EAST ROCKHILL >> With where it stands in the District 1-6A power rankings and how many games remain, the urgency is there for the Pennridge boys basketball team.
“We talked about making a playoff push. Obviously, we’re a .500 team, but I we maximize a lot out of our guys,” Rams coach Dean Behrens said. “I think Sean Yoder and Jon Post, who are sophomores, really haven’t experienced much playoff-type of atmospheres and they’re starting to get to that point where this is going to be like a playoff atmosphere cause every game is so important.”
Pennridge entered Tuesday night’s home Suburban One League Continental Conference matchup with Souderton 19th in the latest 6A rankings – good to be in the 24-team playoff field but still needing plenty of work to secure the program’s fourth straight trip to the postseason.
“I want the guys to experience it,” Behrens said. “I’ve been there. I’ve had one-win seasons, five-win seasons, state games, 10-win seasons, I’ve done it all. Been knocked out in the first round, been knocked out in the second round. I want it for these guys. I really want to get those guys into the playoffs.”
The Rams (9-8, 4-5 conference) boosted their chances with a 56-45 victory over the Indians. Pennridge took the lead for good with a 10-0 run to end the first quarter and never lost the double-digit advantage after consecutive 3-pointer by Ryan Warner and Yoder early in the second.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) January 25, 2017
“It started off by making sure (Mike) Bealer wasn’t getting shots up,” Post said. “And we were going to give up some of the post touches but it seemed to hold them back from scoring and we seemed to slow him down although he got a little hot.
Bealer, Souderton’s sharpshooting senior, had just five points at the half but found his range in the third and proceeded to knock down five of his six 3-pointers after the break in posting a game-high 23 points.
But Pennridge parried Big Red’s charges – the Indians (7-10, 3-5) only get as close as 10 twice in the fourth.
“It helped that we were consistently scoring,” Post said. “They really couldn’t make the push cause every other possession it seemed like we putting the ball in the basket.”
Post collected a team-high 17 points while Yoder scored 16 points as Pennridge earned a second straight win to get above .500 for the first time this season since it was 2-1.
Trevor Watts added 11 points for Souderton, which dropped its third straight. The Indians came into Tuesday night 26th in the 6A standings, two places out of the final playoff berth.
“I thought early in the first half, especially our defensive focus, wasn’t there,” Souderton coach Tim Brown said. “We were playing a Box-and-1 on Yoder which I thought made him work but we weren’t really realizing where that next pass was going to go. We were more focused on being in zone than seeing where that next pass was going and chasing it.
“So I thought just our focus defensively to start the game wasn’t great and had to chase the rest of the time.”
Both teams host SOL Continental contest Friday – Souderton takes on conference leader North Penn while Pennridge faces Central Bucks West, which moved is alone in second after a 49-47 win over Central Bucks East Tuesday.
“Every day at practice we’re achieving to get to move up and move up and hopefully win out the rest of our games and get a nice seed,” Post said.
Watts gave Souderton a 9-6 first-quarter lead but Cuthbert connected on a three to pull the Rams level. Post collected back-to-back buckets to make it 13-9 Pennridge. Cuthbert’s three-point play off a steal and fast-break layup with 26.0 seconds left had the Rams up seven after a quarter.
DJ Landis cut the margin to five with the first basket of the second quarter but consecutive triples Warner and a Post jumper in the lane pushed the Pennridge advantage to 24-11.
“We’re always looking for the extra pass and it seemed like today it was working,” Post said. “Ryan hit a couple shots (that were) big and Sean did too. And it seemed like free throws were consistent.”
Souderton was within 24-14 after a Matt Cartwright basket before the Rams posted the next six points – Yoder’s two free throws at 1:49 giving the home side a 30-14 lead. A Watts bucket cut the halftime margin to 30-16.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) January 25, 2017
Bealer’s first triple of the third made it 34-21 but Post responded with a three-point play inside at 5:52.
The Rams had the lead at 16 twice more in the third quarter – the last time a 42-26 after a Ryan Kinky jumper before Bealer threes bookended a 12-6 Souderton run that had the Indians within 48-38 in the fourth.
“We knew Mike was going to heat up, that’s what he does,” Brown said. “But in that third quarter, there were a couple times where just balls were just not bouncing our way and give Pennridge the credit for getting on them balls.
“They were tough like they always are and those balls just led to a couple easy layups and every time we felt like we were making a little run, there were just another easy layup for Pennridge in some capacity.”
Pennridge, however, was back up 14 after a Yoder bucket and two Post free throws at 2:08. Bealer got the margin down to 10 again with his three-point play off a drive at 1:39, but those proved to be his and Souderton’s last points.
Top Photo: Souderton’s Mike Bealer drives to the net against Pennridge during their game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)