Upper Merion’s Breece among unsung heroes making big impact

Upper Merion’s star forward Matt Faw injured his foot in the fourth game of the season. The team is filled with seniors and with one awkward landing it looked like the year they all looked forward to could go down the drain.

But reserve Joe Breece stepped up.

The senior guard didn’t try out for the basketball team two years ago and played exclusively on JV last year. The team returned all five starters from their playoff appearance last season, so the plan was to ease Breece into his role. That all changed when Faw got hurt.

“(Breece) was always that guy that was around the ball in whatever way — rebounding, steals,” Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer said of Breece as a junior. “We called him ‘magnet’ last year.

“Not having Matt, (Breece) has had to play a substantial amount of minutes, but deservingly so. Just timely steals, an incredible rebounder. He’s under six-foot and he’s probably the best rebounder on our team. Just a tenacious kid. With Matt on the shelf, what’s going to happen? And (Breece) filled that starting role and really helped us stay afloat as we battled in a tough division with some really tough non-league games. He’s been a guy we leaned on now for the past month and a half without Matt.”

In the 17 games Faw missed, the Vikings went 8-9. They finished the regular season 13-9 — 8-2 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division — good enough for first place and a spot in the PAC Final Five this weekend.

Faw returned — playing with a minutes restriction — to help the Vikings win their last game against Pottsgrove and figures to see more minutes as time goes on. Quenzer has some decisions to make when it comes to which players to put on the floor.

“It’s going to be tough now making some decisions,” the coach said. “(Breece has) really earned his way to some significant minutes. I’m going to have to be really creative here and hopefully we all understand what’s on the line and what we want to go after. I think he’ll be a guy who contributes a significant amount of minutes going forward.”

North Penn’s strategy for success is simple — put the best athletes on the floor and let them work together. That plan has gotten the Knights to the top of the SOL Continental Conference with a 10-1 league record.

One of those athletes is do-it-all senior Lance Ford.

Ford has played just about every role for North Penn — point guard, starter, sixth man — and has contributed in every spot to help them get to the top of the league.

He’s one of Knights better outside shooters and his athleticism allows him to get to the basket and cause havoc on the defensive end.

Plymouth Whitemarsh won another Suburban One League America Conference title with a 13-0 record with one game remaining. The team is 18-3 overall and the No. 2 team in the latest District 1 Class-6A unofficial power rankings.

While that is a dominant season, not every game has been a cake walk. The Colonials have gotten off to a few slow starts and needed a jolt off the bench.

Enter senior guard Kareem Breeden.

The 6-foot-1 Breeden is one of the first substitutes off of coach Jim Donofrio’s bench and he brings a ton of energy — similar to what Ahmin and Ahmad Williams provided during last year’s district championship run.

Breeden uses that energy on defense to frustrate opponents and force turnovers. He’s a capable scorer when given the opportunity on offense and can be counted on in clutch situations. He scored five points in the fourth quarter against Cheltenham earlier this season when both teams were undefeated inSOL American play.

The most important quality in a high school point guard is ball-handling. A lot of teams play full-court press or use mid-court traps. Without a point guard capable of beating pressure defenses, you’re going to allow a lot of easy points off turnovers.

Abington has one of the most trustworthy point guards in the area — Rob Young.

The senior turns the ball over less than two times per game and is a big reason why the Ghosts are leading the SOL National Conference with a perfect 11-0 record.

He’s also a much better three-point shooter than he was in the past after putting in a lot of work last summer.

Chris Edwards did it all for the Hatboro-Horsham football team. He was a threat with his arm and his legs at quarterback and shut down opposing wide receivers as a cornerback on defense.

He’s just as versatile on the basketball court, albeit in a more low-key fashion.

Just like on the football field, Edwards can set up his teammates or score himself. He gets the ball to forwards Clifton Moore and Jay Davis in good positions for easy baskets.

Edwards also uses his size and strength to his advantage to grab rebounds on the defensive end.

When you check the box score after a Wissahickon game, Zach Gelman probably is not going to be the team’s leading scorer. He’s even had a game this season where he didn’t score a point. But that doesn’t diminish the impact he has for the Trojans.

Gelman — the starting point guard — is a key contributor to Wissahickon’s 9-4 SOL American record — good enough for third place — and 12-9 overall mark that has the Trojans in line for a home District 1 Class-5A playoff game.

Gelman always looks in control on the floor with the ball in his hands. He’s capable of beating pressure defense and gets the ball to Wissahickon’s primary scorers inside — Shane Ford and Zach Reiner — and outside — Max Rapoport.

Archbishop Wood is in first place in the Philadelphia Catholic League in large part due to the league’s leading scorer and Villanova commit Collin Gillespie.

When you look past Gillespie, not many are more important to the Vikings success than senior guard Keith Otto.

Otto gets himself open beyond the three-point line and makes teams pay when the collapse on Gillespie, Tyree Pickron and Matt Cerruti in the paint.

He can get the ball to open teammates for easy baskets and locks down his man on defense.

The first thing that stands out watching La Salle is probably how quick point guard Jarrod Stukes is with the ball in his hands. Or maybe it’s the outside shooting of Sean Simon or Matt Paulus.

What might take an extra look to notice is the impact of guard Allen Powell.

The 5-foot-10 sophomore plays with composure beyond his years, especially against the great competition he faces in the Catholic League.

Powell can handle the ball and beat the press when Stukes needs a break. He has range to hit outside shots in addition to the ability to score at the rim.

When Stukes and Paulus — both guards — graduate this year, Powell should be much more than an unsung hero in 2018.

Top Photo: North Penn’s Lance Ford is defended by Upper Moreland’s Damian Washington during their game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

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