EAST ROCKHILL >> Despite being halfway through the regular season, it’s unknown how many teams will qualify for the District 1-6A playoffs.
Pennridge, which entered Wednesday ranked No. 22, knows it needs to win some games over the next couple weeks to earn a spot in the postseason field that typically includes 24 teams.
The Rams took a step in the right direction Wednesday night with a hard-fought Suburban One League Colonial Division win over North Penn, 63-59, at Pennridge High School.
“We’re an underrated team, I’d say,” Pennridge senior Luke Yoder said. “We’ve had our struggles here and there, but we’re still coming together. We have some younger guys. We’re just trying to figure everything out still. This was a huge win to get over North Penn because they’re a great team. It was a huge win for us.”
“This win was huge,” junior Justin Nichols echoed. “North Penn was on a six-game win streak, so for us to first of all snap that streak was huge and then just for ourselves we’re trying to make our way to the playoffs. Every win counts.”
Yoder gave the Rams (5-4, 4-3 SOL Colonial) the spark they needed. He picked up two early fouls and missed parts of the first half before picking up his third foul with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter. He returned less than two minutes later and immediately scored a basket to make it a one-point game.
“After that third foul I was a little frustrated with myself because I want to be on the floor,” Yoder said. “I want to help my team win whatever way I can. I came out, my guys were playing well and I went back in and I knew I had to do something. My guys found me on the court and I got my shots.”
“Luke’s one of our main leaders,” Nichols said. “Any time we have Luke on the floor it helps every other guy on the team.”
Over the final 11:39 of the game, Yoder scored 11 of his team-high 15 points.
Yoder went on a personal 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter – hitting a three on the first possession to give the Rams a lead and adding another jumper to make it a 51-47 advantage with 6:50 to go.
“(North Penn’s) a good team,” Yoder said. “They’re coached by a great coach. (Josh) Jones is an athletic player. We had to do something on offense. All of our shots were going down – we shot pretty well, I thought – but I just thought it was a close game. They’re going to score. We have to score back. I think we can work on our defense for sure, but it was a high-scoring game.”
He later added baskets to break a 51-51 tie and extend a one-point lead to three, 57-54, with 2:45 to go.
Yoder’s biggest play of the night may have come with 1:05 remaining and a 59-58 lead. His foot slid as he tried to stop with the ball and he was falling to the floor. On the way down he got a pass off to Colin Monahan, who hit a jumper in rhythm to make it a three-point game.
“Monahan’s been playing out of his mind lately coming back out after not playing for a couple games,” Yoder said. “He’s been playing super well for us. He’s a key player that we trust. When he has the ball he’s going to shoot it and we’re fine with that. When he shoots it’s a good shot.”
That basket was the start of a 6-0 run that would close out the game for Pennridge. Nichols went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line over the final 24.3 seconds to build an insurmountable lead.
“Once I got to the line I was thinking I have to hit these for the game,” Nichols, who finished with 14 points, said. “Up by three – every point mattered in that situation. Had to hit them.”
The Knights (7-3, 5-2 SOL Colonial), who entered the night No. 6 in the District 1-6A rankings, were in control for most of the game and stayed tight in the fourth quarter thanks to Billy Coley and Jones. The seniors combined for 48 of the Knights 59 points.
“They’re two great players,” Yoder said. “Hands down to them. They’re going to hit their shots. Jones is going to attack, he’s an athlete, and Coley’s a great shooter. We knew coming into it we had to stop Jones, but then Coley went off. Who do you guard?”
Coley hit a three in the fourth quarter to give North Penn its final lead, 54-53, with 4:40 to go. Jones got them within one, 57-56, but Monahan’s basket after Yoder’s acrobatic pass made it a three-point game again. Coley hit a three – his sixth of the game – with 2.5 seconds left to make it 63-59, but Pennridge’s inbounds pass was tipped at midcourt to run out the clock.
Coley did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 17 of his game-high 26 points. He opened the game with a three-pointer and banked home a put-back shot at the first half buzzer to send the Knights to the locker room with a 34-31 lead.
Jones, who finished with a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, had a pair of putback layups in the third quarter to send the Knights to the fourth with a 47-46 advantage.
Pennridge kept the game close in the first half thanks to a big second quarter from Colin Post. The senior forward scored 10 of his 14 points in the frame to keep the Rams within striking distance.
Monahan also scored in double figures for the Rams with 12 points.
Pennridge 63, North Penn 59
North Penn 17 17 13 12 – 59
Pennridge 15 16 15 17 – 63
NP: Sgro 0 0-0 0, Larkins 0 0-0 0, Coley 9 2-2 26, Pulugura 1 0-0 2, Jones 10 2-3 22, Zelt 4 0-0 8, Wright 0 1-2 1. Total 24 5-7 59.
PR: Nichols 3 6-6 14, Yoder 7 0-0 15, Post 7 0-0 14, Campione 1 0-0 2, Grenda 2 2-2 7, Monahan 12.
Three-point goals: NP: Coley 6. PR: Nichols 2, Yoder, Grenda.