PHOENIXVILLE >> Academy Park’s boys basketball team is quick, athletic and talented, and the Knights can beat teams in various ways.
When the Knights played host to Phoenixville in a non-league game earlier this season, the Phantoms played without star senior forward Christian Kelly, and Academy Park shot the lights out with 18 3-pointers, and the Knights were victorious by 27 points.
The two teams met up again Friday night in the playbacks of the District 1-AAAA playoffs, this time on Phoenixville’s home floor. The factors were vastly different, but Academy Park still won the outing, 71-58.
Academy Park, the 18th seed, upped its record to 17-7 and advanced to the next round of 9-10 playbacks against Central Bucks West Tuesday night while ending 10th-seeded Phoenixville’s season at 20-6 overall.
Senior guard Jawan Collins scored 22 points to pace the Knights while Teddy Wright followed with 18, Nakim Stokes had 12 and Deandray Covert finished with 11.
Kelly was in the lineup for the Phantoms this time around, and he made quite an impact with a game-high 30 points (two 3-pointers) and 12 rebounds. Marquise McDuffee also reached double figures for Phoenixville with 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
Academy Park jumped out to a 7-0 lead at the outset and proceeded to control the tempo throughout by virtue of its ability to get out on the fast break and run the length of the floor consistently for a lot of layups.
“It was mainly our ability to get stops,” said Collins, who was also a star quarterback on Academy Park’s football team. “With Christian Kelly, our game plan was just to contain him.”
He said Wright and freshman Khyree Temple drew the difficult assignment of guarding Kelly.
The Knights held a 15-11 lead after one period. Wright scored eight points in the first quarter for Academy Park while Kelly netted eight for Phoenixville.
By halftime, Academy Park was in front, 33-28. At halftime, Wright had eight markers while Collins and Stokes each had seven. Seven Knights in all were in the scoring column.
Kelly had 11 points by halftime while McDuffee had six, Nasir Green four and Shyheim Abernathy four. Jeff Conboy and Phil Meszaros added free throws to the cause. Abernathy finished with seven points a couple of key blocked shots.
Academy Park then widened the gap in the third period, moving out to a 53-38 advantage by outscoring the Phantoms 20-10 during that eight-minute stretch.
“We all picked each other up,” said Collins.
“I thought it was our pace,” said Academy Park coach Allen Bridges. “I liked the pace. When our defense was on track and our offense was there, it all gets going. We scored 33 points in the first half and we didn’t take a three. We didn’t think they could score in the 70s. Down there, we made 18 threes. We didn’t miss. I knew it would be a whole different game.”
He said Academy Park watched film of Phoenixville against other teams rather than dwell on that one contest when the two schools faced off on the court.
“They kept the tempo on and they kept the pressure on,” said Kelly, who surpassed the 1,000-point barrier for his career just prior to Christmas. “We had to make a bigger comeback than we normally do.”
Phoenixville completed a 13-0 regular season in the Pioneer Athletic Conference but then was upset by Perkiomen Valley in the semifinals of the PAC-10 Final Four playoffs. The Phantoms opened the playoffs with a first-round victory over PAC-10 foe Boyertown before falling to Central Bucks West and now Academy Park in these final two games to conclude their sesaon.
Phoenixville still enjoyed an outstanding season under second-year head coach Eric Burnett. The Phantoms graduate four seniors in Kelly, Conboy, Matt McLaughlin and McDuffee. But they used a lot of underclassmen in their deep rotation and are hoping to continue their winning ways going forward.
Burnett felt the Phantoms yielded too many easy layups and hurt themselves by missing 11 free throws as well.
He said the Phantoms lost some confidence when they fell short of their main goal, which was to win the PAC-10 championship. And then the Phantoms did not play at the top of their game in the playoffs either. Burnett said Phoenixville must learn to deal with that better in the future.
“Our goal was to cut the nets down,” said Burnett. “But when that doesn’t happen, we have to keep working and keep fighting.”