If nothing else, Episcopal Academy boy’s basketball coach Craig Conlin was able to use his team’s 52-36 loss to Penn Charter Jan. 8 at Philadelphia University as part of a tripleheader to open the Inter-Ac campaign as a teachable moment as well as a motivational tool.
With the Inter-Ac being one of the few leagues that do not hold a post-season tournament to determine the league champion a loss to open league play can sometimes prove to be detrimental.
“We came out with intensity from the start today. In the game at Philly U. (Dec. 8) we came out flat and not ready to play,” said EA junior guard Connor Delaney. “We thought would win easily and we quickly learned that we need to come out ready to play every game. Even though we lost the first game we knew that we still controlled our own destiny if we could win nine games.”
Four down, five to go.
With just three weeks remaining and each game being a critical one, Episcopal was able to withstand everything Penn Charter threw at them earning a 47-39 victory Jan. 27 in a physical contest that was not decided until the closing moments. The win allowed EA to keep pace with Malvern Prep and Germantown Academy and maintain a three-way tie atop the league standings.
“I can’t believe how much mileage we have gotten from that first game,” Conlin said following the game. “As I watched that game I wasn’t sure what team I was watching. We came out flat that day and that game has been a great learning tool.”
“As former EA coach Dan Dougherty used to say, ‘The league is won on Tuesday afternoon so anytime you can win a tough game like this I will take that and run,” Conlin added.
As a team that likes to get out in transition, Conlin knew that Penn Charter would do everything they could to turn the game into a half-court contest.
For the most part, Penn Charter succeeded with its game plan but thanks to smothering defense along with making clutch buckets, Episcopal (13-5 overall, 4-1 Inter-Ac) was able to get out in transition and help build a 30-23 cushion early in the fourth quarter.
The Quakers did not go away slicing the deficit to 39-37 before being forced to foul in the closing minutes as EA tried to milk the clock. Stepping to the line with the game on the line, senior Matt Woods and Delaney delivered once again going eight for eight from the line to help provide the final margin.
Delaney, who finished with 10 points and four assists said, “It gives me confidence because I have knocked down two free throws before and I feel like we worked on it a lot in practice. I feel very confident for myself and that the team can count on me to knock down two free throws.
“It’s a great luxury to have,” said Conlin. “To be able to place the ball in Connor (Delaney) or Matt (Woods) hands at the end of the game knowing they will knock down free throws is a beautiful thing.”