Abington controls pace, offense hums in win over Bensalem

ABINGTON >> The way Bensalem plays basketball can make it so easy for an opponent to fall into the trap their style presents.

That’s what the Owls hoped to do to Abington on Tuesday. While the Galloping Ghosts certainly took the invitation to play fast, they kept things under control and their offense took full advantage. The ball moved, different guys got involved and Abington clicked from the opening tip.

Behind a balanced and aggressive offense, the Ghosts topped Bensalem 72-53.

“Our guys shared the ball,” Abington coach Charles Grasty said. “At one point we had 14 makes with 10 assists, we had it going. We shared it pretty well in the first half, the second half we got a little loose with the ball.”

Of course, by the time the second half came around, the Ghosts (10-3, 5-0 SOL National) were cruising and gradually brought more and more guys in off the bench. So it was natural, Grasty noted, that they may have glanced at the scoreboard and tried to do their own things a little bit.

Before that, it was scoring clinic from Abington. Junior Robbie Heath scored 25 points in all manner of ways, hitting 3-pointers, getting to the line and slashing to the rim. He also pulled down five rebounds and dished five assists to go with two steals in an all-around performance.

Heath seemed to have the touch on Tuesday as well, hitting some big shots at key moments.

“He had a lot of energy,” Grasty said. “He was rebounding, he was defending, he had to guard Ward Roberts so he wanted to come out with a lot of energy and put some pressure on (Roberts). He energized, but loose enough to get some shots to fall.”

Part of the reason Abington didn’t fall into Bensalem’s plan was Heath and Rob Young being the guys on the ball. Young had a rare turnover, just his 13th in 13 games this season, but otherwise was steady. While Abington didn’t quite play inside-out as much as the coaches wanted, going a little more outside-in, the big guys also helped keep the pace at the right speed.

Eric Dixon had 15 points and seven rebounds while Joe O’Brien fought his way to 11 points and 11 rebounds, mostly be being in the right place and not being afraid to play through some contact down low.

“We wanted to bring it inside-out because we have our shooters outside and they didn’t start too much size,” O’Brien said. “(Isaiah) Carpenter tends to get in foul trouble, but he’s big and physical and he’s fun to play against. I think we did what we had to do.”

Carpenter came in off the Owls’ bench and added a much bigger dimension to Bensalem (6-5, 1-4) when he was in, plus some physical play down low. That was the case for much of the game anyway, with very few easy finishes at the rim for either team.

Despite starting two sophomores and a junior, the Ghosts play like a veteran team and O’Brien said that goes to the guards knowing how to maintain pace and the offensive sets being designed to wear the opposition down. Four of O’Brien’s rebounds were offensive and he also added three blocks on the defensive end.

“You have to time it right, make sure nobody else is really around you,” O’Brien said. “If they’re boxing you out, you try to get back on defense because if you’re not going to get the rebound, you have to get back.”

Dixon is a bit more offensively versatile than O’Brien, able to step out and hit 3-point shots, and after a bit of a slow start, the two big men talked at practice and realized they could mesh together and figured out the best way to do it.

Both bigs had four points in the first, and paced by 10 from Heath, Abington took a 20-12 edge after the opening frame.

“In the first quarter, I thought we were very patient and I tried to tell the guys we were very patient and we still scored 20 points,” Grasty said. “That’s what we’re trying to get them understand, just be patient. Once we settled down and passed the ball around, we were going to be successful.”

Abington never slowed down, leading 37-23 at the half and 54-34 after three quarters. Even when the reserves took over for the last half of the fourth, Abington won the quarter 19-18.

The Ghosts close the first half of SOL National play with Council Rock South on Thursday then play Upper Dublin on Saturday at Plymouth Whitemarsh in the SOL Challenge. After running a tough gauntlet of games in December, the Ghosts have been tested quite a bit but O’Brien said it hasn’t lessened their desire to get better individually and as a team.

Plus, Grasty has been through it enough to know it is quite unwise to ever overlook another team in the conference.

“We still have a lot of room to grow and I’m excited to see our team grow,” Grasty said. “We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of this month going into February. (Monday) we had a really good practice, up-tempo and the guys really got after it. Hopefully that will carry over but overall, we’re pretty happy.”

Abington 72, Bensalem 53
Bensalem 12 11 11 18 – 53
Abington 20 17 17 19 – 72
Bensalem (53): Douglas 2 2-2 6, Dean 2 1-2 7, Squillace 1 0-0 2, Hill 1 0-0 2, Roberts 5 0-0 17, Shields 3 1-1 7, Carpenter 2 1-3 5, Quarterman 2 0-0 5, Smith 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 5-8 53.
Abington (72): Robbie Heath 8 6-8 25, Eric Dixon 5 3-4 15, Joe O’Brien 4 3-4 11, Rob Young 1 3-4 5, Eric Dougherty 2 0-0 5, Gary Massey 0 2-2 2, Bryan Coffman 1 0-0 3. Nonscoring: Brandon Coffman, Bobby Scholly, Darius Brown, Jonah Canada. Totals: 24 17-22 72.
3-pointers: B – Roberts 5, Dean 2, Quarterman; A – Heath 3, Dixon 2, Dougherty.

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