Wissahickon shows no signs of rust, wears down Phoenixville in district opener

PHOENIXVILLE >> Fifteen days had passed since Wissahickon had last played a game.

So much for any signs of rust.

Senior Shane Ford paced the way with 20 points while junior Zach Reiner added 17 of his own as the Trojans raced out to an early double-digit lead and made it stay en route to a 67-48 victory over No. 6 Phoenixville in the District 1 Class 5A opening round Wednesday night.

“It was the practice plus the scrimmages that we had (throughout the two weeks) that helped us stay in rhythm,” Ford said. “We had two (scrimmages), one against Council Rock and one against Cheltenham. They are two of the top teams in the district so it really helped us a lot.”

The benefits were easy to see.

Wissahickon shot a blistering 70 percent from the field in the first quarter to open up a 16-6 lead before a 6-for-11 effort in the second quarter, coupled with tremendous defensive pressure to build a 34-17 lead at the half. 

Ford and Reiner were catalysts to the first-half surge, Ford scoring 10 of his game-high total in the opening 16 minutes with Reiner adding 12 points inside the paint.

“I was just feeling it.” Ford said with a smile. “I have to thank my teammates for getting me open and passing me the ball, too.”

Phoenixville’s Shyheim Abernathy goes up for a contested shot during the first half. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Chaz Owens added 12 points (seven coming in the second quarter) for Wissahickon, which never led from start-to-finish. The Trojans will travel to face No. 3 Penncrest, a 51-44 victor over Harriton, in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m.

Phoenixville, meanwhile, saw its season come to a close 20 days after the Phantoms played their last game — a 63-59 victory over Upper Merion on February 2.

“It’s been a long ride,” Phoenixville head coach Eric Burnett said of the long layoff. “(We) started off really strong in the first couple of practices, tapered off a little bit and then picked back up as you would expect with high school kids coming to practice everyday. I couldn’t be more proud of this group for showing up each and every day and working hard.”

Rust, however, was evident. The Phantoms shot 2-for-12 from the floor to start and couldn’t make up ground the rest of the way. The team trailed by double digits except for a three-minute stretch in the fourth where they cut the deficit down to eight.

Wissahickon’s Max Rapoport shoots a 3-pointer in front of his bench during the second half. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

“You could clearly see our rust in the first half,” Phoenixville head coach Eric Burnett said. “We had a run in us in the second half but it was too late. We knew it was going to be a rough start but I’m proud of the boys for really fighting. “

Shyheim Abernathy led the team with 13 points and was one of two that finished in double figures (Phil Meszaros had 10 points). Senior Avery Close, who came into Wednesday averaging 17.9 points per game, was kept in check throughout. He finished with nine.

“Our mentality was to stop their two best scorers,” Ford said. “Once we started doing that in the first quarter, we knew we could keep getting the game going in our favor. Our offense was going to come, we just had to focus on defense.”

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