Doyle, Penncrest stun Penn Wood

LANSDOWNE — Ten minutes after the buzzer sounded, 10 minutes after the euphoria on the court, guard Mike Doyle was still amped up.

His Penncrest Lions, the No. 28 seed in the District One Class AAAA tournament, had just upset fifth-seeded host Penn Wood, 56-53, in overtime Friday at The Shoebox. Nobody thought they were going to win.

He knew it. His team knew it.

“Nobody thought we were supposed to be here,’ Doyle said. “That’s what makes this so great.’

Penncrest advances to the second round Tuesday to face Central League rival and 12-seed Lower Merion, 38-37 winners over No. 21 Council Rock North.

The Lions (14-9), survivors in this contest, had a six-point lead about halfway through an overtime period that saw neither team hit from the field. The Patriots (17-6), as they did during the second half, battled. Four buckets from the line cut the lead to two with 1:24 left.

With just under a minute to go, Malik Jackson missed an open three from the corner. After Doyle split a pair from the line with 17.6 remaining, making it a three-point game, Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones called timeout.

He wanted a quick bucket, another timeout, and wanted to set up a press that already forced 15 turnovers. Instead, Jackson dribbled around. He found Javon Lindsey-Terrell, a sophomore, open for a trey, but he passed it up to Calvin Melton, who missed his triple. The buzzer sounded as the ball came off the rim.

Penncrest celebrated, joyously, at midcourt. Somehow, some way, it pulled this one out.

“We’ve had better wins in this program … but never a tougher win,’ Penncrest coach Mike Doyle Sr. said. “Going on the road to Penn Wood — not folding — it’s just an unbelievable effort.’

Penncrest, as it had been doing, ran a triangle-and-two on Jackson during the final sequence. The Lions wanted anybody but him to shoot the ball. They got their wish.

“The way it turned out, we had the opportunity to take a shot,’ Jones said. “It was a shot, it wasn’t a bad shot. We had a better look in mind.’

The younger, more amped Doyle, the coach’s son, had 22 points to front the Lions. Nick Ladd scored eight. Chandler Henry had seven points and eight rebounds, Tyler Norwood also added seven points. Despite most of the scoring seemingly coming from one place, this was very much a team effort for the Lions.

Henry’s size buoyed a 9-0 run to close the first quarter. By halftime, the visitors were up nine. A big three from Norwood pushed it to 39-32 at the end of the third quarter. But the fourth quarter belonged to Jackson, the senior do-everything star, who led his team back and finished with 31 points.

His free throws with 3:02 left tied the score at 47. His jumper at the 2:26 mark gave Penn Wood its first lead in forever. But Doyle calmly hit a pair from the line with 1:35 left to even the count. Eventually, the game got to overtime.

Penn Wood couldn’t take it from there. Without two starters, for what Jones described as disciplinary reasons, the Patriots were shorthanded.

“We still had opportunities to make plays,’ Jones said. “We didn’t do enough.’

Penn Wood shot 20-of-34 from the free throw line. Jackson was 13-of-21. Meanwhile, Penncrest hit 21 of its 25 attempts. Doyle missed just once in nine attempts. Ladd hit all six of his attempts.

The “inordinate’ amount of time, as the elder Doyle explained it, these Lions spent practicing free throws paid off.

“I have a couple seniors that I’ve had since second grade. For all the times them shooting in the driveway and playing all these games, saying ‘˜This is what it’s for,” the elder Doyle said. “They missed out on the Central League championship, but now to get to the state tournament would mean the world to them.’

Penncrest is indeed one win away from its first PIAA state tournament berth in six years. It will have to go through a familiar foe to get there. But after pulling this one out, the Aces do not seem too daunting.

“It would mean everything,’ Ladd said. “We’ve got the heart of a champion.’

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