HAVERFORD >> The first words out of Will Powers’ mouth Monday evening spoke volumes.
“I’m definitely tired,” the Malvern Prep guard said. “We fought long. Double overtime, it’s hard.”
The final score didn’t conceal the details of a scintillating affair — a 98-92 win for the Friars over Academy Park in double overtime in the opener of the Steve Juenger Classic at Haverford High School. But that eye-popping scoreboard declaration somehow undervalues the excitement that helped assemble this classic. The pace of the game was what you’d expect if the managers filled the Gatorade buckets with rocket fuel. And between two teams that like to push the tempo like few in the region, the craziness of the game seemed to be in the offing as soon as both teams showed up for warmups in nearly-matching blue jerseys.
And at the end of five quarters’ worth of hoops, a buzzer-beater, an impressive comeback and two flabbergasting personal stat lines, there was little that could’ve encapsulated it as well as Powers’ utterance.
First the broad strokes, obscured by two pulsating overtimes were the margin didn’t widen beyond one score for seven minutes. Malvern led by as many as 15 points in the first half, by nine in the fourth quarter. Jawan Collins’ free throw on the first possession of overtime gave Academy Park a 73-72 edge, its first since 3-0.
Collins was the prime culprit for Powers exhaustion, scoring a game- and career-high 44 points, 39 in regulation. He added 17 rebounds, four assists and five rebounds despite picking up his third foul early in the second quarter and playing with four fouls from midway through the third quarter on without leaving the floor.
Collins’ last two points of regulation were the most consequential. Off an inbounds play diagrammed with one second left on the clock, the guard hung in the air, received the feed from Mike Satimehin and finished over a defender to knot the score at 72 as the buzzer sounded.
“He threw a great pass,” Collins said, motioning to Satimehin. “That’s what it was. It was the pass.”
Yet through all that, Collins’ night was relegated to secondary status by Powers, who finished with 36 points and nine rebounds. He scored nine points in the second OT, including back-to-back drives to the rack that put Malvern up for good at 91-89. He followed by hitting three of four free-throw attempts on the next two trips to stretch the lead to an insurmountable five.
Powers wasn’t alone, one of five Friars in double-figures. Tommy Wolfe scored 17 points, though his attempt to break the tie at the end of the first OT was rejected by Nakim Stokes at the rim.
Nakim Stokes blocks Tommy Wolfe. Malvern bench livid. to double Ot, 81-all https://t.co/6ihUntqEND
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) December 29, 2015
O’Shaan Allison hit four first-half 3-pointers to finish with 12 points, Ray Baran added 11 points (four in OT), and Mike Hollingsworth chipped in 10. But when the latter two fouled out, others had to step up.
That cohort included Quinn McCahon, whose only basket was a 3-pointer at 2:14 of the second overtime to surge Malvern ahead, 87-86, and Brady Devereaux, who scooped up six rebounds in the second OT period before joining his fellow bigs on the bench with five personals.
“(It’s) definitely that we’re tough and we’ll keep fighting no matter what,” Powers said. “We could’ve gotten down at the end and let them blow us out, but we stuck together and finished it out.”
Academy Park’s constant comeback exacted a toll. The Knights’ pressing defense caused four players to foul out, while Collins and two other players finished with four fouls … on a team that dressed only nine bodies.
The other aspect of desperation was a 5-for-25 shooting day from 3-point land, including a combined 0-for-13 for DeAndray Covert, Stokes and Nick Simmons, each of whom scored nine points. The only one hitting shots was Satimehin, whose two first-half triples propelled him to 19 points and mitigated what could’ve been an even slower start.
AP’s sluggish start was precipitated by Malvern’s unusual comfort with the Knights’ pace. Academy Park’s M.O. is to speed teams up to the point of discomfort, but against a Malvern team that also relishes in operating quickly, the tactic backfired.
“We make people play fast, but they like to play fast, too,” Satimehin said. “The first quarter, we started slow because we weren’t used to it. But after that, we got used to it and that’s why it was such a great game.”
The turning point came when Collins took over after halftime. His 11-point first half wasn’t quiet, even with the foul difficulties. But he accounted for 27 of the Knights’ 36 second-half points, assuring his imprint on the game. When Malvern slowed the pace in the fourth, trying to minimize the number of possessions in a game featuring 156 field-goal attempts and 55 combined turnovers, Collins put his team in position to pounce.
But the metronome that is Powers kept the Friars in time, helping Malvern recover in OT and get the job done, no matter how exhausted they may have been.
“It’s just keeping it going,” Powers said. “Sometimes you want to slow it down as you get tired. But we want to keep it going, keep doing what we do the whole time. That’s why, sometimes when we struggle, it’s because we’re slowing it down too much.”
Also at the Juenger Classic:
Pope John Paul II 55, Haverford 43 >> Jack Donaghy scored 14 points, and Connor Guilfoil added 12, but the visitors pulled away late. The Fords (1-7) will take on Academy Park in the consolation Tuesday at 6 p.m.