Phoenixville finds winning formula against Pottsgrove

PHOENIXVILLE >> They knew the formula to win.

This time, Avery Close, Shyheim Abernathy and Phoenixville just needed to implement it.

Boy, did they.

Headed by Close’s fifth double-double in the last seven games and Abernathy’s 17-point night, the Phantoms raced out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 60-47 victory over Pottsgrove in a must-win Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division matchup Tuesday night.

“We knew we had to be aggressive,” Close, a 6-6 senior, said. “We lost to Pottsgrove last game because we didn’t come out hard enough and they beat us on hustle and effort. We knew we had to come out of the gate hard and smash them in the mouth, get rebounds, hit shots and lock them down on defense.”

Phoenixville’s Avery Close (5) gets a shot over Pottsgrove’s Damir Johnson during the first half. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Phoenixville atoned for their loss to the Falcons in the beginning of January by sticking to the team’s formula. It worked, and it showed early. Close sparked the Phantoms with 14 of his team-high 24 points in the first quarter as the team built a 10-point lead (21-11) through lane-clogging defense and terrific shot selection.

Nothing wavered throughout the next three quarters as the Phantoms kept the lead out of reach, extending it to as many as 14 points midway through the fourth quarter. Close finished with 12 rebounds to go along with his 24 points while Abernathy finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, including a vicious dunk in the second quarter.

“I really liked the way we set the tone tonight,” Phoenixville head coach Eric Burnett said. “We came out taking really good shots coming out the of the gate and were strong defensively in limiting their second chances. Credit to our guys for coming out with the right mentality.”

“They out-rebounded us and scored way too many points in the paint last time,” Abernathy said. “Our goal was to keep them out and make them shoot jumpers and force them into tough shots.”

Pottsgrove’s Nik Curnew goes in for a contested shot as Phoenixville’s Shyheim Abernathy (0) defends. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

The win does enough to keep Phoenixville (6-3 Frontier, 7-5 PAC) in the Frontier Division race currently headed by Upper Merion (7-1, 12-8), which fell 62-60 to Pottstown in league play also on Tuesday night. Phoenixville hosts Upper Merion Thursday night.

“We have one more shot against Upper Merion on Thursday night but out mindset isn’t going to be any different,” Burnett said. “We just want to get better every day and we preach that to every player in our locker room. I think we’ll take that challenge and come out and play a real good basketball game on our senior night.”

Pottsgrove’s Nik Curnew was a bright spot in the loss as he finished as the game’s leading scorer with 25 points with five 3-pointers. The 6-2 senior guard did his best to rally the Falcons (5-3,5-6) in each quarter, hitting for 14 of the team’s 26 points in the first half before hitting for another 10 in the fourth as he tried to go toe-to-toe with Close and Abernathy.

It didn’t fare in his favor as Abernathy and Close combined for 10 points in the final frame to keep their lead from falling below 10.

“Shyheim really came into his own tonight,” Burnett said. “He played some real good basketball and took some good shots and got his teammates involved. It was a real good game from him.”


1Manny Clark12215
2Steve Hein20004
4Jayden Blakey20004
5Nik Curnew844525
10James Dargen00000
22Damir Johnson00000
23Tre Whitehurst21216
32Nick DeCurtis11203


1Shyheim Abernathy711217
2Zion Small00000
3Phil Meszaros344111
5Avery Close767424
10Nasir Green20004
11Hunter Herschell10102
32Quinn Danna00000
40Tim Kopera00000
41Colton Brown02202
53Dalton Jowder00000
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