Pennsbury boys basketball powers past Holy Ghost Prep (VIDEO)

BENSALEM – While the Falcons poured over 60 points into the basket, Pennsbury’s defense was the key to its win over Holy Ghost Prep (HGP) in a Coaches Vs. Cancer triple-header Monday night, Dec. 21 at Chapman Gym.

The visiting Falcons (6-1, 3-0: SONL) got a big scoring game from junior Mark Flagg (25 pts.) and combined that with a smothering defense, handing the Firebirds a 64-29 loss, their second straight after beginning the season at 6-0.

“It was our defense that took over in the second half; we gave up 12 points,” stated Pennsbury head coach Bill Coleman. “Our defense was the key and I’m sure Tony (Chapman) would say the same thing; it wasn’t our offense; it was our defense.

“Their defense was outstanding,” admitted Chapman.

The Falcon-D forced Holy Ghost to rush the ball up the floor all game long.

“Their defense makes you do that,” added Chapman. “We were content to take the first open shot; it’s almost like they were playing with seven guys on defense.

“That’s experience and that’s confidence and they took it away from us.”

Pennsbury defenders combined to limit HGP leading scorer Jack Coolahan to five points and junior Mike McFadden to just four. Junior Aiden Bauer – who led the home team with 11 points – was the only Firebird to hit more than one shot from the floor. Registering a pair of threes in the first half and a layup in the third quarter, Bauer was the only Ghost player to reach double digits.

“We had some opportunities to stay in the game early on and we just didn’t make any shots,” admitted Chapman.

“The type of team we have, we have to knock a few (shots) down early.”

The Firebirds didn’t, shooting just 2-for-11 from the floor in the first quarter and 3-of-12 in the second.

Flagg, meanwhile, scored 11 of 15 points for Suburban One National League (SONL) rival Pennsbury in the first quarter including a pair of 3-pointers. The 6-8 junior forward had 16 points by the break, helping his team to a 28-17 halftime lead.

“He’s starting to understand what it takes to be a big time player,” said Coleman. “To be consistent, you have to be focused every game.

“He was clutch tonight.”

Early in the first period, a 3-pointer scored by Flagg put the Falcons on top 12-5, prompting an HGP timeout. When the sides returned to the court, Firebirds forward Julian Turner (2 pts.) was flagged for an offensive foul. Flagg then came up with his second steal in the Ghost end and after a miss by Corey Dea, he gathered in the rebound and hit his second trey, putting his team up 15-5 at the end of the initial frame.

After hitting a pair of free throws early in the second period, Flagg latched onto a rebound after a Mike McFadden block and hit a putback for a 24-13 Pennsbury lead.

For the game, Flagg led all scorers with 25 points, hitting eight shots from the floor, seven of which came in the first three periods, helping the Falcons to a 48-25 edge, heading into the final frame.

On the defensive front, senior Rob Daly (7 pts.) was charged with guarding Coolahan, who had just a single point at the half.

“Rob has been our stopper all season,” stated Coleman. “We challenged Rob to shut (Coolahan) down and he did a phenomenal job.”

Pennsbury also received a big boost from its bench with the reserves combining on 20 points. Sixteen of those points came after the intermission and the effort put forth by the bench was led by quarterback Mike Alley, who posted up with six points. Freshman Gary Francis also added four points in the fourth quarter.

Somehow, you knew it wasn’t going to be Holy Ghost’s night when Coolahan stepped to the line and missed 1-of-3 free throws after drawing a foul behind the arc. From the floor, the Firebirds (6-2, 3-1: BAL) shot less than 20 percent in this one and were just 10-of-18 from the foul line.

With Pennsbury on top 28-17 at the half, the Falcons began the third quarter with a 12- 4 run that had the visitors up by 19 with three minutes remaining in the period. Daly came alive, offensively, in the quarter, hitting a trey off an inbounds pass from Addison Howard (6 pts.) and a driving layup near the end of the period.

Flagg added seven points to his effort, Howard hit a shot from the floor and Corey Dea (2) put back a Daly miss just before the buzzer to put the Falcons on top by 23 points heading into the fourth quarter.

“In the seven games prior to this, I thought our effort was outstanding; tonight, not so much,” stated Chapman. “I thought we looked like a defeated team at halftime, just based on the demeanor of everyone.

“As a coaching staff, we were down 11 at halftime and we thought if we could get it down to six or seven by the end of the third quarter, you never know.

“They just broke our spirit in the third quarter and we never recovered.”

Earlier in the day, Holy Ghost’s junior varsity team won, 57-47, and the Falcon freshman team got past the Firebirds’ freshmen in front of a packed house that had standing room only by the time the varsity game began.

“It was good to see that many people out here tonight,” said Coleman. “We do a good job of raising money for Coaches vs. Cancer. It’s a local rivalry and hopefully, it continues.”

Now, the Firebirds must get set for the Jack Schott Memorial Holiday Basketball Tournament set for Dec. 29 and 30 back at Chapman Gym.

“The seniors have to show leadership in these next few practices to get this group back on track,” stated Chapman.

“We have to start playing good basketball again. If we don’t, we’re going to struggle the rest of the year.”

The tourney tips off Dec. 29 with a 5:30 battle between Catholic League rival Bishop McDevitt and Philly Public League power Abraham Lincoln and continues with a 7 p.m. game between Holy Ghost and SONL rival Harry S Truman.

The tournament consolation game and championship are slated for 5:30 and 7 p.m., respectively, on Dec. 30.

Contact the author at, or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

Pennsbury 64, Holy Ghost Prep 29

(Dec. 21 at HGP)

Pennsbury 15 13 20 16 – 64

Holy Ghost 5 12 8 4 – 29

HOLY GHOST PREP — Julian Turner 2, Aiden Bauer 11, Jack Coolahan 5, Tonnor Fife 2, John McCrane 2, Mike McFadden 4, Ryan Staropoli 2, Ryan Wade 1; TOTALS — 8 10-18 29.

3-POINT GOALS — Bauer 2, Coolahan.

PENNSBURY — Joey Monaghan 2, Addison Howard 6, Mike Alley 6, Louie Bazas 3, Andre Burch 3, Isaiah Carpenter 6, Rob Daly 7, Corey Dea 2, Mark Flagg 25, Gary Francis 4; TOTALS — 23 15-27 64.

3-POINT GOALS — Flagg 2, Daly.

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