Hinton scores 25, Abington tops Pennsbury to reach District 1-AAAA final

PHILADELPHIA — It seemed like every person in the Liacouras Center was waiting for Abington boys basketball coach Charles Grasty to call a timeout.

Everyone except the Abington bench. Even as Pennsbury came out on an incredible tear to start the third quarter, Grasty refused to call a timeout. He trusted he guys.

That trust was rewarded when Abington took Pennsbury’s biggest shot and came back with its own in the fourth quarter.

A huge night by Amir Hinton spurred the Galloping Ghosts to a 49-40 win over Pennsbury in the District 1-AAAA semifinals at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. It was the fourth win for Abington over the Falcons this season, and their ninth straight overall.

“Our leaders are very good, we told them (Pennsbury) was going to make a run and they were going to have to sustain it,’ Grasty said. “Sometimes when we make a run, they get to the bench, they’re excited and the other coach gets to put in something. We want our guys to keep playing and keep fighting through it.’

Hinton scored 25 points, leaving him 10 short of the 1,000-point mark, and pulled down 10 rebounds. Matt Penecale didn’t have a great shooting night, but scored nine points with five boards, five assists and played lock-down defense on Pennsbury’s Cameron Jones (nine points).

Pennsbury was its own worst enemy for much of the first half. The Falcons not only shot 4-of-16 from the floor, but their shot selection was terrible at times and their frustration was visible. They also had eight first-half turnovers, including one pass sent into the stands and another just thrown off the side of the backboard.

Down low, Abington’s undersized front line held Pennsbury’s Derrick Woods, a 6-foot-8 St. Bonaventure’s recruit, to zero first half points on three shots. Woods was also called for a technical foul with 2:16 left in the second quarter.

Abington was more than happy to take advantage of the Falcons’ turnovers while keeping hold of the ball themselves. The Ghosts accounted for just two first-half turnovers, both inside the final 3:01 of the half.

After giving up the first bucket of the game, the Ghosts went on the offensive. Hinton drilled a mid-range jumper to open the Abington account and Brendan Gallagher staked his team to its first lead with a 3-pointer off a Robbie Heath dish. Hinton dictated offensively from the start, drawing a foul on a 3-pointer and sinking all three attempts with 4:13 left in the first quarter.

“I have to have a mindset to attack,’ Hinton said. “My coach told me to stop settling so I started to drive and get fouled and get contact. When I see the ball go in the hoop, that lets me get hot.’

A bucket by Nick Cereby, which followed a missed dunk and two more misses at the rim, halved the lead, but Hinton responded with a 3-pointer on a Penecale assist and after Cereby split a pair of foul shots, Jack Steinman tipped in a miss with 3.7 seconds left in the frame.

Bryant again scored the first bucket of the quarter to open the second and Abington again went on a responsive run. Abington scored the next seven points, the first four by Hinton. Penecale set up two, the first a drive and drop to Hinton, followed by a drive and kick to Steinman for a baseline jumper.

Cameron Jones finally found the mark on a 3-pointer with 1:14 left in the half after an 0-of-4 start to make it 20-10, but Hinton had one more first half highlight, driving around the left wing to the baseline and finishing a tough hanging shot with 11.2 left.

Woods finally exorcised whatever was hexing him early in the third quarter. After two more misses right at the hoop, Woods was fouled and sank both, The big man followed that with a thunderous put-back dunk of a Cereby shot that Hinton had blocked.

That sequence woke up the Falcons, who cranked it up on both ends of the floor. Abington threw three lazy passes that Pennsbury picked off during their 17-2 run to open the third frame.

“It was tough,’ Penecale said. “At halftime we were up 12 and Coach told us they’re a good team and they’re going to make a run and we had to match their intensity. Unfortunately we didn’t to start but we kept huddling up, trying to keep our composure and cut into their run as much as we could.’

Woods went from invisible to every inch the Division I prospect he is during the third quarter. The big man had 12 points and eight rebounds alone in the third quarter and simply overwhelmed Abington down low. He turned two missed 3-pointers into three-point plays with offensive rebounds and finishes through contact.

What kept Abington afloat in the period was Penecale. The senior’s driving hoop was the lone Ghost bucket over the first five minutes of the frame. With 2:48 left in the quarter, Penecale hit Robbie Heath for a right corner 3-pointer, then found Hinton for a jumper on an inbounds play.

Abington only scored seven points in the frame while Pennsbury dropped in 24, but those three hoops allowed the Ghosts to be in good position heading into the fourth down 34-29.

“Woods got going in that third, so we just had to keep buckling down and concentrating and playing defense and boxing out,’ Penecale said. “We knew eventually it would turn around for us.’

“We just have to keep our composure,’ Hinton said. “Our guys know what to do. We’ve been in close games where teams made runs and our guys know what to do, keep our composure and relax. I tell our guys it’s going to be ok and I think we did a good job handling the pressure.’

Hinton tied the game at 35-35 with 5:56 to go and after a Woods miss inside, Penecale found Brian Close who drilled a 14-footer to retake the lead. Mekhi Bryant then missed a 3-pointer, and Heath drove and flipped a floater over Pennsbury’s front line for a four-point lead.

Bryant did respond with a triple to slice it down to 39-38 with 3:04 to go, but Penecale got two at the line on the next possession.

Juan Perez-Jones poked the ball away from Hinton, but the Ghost senior chased down the play, forced a miss and grabbed the rebound, only to be wrapped up right away with 41.4 to go. The tie-up led to a scuffle under the net where Hinton and Woods were assessed technicals, the second on Woods disqualifying him for the rest of the game and the third-place game.

Hinton sank one of two for the wrap-up to stretch it back to four and the Ghosts went 6-of-6 at the line over the final 31.4 to close out the win.

“They wanted to play on Friday night,’ Grasty said. “They’ve been down here before, Matt’s played down here, Amir sat on the bench but he wanted the experience and he wanted a championship. We have another goal and we want to reach our goal. He stepped up.

“It’s tough to beat Pennsbury two times in a season, tough to beat them three times and even tough to beat them four times. We tried to throw all those games out in the past and focus on tonight’s game. We didnt’ talk about four in a row or eight in a row, we didn’t care about all that, we tried to focus on tonight.’

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