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Dock Mennonite’s comeback falls short against Holy Ghost Prep in BAL semifinals

TOWAMENCIN >> A little too little, a little too late.

Dock Mennonite trailed Holy Ghost Prep by 24 points late in the third quarter and 20 points early in the fourth of the Bicentennial Athletic League semifinals Thursday night.

The second-seeded Pioneers rattled off 16 straight points and cut their deficit to three four separate times, but it wasn’t enough as the third-seeded Firebirds hit their free throws down the stretch to leave Dock Mennonite Academy with a 74-69 win.

“Holy Ghost is a great program, very well-coached,” Dock coach Mike Fergus said. “For you to come back from that much against a team that doesn’t miss free throws – it says a lot about your character. I wished we’d have won the game, but that was a tremendous comeback. That said, the game is more than the last quarter. We needed to string together some better quarters earlier. If we play with that intensity through districts we’ll be fine.”

Dock trailed by 20, 63-43, with six minutes left in the game. That’s when its defense took over, forcing turnovers on seven straight Holy Ghost possessions to spark a 16-0 run that would get the Pioneers within four, 63-59.

“I knew we were capable of getting stops on them and having run-outs,” Dock senior Ralph Saint-Fleur said, referencing their regular-season meeting last month. “That’s what we do best. Going into the fourth quarter I had energy. I didn’t stop motivating my teammates to try to shorten the lead. I just kept on encouraging my teammates and we ended narrowing the lead. Every time we’d get a bucket the energy would just pick up and the momentum would head our way.”

Holy Ghost’s Tyler Mish shifted the momentum all game and delivered when it mattered most. The 6-foot-2 senior scored through contact and completed the three-point play to get the Firebirds lead back to seven, 66-59, with 2:33 to play. Mish, who scored a game-high 39 points, went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 1:17. He extended three-point leads to five on both trips.

The Pioneers final chance came when Darius Ellis scored through contact with 6.7 seconds left to cut their deficit to three, 72-69. He missed the free throw long, but HGP’s TJ Butler secured the rebound and knocked down two free throws to make it a 74-69 final.

Ellis scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter while Saint-Fleur had eight of his 24. Steve Martin went on a personal  7-0 run – accounting for all of his points in the game – in the middle of the fourth to get Dock within 11, 63-52.

Mish got off to a hot start. He came out of the gate 6-for-6, scoring HGP’s first 15 points to help his side to a 21-14 lead after eight minutes.

“We knew he was one of their best players if not their best,” Saint-Fleur said. “The first time we went against them he was scoring but not as much and not making as many shots as he did tonight. Tonight he was just lighting it up. We tried to adjust and kind of did, but he still found ways to score on us. We have to give him props for that.”

He added six more in the second quarter as the Firebirds expanded their lead to 39-21 at halftime.

In the third, Mish scored 11 points while Steve Cianci had five and Ryan O’Hara four to extend the lead to 24 points. When the third quarter was over the Firebirds held a 59-39 advantage.

“We were pressing and we were in scramble,” Fergus said of the first three quarters. “They were making extra passes and hitting threes. Mish had a career night – give him credit. He shot the lights out. We took the press off a little bit in the fourth quarter and trapped more in half-court and we did a better job, didn’t have to cover as much space. They were handling our pressure and hitting open shots. Sometimes those are good shots to make them take, but when a team shoots like that they’re hard to beat.”

Devon Jainlett and Saint-Fleur each had seven third-quarter points to give the Pioneers a fighting chance in the fourth.

Holy Ghost will face No. 1 The Christian Academy, a 61-58 winner over No. 4 Delco Christian, in the BAL championship game Saturday at 3 p.m. at Morrisville High School.

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