LOWER MERION >> Dock Mennonite Academy had come close to winning a district boys basketball championship several times over the last few years, only to come up short in the final twice and in the semifinals last season.
But the Pioneers finally earned that elusive title Saturday afternoon with a 69-49 win over Church Farm School in the District 1 Class 2A final at Lower Merion’s Bryant Gymnasium.
Dock senior Darius Ellis scored 24 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and hit the 1,000-point mark for his career. Steve Martin added 14 points and Ralph Saint-Fleur 12 points for the No. 1 seed Pioneers (22-5), who will open PIAA play on March 7 against the third-place team from District 12.
Mamadou Sissoko scored 14 and Reggie Phifer 11 for the Griffins (10-10), who had also already clinched a state berth and will open up against the District 11 champion.
“Four years … waiting four years for this,” said Ellis. “This is definitely the greatest moment ever. One thousand points never beats it. For all the people who doubted us, this is a lot.”
“Since we lost freshman and sophomore years, we came back and we knew what we had to do,” added senior Saint-Fleur. “We just executed everything our coach wanted us to do.”
Third-seeded Church Farm, which defeated Dock 70-63 in last year’s semifinals, took a 7-5 lead on an offensive rebound basket by Sonel Jimenez (9 points) and the Griffins were down by only 21-17 midway through the second quarter.
But Dock scored the final seven points of the first half on two free throws by Martin, a steal and breakaway layup by Ellis and a 3-pointer from the top of the circle by Saint-Fleur. Then Dock ran off 10 more in a row, the last four by Dallas Wilder, after the break for a 38-17 lead with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter.
“We had a lull and we didn’t quite recover from it,” said Church Farm coach Jonathan Guarente. “They had athletes to guard our guys and a 6-7 guy (Ellis) at the rim.”
The Griffins held their own after that, still trailing by 17 after three quarters and closing to within 56-41 midway through the fourth. But Dock ran off nine straight points after that to break the game open for good.
The first points of that run came on a three-point play by Ellis, giving him the 1,000-point milestone with 4:16 to be played.
“We had to step up the offense,” said Ellis, who dove out of bounds on a pair of rebound attempts. “We wanted this more than anything after the running and all the hard work.”
“I thought we got too comfortable with the lead,” added Saint-Fleur. “That’s happened to us before. We had to re-lock in and we knew we just had to start playing our game again.”
Dock shot 58 percent from the floor and had a 34-19 advantage on the boards. The Pioneer defense forced eight turnovers in the second quarter, most of them on the run at the end of the first half.
“I’m really proud of my kids,” said Guarente. “They kept fighting until the end. We’re a young team. We’re ahead of schedule in a lot of ways. There’s no substitute for experience. We’re going to cherish it.”
Dock Mennonite 69, Church Farm School 49
Church Farm School 10 7 13 19 — 49
Dock Mennonite 12 16 19 22 — 69
Church Farm School: Johnson 0 0-2 0, Jimenez 2 5-9 9, Young 2 0-0 5, Phifer 4 0-0 11, Sissoko 6 0-2 14, Toledo 2 0-0 5, Sow 1 0-0 2, Okera-Anglin 0 0-0 0, Sharkey 1 0-0 3, Ragin 0 0-0 0, Oyebola 0 0-0 0, Totals 18 5-13 49.
Dock Mennonite: Saint-Fleur 5 0-0 12, Wilder 2 1-2 5, Martin 5 3-3 14, Ellis 9 6-10 24, Jainlett 3 0-1 6, Kuhn 1 0-0 2, Derstine 3 0-0 6, Lapp 0 0-0 0, Barnes 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Dorsey 0 0-0 0, Totals 28 10-16 69.
3-point goals: Young, Phifer 3, Sissoko 2, Toledo, Sharkey, Saint-Fleur 2, Martin.
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