WARMINSTER >> Hatboro-Horsham boys basketball has had a bad habit of falling behind early in games this season.
Sometimes, the Hatters are able to overcome it and fight their way back into the game. When they play a good team, like they did Saturday, that task becomes tougher. If the good team they’re playing, in this case, Pennsbury, gets hot early, then the task becomes ridiculously tougher.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon as the Falcons took a big lead after the first quarter and handed the Hatters a 52-36 loss at William Tennent as part of the SOL Challenge.
“We came out and got down 20-8 at the end of the first quarter, I don’t know what happens to us,” Hatters coach Ed Enoch said. “It’s happened to us almost every game. We’re catching up almost the whole time and that’s too good a basketball team to do that against.”
Jay Davis scored 17 to lead Hatboro-Horsham while Clifton Moore had 10 points, eight of them coming from the foul line as Pennsbury used its three big guys to make life difficult on the Indiana recruit. Pennsbury got a big game from its star big guy, with senior Mark Flagg scoring 15 points and ripping down 19 rebounds.
Pennsbury’s other guys up front, Joey Monaghan and Billy Warren, combined for just six points, but played key roles nonetheless. Warren had 11 rebounds, two blocks and three assists while Monaghan drew most of the work defending Moore.
“For us, we wanted to take Clif out of his game, not let him have easy catches and not let him get his feet set,” Falcons coach Bill Coleman said. “We did that and were able to help off of a few people.”
After the Hatters made it a 6-4 Pennsbury lead with 3:56 left in the first, Coleman took a timeout and the Falcons responded. Addison Howard, Vaughn Ward and Flagg each hit a 3-pointer in a 9-0 run to make it 15-4. After a Moore foul shot, the Falcons scored five of the final seven points of the frame, including a Howard 3-pointer with 54 seconds left, to take the 20-8 lead.
Flagg said that while some guys didn’t post big numbers, he felt the whole team was clicking offensively. Seven different players scored for Pennsbury, with Howard joining Flagg for the team lead with 15 points.
Coleman saw a big reason for why that was.
“The ball itself has energy,” Coleman said. “The more people touch it, the more in-tune they feel with the game and the game becomes easier. So that was really the key.”
Hatboro-Horsham settled down in the second but still trailed by 10 at the half, 27-17. Davis, a quick and athletic senior, gave his team a spark in the third quarter by scoring six straight points to cut the Pennsbury lead to 28-23 with 3:02 left in the period.
“We got it back, and I can’t wait to check the film but I bet the next three possessions we made two very poor defensive plays and took two bad shots,” Enoch said.
Flagg halted the spree with a foul shot, then he found Howard for a trey to push the lead back to nine and made it an 11-point edge himself when he scored inside on a feed from Warren for a 34-23 lead with 1:36 left in the third. Ward canned a 3-pointer with a second left in the third, Pennsbury led 37-25 and they weren’t really threatened again.
“We knew we didn’t play our best game (Thursday) at Bensalem and Addison and I got on our younger guys,” Flagg said. “We wanted them to step up for us and they did big time for us, handling the ball, scoring the ball. Vaughn Ward hit two big 3s for us. We came out a lot better today.”
The Falcons got the lead up to 15 and later 19 in the fourth quarter and by that point, Hatboro-Horsham’s combination of the slow start and a poor shooting night offensively had left the outcome pretty much determined.
“I was a little disappointed with how we came out today, I thought we were flat,” Enoch said. “It took us a little while to get going and I don’t understand how with a game of this nature you can’t come out and want to play your ears off.”
The Hatters enter the midway point of the season at 7-6 overall. They’re 5-3 in the SOL American, a bit of a disappointing mark for a team many expected to push Plymouth Whitemarsh for a conference crown.
Next Saturday, they face Sanford (Del.) at Lower Merion in a showcase game but otherwise will turn their focus onto the American and trying to lock up a place in the district tournament.
“We have to start playing better defensively,” Enoch said. “We have not committed to the defensive end. We’re OK offensively, but defensively, we’re too easy to score on right now.”
Pennsbury 52, Hatboro-Horsham 36
Pennsbury 20 7 10 15 – 52
Hatboro-Horsham 8 9 8 11 – 36
Pennsbury (52): Addison Howard 5 2-4 15, Vaughn Ward 2 0-0 6, Billy Warren 1 0-0 2, Joey Monaghan 1 2-3 4, Mark Flagg 6 2-5 15, Gary Francis 3 1-3 8, Raylil Winton-Law 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 7-15 52.
Hatboro-Horsham (36): Chris Edwards 1 0-0 2, Clifton Moore 1 8-11 10, Jay Davis 7 2-3, Ryan Black 2 0-0 5, Jake Schalki 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Colin Kennedy, Solomon McNair, Kyle Hogan. Totals: 12 10-14 36.
3-pointers: P- Howard 3, Ward 2, Flagg, Francis; HH- Moore, Black.