POTTSTOWN — Sometimes, being the No. 1 seed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The Hill School learned that the hard way Wednesday afternoon, as it fell to No. 8 Haverford 64-56 in the PAISAA quarterfinals at Donald S. Ronnie Gymnasium.
Coming off a MAPL Championship loss to Blair on Sunday afternoon, the Blues (20-7, 5-3) suffered their first back-to-back losing-stretch since early January.
“We’re disappointed, especially for our seniors. They’ve had a great two seasons,’ said Hill School head coach Seth Eilberg. ‘We had a chance to really prove something this week, we just didn’t get it done tonight.’
Senior James Fives scored a game-high 23 points with four 3-pointers for the Hill School, while Seth Stankiewicz had 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Sam Norton added five points and six rebounds.
“We did a good job of hitting our open looks,’ said Stankiewicz. “We just didn’t do enough to put the game away. We gave ourselves the opportunity to win, but we just couldn’t pull it off.’
The Blues didn’t have an answer for Haverford junior Lamar Stevens, who scored the Fords’ first 14 points en route to a total of 22 in the game. Down the stretch, senior Shawn Alston was magnificent from the free-throw line, shooting 11-of-12 in the final quarter to ultimately put the Hill away. Alston finished with 21 points and was 12-of-13 from the line.
“I’ve always trusted myself at the foul line,’ Alston said. “When the fourth quarter came around, I knew it was up to me to close it out.’
Stevens scored 10 points for Haverford in the opening frame, as the Hill School led 14-10 after one. Stankiewicz and Fives tallied nine points for the Blues in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer from Stankiewicz.
Stevens picked up the second quarter right where he left off, adding two more from the free-throw line, shortly followed by a tough lay-up.
Minutes later, with the Hill defense crashing the paint, Stevens found Alston for a 3-pointer to tie it at 17 with just over three minutes left in the first half.
Haverford went into the half with a 23-21 lead, courtesy of a 3-pointer from Cameron Reddish and 17 first-half points from Stevens.
“I was determined to come out and get revenge after we lost to them last time,’ said Stevens of Haverford’s 75-66 loss to the Hill in December. “I wanted to do all I could to make sure that this wasn’t our last game of the season.’
On their opening possession of the second half, Fives nailed the first of his three 3-pointers in the quarter to regain the lead at 24-23. The Blues outscored Haverford 18-15 in the third, spearheaded by Fives’ 12 points, including an and-one 3-pointer to eventually take a 39-38 lead into the final frame.
“He was making all the plays we needed to keep us in the game,’ said Eilberg of Fives’ effort. “He really got hot, and we tried to keep getting him more shots down the stretch. He gave a great effort.’
With just over five minutes to go, Haverford senior Derek Mountain nailed a huge 3-pointer to make it 46-39.
The Blues hit four 3-pointers in the closing frame — including two from Stankiewicz — but it was the Fords’ free-throw shooting that ultimately put it away. In the final frame, 17 of the Fords’ 26 points came from the free-throw line, where they shot 17-for-19 to close it out.
Alston finished with 13 points in the closing quarter, as Haverford outscored the Hill 26-17.
“They (Haverford) did a great job against us,’ said Eilberg. “They were well-prepared and earned the win.’
Despite a tough finish, the Blues have tallied at least 20 wins in each of their past two seasons.
“We put ourselves in a good place to win, unfortunately we just couldn’t come out on top tonight,’ said Stankiewicz. “I’m proud of my teammates and how well we played all season. Nothing to be ashamed of.’
NOTES — Haverford will face No. 5 Phelps on Friday at Malvern Prep in the PAISAA semifinals at 6:30 p.m.