SPRINGFIELD >> The Phil-Mont Christian Academy boys basketball team entered its Bicentennial Athletic League semifinal as the No. 1 seed with a 23-1 record. The Falcons entered the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s semifinal down seven points to Lower Moreland.
“Defensively we’ve been pretty solid in the fourth quarter lately,” Phil-Mont head coach Glenn Dolton said. “We just kept talking to guys about playing defense and getting wide on the court.
Then we had to have every rebound. I thought we did a nice job, especially down the stretch, of getting all the boards.”
Phil-Mont scored the first eight points in the fourth and outscored fourth-seeded Lower Moreland 20-13 in the quarter to send the game into overtime. The Falcons never trailed in the extra period to get a 66-61 win and punch their ticket in the BAL final.
Despite taking a 41-40 lead early in the fourth, its first since 16-15, Phil-Mont found itself again down by three with 17 seconds left in regulation. That’s when Osaze Thornton, who had already begun to make his mark on the game, truly made his presence felt.
“His finish was huge,” said Dolton about his forward. “We talked about that in the timeout — whoever gets the ball we’re going to the basket.”
Thornton got a bucket for his team and got fouled on the way. His free throw tied the game at 53, where the score would be after 32 minutes.
“I saw open lanes, I saw (the defense) was trying to collapse on me,” Thornton said. “So I just tried to find my way to the basket like coach said and make sure I finished. ‘Cause if I didn’t a lot of people would have been upset.”
Phil-Mont faces sixth-seeded Jenkintown Saturday at Holy Family University in the BAL Championship Game. Tip-off is set for 2:30 pm. The Falcons have beaten the Drakes twice this season, 63-49 at Jenkintown Jan. 19 and 47-36 at home Feb. 5.
Thornton finished the game with 18 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. Much of his production came at the foul line, where he went 12-of-15 in the game.
“My main goal was try to get to the lane and get contact and lead my team to victory,” Thornton added. “We’ve always had problems with Lower Moreland. This was a big game for us and I really wanted to win it for my team.”
Phil-Mont (24-1) won the overtime 13-8. The 13 points were more than the Falcons scored in each of the first, second and third quarters.
“Sazey was terrific tonight,” Dolton added. “When Noah went down he decided to take command of the ball, made some really nice decisions.”
Falcon point guard Noah Baldez fouled out in the game. He finished with 10 points and had two big fourth-quarter blocks.
Also playing big inside for the Falcons was Sean Griffin, who led all scorers in the game with 26 points. The senior had 13 points in the final 13 minutes, but also kept Phil-Mont afloat with 10 points in the first half.
“The guys had to step up tonight because one of our other starters was down, David Guliani,” Dolton said. “They all did a little bit extra. Sean went hard to the boards, he had some nice finishes in the first half and he hit his foul shots too.”
Griffin went 10-of-15 at the line. In all, Phil-Mont made 28 free throws in the game on 38 attempts, compared to a 9-of-10 performance by Lower Moreland.
Danny Duffey, who shot eight free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, was the leader in that category for Lower Moreland. The Lion guard finished with 15 points in the game.
Any advantage Phil-Mont had on the line was negated by the three-point shooting of Lower Moreland (18-5). The Lions connected on 10 threes in the game, compared to two for the Falcons. This rang especially true in the third quarter, when LM outscored Phil-Mont 14-12 behind four threes and a layup.
The Lions took a 16-8 lead late in the first quarter behind a 14-2 run. They led 16-12 after the first quarter, 26-21 at halftime and 40-33 after the third quarter.
The Lions were led in scoring by Nick Smolda, who did it all with seven field goals (which included 3 threes) and a 1-of-1 performance at the line for 18 points. Tyler Millan, who scored 16 points, led all players with four triples.