Team basketball sends Abington over Neshaminy, into District 1-6A quarters

ABINGTON >> Lucas Monroe had baited the trap perfectly.

As Neshaminy inbounded to start the third quarter, Monroe struck the second guard Chris Arcidiacono caught the ball. Monroe normally backed off a few steps but this time, the Abington junior pounced, ripping the ball free and to waiting teammate Darious Brown.

Brown fired the ball up the court to Monroe, who rose and dunked in front of the Galloping Ghosts’ student section and it only felt like a matter of time at that point.

Monroe put together an all-around game on both ends as No. 2 Abington let out a lot of pent-up energy in a 71-41 takedown of No. 18 Neshaminy in the second round of the District I 6A boys’ basketball playoffs Tuesday.

“I knew they were going to throw it behind him and I figured he probably didn’t expect I would jump at it because I usually play him like that and take a couple steps back,” Monroe said. “I figured I would go for it, I think I set him up pretty well for it throughout the game.”

Monroe, who spent every second he was on the floor guarding Arcidiacono, the talented and high-scoring Neshaminy senior, also managed 11 points, four rebounds and six assists for the Ghosts. Eric Dixon led Abington with 19 points and the Ghosts, who hadn’t played since Feb. 10, showed little in the way of rust.

It was the third meeting of the season between the two teams, and Monroe said the Ghosts looked at it as a challenge despite two lopsided wins over Neshaminy in the regular season. While the visitors, coming off a win against No. 15 CB South in the first round, had momentum, the Ghosts had balance.

Monroe said Abington spent a lot of the week between games practicing without Dixon and Robbie Heath as they mended some injuries and it let the other guys on the team shine. At the half, no Ghost player had more than nine points, but five had at least seven.

“We had a really good week of practice actually, I think we played with a lot of energy and played really hard,” Monroe said. “I think that attributed to it a lot, we did a lot of work. I’ve been saying it all year, we have a really deep team and we have 14 guys who can come out and play. It’s just a matter of them getting the opportunity to do it.”

Brown scored all eight of his points in the first half, JP Nolan had eight of his 10 in the second quarter, Monroe scored seven in the second quarter while Dixon had eight in the first frame.

Abington coach Charles Grasty said he tried to keep days loose during the team’s week off while also focusing on putting in the hard work needed. As the defending district champs, everyone wants what the Ghosts have, so that’s motivation enough.

But there’s also the specter of two years ago. Fresh off another district title, that group of Ghosts, which featured Monroe and Dixon as freshmen, earned a No. 6 seed and got bounced in the first round by Upper Dublin, denying them a trip to states.

While the format is different now, a win on Tuesday made sure the Ghosts would get to play into March.

“This game every year bothers me because you want to win just so the guys can experience states,” Grasty said. “We tell the guys you win this one and you’re guaranteed at least three more games. Sometimes getting through to them is tough, they don’t understand the districts and states and stuff, they just want to play.”

The game started 4-4 until Abington scored the next seven points and led 17-9 after the first quarter, with the last points coming on a deep contested 3-pointer by Arcidiacono. As a team, Abington shot 9-of-20 from beyond the arc and the team knocked down five treys from four different guys in the second quarter.

The Ghosts were up 39-18 at the break and after Monroe’s steal and slam to open the third, they kept it rolling to a 56-27 edge before pulling their starters early in the fourth quarter.

“We shared the ball well in that first half,” Grasty said. “The guys understand we don’t care about points, we want to reach our goals. We set goals for ourselves and we want to reach them, so who cares how many points we score to do it.”

Abington, especially Monroe, hounded Arcidiacono all game and while the senior finished with 12 points, he shot just 4-of-15 from the floor. Grasty has praised Monroe, who is drawing interest from Penn along with several other Division I schools, all season for his assertiveness on offense and his dependability on defense.

All season, the 6-foot-5 Monroe has been Abington’s top defender and he again stepped up to the task of guarding Arcidiacono. The junior has plenty of respect for Arcidiacono’s ability and said some shots, like that deep trey, as just ones you give the other guy credit for and get back to work.

“I think I did a good job of pressuring him so he wasn’t able to relax and walk the ball up the court,” Monroe said. “I used my length to get a hand in on his shot, I think I made him take some tough shots. It’s just about making him work, he made one where I was in his face, fading away about three feet behind the 3-point line. If he’s going to make those, all credit to him, but I’m going to be there trying to make him work to even take that kind of shot.”

Neshaminy drops into the playback bracket as it will pursue the last two of District I’s 10 state playoff bid. Abington will host No. 7 seed Norristown on Friday, in a game that will likely pack the Ghosts’ gym.

“I don’t think we represented Abington very well (in a loss) against CB West, so we wanted to show even with a week off, we could come in and play hard,” Monroe said. “We wanted to get a big lead, keep it and play hard for the full 32 minutes.”

NESHAMINY 9 9 9 14 – 41
ABINGTON 17 22 17 15 – 71
A: Eric Dixon 6 6-7 19, Robbie Heath 3 5-6 12, Darious Brown 3 0-0 8, Brandon Coffman 2 0-0 2, Lucas Monroe 4 2-4 11, JP Nolan 4 0-0 10, Bryan Coffman 2 0-0 6, Dante Knox 1 1-1 3. Totals: 24 14-18 71.
N: Chris Arcidiacono 4 3-4 12, Pat Campbell 0 1-2 1, Anthony Papeo 3 2-2 8, Danny Bodine 5 0-0 12, Cam Jeffers 1 0-0 2, Damon McGovern 1 0-1 2, Ian Deduro 0 1-2 1, McClinton 1 0-0 3. Totals: 15 7-11 41.
3-pointers: A – Nolan 2, Brown 2, Bry Coffman 2, Heath, Dixon, Monroe; N – Bodine 2, Arcidiacono 2, McClinton.

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