Freshman Howard leads Downingtown West past Avon Grove

DOWNINGTOWN >> Tuesday night, the Downingtown West boys basketball team put 10 players in the scoring column, shot a torrid 23 for 42 from the field, and led start to finish as the Whippets convincingly handled Avon Grove, 60-41, at Wagner Gymnasium in a key Ches-Mont National Division clash.

The win helps the Whippets (7-3 Ches-Mont National, 12-8 overall) push toward the finish in the top 16 of the district, which would ensure a first-round home playoff game. West came into the game as the 16th team in the 6A field.

“This was a total team effort tonight,” said Downingtown West coach Stu Ross. “We got out on them early by paying attention to detail on the defensive end. Avon Grove is a very well-coached, disciplined team and we got contributions from a lot of people and they all stepped up for us tonight.”

One of those people Ross spoke of was freshman Will Howard, who got the Whippets out to the early 22-10 margin after one quarter. Howard scored nine of his 11 points in the opening frame and threw in three blocked shots to boot. Howard was in the starting lineup because senior center George Gordon missed the game due to concussion-like symptoms. Howard carried the Whippets, along with Matt Carson, who led West with 13 points, while Greg Barton, Carson and Stu McAvoy dominated the Red Devils (1-8) (9-9) on the glass. Howard, who is also a quarterback on the Downingtown West football team, said he is not fazed by the moment.

“I got some playing time recently and by playing football I am not nervous in these varsity games,” Howard said. “It is just like another game to me. And coach Ross talked to us about getting an early lead and not letting them up because they are a very well-coached team.”

With a 30-17 halftime lead, Ross emptied his bench in both the second and third quarters and was not let down. Davis Reardon buried a 3-pointer to start the third for a 33-17 Whippet edge. But, Avon Grove’s best player, Brandon McCullough buried the first of his four 3-pointers to make it a 33-20 game. McCullough led all scorers with 22 points and was the Red Devils’ only legitimate offensive threat.

Avon Grove closed the gap to 13 points when McCullough drained a corner 3-pointer to make it a 35-22 game. Wayne Anderson took a pretty feed from Barton to make it a 37-22 contest and give the Whippets their breathing room back. After an Avon Grove miss, Stu McAvoy scored in tight, got fouled and hit the free throw to make it a 40-22 margin and the Red Devils were up against it. The Whippets upped their 13-point halftime edge by outscoring Avon Grove 14-9 in the third and took a 44-26 stranglehold of the game after three quarters.

“We knew we had to step up without George in the lineup,” Barton said. “And Will and Matt Carson and the rest of the guys all got involved. It was a big win for us because we are trying to get a home game in the first round of the playoffs and it gets us ready for Bishop Shanahan on Thursday.”

Avon Grove, to its credit, continued to play hard and only lost the fourth quarter, 16-15, but a 14 for 40 shooting night and a bad performance on the glass did the Red Devils in. Downingtown West continued to get contributions from bench players as Evan Kaiser threw down three treys in the second half to finish with nine points. McCulllough tried to bring the Red Devils back within range and his 3-pointer got the Whippets’ lead down to 47-35 with just over four minutes to play. But baskets by Barton and Anderson got the Whippets back in control and West had a big win in the Ches-Mont National and district playoff race.

“We came out strong and defensively I thought we may have played one of our best games of the season.” Ross said.

Note >> Downingtown West has two games left in the regular season, Thursday night against Bishop Shanahan and next Tuesday vs. West Chester East.

Downingtown West 60, Avon Grove 41
AVON GROVE: McCullough 8 2-2 22, Russo 2 0-0 4, Murphy 3 2-2 10, Forst 1 1-1 3, Evans 0 2-2 2, Sar 0 0-1 0, Will 0 0-0 0, Borcky 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 7-8 41.
DOWNINGTOWN WEST: Lundberg 1 0-0 2, Mattson 1 0-0 2, Barton 2 0-0 4, Reardon 2 0-0 6, Kaiser 3 0-0 9, Carson 5 24-13, Howard 4 0-0 11, McAvoy 2 3-3 7, Lattanzi 1 0-0 2, Anderson 2 0-0 4, Reese 0 00 0, White 0 0-0 0. Totals  23 5-7 60.
Avon Grove    10    7    9    15 – 41
Downingtown West    22    8    14    16 – 60
3-point goals: McCullough 4, Murphy 2, Reardon 2, kaiser 3, Carson, Howard.

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