North Penn struggles in 4th, edged by CB South in SOL Continental opener

TOWAMENCIN >> The chance to start Suburban One League Continental Conference play with a win slipped away from the North Penn boys basketball team in the fourth quarter Friday night.

The Knights began the second half with a 14-4 run to lead by nine in the third quarter and entered the fourth up seven. But North Penn’s struggles with turnovers and scoring down the stretch helped visiting Central Bucks South chip away at the lead. And with 74 seconds left in the contest, Alex Karras’ two free throws broke a 50-50 tie and the Titans held on for a 58-57 victory.

“I think we’re beyond moral victories. Let’s be honest, from our side we feel like we pissed one away here tonight,” North Penn coach John Conrad said. “So, yeah, it’s demoralizing, it hurts, but we’ll keep going.”

After leading 46-39 through three quarters, the Knights (2-2, 0-1 conference) scored just two points in the first 5:31 of the fourth, which allowed CB South (3-1, 1-0) to pull even 48-48 on two Nate Johnston free throws.

A.J. Mitchell put North Penn back ahead two from the foul line 13 seconds later, but Tim Waddington’s reverse layup made it 50-50.

With North Penn looking for the go-ahead bucket, Karras knocked the ball free and was fouled with 1:14 left and made both free throws for a 52-50 Titan lead. The Knights inbounds pass was deflected and stolen by Waddington, who saved the ball from going out of bounds and allowed South to call time out. Tom Doyle then hit 1-of-2 from the line, extending the South advantage to three.

“Down the stretch we just got to come together as a team. Everyone started separating, we were all individual for a little bit there,” North Penn’s Matt Pickford said. “We need a person to step up and gather them all together and I blame that on myself for not bringing us all together and playing as a team.

“You saw turnovers started killing us toward the end. We got timid, not taking the right shots. That’s ultimately what killed us.”

Reece Udinski was fouled after Doyle missed the second and hit both free throws, making it 53-52 at 1:03. But Karras connected on another pair at the charity stripe and after North Penn came up empty, he made another free throw for a four-point edge.

A Noah Kwortnik bucket had North Penn within two before Doyle two foul shots had South ahead 58-54 with 10.4 seconds left. Udinski connected on a three and North Penn tried to foul, however the officials ruled the buzzer had gone and South had the one-point win.

“I think we made two shots the whole fourth quarter. We didn’t shoot well and then we didn’t protect the ball well,” Conrad said. “And then little things — we didn’t rebound defensively on the free throws, they got a ton of put backs on their own free throws. And then we didn’t make our free throws. So, little things.”

Johnston paced CB South with 13 points, while Waddington chipped in 10. The Titans shot 30 free throws, making 22 – going 13-for-16 from the line in the fourth.

Kwortnik scored eight points in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 14 points. Pickford collected 10 of his 12 points in the third. Udinski added 11 points.

“It’s not like a bad game. We lost by one point,” Pickford said. “So, it’ll make us better as a team ultimately in the end because we realize down the stretch when this happens again, we’ll be stronger because we see what happens and we don’t come together and play as a team.”

Both teams again play Tuesday in SOL Continental matchups. North Penn visits Central Bucks East while CB South hosts Hatboro-Horsham.

“I think we’re still learning how to play with poise,” Conrad said. “We have J.J. (Melchior), Matt who played last year, and Derek (Heiserman), but we got a couple of new guys. And we’re just kind of learning how to play right now.”

Trailing 25-24 at halftime, North Penn began the third quarter with a 7-0 run capped by a Pickford triple. Doyle scored off a drive then hit two free throws at 5:06 to cut the margin to 31-29. The Knights answered with another 7-0 run – five of the points coming from Pickford – for 38-29 lead at 3:20.

“Well, it was the whole atmosphere. The crowd started to get into it. Our bench started to get into it. The team started to get into it,” Pickford said. “We were all starting to get a little bit of swagger. We were all getting ready, getting ready to go. We were all starting to play together.”

Central Bucks South closed to within five twice in the third, however North Penn went to the fourth up 49-39 after a Marshall free throw at 42.6 seconds.

Ryan Joerger missed the second half of a one-and-out, but Chris Hones’ putback made it 46-42. The Knights came up empty on three straight free throw, while Johnston hit two from the line at 5:26 to get South within 48-46.

An Udinski reverse layup had the margin at four before a Karras bucket and two Johnston free throws tied it at 48-48 at 2:46.

Neither side led by more than four points in the first half Friday.

After North Penn grabbed a 14-10 after an Udinski bucket, South ended the first quarter with five straight points — Johnston getting into the lane for two and a 15-14 Titans lead.

Heiserman’s three-point play and a J.J. Melchior foul-line jumper made it 19-15 Knights. CB South responded with an 8-0 run — the last four points coming on Waddington free throws — for a 23-19 lead with 1:42 left in the half.

North Penn used five straight points to regain the advantage at 24-23, but Sam Al-Asha converted two foul shots with 11.5 seconds remaining to give the Titans up one at the break.

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