Conwell-Egan shooting woes help Martin Luther King boys basketball leave with a win (PHOTO GALLERY)

Conwell-Egan Catholic sophomore Darien Simmons, left, is guarded by Martin Luther King sophomore Mike Robinson in boys basketball battle Dec. 22 on the Eagles’ home court. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)

FAIRLESS HILLS – Conwell-Egan Catholic did just about everything you are supposed to do to win a basketball game – including getting off to a quick start – facing visiting Philly Public League rival Martin Luther King (MLK) Thursday night on CEC’s home court, except score enough points.

“This game was a classic case in point in which you play hard and you do things right, you just didn’t put the ball in the hoop,” said CEC first-year head coach Eric Kindler.

The visitors from Philadelphia outscored Egan in three of four periods on their way to a 57-46 victory, their fifth overall of the season.

Getting off to a 12-5 edge in the first 3-and-1/2 minutes, the Eagles got 3-pointers from junior Eric Espositio and sophomore Sean Stokes, four points added by junior Pat Robinson and a driving layup by Esposito.

The Cougars were not going to be denied, however, as MLK answered CEC’s opening run with a 12-2 scoring spurt to finish the first quarter on top, 17-14.

The Eagles’ scoring woes continued in the second period – the team’s lowest output with only seven points – and although they took a brief lead in the third quarter, they never seemed to get untracked offensively in this one.

“We had a rough night shooting; it could have been a little bit better,” said CEC junior forward James Leible. “We just got to keep running the offense – keep working.

“They made their shots and we struggled a little bit.”


Ironically, MLK began the battle with a shooting drought of their own. Aside from an early 3-pointer by sophomore Ricky Montereiro, they didn’t hit another shot from the perimeter in the first period until the waning seconds of the initial frame.

The Cougars started pounding the ball inside to their big man Will McNair, a 6-9, 250-pound forward, who finished the first quarter with nine points and was the second-leading scorer in the game with 15.

“He’s a big guy, he’s real strong and he plays well,” said Leible, of McNair.

“They have a bunch of big guys who are real strong. We were fighting a little bit trying to get back into it but they’re tough kids.”

A 3-point play brought MLK back within a pair at 12-10 with 2:45 to go in the first period. While Espositio answered with a driving layup, McNair single-handedly tied the game at 14-all with a putback basket and a dunk with 55 seconds remaining. Junior Denelle Holly Jr. then picked a good time to hit his only basket in the game, canning a 3-pointer just before the first-period bell.

Egan responded with a 6-5 run in the opening minutes of the second period on a pair of layups by Leible and another by senior Darien Simmons that brought the Eagles within two at 22-20. However, the Cougars finished off the first half with a 6-1 run on a Mike Robinson layup, a hook shot by McNair and a strong dunk at the end of the period by Elijah Kaih-El (17 pts.).

A 6-6 senior for MLK, Kaih-El came alive after the break, hitting for a pair of field goals in the third period and three more in the fourth. He led all scorers with 17 points, 13 of which he poured into the basket in the second half.

Still, the opening moments of the second half belonged to Conwell-Egan.

Leible opened the second half with a turnaround layup and another he scored in the low post off a backdoor pass from Simmons, sandwiched around a layup by Robinson.

Simmons added a pair of free throws, Robinson chipped in with a jumper then hit a shot from underneath off a fast-break feed from Simmons and all of sudden, the Eagles held their first lead – 33-32 – with 3:55 remaining in the third period.

Egan just could not hang onto it.

Martin Luther finished the third quarter off with a 7-0 run on a field goal by sophomore Jihad Watson and two more by Kaih-El.

In the fourth period, the Cougars expanded their lead with a 10-2 scoring run that put them on top 49-35 with 4:45 to go in the battle. McNair started the final frame off with his own putback and junior Ken Wilson capped MLK’s fourth quarter spurt off with a wide open layup.

“They played well,” said Leible. “When they didn’t have something open, they got into their sets and they got it inside – they made plays.”

Leible aroused the holiday crowd – infused with several players from the 2015 state championship squad – with a steal and ensuing dunk. Coming on the heels of a pair of free throws by James, the acrobatic play only drew the Eagles within 10 points, as CEC still trailed 49-39 midway through the fourth quarter.

A steal and ensuing layup by Esposito cut Egan’s deficit to nine with 1:55 remaining but the shooting woes continued and the Eagles never got closer than that.

With a battle scheduled later today at Chester High School against Newark, Delaware rival Glasgow, Egan has little time to regroup. The Eagles tip off at 4:30 p.m. in the Rondae Jefferson Classic presented by Scholastic Play By Play Classic.

The action actually started at 1:15 p.m. with Phila. Public League rival John Bartram vs. Friendship (Md.), and continued with Coatesville taking on Friends Central, at 3 p.m. At 6:30, the evening is highlighted with a duel between Westtown and Atlantic City and Math, Civics & Sciences Charter takes on Chester, at 8:15 p.m.

The Westtown Moose are led by power forward Mohamed Bamba, a five-star recruit and the No. 3 senior in the country, and Atlantic City was the New Jersey Group 4 runner-up last season.

Both Math, Civics & Sciences Charter and Chester are undefeated and both were state qualifiers last season with MCS falling to Kennedy Catholic in the Single A championship and Chester losing to Reading in the 4A quarterfinals.

Chester avenged last season’s playoff loss to Reading with a big 62-51 win over the Red Knights Dec. 20 on the Clippers’ home court while MCS scored a 70-64 victory over MLK on the same night.


The Eagles’ junior varsity team scored a big win over the JV Cougars, with the home team Eagles topping MLK, 58-56, in overtime. Trailing MLK by five points with less than 20 seconds to go, CEC tied the game up at 53-all on Patrick Garwo’s 3-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer. The Eagles won the game in OT on a 3-pointer by junior Joe Connor and a layup with five seconds to go by sophomore Terome Mitchell.

Contact Steve Sherman at or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

Martin Luther King 57, Conwell-Egan Catholic 46

(Dec. 22 at CEC)

Conwell-Egan (3-2) 14 7 12 13 – 46

MLK (5-2) 17 11 11 18 – 57

CONWELL-EGAN — Darien Simmons 8, Pat Robinson 13, James Leible 11, Eric Esposito 11, Sean Stokes 3; TOTALS — 17 10-14—46.

MARTIN LUTHER KING — Denelle Holly Jr. 3, Elijah Kaih-El 17, Jihad Watson 8, Ricky Montereiro 5, Mike Robinson 2, Will McNair 15, Ken Wilson 7; TOTALS — 21 12-14—57.

3-POINT GOALS: CE—Esposito, Stokes; MLK—Holly, Wilson, Montereiro.

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