Big 4th sends Upper Merion past Bishop Shanahan, into District 1-5A final

PHILADELPHIA >> The offense finally came in the fourth quarter for the Upper Merion boys basketball team.

After the eighth-seeded Vikings and No. 4 Bishop Shanahan struggled to score any points through three quarters of their District 1-5A semifinal, the shots began the fall for Upper Merion, who scored 25 points in the final period and pulled away for a 45-30 victory Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center.

“When knew it was going to be one way or the other. Some team was going to start hitting after you kind of get used to the atmosphere,” Vikings coach Jason Quenzer said. “Lucky enough it was us.”

Ethan Miller scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the second half as Upper Merion (16-10) advances to face Penncrest in the district final at 2 p.m. Saturday at Villanova’s Pavilion. The third-seeded Lions knocked off No. 2 Great Valley 41-33 in the first game of the semifinal doubleheader.

The Vikings are looking to claim to first District 1 title since claiming the 4A crown in 1993.

“It’s big cause we’ve been working our whole life for this,” UM’s Aidan Newell said. “It’s going to be fun, looking forward to it.”

Shanahan (20-7) was trying to earn a chance to play for its first District 1 title since back-to-back 2A championships in 1995 and 1996, but could never put together a run. The Eagles led four times in the contest, but each time it was just a point – the last at 19-18 after a David Angelo bucket in the third quarter.

Angelo hit a trio of 3-pointers and had a team-high 11 points for Bishop Shanahan, who lost to Upper Merion for the second time this season –falling 47-43 on the road Dec. 23.

The Eagles, who clinched their PIAA berth with their quarterfinal win over West Chester Rustin last Saturday, visit Great Valley in the 5A third-place game Friday.

Newell had 12 points for Upper Merion, 10 coming in the fourth. His three-point play off a drive into the lane with 6:42 in the quarter put the Vikings up 25-21. Newell’s then chipped in four points – Andrew Persaud had the other eight – in a 12-0 run as UM took a 15-point advantage.

“You should see his face in the huddle, his face is just blank. You know what’s going on inside, he’s so confident,” said Quenzer of Newell. “And he’s work so hard to get there. But he’s just cool, calm and collected and guys just follow suit.”

Upper Merion’s Joe Breece (12) puts a shot up against Bishop Shanahan Kevin Dodds (10) and (5) John Kozinski (5) in the first quarter of their District 1-5A semifinal at Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

After Newell put the Viking up four, Miller’s transition layup extended the lead to 27-21 before a Daniel Browne three-point got the Eagles within 27-24 at 6:06.

But Newell and Persaud took over with Persaud connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers to cap the 12-point burst and give Upper Merion a 39-24 advantage. All eight of Persaud’s points on the night came during the run.

“Andrew came in there in the fourth and knocked down two gigantic threes where you’re building a lead and then that lead jumps to six. But same time we knew that no leads too big against a team that can shoot the ball like they can,” Quenzer said. We’ve seen plenty of games where we’re up 20 and it comes back all the way to the other side because they just get hot.

“So in the huddle we just said ‘Great run, know refocus. Start from scratch, go out, work you tail out on defense and be patient on offense.’”

Angelo found his stroke from long range, hitting a pair of threes to cut the Eagles deficit to 11 at 41-30. But Shanahan stayed stuck on 30 with the Vikings going 4-of-6 from the line in the final minute to seal their trip to Villanova.

It was struggle for either team to collected points until the third and then Upper Merion’s 25-point explosion in the fourth.

“It was frustrating but we knew how to persevere through it,” Newell said. “Second half we started getting to the rim cause that’s where we were getting all our points.”

Bishop Shanahan did not have a field goal in the first quarter – its lone points in the period coming on Thomas’ Ford two free throws at 1:21 to made it 4-2 UM. A Miller bucket inside had the Vikings leading 6-2 after eight minutes.

Angelo began the second quarter’s scoring with a three with the Eagles pulling level 9-9 when John Kozinski made two from the line at 3:38. A Newell free throw 35 seconds later had Upper Merion up a point but Kevin Dodds’ converted a pair from the stripe with 46.5 seconds left, giving Shanahan its first lead and sending into the half with an 11-10 edge.

“I bet if you ask both coaches at halftime the score’s 11-10 they’d say in the first five minutes maybe,” Quenzer said. “Shanahan’s a defensive squad. We pride ourselves on defense a lot. Going into halftime it’s anybody’s game.”

Baskets from Matt Faw – who finished with eight points – and Miller had Upper Merion ahead 14-11 early in the third before Brown hit a jumper then made two free throws at 5:11 to give the Eagles back the advantage at 15-14.

The teams proceeded to trade one-point leads with Miller putting the Vikings up for good with his basket to make it 20-19 Upper Merion entering the fourth.

Upper Merion 45, Bishop Shanahan 30
Upper Merion   6 4 10 25 — 45
Bishop Shanahan  2 9 8 11 — 30
Upper Merion: Ethan Miller 6 3-4 15; Aidan Newell 3 6-9 12; Matt Faw 4 0-1 8; Andrew Persaud 3 0-0 8; Joe Breece 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 9-14 45.
Bishop Shanahan: David Angelo 4 0-0 11; John Kozinski 2 2-2 6; Thomas Ford 1 3-3 5; Daniel Browne 1 2-2 4; Kevin Dodds 1 2-2 4. Totals 9 9-9 30.
Three-pointers: UM-Persaud 2; S-Angelo 3.

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