Mitchell leads North Penn’s 4th-quarter surge past Upper Merion

UPPER MERION >> North Penn’s basketball team loves to run — get their thoroughbreds out in the open floor and dash.

But for three quarters Wednesday night, host Upper Merion had the Knights playing at a snail’s pace, and led through most of three quarters.

But finally, the Knights got untracked, and pulled away in the fourth quarter, lapping the Vikings 53-39, in a non-league contest at Upper Merion High School.

AJ Mitchell scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Knights ran over, across and ultimately down the Vikings.

“Early on, I don’t think we played on our toes,” said Knights head coach John Conrad. “We had a hard time. Their 2-3 zone gave us problems.”

But the Knights finally got the lead (28-27) late in the third quarter, then ran over the Vikings in the fourth quarter.

Leading the way was Mitchell, who got it going with back-to-back three-pointers that stretched the Knights lead to double figures.

From there, the Knights (14-4, 7-1 SOL Continental) simply turned on the jets.

“We want to turn our guys loose,” Conrad said, “and let them play at their pace.”

North Penn’s Ricky Johns reaches for rebound during  the Knights’ game against Upper Merion’ on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

For most of three quarters, the Vikings (11-7, 7-2 PAC Liberty) did what they needed to do.

Led by Ethan Miller, who would finish with a game-high 22 points, the Vikings confused, confounded and kept the Knights at a snail’s pace.

It didn’t help that the Knights committed 12 first-half turnovers.

But after the break, North Penn got it in gear.

The Knights outscored the Vikings in the third and fourth quarters, as Ricky Johns and Mitchell kickstarted the North Penn open-court offense that didn’t slow down until Mitchell put the finishing touches on the final score with two late technical free throws with three seconds left in the game.

“When (Mitchell) hit those threes, that put the game away,” said Upper Merion head coach Jason Quenzer, “They started to exploit what we couldn’t pick up.

“(North Penn) is a very good team, and what we have to understand is that this is a journey. You want to put yourself in position to win a league title and get to the district playoffs and we still have the chance to do both of those things.”

North Penn 53, Upper Merion 39
North Penn        6 9 15 23 — 53
Upper Merion   11 7 11 10 — 39
North Penn: Ricky Johns 4 2-4 10; Reece Udinski 1 6-6 8; Chris Coleman 2 1-1 5; Nate O’Donnell 0 0-0 0; Derek Heiserman 1 0-0 2; AJ Mitchell 4 7-8 17; Lance Ford 3 0-0 7; Noah Kwortnik 2 0-2 4.  Totals 17 14-19 53.
Upper Merion: Andrew Persaud 2 0-0 5; Aidan Newell 2 0-1 4; Joey Breece 1 0-0 2; Ethan Miller 8 4-4 22; Chris Carita 2 0-0 4; Timmy Bielgalski 0 0-0 0; Robbie McKernan 0 0-0 0; Anthony Shepperd 0 0-0 0.. Totals 15 4-5 39..
3-pointers: Mitchell 2; Ford; Miller 2; Persaud.

Top Photo:  North Penn’’s Derek Heiserman drives to the hoop as Upper Merion’s Anthony Shepperd defends during their game on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

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