FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> The gym at Methacton High School was at capacity on Friday night — not unusual when league rival Spring-Ford comes to town.
However, instead of the bleachers jam-packed with two raucous student sections and about 900 total spectators in the gym, the capacity crowd Friday night was limited to a little more than 100 total people in the gym — the result of COVID-19 regulations.
Nonetheless the benches, cheerleaders and small group of Warriors parents and fans that were in the crowd made sure an exciting 53-48 overtime win over the Rams had an appropriate big game feel.
Juniors Brett Byrne and Cole Hargrove led the Warriors with 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division victory. Rams’ senior Zack Skrocki led all scorers with 16. Alex Lewis and Gavin Schauder both added 10 points for Spring-Ford.
“Typically a Methacton-Spring-Ford game is going to have a lot of energy from the fans, but I thought the players felt that out there,” Methacton coach Pat Lockard said. “…There was still kind of that environment without the crowd. With the crowd you like it even a little bit more, but I think you saw with the guys late in the fourth and the overtime period, they were fighting there trying to get through.”
A five-point lead for the Rams in the first quarter was the largest deficit for either side until the Warriors went up five in overtime. The two teams were tied at halftime, the Rams held a 38-37 advantage heading to the fourth and both held a lead in the final period.
Methacton sophomore Matt Christian knocked down a three to give the Warriors a 48-45 advantage with about a minute to go. Skrocki responded on the other end with a three from the top of the key off a feed from sophomore Alex Lewis to tie the game with 37.4 seconds left.
“It’s a lot of fun having it go down to the final seconds, get a win,” Byrne said. “It really shows what you’re made of and brings the team together in that type of situation.”
“I felt like the energy was high throughout the game,” he added. “I feel like at times we definitely could have brought more on the defensive end talking, but the benches, especially and the fans we had, we all came together. It wasn’t like a home game, but it was somewhat like it.”
Matt Christian puts Methacton ahead 48-45 with a minute to play. pic.twitter.com/LAr5SNsLCy
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) January 23, 2021
Zack Skrocki ties it 48-48 with 37.4 ticks remaining. pic.twitter.com/8ukLYVY83e
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) January 23, 2021
Lewis came up with a steal on an inbounds play with 3.4 seconds remaining in regulation to keep the Warriors from attempting a game-winner. On the next play, Methacton senior Steve Penjuke blocked Skrocki’s three-quarter-court heave almost as soon as it left his hands to send the game into OT.
The exciting contest came to a bit of an anti-climactic conclusion as both offenses were locked down in the extra four minutes. Byrne’s 3-pointer on the Warriors’ first possession of overtime and two Hargrove free throws with 22.4 seconds left made up all the scoring in the extra period as the Rams went scoreless.
“I think we were tentative,” Spring-Ford coach Chris Talley said. “I think we were kind of playing not to lose and not keeping the momentum that we had. I think we were too tentative and a little too indecisive. We needed people to step up and take the big shot, make the big play and just weren’t able to do it.”
After scoring 80 points in their opening win over Pottstown last Saturday, the Warriors weren’t too sharp offensively Friday night. With Hargrove and Byrne scoreless in the fourth quarter, Methacton turned to a few others down the stretch.
Christian, who had a tough shooting day against the Trojans, knocked down a pair of big threes in fourth. Senior Jason Price added another 3 in the fourth and assisted on a fastbreak score by Penjuke.
Senior Ryan Baldwin and Christian scored eight points for the Warriors. Penjuke had seven and Price added five in the victory
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, so it gives opportunities for everyone else to step up and make shots,” Byrne said. “I feel like when you’re not shooting well, you’ve gotta find other ways to score and I feel like we did that down the stretch thanks to Christian and Price hitting threes.”
It’s been a while since the Warriors were truly tested in a PAC contest.
Methacton went undefeated in the league in 2019-20, winning all but two games by double digits. Spring-Ford came closest to knocking off the Warriors last season, falling by two in an early season matchup. The Warriors last lost a league contest Jan. 13, 2019 to Norristown, extending the streak to 29 straight PAC regular season games with Friday night’s victory.
Though Methacton is already out to a 2-0 start in the PAC to begin its 2021 campaign, the Rams and the rest of the league are hoping the tight contest Friday night is a sign of parity returning to the league after a dominant stretch by the Warriors.
“I think everybody should be excited this year,” Talley said. “I think the past couple years, you knew you had to go through Methacton and that’d be a tough gauntlet. I think everyone this year kind of feels like they have a shot, so hopefully that plays out that way.”
Dirty Work >> Byrne and Lockard both noted the Warriors’ rebounding was key in coming out with the victory. Among a number of other thankless duties, Baldwin was active in helping give Methacton an edge on the glass. “He does a lot of little things for us that I don’t think get picked up by the common person watching the basketball game,” Lockard said.”But we see it on film when he sets a great screen or he gets a rebound and kicks it out for a three. He is such a team guy, team player. He was new to the program last year, and he fit so well with all the guys. We ask him to do a lot of the junkyard dog stuff and he eats that up.
Strange Schedules >> Spring-Ford was playing its third game in four days Friday night, picking up victories over Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts on Tuesday and Wednesday before having practice Thursday and coming back Friday against the Warriors. Conversely, Methacton hadn’t suited up against another squad since an opening win against Pottstown last Saturday. “There’s no excuse,” Talley said. “It comes with the territory. Everybody kind of knows they’ve gotta be flexible and you’ve gotta kind of adjust.”
METHACTON: Price 2 0-2 5, Merola 1 0-0 2, Byrne 4 2-2 12, Hargrove 4 3-6 11, Penjuke 3 0-0 7, Christian 3 0-0 8, Baldwin 3 2-2 8. Total 20 7-12 53.
SPRING-FORD: Skrocki 7 1-2 16, Irby 0 0-0 0, Turner 1 0-0 3, Lewis 4 2-3 10, Santiago 3 0-1 7, Kressley 1 0-0 2, Schauder 5 0-0 10 Totals 21 3-6 48.
Methacton 14 13 10 11 5-53
Spring-Ford 13 14 11 10 0-48
3-point goals: Byrne 2, Christian 2, Price, Penjuke, Skrocki, Turner, Santiago.