneers held a 32-14 advantage and the Lions looked very frustrated as they went back to their huddle.
“We try to bang the glass and play hard,’ Dorsey said. “And tonight, I went out for a while with fouls and Dan really picked me up. We work hard on defense and on rebounding and our rebounding on defense gets us out in transition for some points.’
Vila finished with 11 rebounds, while Dorsey added nine for the Pioneers. In the scoring column, Caldwell led the Pioneers with 10 points. Vila added nine with Dorsey and Lezanic chipping in eight apiece.
Penncrest got the lead down to 35-22 with just over six minutes to play, but, Lucas Yonda drained a three from the corner to make it 38-22. Penncrest shot just 5-for-17 in the final frame, continuing its shooting nightmare as the Pioneers moved one step closer to a perfect Central League regular season.
“We did a real good job defensively, on the offensive glass. And in the second half, we got some big defensive rebounds and got a good win.’ Troy said.