FRANCONIA >> Pennridge had plenty of reasons to be discouraged going into Souderton’s gym on Thursday night.
Having lost four in a row and two straight in SOL Continental play, the Rams could have felt things were against them. But Dean Behrens has been coaching too long to let that kind of stuff affect his guys and, the Rams had been right there in those losses.
So, Pennridge leaned on its defense, Sean Yoder got hot in the second half and the Rams reversed course with a 45-27 win over the host Indians.
“I’m so proud of the way our guys played,” Behrens said. “We lost four in a row, some teams will kind of wilter, our guys haven’t.”
Yoder, a sophomore, scored 22 points, 11 of them coming in the third quarter where he did not miss a shot. His brother, senior captain Kyle, had 10 points and eight rebounds as part of an effective glass-cleaning operation.
Pennridge hounded Souderton leading scorer Mike Bealer, holding the sharpshooting senior to just eight points and keeping DJ Landis to just four. Big Red certainly hurt itself with some poor passes, mostly into the post.
“Kyle Yoder killed us in the first,” Souderton coach Tim Brown said. “He set the tone and the rest of them followed it the rest of the game.”
Pennridge got a nice surprise and an emotional boost on Wednesday at practice. Four players who graduated last year stopped by and then jumped in practice, leading to a spirited and energized session that seemed to carry into Thursday’s showing. Kyle Yoder said its not unusual for guys who have graduated in the last four or five years, naming Tim Abruzzo, a senior playing at Navy, to check in and see how the team is doing.
Having Dan Long, Max Wagner, De’Von Balmer and Stephen Lowry in the gym Wednesday was just what the current Rams needed.
“They brought some intensity that really fueled our practice,” Kyle Yoder said. “We had some guys out with injury so other guys stepped up, they practiced well yesterday and got some minutes tonight.”
“It really helped our guys compete and get excited,” Behrens said. “Danny Long and those guys, they all want to see these guys here do well. They were pumping us up and I thought that was important, it was great to have those guys come back, it was really cool and I love that.”
BOYS BASKETBALL: Pennridge’s Sean Yoder drives and scores late Q2 at Souderton pic.twitter.com/5MPPIikJ4z
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) December 23, 2016
The Rams had much more energy in the first half. They didn’t shoot well, but they were more aggressive on the glass and got eight offensive rebounds in the first half.
Souderton on the other hand, had to wait more than five minutes for its first point and closed the second quarter on a 7:11 scoring drought. The Indians tied the game 11-11 at that point, then turned the ball over six times as Pennridge scored the next 10 points of the game. Sean and Kyle Yoder played a part in all 10, scoring eight and Kyle assisting the other basket in the frame.
Playing without Ryan Cuthbert, the Rams got a spark from AJ Demarco off the bench with the guard twice stealing a floated entry pass in the post.
“It all starts on defense,” Yoder said. “I thought we played pretty well. We got on on shooters, fronted the post and stuck to the game plan. AJ Demarco played great D for us, got two big steals. We got some offense rebounds that led to points. It was just hustle and heart.”
Sean Yoder’s driving hoop with 5.2 left in the second, set up after a patient offensive set, gave the Rams a 21-11 lead at the break.
The younger Yoder was perfect in the third, scoring his team’s first 11 points and going 5-of-5 from the floor. With both teams shooting poorly in the first half, it seemed like whoever got hot first would have the advantage in the second.
Thursday, it was Pennridge.
“We didn’t bring it, the stuff we’ve brought the last three games, we didn’t bring it tonight,” Brown said. “Pennridge kind of showed us how to play. It’s what we’ve been thriving off of, the o-boards and pounding down low and being bigger.”
While Brown was disappointed in aspects of his team’s play, like energy and heart, he felt his guys didn’t fold up shop. The loss ended a modest three-game winning streak for Souderton, but the Indians have a chance to right the ship next week in a holiday tournament at West Chester Rustin.
Thursday was a needed win for Pennridge, not a must-win, but important for the players to regain some confidence going into the holiday and their upcoming games in Boyertown’s holiday event next week.
“We’re going to go through some growing pains,” Behrens said. “Tonight we handled ourselves better late in the game because we’ve been through it before.”
BOYS BASKETBALL: Pennridge’s Kyle Yoder with a great pass to cutting AJ Demarco for basket at Souderton pic.twitter.com/OPzAPWeSHU
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) December 23, 2016
Pennridge 45, Souderton 27
Pennridge 11 10 17 7 – 45
Souderton 7 4 9 7 – 27
Pennridge (45): Sean Yoder 9 2-2 22, Kyle Yoder 4 2-3 10, Jordan Roehrer 1 0-0 3, Ryan Kinky 1 0-0 2, Jon Post 3 0-1 6, AJ Demarco 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Ryan Warner. Totals: 19 4-6 45
Souderton (27): Mike Bealer 3 0-0 8, Matt Cartwright 1 2-2 4, Trevor Watts 3 0-0 6, DJ Landis 2 0-0 4, Antonio Rodriguez 2 1-2 5. Nonscoring: Groller, Horas, Hanrahan. Totals: 11 3-4 27
3-pointers: P – S Yoder 2, Roehrer, S – Bealer 2