DOWNINGTOWN — Jason Bady is so athletic, he often looks like he’s playing on pogo sticks.
Indeed, an Internet search for the junior on the West Chester Henderson boys basketball team reveals a catalog rife with gravity-defying displays of aerial prowess. Although Bady produced a pair of his customary jaw-dropping dunks in leading Henderson to a 54-45 Ches-Mont victory at Bishop Shanahan on Tuesday night, Warriors head coach Chris Bruno was most impressed with what Bady did with his feet planted firmly on the ground.
“I know it’s fun to watch the dunks,’ Bruno said, “but my proudest moment is watching him pump fake. He put on a clinic in the low post on when to take it hard and when to fake.’
Bady turned the tide with back-to-back highlight-reel slams late in the third quarter and otherwise controlled the paint on the way to game highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior point guard Brian Armstrong added 16 points and classmate Colin Costello stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists just two days after giving a verbal commitment to Division III York College to help the Warriors (6-2 Ches-Mont, 11-6 overall) stay hot on Coatesville’s heels for second place in the National Division.
The Red Raiders (6-1 league) routed Avon Grove, 78-49, on Tuesday.
Jordan Ambrose knocked down three 3-pointers en route to a team-high 13 points for Bishop Shanahan (4-4, 7-9), which missed a chance to pull even with Henderson in the league standings.
“Last year when we played Shanahan here we got smacked,’ said Bady, whose team suffered a 57-31 defeat in the same gym a year ago. “It was a good feeling to get the win here, and because they were only one game behind us we need to keep that distance. We’re fighting for that top two.
“My mindset in every game is to get to the paint. They were jumping a lot, so I tried to use the pump fake as much as possible, and it worked out.’
When Bady wasn’t faking the Eagles out of their shoes, he was crashing the glass and soaring through the air for two game-turning flushes.
After back-to-back Bady buckets closed a 10-0 run and handed Henderson a 30-24 lead at the break, the hosts made a push, closing to within 37-34 on a deuce by Doug Costin.
Shanahan looked primed to get even closer when T.J. Booth chased a long inbounds pass into the backcourt and got his hands on the ball. It squirted away, however, and into the arms of Henderson’s Tyler Ramirez, who passed ahead to Bady. All alone under the basket, Bady powered up for a thunderous jam.
The Warriors forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, and Bady found himself with the ball in transition. With the Shanahan defense collapsing, Bady took off, rising and muscling the ball through a would-be Eagle block for a sensational one-handed slam, giving Henderson a 41-34 lead and all the momentum.
“It was a morale booster for the team, because they were closing the gap,’ Bady said of his impressive sequence. “It was a much tighter game than I realized at that point. For us to get those two buckets and space it out a bit, it got our energy up.
“It’s one momentum boost,’ Bady said. “It’s important to keep that energy going afterwards. You can’t just do it one time and relax; you have to capitalize on those
The Warriors did just that, going on a 7-3 spurt after Corcoran scored in transition to cut the visitors’ lead to 43-38 with 5:40 remaining. Bady hit three free throws, Armstrong
snuck inside for an easy finish, and Ramirez canned two from the stripe to make it 50-41 with 1:45 to play. Armstrong sunk four free throws in the final minute-plus to keep the Eagles at bay.
“This was huge,’ Bruno said. “Shanahan is always a tough place to play, and with the energy they bring you know it’s going to be a tough game. Last year they got us pretty good in the first game and the second one was tough; this year, we got them pretty good in the first game, and this one was tough.’
Ambrose gave the Eagles a big lift in the first half, knocking down a trio of triples, the last putting Shanahan ahead, 22-20. But after two foul shots by Joe Lord, the Eagles went scoreless over the final 3:53 of the period as the Warriors took control. Bady started the spurt with a slashing drive and finished it with back-to-back buckets just before the break.
“Our shots just didn’t fall,’ said Eagles coach Ken Doyle. “They played well. We were aggressive; it just didn’t work out the way we needed it to.’
Much of that was due to Costello and Armstrong, who exuded calm throughout. Costello had all 11 of his points and all four assists in the first half, while Armstrong tallied half of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help Henderson stay in front.
“Armstrong has been that composure guy all year long,’ Bruno said. “He knows when to speed things up or get under control. At every point in the game he is in total control.’
Now Henderson returns home for a heavyweight tilt with Downingtown West, which defeated archrival East, 51-37, Tuesday night to stay perfect at 8-0 in league play. The Whippets are No. 11 in the first unofficial District 1 Class AAAA power rankings, while the Warriors checked in at No. 17.
“Our guys want to win, they want to compete, and we want to get on to the next one,’ Bruno said.