POTTSTOWN >> At this point, it’s safe to say that very little separates North Penn from Coatesville when it comes to boys’ basketball. In a pair of postseason clashes this winter – eight quarters of play — the point differential is a total of two.
The Knights won the first, by four, in round two of the District 1 Tournament less than a month ago. But in the all-important rematch, the Red Raiders prevailed 61-55 on Wednesday to advance to the PIAA Class 6A Tournament Elite Eight.
“We’ve never been blown out, but we’ve been through everything – the losses and the mistakes because of our youth,” said Coatesville first year head coach John Allen. “So to be one of the top eight teams in 6A, we have to keep it going. There aren’t many other teams still playing. Now, 96 or 97 percent of the teams aren’t playing anymore.”
With a trip to the state semifinal hanging in the balance, Coatesville (20-9 overall) will play District 12 powerhouse Archbishop Wood on Saturday at a time and location to be determined. North Penn’s season ends with a 19-9 mark.
“We made the last run the first time we played and Coatesville made it this time,” said Knights’ head coach John Conrad. “(Coatesville) is a great basketball team – give them credit. They made more plays than we did.”
The Raiders are on a bit of a run. The squad’s lone postseason setback came at North Penn on Feb. 21 and now they’ve avenged it 23 days later. Coatesville also has won eight of its last nine, and is in the midst of a deep playoff run.
“We are not Cinderella – we’re Coatesville,” said Allen, who led the Raiders to their only state title as a player back in 2000. “We are supposed to be here year after year. This is what we start our work for back in May, June and July – to be here.”
Coatesville never had the lead until well into the second half on Wednesday. The Raiders pulled ahead for the first time after a steal, bucket and free throw by junior forward Dior Kennedy. And then two more and-ones by Amon Fowlkes and Kennedy sparked a 12-2 run to end the third period to make it 47-40.
“It’s not about the points, it’s about getting the crowd and bench going, and the momentum going,” Allen said when asked about the 3-point plays.
North Penn pulled to within a point at 47-46 early in the fourth, but the Raiders reestablished control by knocking down 7-for-8 from the line and getting clutch inside buckets by junior guard Zuri Harris and Kennedy to make it 58-49 with 1:24 on the clock.
“I don’t know if we fatigued or not, but we missed a few easy ones in that third quarter, and allowed (Coatesville) to make a run,” Conrad said. “I don’t know if our shot selection was at the level it was the first time around.”
The Raiders wound up making as many free throws (20 of 30) as the Knights attempted (14-for-20). And even though Coatesville’s pressure defense forced just four turnovers (out of 16 total) in the second half, it was disruptive.
(Coatesville) speeds you up so much, they take you out of your rhythm,” Conrad said. “They run 12 guys at you and wear you down. It’s a game of runs and (Coatesville) made two runs in that third quarter and we just couldn’t overcome it.”
Kennedy scored 22 of his game-high 23 points in the final three quarters. Senior forward Jeremiah Marshall added 16 points and Harris chipped in 10 for the Raiders.
“I thought if we got things together, we could do something like this,” Kennedy said. “We are an underrated team. We were ready for this moment, and we took it.
“We knew we could beat (North Penn) physically, so it was all mental – just being ready. I’m proud of my guys.”
Things were going the Knights’ way throughout much of the first half. They ended the first quarter with a near half-court buzzer-beater from senior Ryan Zeltt that culminated a 10-2 run to make it 17-8.
Kennedy got Coatesville back into it by scoring the first seven points in the second, but once again North Penn hit another 3-pointer at the horn, this time from Ahmaar Godhania, to lead 26-23 at the half.
“A lot of things were not going our way,” Allen acknowledged. “So I’m proud of our kids because we do have a young team, and they fought through everything. They don’t get too high or too low, they just fight.”
Kennedy added: “We only have two seniors, so once we learned how to play together, and stay together, it started clicking. We are young and we are going to make mistakes. It’s just about the next play.”
Junior guard Teddy McAllister paced the Knights with 15 points and Zeltt had 11, but the duo managed just two points combined in the final period. Senior Ryan Deininger added 10 points.
The ninth seed from District 1, Coatesville is now just three wins away from a state title.
“We love this feeling,” Allen said. “Our kids are in there celebrating, and rightfully so.
“But it’s not over. I don’t want this team to feel like we won a championship tonight.”
Coatesville 61, North Penn 55
Coatesville 8 15 24 14 — 61
North Penn 17 9 14 15 — 55
COATESVILLE – Harris 3 4-5 10; Kennedy 7 7-10 23; Brown 1 0-0 2; Marshall 6 4-6 16; A, Fowlkes 2 5-9 10. Total 19 20-30 61.
NORTH PENN – Godhania 2 0-0 5; Sgro 1 0-0 2; Gee 1 0-0 2; McAllister 5 3-4 15; Zeltt 3 2-4 11; Hammond 1 1-2 4; Deininger 2 6-8 10; Meade 1 2-2 4; Sukaly 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 14-20 55.
Three-pointers: Kennedy 2, A. Fowlkes, Godhania, McAllister 2, Zeltt 3, Hammond.
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