WARMINSTER >> Derrik Cosenza didn’t have his best offensive night, but he made sure the ball was in his hands when it mattered.
The William Tennent senior forward came down with two key rebounds in the final minute Wednesday night as the Panthers held off a late charge by visiting Lower Moreland. Making their season debut, the Lions went from cold start to within a 3-pointer of tying the score but Tennent’s defense was up for the task.
Thanks to a couple key late stops, the Panthers held to top the Lions 47-43 and continue their undefeated start.
“Our defense doesn’t get enough credit,” Cosenza said. “We try to keep teams under 10 (points) every quarter and it comes from the way we can pick up our intensity on that end. We switch from man to zone, which I think throws teams off but mostly, we’re just very aggressive.”
Lower Moreland, which saw the start of its season delayed by a COVID-19 shutdown, looked like a team that hadn’t had much practice time for much of the first half. The Lions came out ice cold, connecting on just 2-of-18 field goals to start the contest and trailed 15-5 with 2:19 left in the first half.
Defensively however, they were energetic and kept the Panthers (5-0, 4-0 SOL Freedom) from pulling too far away despite their sluggish start. Lions coach Seth Baron didn’t expect his team to shoot the lights out right away and was happy with how his players found their confidence as the game went on.
“We had our chances,” Baron said. “They’re undefeated and playing well, so to be right in it with them and having a chance to at least tie the game, I’m pleased. This gives us a really good place to start and build.”
The visitors took some momentum into the half thanks to a 7-0 run capped by Jack Doneker hitting a buzzer-beating heave from just over midcourt to end the second quarter. After a slow first half ended with Tennent leading 15-12, the third quarter felt like a shootout by comparison as both squads posted at least 20 points.
Tennent coach Robert Mulville credited the Lions (0-1, 0-1) for sticking with it and hitting some tough shots over his defense in the second half but also liked his team’s resolve and balance on Wednesday. The Panthers didn’t have a single player in double-figuring scoring offensively, but had multiple guys stepping up to help out.
“We struggled offensively in the sense our leading scorers didn’t have many points but they didn’t buckle,” William Tennent coach Robert Mulville said. “That’s kind of the way this team has been. Derrik and Jay (Stanfield) are the leading scorers but we’ve had at least one guy step up each game on either the offensive end or defensive end.”
Doneker, spurred by his halftime buzzer-beater, scored seven in the third as Lower Moreland finally got going offensively. Seven players scored for Lower Moreland and Baron said he’s not looking for one do-it-all scorer and instead has trust in a lot of guys to put points up.
Matt Ernst hit another long-range heave at the quarter buzzer to keep the Lions in striking distance at 36-32. Baron joked the team only had one of those all of last year only to hit two in their first game of 2021 but added the Lions will have to be a little sharper going forward.
“We were not always in the best spot, but that comes from practice and it’s something we’re looking forward to having more of,” Baron said. “We have plenty of guys who can score, now we work on getting to the right spots and making each other better.
“The kids look forward to video, that’s where you can get exploited, show what you did wrong and explain how you can fix it.”
Tennent guard Matt Miller can through in the fourth, drilling a three to give the Panthers a 41-35 lead, then later assisting back-to-back hoops from Mike Scheller that staked the hosts to a 46-37 advantage. Miller finished with nine points and five assists while Scheller canned seven points and Walter Young went for eight as they helped supplement Cosenza and Stanfield’s scoring.
However, the game was far from done. Braden Alecia hit a three to cut the Tennent lead to six, then the Panthers weren’t able to make anything of a one-and-one at the foul line.
Despite great defense from Stanfield, Lower Moreland’s Eyal Khaikin hit a tough three with a hand in his face to slice the lead to 46-43 with 50.3 to go and after Tennent again misfired at the foul line, the Lions had a chance.
“Even though things weren’t going our way, we were able to keep with it and come out with a win,” Cosenza said. “Our intensity on defense helped us a lot, we got stops and it gave us more possessions. We’re playing together, most of us have been together since the sixth grade, so we have a lot of chemistry.”
After an LM timeout with about 25 seconds to go, the Panthers locked in and swarmed the perimeter with Ryan Emmerich forcing a contested three that hit iron and bounced out with Consenza grabbing the rebound. Fouled right away, the senior split a pair at the line to give Tennent a four-point lead 12 seconds left.
“With this group, that’s been their focus,” Mulville said. “We’ve been holding teams in the 40s, so they’re taking pride in that. It’s one of those things where they did it a couple times and now realize it’s a really important part of the game so let’s make sure we’re focusing on it.”
Lower Moreland faces Upper Moreland on Friday while Tennent will take on Cheltenham in an early season test.
“You don’t always get that opportunity where you’re into the season and get a very important game early on,” Mulville said. “We’re looking forward to it. This group, they’re intelligent and willing to learn and they know we don’t have a lot of time to prep for things, so we make the most of our time.”
WILLIAM TENNENT 47, LOWER MORELAND 43
WILLIAM TENNENT 7 8 21 11- 47
LOWER MORELAND 2 10 20 11 – 43
William Tennent: Walter Young 3 0-0 8, Matt Miller 4 0-1 9, Jay Stanfield 2 2-3 8, Mike Scheller 3 0-0 7, Derrik Cosenza 4 1-3 9, Dom Sulpizio 1 0-0 3, Ryan Emmerich 1 0-0 3. Totals: 18 3-9 47.
Lower Moreland: Justin Sandler 1 1-2 3, Brian Grant 4 0-0 8, Matt Ernst 2 0-0 6, Braden Alecia 1 0-0 3, Jack Doneker 4 0-0 10, Eyal Khaikin 3 0-0 9, Joey Morozin 2 0-0 4. Totals: 17 1-2 43.
3-pointers: WT – Young 2, Stanfield 2, Miller, Scheller, Sulpizio, Emmerich; LM – Khaikin 3, Ernst 2, Doneker 2, Alecia.