Marple Newtown battles, but Methacton pulls away late

WORCESTER — A 76-60 final score can tell a lot of stories.

In a game between a No. 2 seed and a No. 31, those stories can be misleading. A margin that wide generally indicates a blowout, where the lower-ranked team is clearly overmatched.

Despite the score, that was not the case at Methacton in Friday night’s District One first-round playoff tilt with the visiting Marple Newtown Tigers.

The Tigers led by as many as five in the second quarter and were down by just three in the fourth, but Methacton’s stellar group of seniors turned on the jets and pulled away to head to the second round.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year,’ Warrior coach Jeff Derstine said. “Our point differential is about plus-14 or 15, but most of our games are tight going into the fourth quarter.’

“They’re a really good team,’ Derstine said of Marple Newtown. “Looking through District One, they’re saying it’s wide open … they can really put the ball in the basket.’

The Tigers, winners of their last six, got off on the wrong foot immediately, falling victim to a 10-2 Methacton run to open the game.

They didn’t mail it in, however, and headed into the second with the score knotted at 18.

At one point in the second, with a pair of Methacton starters on the bench in foul trouble, Marple Newtown held a 27-22 lead — which would prove to be their largest advantage. The Warriors, led by Tom Dyer’s nine in the frame, battled back to head into the half up 36-32.

“We had some defensive breakdowns in the first half,’ Derstine said, “and they got some open looks I wasn’t happy about. …

“They scored in the second half, but we made them work harder for what they got. We made them take some tough shots. We really took advantage of some of our shots, and got some really balanced scoring.’

Methacton pulled away at various points in the second half only to see the Tigers yo-yo right back into it. The aforementioned 57-54 margin happened just under two minutes into the quarter, but the Warriors responded with a 16-4 run to put the game away for good.

“They took control of it and turned it on there,’ Tigers coach Brian Shane said. “But we had a shot — we were right there, but a couple shots just didn’t go down.’

Nick Giordano paced the gym with 25 points for Marple Newtown. Jake McGee and Matt Hahn also helped out, notching 15 and 11, respectively.

Despite the early-round playoff exit, Shane couldn’t have been happier with his squad. The district playoffs were his goal for the team, and this year’s 13-10 record is a far cry from the two wins the Tigers finished with two years ago.

“We thought we were going to win the game,’ Shane said. “We won six in a row at the end, and we were really playing well. … These guys have improved unbelievably. It’s been a three-year process, and nobody knows how hard they’ve worked.’

Dyer and Justin Ardman finished with 20 apiece for Methacton. Chris McCarthy and Sean Mann each finished in double figures as well, with 18 and 14, respectively, despite each missing the majority of the second quarter in foul trouble.

“We have five kids on this team capable of scoring 20 points,’ Derstine said of his team’s offensive versatility. “It makes us dangerous, and tough to defend … I’m really proud of how our guys fought.’

“We’ve got five guys that are capable of scoring, and we’ve got a few guys that can come off the bench,’ Derstine said. “…It’s a balanced team. I think we have a lot of potential … it’s nice to get the win tonight, but District One is really, really, tough.’

Methacton faces their Pioneer Athletic Conference foe Phoenixville on Tuesday in the second round, who they walloped in their PAC-10 final four game a week ago, 63-47. Should they advance, they’ll clinch a spot in the state playoffs.

“Every night is going to be a battle,’ Derstine said, “So we need to get ourselves ready for Tuesday.’

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