Conwell-Egan boys basketball comes through in overtime win over St. Joseph’s Prep

Conwell-Egan junior James Leible, left, tied the Eagles’ game with St. Joe’s Prep at 56-all, sending the sides to overtime where the Birds emerged victorious 65-64 for a big win in the Philadelphia Catholic League Friday night Jan. 20 at CEC.   (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media file photo)

FAIRLESS HILLS – When Conwell-Egan Catholic (CEC) lost by 31 points to Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) rival Archbishop Wood on Jan. 16, Eagles fans looked nervously upon the team’s battle four days later with PCL power St. Joseph’s Prep.

“We really struggled executing our game plan and also with our focus, defensively, against Wood,” said CEC head coach Eric Kindler. “So it was really big point of emphasis going into the (Prep) game about how necessary it was for us to do that.”

“I was pleased with our focus and our ability to match up and communicate and to make sure that all their guys were accounted for. If they didn’t, we were going to be in trouble.

“They did a good job with that.”

Egan passed the test with a 65-64 triumph in overtime over the Hawks (9-6, 4-3: PCL) in one of the most thrilling wins of the season for the Eagles, who are now 3-3 in the PCL and 7-7, overall.

“Every game presents a different challenge so we try to keep the win in perspective,” said Kindler.

“But our season has really taken a step forward. It was a quality win against a quality opponent. It was a nice bounce-back from our game against (Archbishop) Wood.”

Egan (7-7, 3-3: PCL) was actually leading the Hawks at the half, 34-27. When the third period started, SJP legendary coach Speedy Morris had his players – who usually play a man-defense – in a 2-3 zone. That changed the tone of the game in the second half as the Prep outscored the Eagles 21-14 in the third period to draw the sides even at 48-all going into the final frame.

“We did well against it initially but we started settling too much,” said Kindler.

“It was a good thing to hit some shots but it was also a little bit of a curse because we started settling too much.

“We didn’t really make them guard us.”

Right around that time, CEC’s 6-7 power forward James Leible was forced to sit after getting into some foul trouble. That allowed the Prep’s junior forward Edward Croswell to cut loose and he wound up with 26 points for the game.

Fortunately for Eagles’ fans, Leible returned to the hardwood in time to hit a reverse layup only moments after a jump ball went to the side of Egan. Leible’s baseline drive tied the score at 56-all only seconds before the end of regulation.

In the extra session, Esposito hit a pair of 3-pointers, putting the Eagles up, 62-56. While the Hawks responded, senior Darien Simmons hit a pair of crucial free throws to put Egan on top, 65-62 with less than 30 seconds remaining in OT.

In the waning moments of the back-and-forth battle, St. Joe’s was trying for a game-tying 3-pointer and could only manage a meaningless two as time expired.

“Sometimes, you just have to grind it out and make plays and execute and put yourself in a position to win it and they did that,” said Kindler. “For the (players), it was gratifying; they earned it

For Egan, Esposito led the home team with 19 points.

“Eric can score the ball; it’s just a matter of getting him going,” said Kindler. “We’re trying to get him to accept the fact that he can score in a lot of different ways.

“Because of his size, he can rotate the ball inside and use his body to get rebounds and use his mid-range to get his game going.”

Also for the Eagles, Leible finished with 14 points and sophomore Sean Stokes came through with eight while Simmons added six.

“We had some good balance in our scoring, especially among our starters,” said Kindler. “It put us in a great position to finish the game.

“Sometimes, we made it difficult on ourselves but the kids did a good job of giving themselves a chance to win the game.”

“It was just a matter of getting stops, defensively.”

In addition to his point guard duties, junior Patrick Robinson came through with 15 points. A week earlier with his team trailing and time running out at Cardinal O’Hara, Robinson slapped the ball out of a defender’s hands and hit a layup that helped turn the tide in Egan’s favor.

“He does a really good job finishing around the basket,” said Kindler. “He’s very crafty with his left hand. He can finish with his right. He has good strength and has good ball skills.”

“He’s been very consistent with his scoring this year.”

On this night, even sophomore Patrick Garwo, the running back for the Egan football team, got in on the scoring, adding three points to the Eagles’ offensive mix.

Conwell-Egan 65, St. Joseph’s Prep 64 (OT)

(Jan. 20 at Conwell-Egan)

Conwell-Egan 13 21 14 8 9 – 65

St. Joseph’s Prep 12 15 21 8 8 – 64

CONWELL-EGAN (7-7, 3-3: PCL) — Darien Simmons 6, Sean Stokes 8, Eric Esposito 19, Patrick Garwo 3, James Leible 14, Patrick Robinson 15.

JOSEPH’S PREP (9-6, 4-3: PCL) — Edward Croswell 26, Brian Griffin 3, Darius Kinnel 15, Kyle Thompson 20.

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