QUAKERTOWN >> Things looked a bit different Friday night when Pennridge and Quakertown met in the season opener for both schools at Quakertown Senior High School.
When players were introduced before the game, they didn’t give fist bumps to the officials or handshakes to the opposing coach. When they were on the bench they sat in folding chairs spaced apart. When they were on the floor they wore masks.
Other than the COVID-19 precautions, however, it looked like what you’d expect in a matchup between two rival schools separated by less than eight miles. Neither team ever lead by more than seven points and when the final buzzer sounded it was Pennridge walking away with a 39-33 non-league win.
“It was a typical Pennridge-Quakertown battle,” Rams coach Dean Behrens said. “I also think it was great that we were able to play. Chalk that up as a win for both teams.”
Pennridge (1-0) held a 24-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter. A 6-0 run to start the final frame – highlighted by a Matt Campione three-pointer – gave the Rams the largest lead of the game, 30-23. The Panthers battled back to within three, 34-31, but Campione, a sophomore playing in his first varsity game, delivered another three-pointer.
“Coach just told me to get ready to catch and shoot,” Campione, who added a free throw for seven fourth-quarter points, said. “That’s what I did and my teammates found me.”
“We just started putting him a little bit with varsity,” Behrens said of Campione, who also grabbed two key rebounds down the stretch in the fourth quarter. “My assistants gave a great suggestion – give Matt a run. He really can shoot the basketball … When he first got in he was a little gun-shy, now we knocked that out of him and look at how our kids reacted to him – our seniors were encouraging him. We have good teammates. We have to play hard, be good teammates and always try to have more energy than the other team. If you do those three things you’re going to be successful.”
Pennridge and Quakertown played an even first quarter, locked in a 10-10 tie after eight minutes. The Rams jumped out to a 6-1 lead when Luke Yoder and TJ Grenda hit back-to-back threes, but six different Panthers scored in the first quarter to close the frame on a 9-4 run.
Justin Nichols and Colin Post each scored five points in the second quarter to help Pennridge to a 20-15 halftime advantage.
Quakertown (0-1) battled back in the third quarter. The Panthers doubled up the Rams, 8-4, to send it to the fourth as a one-point game, 24-23.
Both teams struggled from the free-throw line. Pennridge went 9-for-19 from the charity stripe while Quakertown was 6-for-17.
“Our free-throw shooting let us down,” Quakertown coach Tony DaCosta said. “We missed more than we lost by. We’ve got to do a better job of making free throws and concentrating on that. (Pennridge is) a great team, they’ll obviously be in the district playoffs again. We have to do our part and make sure we take care of the basketball, make free throws and run through our offense a lot smoother.”
Justin Nichols and Yoder led Pennridge with eight points apiece. Colin Post and Campione each added seven. Nichols, Yoder and Post played the entire game.
Kayden Roley scored a game-high 10 points for the Panthers. Matt Catalano and Brendan Ruzicka each scored five points.
NEW COACH >> DaCosta coached his first game with Quakertown Friday night. DaCosta coached Faith Christian Academy for five years until 2019. He led the Lions to a District 1-A championship in 2018.
DaCosta was happy with what he saw from the Panthers against Pennridge.
“I thought we played real well defensively,” he said. “It’s no secret that Pennridge is a team that’s consistently played in the state playoffs the last couple years. For us to be able to hold them to 39 points – I think it’s attributed to how we played defense.”
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