TOWAMENCIN >> By halftime, Wyatt Harkins’ ability to drive and score had Delco Christian on the brink of blowing the game open.
In the third quarter, a spike in the Knights’ defensive intensity did just that.
“The whole year, we’ve kind of had a thing called the third quarter curse,” said Harkins, moments after his team’s quarterfinal clash with Calvary Baptist. “It’s where we just come out flat. Offensively we’re slow, defensively we’re slow, the opponent is getting points and the momentum just swings to the other side.
“We knew going in that this could be our last game together,” the senior said, “so we knew we couldn’t finish our senior year by letting that happen again. We had extra motivation and extra attention to detail in that third quarter.”
After leading by six at the break, the sixth-seeded Knights went on a 6-0 run, which was just the beginning of a 31-point third quarter as Delco went on to win in overwhelming fashion, 83-49 over No. 3 Calvary Baptist.
The win sends Delco Christian to the District One Class A Semifinals, where it will face Faith Christian, Tuesday night at 6 at Cheltenham High School.
Harkins scored 25 of the Knights’ 30 first-half points, finishing with 41 for the game — just a point shy of the school record.
Just seconds into the third, Harkins came up with a steal at midcourt and set up Jordan Parks for two. On the very next Calvary possession, Harkins came up with a steal, again set up Parks, and Delco was on its way.
“(Earlier in the game), I kind of sagged back to protect the corner a little bit but coach (Don) Davis told me to push up and just trust in my teammates,” Harkins said. “Once I pushed up, it made it harder for them — we were able to jump the pass more and once we got a few steals our energy got up.”
Jump shots by Parks and Harkins helped push Delco to a 61-35 lead by the end of the third. Along with a pair of threes, a determined Harkins would finish 19-of-21 from the foul line.
“I shot a lot of free throws at practice because I need to hit them. I missed a front end of a one-and-one in league playoffs to send us into overtime,” said the 6-foot-1 guard.
With the game well in hand, the Knights were able to go to their bench in the fourth quarter. Delco had broken open a game that — early on — had the makings of a tight struggle.
Big 6-foot-8 senior Donald Miller got going in the first quarter for the Warriors, battling his way inside and also displaying a short-range jumper for a total of 10 points.
Miller’s basket just before the first-quarter buzzer broke a 15-15 tie, giving the Warriors a two-point edge heading into the second.
But then, Harkins kept finding his way to the hoop, single-handedly pushing the Knights into the bonus, and he took full advantage by making all 11 of his first-half free throws.
Harkins capped a fast break to push Delco to a 26-22 lead and then maneuvered his way through a pack of Calvary defenders, laying it up and in to stretch the visitors’ advantage to 30-24 at the break.
Miller would finish with 22 points for Calvary, but the Knights pulled away in the third.
“They’re talented,” Warriors coach Tony Hall said of Delco. “Good teams turn it up in the third quarter. I thought we came out, hit them pretty good in the beginning but they hit us back, and we got into some foul trouble.
“(Harkins) is an awfully good player — scored 25 in the first half and wound up with 41. He was tough to guard. I’m proud of my guys — thought they played their butts off. We were just a little overmatched at the end.”
Calvary, undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Christian Athletic Conference this year, will head to the Bicentennial Athletic League next season to try and beef up its regular-season schedule in preparation for districts.
Harkins and the defending district champs head into the semis with plenty of momentum.
“This is the biggest game of my high school career,” said Harkins, “both offensively and what it meant to me.”