UPPER MERION >> Sometimes it is really simple in basketball – the bigger team wins.
That was the case Monday night at Upper Merion Area High School when the host Vikings kicked off the final week of the regular season with a 72-43 win over Avon Grove.
Upper Merion’s two junior bigs – 6-foot-7 Matt Faw and 6-foot-6 Ethan Miller – combined for 45 points and four blocks in the 29-point victory.
“We definitely took advantage of their size and got it down low,” Faw said. “When they doubled I just passed back to Ethan and he knocked it down … Ethan and I work together, passing the ball underneath and we get good looks.”
“It makes things a lot easier,” Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer said of the size advantage. “You just kind of let them go play a little bit, too. You try and give them that freedom to trust one another and I think, finally, Matt and Ethan fed off each other really well. That’s something we haven’t had in all of our games.”
Faw finished with 27 points and Miller added 18. They both were able to do whatever they wanted inside and also stepped out to make jump shots. Each of them was able to knock down a three-pointer.
“I was just attacking the basket and my shot was falling early,” Faw said. “That got me going a little bit. Our defense getting a few steals helps.”
“They dominated us inside,” Avon Grove coach Ken Riale said of Faw and Miller. “My biggest guy is 6-foot-2. They killed us inside.”
Faw brought the crowd to its feet late in the first quarter when he threw down a full extension, one-hand dunk to cap off his 10-point opening quarter.
“I just took two good strides,” Faw explained. “It was the perfect distance away and the pass was perfectly in stride and I just took off.”
The Vikings (14-6, 7-5) were up 16, 34-18, early in the third quarter and it looked like they were going to cruise through the final 14 minutes to a victory. Avon Grove wasn’t going to let that happen.
The Red Devils (4-14, 1-7) got the lead down to nine, 40-31. Brandon McCullough, James Petrison and Destin Murphy each scored five points in the third to turn it into a single-digit deficit with 2:45 left in the first.
“We got it down to nine,” Riale said. “We missed two layups, it could’ve been five.”
Quenzer called timeout and the Vikings responded by going on a 12-5 run, capped off by back-to-back Chris Carita threes, early in the fourth quarter to take a 52-36 lead and put the game on ice.
“Just a stop-the-run timeout,” Quenzer said. “I just said that we have to step up here and change our mentality. We were giving too much space on their shooters and they shot the ball really well. Any team that can shoot the ball is going to stay in the game … You always have to respect that. They were even beating us with penetration.”
Petrison led Avon Grove in scoring with 14 points, McCullough added nine and Andrew Brady had eight.
“I thought we played well,” Riale added. “Take nothing away from them, I thought we made them play. They kept their regulars in until the last two minutes … We were right with them.”