Avon Grove takes big step forward with win at Great Valley tourney

EAST WHITELAND >> This first season under head coach Roy Blumenthal has been a series of steps for the Avon Grove boys basketball team.

Wednesday night, the Red Devils took a giant leap forward as they came from behind and limited Great Valley to just 10 second half points on the way to a convincing 36-27 triumph to capture the Great Valley Holiday Tournament title.

Avon Grove came out of the gate struggling with the Patriots’ (6-2) 3-2 zone defense, but behind Brandon McCullough’s 10 first half points, trailed only 17-15 at halftime.

The second half belonged to the Red Devils, as they outscored Great Valley, 21-10, and took control of the contest. Some halftime adjustments at both ends of the floor were keys to the victory. Avon Grove held the Patriots to just two third period points, outscoring Great Valley, 10-2, to take a 25-19 lead after three periods.

“We challenged the kids at halftime,’ Blumenthal said. “They came out to start the game and were confused by the zone Great Valley was running. And everything is new to the kids and at halftime we tweaked some things and played well in the second half.”

The last Great Valley lead came with 3:42 to play in the third quarter when Robert Geiss stole a Scooter Whiteside pass and scored on a layup, making it a 19-18 Great Valley lead. From there it would be all Avon Grove (6-2), as McCullough sank five three-balls on the night and finished with a game-high 19 points. Dez Murphy came off the bench to score eight points and grab eight rebounds. Great Valley shot just 10 for 30 in the game, and only had four field goals in the second half.

McCullough started the decisive fourth quarter by draining a 3-pointer from the left side for a 28-19 Red Devil advantage. But, Great Valley was not done. Geiss scored in tight and was fouled. The senior hit the free throw and it was a 30-22 game. After an Avon Grove miss, Max Stilwell drained a corner three to draw Great Valley to within five at 30-25. But, McCullough scored in tight to make it a 32-25 game with three minutes left.

“We started out real slow because we thought they would start the game in a man to man defense,” McCullough said. “And when they went 3-2 and 2-12 we were confused and struggled to score. Coach told us a lot of things at halftime. And when you run his plays, even if they break down, there is still an option. And our defense really improved in the second half. This is a good feeling because the last two years we were 0-2 in this tournament and now we went 2-0 and won it.”

Great Valley turned the ball over 17 times in the game and many of those miscues were unforced errors. The turnover bug reared its ugly head late in the game when Great Valley, down 32-25 with a little over three minutes to play, turned the ball over two straight times down the floor and the Patriots did not get a shot off in that critical span.

When Liam Ward’s three-point attempt went in and out, Avon Grove took a timeout with 1:55 to play and up 32-25. But, the Red Devils threw the ball away coming out of the timeout and Geiss, who led Great Valley with nine points, strolled down the lane for a layup to make it a 32-27 game.

But, Great Valley fell asleep when Scooter Whiteside missed a free throw and Dez Murphy outfought the Patriots for the rebound and put in the follow, icing the game for Avon Grove.

“This is the first time this season that I am disappointed in my kids,” said Great Valley coach Paul Girone. “We turned the ball over 17 times and that is unacceptable. We just got outfought. and, I want to give Avon Grove credit. Their kids played harder than we did and they wanted it more.”

McCullough was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Avon Grove 36, Great Valley 27
AVON GROVE: McCullough 6 2-4 19, Murphy 2 3-3 8, Russo 1 0-3 2, Moyer 1 0-0 2, Morgan 1 0-0 2, Forst 1 0-0 2, Will 1 0-0 2, Whiteside 0 1-2 1, Evans 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 8-14 36.
GREAT VALLEY: Geiss 4 1-2 9, Long 2 1-2 5, Frankenheimer 1 1-2 4, Stillwell 1 0-0 3, Ward 1 1-2 4, Porreca 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 3-6 27.
Avon Grove    6     9     10     11 – 36
Great Valley    11     6     2     8 – 27
3-point goals; McCullough 5, Murphy, Stillwell, Ward 2, Frankeheimer.

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