Johns scores 15, North Penn holds off Souderton for 5th straight win

FRANCONIA >> Ricky Johns’ future is football. The North Penn senior’s stellar talents in the sport having earned him a scholarship to West Virginia University, a commitment he makes official Wednesday on National Signing Day.

But Johns still has plenty of reasons to keep taking the court for the Knights boys basketball team.

“Just my friends,” he said. “These guys are my family. I love playing this sport and then just going out I can’t leave my friends out here. We are a winning team right now. Me and Reece (Udinski) accept that and we just want to keep it going.”

North Penn did keep it going Friday night despite some sluggishness on the offensive end. Johns had a game-high 15 points – eight coming in the first quarter – as the Knights maintained their two-game lead in the Suburban One League Continental Conference by holding off host Souderton 55-48.

“We’re happy to get a win, but we didn’t feel like we were sharp tonight,” North Penn coach John Conrad said. “And if we were, it wasn’t for a long period of time. We had a couple stretches were we were good and sharp and focused, but we had other stretches where we were not at all.”

The Knights (15-4, 8-1 conference) never trailed after Johns capped a 9-0 run with a three-point play to put NP up 11-5 at 4:26 in the opening quarter. Souderton twice pulled within two – the second time at 31-29 in the third – but North Penn found ways to answer the Indians’ charges and claim a fifth straight victory.

“We just up-tempoed them. Played hard defense, which we did. Pressured them, pressure their guards with the ball,” Johns said. “And they started (to) turn over the ball, which we capitalized (on) and upped the score.

“It was kind of off-and-on, 10-point lead then they came back within five but then we pulled out the win.”

Udinski joined David Giuliani in finishing with 12 points and also teamed with Noah Kwortnik in slowing down Mike Bealer, who paced Souderton (7-11, 3-6) with 13 points. Bealer scored 18 in the teams’ first meeting – a 56-40 NP win Jan. 3.

“The first time we played them, they didn’t do that in the first half and in the second half Kwortnik and Udinski were just all over him,” Souderton coach Tim Brown said. “So we knew that was going to be more of the same today. Those guys are both great energy guys, especially Kwortnik, I mean that kid never stops.”

Matt Cartwright added 10 points for Souderton, which dropped their fourth straight. The Indians were 26th in the recent District 1-6A power rankings – two spots outside of the 24-team playoff field – but lost to Pennridge Tuesday then North Penn Friday.

“We’re staying confident,” Brown said. “We know that if we play the way that we played tonight we can grab some wins at the end of the season and then we just let the cards fall where they may. We just got to do our job and fight as hard as we can and whatever happens happens. But we control our own destiny, hopefully, so we’re going to keep thinking that.”

North Penn was ninth in the 6A rankings – one spot below a top-eight seed that would give the Knights a first-round bye.

Souderton hosts Hatboro-Horsham in an SOL non-conference contest 6:30 p.m. Monday. North Penn plays again 7 p.m. Tuesday at host against Central Bucks South with a Knights win clinching at least a share of the SOL Continental title.

“We always talk about the process. We’re just going to focus on the process of getting better and everything else will take care of itself,” Conrad said. “That was the message was there, we got to get sharper and we got to learn to extend leads late instead of give points back at the end. But we’ll take a win and worry about it tomorrow morning.”

North Penn led 14-11 after eight minutes Friday then scored the first six points of the second quarter – A.J. Mitchell’s two free throws at 6:04 extending the margin to 21-11.

Two Cartwright buckets sandwiching a Bealer three had Souderton within 21-18 but with 1:21 to go before halftime, Udinski’s three-point play had the Knights up 28-20. Cartwright got in the lane for a basket to make it 28-22 at the break.

After Giuliani had NP back up eight with the first basket of the third, Souderton collected seven of the next eight points – Bealer burying a corner triple to slice Big Red’s deficit to just 31-29.

“We we right there,” Brown said. “Hats off to North Penn for the pressure they put on us. We knew that was coming, we just didn’t react the way we wanted to react. But other than that I thought we played really good. Great energy, great fight, so that’s what we’re looking at kind of moving forward from this point.”

Udinski, however, responded with a three before Johns posted four straight points, his three-point play on a fast-break layup after a Lance Ford steal pushing NP’s lead to 38-29 at 2:29.

“Our coach depends on me and Reece,” Johns said. “We built a winning team this fall, now we have another winning team. So we just have to take control of this team and keep improving.”

A Cartwright basket made it 38-31, but Giuliani and Johns scored to give the Knights a 42-31 edge.

North Penn entered the fourth up 44-34 then took its largest lead at 50-38 Giuliani reverse layup. A Noah Horas three and a Bealer bucket had Souderton within 50-43, but that was as close as the Indians got until Tomas Hanrahan’s trey just before the final buzzer.

In the first quarter, a Bealer three put Big Red up 5-2 but Udinski and Giuliani connected on consecutive triples for an 8-5 NP lead with John’s three-point play at 4:26 making it a six-point margin.

Baskets from Jake Groller and Cartwright made it 11-9. Johns went 3-for-4 from the line to have NP up 14-9 at 2:25 before Antonio Rodriguez scored to have the Indians within 14-11 going to the second.

Notes: Souderton wore pink warmup shirts with “All in for Phyllis” on the back in support for Cartwright’s mother, who is fighting cancer.

North Penn 55, Souderton 48
North Penn        14 14 16 11 — 55
Souderton          11 11 12 14 — 48
North Penn: Ricky Johns 4 7-11 15; David Giuliani 5 1-2 12; Reece Udinski 3 4-6 12; Lance Ford 2 1-2 5; AJ Mitchell 1 2-2 5; Noah Kwortnik 2 0-0 4; Chris Coleman 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 15-23 55
Souderton: Mike Bealer 5 0-0 13; Matt Cartwright 4 2-3 10; Noah Horas 2 0-2 6; Antonio Rodriguez 3 0-0 6; Trevor Watts 3 0-1 6; Tomas Hanrahan 1 0-0 3; Jake Groller 1 0-0 2; DJ Landis 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 2-6 48
Three-pointers: NP-Udinski 2, Giuliani; Mitchell S-Bealer 3, Horas 2, Hanrahan.

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