Upper Merion dominates 4th quarter, rallies past Downingtown East

UPPER MERION >> Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer knew where to go when his team needed some offense in the fourth quarter against Downingtown East. He asked Allen Cole to go get a bucket and the senior delivered.

Cole tied the game with a three-pointer – the Vikings first triple of the night – with 6:10 left in the game. After an East layup at the other end, Cole came back with another three-pointer to put his side ahead by one.

Upper Merion got some easy layups in transition and only allowed three points the rest of the way in a 52-44 win over Downingtown East at Upper Merion Area High School Thursday night.

“My confidence was through the roof,” Cole, who had a third straight three go halfway down before rimming out, said.

“He needs just a little bit of space to get a shot off,” Quenzer said after complimenting Cole’s work ethic.

Upper Merion senior Jack McFadden scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter to help the Vikings win the eight-minute frame, 19-7. Nicholai Smiley set McFadden up for two layups under the basket before McFadden grabbed a steal a half-court, went behind-the-back in the lane and finished at the rim to give Upper Merion a 48-43 lead with 2:58 remaining. It was a multiple-possession advantage the rest of the way.

“It was the confidence from my teammates getting me the ball when I needed it,” McFadden said, “getting me the ball when I was open, stuff like that. As long as I got the ball in my hands from my teammates with good looks, I’m going to try to finish every time.”

East only scored one point the rest of the way on a free throw in the final 10 seconds.

“I thought we got a couple good looks inside,” Downingtown East coach Brian Grashof said. “We had a little size advantage. We got the ball into our post player, who had a couple good looks, and the ball just didn’t go in. We have to find ways, learn how to win and make plays down the stretch to get the victory. We’re getting closer, but we didn’t get there tonight.”

“We forced shots that were a little uncomfortable for East,” Quenzer said of his defense in the final minutes. “There were a couple that were close to going in that would have changed the game but they didn’t go in. I thought we did a lot better of a job defensive rebounding when everybody started to crash the boards in the second half. You limit them to one shot versus the 16 they were getting in the first half helps.”

Upper Merion (3-1) and Downingtown East (0-4) played a tight game throughout the contest, with neither side ever leading by double digits.

The Cougars got off to a fast start, scoring six straight points to take an 8-2 lead early in the first quarter. The Vikings responded with a 9-2 run to move ahead, 11-10, before the teams ended the quarter tied, 13-13.

The teams stayed tight throughout the second quarter. Downingtown East’s Xander Faust scored five of his team-high 13 points in the second to help the Cougars take a 22-21 lead into halftime.

East started the second half hot, opening up a 30-25 lead. Upper Merion called timeout and turned up the pressure defensively, which immediately resulted in turnovers and transition baskets at the other end. The Vikings forced seven turnovers in the third quarter and took a brief lead, 31-30.

“We had to change it up a little bit,” Cole said. “That’s what we started doing – trapping, more aggressive, high hands. It worked.”

East finished the quarter strong. Out of a timeout with less than five seconds left, Holland Neff hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the Cougars to the fourth with a 37-33 advantage.

“Holland is a freshman and he’s doing a really nice job for us this year and this offseason,” Grashof said. “Seeing him hit that shot was a real positive to take out of it. It felt good in that moment. We have to learn how to get it done.”

Neff hit three three-pointers in the game and joined Faust in double figures with 11 points.

Smiley led Upper Merion with a game-high 15 points. Colin Hirshorn added 10, McFadden had nine and Cole Hirshorn eight.

Upper Merion 52, Downingtown East 44

Downintown East 13 9 15 7 – 44

Upper Merion 13 8 12 19 – 52

DE: Xander Faust 4 4-6 13, Connor Littlepage 2 0-1 6, Kaleem Henderson 2 3-6 7, Brayden Phillips 1 0-0 3, Holland Neff 4 0-0 11, Evan Milon 0 0-0 0, Chase Krupansky 2 0-0 4. Total 15 7-13 44.

UM: Zahaid Edwards-Boone 1 0-0 2, Nicholai Smiley 4 5-9 15, Jack McFadden 4 1-2 9, Josh Nguyen 0 2-2 2, Colin Hirshorn 5 0-0 10, David Peck 0 0-0 0, Richard Savior 0 0-0 0, Allen Cole 3 0-0 8, Elijah Davis 3 0-2 6. Total 20 8-15 52.

3-point goals: DE: Xander Faust, Connor Littlepage 2, Brayden Phillips, Holland Neff 3. UM: Allen Cole 2.

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