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Bonner & Prendergast big men rise above Malvern Prep

WEST CHESTER >> The plan Sunday afternoon was equally clear for Bonner & Prendergast and Malvern Prep.

With its twin big men, Ajiri Johnson and Tariq Ingraham, presiding over the lane, Bonner’s advantage would reside in the half-court offense. Malvern’s hopes rested on tiring out those big legs by pushing the tempo and running the court.

No matter how much Malvern ran, though, they couldn’t escape the instant offense created by Bonner’s towering duo, which combined for 34 points and 19 rebounds in an 83-65 thrashing at the Performance Refinement West Chester Showcase.

By turns, the pair divvied up the domination duties. Ingraham poured in eight of his 10 points in the first half. He added nine boards and three assists with his exemplary low-post passing vision.

Johnson started slowly but turned it on after halftime. He was 11-for-14 from the field (including 7-for-8 in the second half) for 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

“We didn’t try to run with them,” Johnson said. “We tried to slow the pace down. They like to run fast, but they don’t like to play transition defense. They tried to rush us, but we tried to slow the game down. We practice that all week long.”

“They controlled the tempo today, and it showed on the scoreboard,” said Malvern Prep guard Deuce Turner, who scored a team-high 17 points. “We’ve got to push the tempo, we’ve got to make them play at our pace, and we didn’t do that tonight. And we got blown out, by a lot.”

That’s not entirely the case, though. Bonner proved it could speed it up when needed. The conduit was Isaiah Wong, the blue-chip point guard who made Bonner go at any speed. He hit three first-quarter 3-pointers on the way to 27 points.

“Isaiah, he’s a controlled guard,” Johnson said. “He knows what he can do with the ball, and we trust him 100 percent.”

The game was relatively close late in the first half until Wong created separation in a 33-23 game. The Notre Dame (N.J) transfer scored a bucket, head-manned a break after a rebound and dished to Johnson, then picked a Malvern pocket and went to the rack himself. It was part of a 13-0 run that bridged the halftime gap, creating a 23-point margin.

That spread was exacerbated by Malvern’s poor shooting. It wasn’t until the starters hit the bench and the JV came in that a Malvern Prep 3-pointer bottomed in, courtesy of Colin Wolfe on the team’s 16th attempt. Malvern shot just 35.7 percent from the field (25-for-70), and the absence of an offensive plan forced the team to move quicker, which created more mistakes and less continuity.

Billy Corcoran scored 10 points but was kept off the glass with just three boards. Isaac White added nine points and Spencer Cochran eight.

Once Ingraham and Johnson got going, there was no slowing them. That owes in part to each big man’s ability to pass out of the low block. And when they do that, suddenly space abounds for the rest of their teammates, with eight Friars hitting a basket.

“We’re just looking for each other,” Ingraham said. “Looking for each other helps us and gets the team out. It gets us easy buckets. … It opens the floor. It creates easy points for us in the paint and when we kick it out to guard for the three.”

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