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Penn Wood sticks to the plan, sticks it to Chester

LANSDOWNE >> Down nine points at 5 minutes, 19 seconds of the third quarter, there was no moment of revelation for Penn Wood Thursday — no momentum-turning shot, no pivotal collision in the lane.

In place of the dramatic, Pernell Ghee simply looked around the timeout huddle at his fellow seniors and found looks of recognition. Mundane as it sounded to a corps playing rival Chester for the final time, the comeback would have to start one possession at a time, at the line and on defense.

Penn Wood’s Rashaad Anderson rises up for a basket over Chester’s Jordan Camper (35) during Thursday night’s pivotal Del Val League showdown. The Patriots won, 58-55. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

“Nothing changed,” Ghee said. “Coach said, we’re in the same predicament as last game (against Chester); we’ve just got to keep our head and stick to the game plan. We went over the game plan one more time, we said we’re going to get the W if we stick to the game plan.

“We stuck to the game plan, and we got the W.”

Ghee and company roared away to a 58-55 Del Val League win, finishing with a 25-13 edge over the game’s final 13 minutes.

The damage started via a 10-spurt to put Penn Wood up, 43-42, with 2:32 left in the third, Ghee rolling to the basket for a layup off the glass.

The penchant for rising to the occasion has been prevalent of late for Penn Wood (11-5 overall, 5-1 Del Val). The Patriots have won eight straight since a Jan. 10 loss to Chester, positioning the teams to share the league crown should both win out. Penn Wood’s resilience is borne of several years of missed chances. After failing to put together the pieces last season in a second straight first-round exit from the District 1 tournament, the roles within a group that has played together for years seem to be coalescing.

Vincent Smalls has emerged as a go-to scorer, pouring in 18 points despite missing four straight free throws in the fourth quarter to keep the door open for a Chester (12-4, 5-1) comeback. Kairi Jones stepped up as the tempo-controlling point guard in an entertaining back-and-forth with Chester’s Michael Smith. Jones got the better of it with 13 points, including six in the third quarter as Penn Wood surged. And Ghee, despite first-half foul issues, scored 10 points.

Most impressive is that Penn Wood stoked a packed Shoebox to rapturous levels without ancillary scorer Sharif Goff, suspended after two technical fouls Tuesday against Academy Park, and with co-leading scorer Jay Fitzgerald failing to hit a 3-pointer for just the third time all season, empty in five tries.

The compensation stemmed from the collective.

“It’s our energy,” Smalls said. “We decided to change. There was no losing, so we decided to come out and make that run and went from there.”

Chester appeared ready to run away and hide as it did in the first meeting, with baskets from Jamar Sudan and Brian Randolph staking them to a 42-33 edge early in the third quarter.

But the Clippers struggled to generate any offensive rhythm. Much of that owed to foul trouble for Sudan. He scored 11 points and was 5-for-6 from the field, but he sat for most of the second quarter and endured an extended stretch on the bench in the fourth after picking up a soft fourth foul on the quarter’s opening possession.

“He’s our No. 1 option for offense right now, and he’s done a really good job scoring the ball and rebounding,” Ahrod Carter said of Sudan. “So that’s tough.”

Chester remedied his absence with an uncharacteristically sharp first half from 3-point range, connecting on six of nine looks. Randolph’s triple early in the third made it 7-for-10, but that proved unsustainable.

“We just had to live with it,” Ghee said. “We knew they weren’t going to hit those 3s all game. We just had to live with it, keep fighting. Our buckets were consistent, so we had to keep going to the lane.”

Vincent Smalls of Penn Wood, here dribbling past Chester’s Timothy Johnston, scored a game-high 18 points as Penn Wood clipped the Clippers, 58-55, Thursday. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

The Patriots’ length in the lane limited Jordan Camper (11 points) on the boards, and while Randolph scored nine points to go with six rebounds, generating regular easy offense was a challenge. Carter scored 13 points and Smith added eight, but 18 turnovers hampered Chester’s attempts to get back in the game. Chester shot 4-for-7 in the fourth quarter, but six turnovers were too many to surmount.

Penn Wood offered chances, building a 57-51 lead before a pair of Camper buckets narrowed the deficit to two. The Patriots got bailed out when Smalls missed two free throws, but a foul was called away from the ball on Camper; even then Ghee, only made one.

Smalls could’ve iced the game with 5.5 seconds left but clanged two foul shots, giving Smith a chance to jet upcourt for a 25-footer that smacked the backboard.

The finishing touches exemplified the Patriots’ struggle: Signs of improvement but still a ways to go. That Thursday’s battle resulted in a win anyway is drive to continue working, not that Ghee and company need much of a push in that direction.

“It’s our senior year,” he said. “We already know we can’t play anymore (after this). So this is it. We’ve got to get to states, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to make some noise.”

Also in the Del Val League:

Academy Park 90, Chichester 52 >> Nick Simmons scored 17 points to lead a quintet of Knights in double-figures, and Davoughnte Brown chipped in 10 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Nasiem Harley scored 11 points, and Marq Greenwood and Cameron Roundtree tossed in 10 each for AP (8-8, 3-3).
DaQuan Granberry led Chichester (5-12, 1-5) with 24 points.

Glen Mills 76, Interboro 44 >> Maxwell Thomas tallied a season-high 15 points, and James Timmons and Kenyon Cooper added 14 points apiece for the Battlin’ Bulls.

Myron Sanders chipped in 12 points as Glen Mills (9-7, 4-2) limited Interboro to just 14 second-half points.
Ethan Herko led the Bucs with 16 points, and Albert Pewa chipped in 14.

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