PERKASIE — On the road, in front of a rowdy crowd, against a very motivated team, No. 14 seed Coatesville’s best chance was to control the pace and limit the emotion in the building.
After jumping out to nine-point lead in the first period, the Red Raiders let No. 3 Pennridge back in the game and it was Coatesville that looked flustered and disorganized for much of the rest of the game.
As a result, an inspired Pennridge clinched its first trip to the state playoffs with a 53-47 win in a District 1 Class AAAA second-round playoff game, Wednesday night.
The Red Raiders will head to No. 11 Chester on Friday in the eight-team bracket for the ninth and final spot to states, Pennridge will host Abington in the quarterfinals.
“For us it’s about taking advantage of opportunities and there were plenty out there for us,’ Coatesville coach Chuck Moore said. “We seemed to not be able to capitalize on certain things, whether it was a missed layup or a steal we didn’t convert or a free throw boxout.’
Coatesville took advantage of its size early, jumping out to a 13-4 lead late in the first quarter. Dondre Pittman scored six of his eight points in the first as the Red Raiders scored eight points in the paint.
The Rams would figure out Coatesville’s plan to attack the middle, and without Amir Ealey, who was out due to “personal issues’ according to Moore, the Red Raiders had little success inside despite being bigger than the scrappy Rams.
“That took away our strength,’ Moore said. “Amir is a beast in the post and he and Justus (Martinez) play well together. He kind of neutralizes Justus well and calms him down and settles him. Justus was a little emotional and it got the best of him and he’s better than that.’
Martinez scored a bucket in each of the first three quarters, but Coatesville didn’t get to the free throw line until 4:23 in the third quarter.
“Martinez sees the floor so well and he was able to dump it from down low, so we tried to get some weakside help and tried to play behind him a little more,’ Pennridge coach Dean Behrens said.
Pennridge converted a six-point deficit after one into a one-point lead at halftime. In the third, the Rams scored the final five points to make it 36-30 after Coatesville had cut it to one.
Coatesville shot 47 percent from the field in the second half, but took six less shots than Pennridge and six less from the stripe, as well. Turnovers and quick, improvised shots haunted the Red Raiders as the Rams played more disciplined down the stretch.
“They increased their defensive intensity and didn’t allow us to run our offense,’ Moore said. “They forced us to run more halfcourt. They wanted to win, from the players to the crowd and coaches, they wanted it more than us.’
Chapelle Parker-Turner did all he could in the fourth to rally Coatesville, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the quarter. Coatesville could not cut the deficit to less than four, as Pennridge sophomore Ryan Cuthbert scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth, off the bench. Behrens said Cuthbert hadn’t made a varsity basket all season.
Next up for the Red Raiders is District 1’s juggernaut, though the Clippers are a bit down this season. Chester won the last four district titles before getting beat by No. 6 Abington, 55-47 in overtime, Wednesday.
“I think we showed some resolve this season and bounced back from some big losses,’ Moore said. “The seniors have no choice. It’s do or die and if they really want it they won’t die at this point.’