Boys’ basketball: Conestoga edges Penncrest in battle of Central League unbeatens

Tredyffrin – Facing a red-hot Penncrest team that entered Friday night’s contest on a 13-game winning streak and sporting a 9-0 Central League record, the host Pioneers survived a late Lion scare to win, 52-47, in a battle of Central League unbeatens.
Conestoga senior guard Scott Shapiro’s sharpshooting from the perimeter gave the hosts a 16-8 first-quarter lead, and the Pioneers (13-2, 10-0) held the lead for nearly the entire game. However, late in the fourth quarter the Lions (13-3, 9-1) went on a 10-0 run to take a 42-41 lead with 2:19 left. It was the first time Conestoga trailed since the beginning of the first quarter.

To view a photo gallery from the Conestoga-Penncrest game click here
“When we fell behind, we were patient, we didn’t rush our shots,” said Conestoga Mike Troy. “There were a couple of possessions [early in the fourth quarter] that I wish we could have taken back, but late in the game, we waited for our shots – we weren’t having possessions where it was one pass and a wild shot.”
Just 29 seconds after Conestoga fell behind 42-41, Pioneer sophomore guard Milton Robinson made a play that put the hosts ahead – for good. Robinson, who had not scored a point since the first minute of the opening quarter, drove to the baseline for a basket, drew a foul, and made the free throw to give the hosts a 44-42 lead.

“I saw that the baseline was open, so I quick jab-stepped him to the right, and I knew I had the lane so I was going to go up strong,” said Robinson.
Following a Penncrest missed shot from outside, Conestoga sophomore guard Zach Lezanic was fouled and made both of his free throws to put the Pioneers ahead 46-42 with 59 seconds left.
Penncrest hit only one field goal the rest of the game, and Conestoga’s touch was perfect from the free throw line down the stretch, with Lezanic, Shaipro and Robinson going 8-for-8 from the charity stripe in the game’s final minute.
Penncrest 5-9 junior guard Tyler Norwood was a constant thorn in Conestoga’s side all night, finding openings in which to drive in for layups and finishing with 26 points (which included a trio of treys). Entering the game, Norwood was averaging 24.8 points per contest and shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
Norwood keyed the Lions’ 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter, driving inside twice for layups and hitting a short jumper that put Penncrest ahead 42-41. Senior guard Justin Ross (who finished with 13 points) hit a key three-pointer from the right corner in the middle of the 10-0 run.
“Tyler’s a special basketball player,” said Penncrest head coach Mike Doyle. “It was an incredible high school [fan] atmosphere in there tonight, for both teams, but Conestoga jumped on us early and our defense let us down in the first quarter.”
In the final three quarters, the Lions’ defense caused problems for Conestoga, blocking several Pioneer shots and pulling down a solid number of defensive rebounds whenever a Conestoga shot missed the mark.
“We fought back after the first quarter and played good defense the last three quarters, and when we took the [42-41] lead I felt good,” said Doyle. “But I don’t think Conestoga missed a foul shot all night [the Pioneers shot 13-for-14 from the free throw line].”
Conestoga, missing 6-5 senior center Angus Mayock for the past two weeks, held their own on the boards. Troy praised the rebounding work of 6-4 junior forward Charlie Schappell, 6-4 senior forward Charlie Martin, 6-4 senior forward Scott Lambert and the 5-11 Shapiro.
“Charlie Schappell is getting better, getting stronger every game, he’s really growing into his role as a [key] varsity player,” noted Troy.
Shapiro, a co-captain who finished with 17 points Friday, said, “It was tough when we lost Angus just before the Marple game [a 47-43 win against the Tigers Jan. 6], and we struggled for rebounds against Marple, but now we have players like Schappell and Lambert who are getting the rebounds for us.”
Troy said, “We’re looking for Angus to return [to game action] next week.”
Shapiro hit a timely three-pointer from the right side just before the third quarter ended to give the Pioneers a 41-32 lead.
“I hadn’t been shooting well in the third quarter, and [the Penncrest defender] gave me a little bit of room when I got the ball [with a few seconds left in the third quarter],” said Shapiro.”I looked at the clock, and it showed three seconds left, so I pulled up and it was good.”
Lezanic and Martin each finished with 10 points for Conestoga. Martin’s total included a couple of treys, and Shapiro hit a trio of three-pointers, two of them in the first quarter. Robinson, whose three-point play with 1:50 left changed the momentum in Conestoga’s favor, finished with seven points.


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