ROYERSFORD >> The Pottstown boys basketball team showed how far it has come from last year, and even the beginning stages of this season, when it blew open a 20-point lead in the third quarter Wednesday night against Norristown.
Then when their shots stopped falling, the Trojans relied on some big defensive stops and clutch free throws down the stretch to thwart Norristown’s spirited rally for 65-61 win in the opening round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Final Six playoffs at Spring-Ford High School.
Ty Elliott-Moore scored 20 and Sadeeq Jackson followed with 18 points for No. 4 seed Pottstown (15-7), which will take on top seed Spring-Ford in a semifinal at Spring-Ford Friday at 7:45 p.m. Jaden Wise scored 17 and Jonathan Brooks 12 for the No. 5 Eagles (10-12), who will regroup for the District 1-6A playoffs.
“Games won’t ever be over,” said Jackson, who made four straight shots for 10 points in the third quarter as the Trojans seemingly broke the game open. “We’ve got to keep playing defense. We just got the job done. We definitely wanted to play defense.”
Norristown led 25-24 late in the first half after eight lead changes and five ties before the Trojans went on a 10-2 run for a 34-27 advantage at the intermission.
Then Pottstown picked right up where it had left off to start the third quarter with nearly perfect shooting from the floor and no turnovers to build a 50-30 lead.
“Our transition game, and Elliot got hot,” said Pottstown coach Ken Ivory. “We were making some stops and getting some blocks. That’s our game.”
“We passed the ball around more, ran our sets,” said Elliot-Moore. “We just came out strong. The first two minutes of the second half are the most important in the whole game.”
The Eagles had out-scored the Trojans 17-7 in the fourth quarter during the regular season for a 65-57 win and they showed the same type of determination as they chipped away at the lead the rest of the third quarter. Then ran off 10 straight points to start the fourth to cut the deficit to 54-49. They pulled to within 60-56 on a shot inside by Brooks and made it 62-58 on a drive by Wise.
A 3-pointer by Jayden Wise narrowed the gap to 63-61 with 3.5 seconds left, but Jackson was fouled and made two at the line to wrap up the win.
“We couldn’t drop the ball in the ocean,” said Eagle coach Rick Bell. “They had some big shots. We picked up some defensive intensity. That’s the makeup of our team all year. We’re not consistent. That’s what we do. We dig ourselves holes and we have to claw our way back.
“One thing we do have is fight. All credit to Pottstown. They had a good second half of the game.”
The Trojans had gone 6-16 last year and came into this season with no PAC playoff appearances in a decade.
“We worked hard to get here,” said Elliot-Moore. “Our chemistry is way better this year.”
“I think they put the work in in the off-season,” said Ivory. “They’re jelling as a group. We had a bunch of guys out early in the year. When we’re at full strength, we’re good to go. We’ll just come in here and play the home team on Friday.”
And before then, the Trojans will work on defense.
“We’ve got to go back and practice more defense,” said Jackson. “We need to play defense. We know we can score.”
Pottstown turned the ball over only 10 times to 16 for the Eagles. The Trojans shot 18-for-29 from the floor in the middle two quarters to build their lead and wound up at 46 percent. Norristown shot just 33 percent from the field.
The Eagles are sitting in good position in the district in the No. 19 spot with 24 teams making the tournament field.
“We do have another opportunity, said Bell. “We have another chance to play basketball.”
Pottstown 65, Norristown 61
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