ROYERSFORD — Through two quarters, there was very little separation between the Pennridge and Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball teams in their PIAA second-round game. But with a cross-over dribble and quick step-back, the Colonials created the necessary space to extend their season into the AAAA quarterfinals.
Wednesday night, it was the step-back three-pointers from senior Jimmy Murray and the dribble-drive of Xzaiver Malone that helped the District 1 runner-ups hold on for a 73-70 victory at Spring-Ford. The District 1 fifth-seeded Rams rallied back on multiple occasions, but missing senior Zack Muredda for the entire second half was not just a little hiccup.
“Even with Zack’s injury our guys never quit,’ Pennridge coach Dean Behrens said. “Just look in their eyes. PW’s guards are just everything they are made to be. They are outstanding.’
Muredda grabbed his knee late in the first quarter and never returned to action. The 1,000-point scorer for the Rams (26-5 overall) sat with crutches and an ice bag while Murray and Malone went to work. The PW guards refused to lose with 17 points from Murray and a game-high 27 points from Malone.
“As much as you design, players have to perform at this stage,’ Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Jim Donofrio said. “Xzaiver Malone was unreal, Jimmy Murray hit his shots. I mean as much as you want scheme, I give the kids so much credit for what they put into it.’
However, it was not just them, as Andre Mitchell managed the offense and added 11 points and Devon Montiero-Gray gave the Colonials (27-2 overall) a fourth scoring option, draining 18 points in the win over the Suburban One League Continental Conference champs. The Colonials needed all four scoring options to end the Rams’ magical run.
“Jimmy, Andre and Devon especially, when you know you are done when you lose, that is why they are such great games,’ Donofrio said. “Those guys don’t want to go home, so you make shots.’
Muredda did not score any points in the final game of his career. Senior Joe Molettiere scored 17 and pulled down 10 rebounds. The Rams’ relentless pursuit for more Pennridge history was displayed by junior Dan Long. With his teammate on the bench, he scored a team-high 24 points, pulled in 11 rebounds and completed the impressive triple-double with 10 assists.
“Obviously, I am really down about Zack,’ Behrens said. “He hurt himself a little against Reading. Four-year starter and I am devastated on how that is how his career ended. It is hard to see him go. He has a basketball career ahead of him in college.’