BENSALEM >> Penn Wood gave Cheltenham an even battle for three quarters before the Panthers quickly pulled away for a 66-50 win in the second round of the PIAA 6A boys basketball state tournament at Bensalem High School Sunday.
The Patriots, who finished 10th in the recent District 1 6A tournament, were tied with the Panthers (who placed third in District 1 6A) 24-24 at halftime, thanks in part to senior forward Evan Borward, who worked his way underneath the basket for eight first-half points.
In the third quarter, Penn Wood sophomore guard Anthony Murray joined the Patriot scoring brigade, driving inside for a couple of buckets that gave his team a 36-34 lead.
Penn Wood led 40-39 with 16.8 seconds to go in the third period after Patriot senior Sahmir Massenburg hit both ends of a one-and-one.
Then came a 20-1 run by Cheltenham that lasted well into the fourth quarter.
Cheltenham 6-foot-5 senior Justin Savage worked his way underneath for a basket in the closing seconds to give the Panthers a slim 41-40 lead heading into the final period.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, in the space of 30 seconds, a couple of missed Penn Wood scoring opportunities were immediately followed by baskets from Cheltenham seniors Rasheen Dearry and Brandon Bush (the latter scored on a dunk) to give the Panthers a quick 45-40 lead.
Cheltenham then intercepted a Penn Wood pass and Dearry was fed inside for another bucket underneath and the Panthers led 47-40.
Penn Wood head coach Matt Lindeman said, “We expected to be there [even] with Cheltenham. We’re a little upset with how we started the fourth quarter. Against a good team like that, two bad plays turned everything around. It turned from a one-possession game to a three-possession game, and in a contest like this that’s kind of it – Cheltenham is really good. But we’re proud of how our guys fought and competed.”
Through the middle of the fourth period, Cheltenham continued to turn missed Penn Wood shots into quick Panther layups by Savage, Bush, Elias Walker and Josiah Hutson, wrapping up the 20-1 run.
Dearry led the Panthers’ scoring Sunday with 18 points, followed by Savage (15), Walker (12), Bush (9) and Hutson (7).
Cheltenham head coach Pat Fleury said, “Elias Walker is our engine. We want to make sure that we defend and play as a team, and that was our biggest thing [during the 20-1 run], that everybody covered their assignment and that they were in the right positions to make the right plays for our team.
“Penn Wood is a very good team. We think our district plays high level basketball, and there are a lot of good players in our district. We try to get all of our players to States so we can show how good our district is. Penn Wood is a similar team to us, so we just wanted to come out and play hard. We have a lot of things [from today] that we have to work on and we’ve got to continue to get better.”
For Penn Wood, Borward led the scoring with 12 points, followed by Massenburg (10), Murray (9) and Mekhi Shillingford (7).
Fleury was asked what aspect of his team impressed him the most Sunday.
“Just the fight – it’s about cohesion, about wanting to do the right thing for one another, holding yourself accountable,” replied Fluery. “We’ve been watching the Doc Rivers coaching series, and it’s about ‘I am because we are,’ and that’s the big thing for us, none of us really shines if the other person doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. We try to live by that creed.”
Cheltenham advances to the state quarterfinals, where they will face District 12 champion Roman Catholic Wednesday.
For Penn Wood (16-9), the season is over. Four days earlier, the Patriots opened their state tournament play with a 60-50 win against District 11 champion Parkland. After that game, Lindeman said, “Our defense drives us and when we play well our pressure is on for 32 minutes.”
Lindeman said he was pleased with the Patriots’ overall defense against Cheltenham Sunday.
“Our defense [overall] was good today,” said Lindeman. “We probably ran out of gas a little bit in the fourth quarter, but we gave [total effort] every possession and we’re happy with how we played defensively. Cheltenham is a good team, and they’re not an easy team to defend, but we’re proud of how our kids executed and the effort they gave.”
Lindeman pointed out that this was the first time since 2011 that Penn Wood advanced to the second round of the PIAA state tournament. In 2011, the Patriots advanced to the PIAA 4A state semifinals.
“This team is all about work, whether it’s April, July, and October night. It’s about working, getting in the gym,” said Lindeman. “The four seniors that played the most [for us] – Naeem Purnell, Sahmir Massenburg, Kelvin Crawford, Evan Borward – we appreciate all of their work and we’re proud that they got to show themselves on the big stage [states]. We’re sad but we’re very proud of this squad and what it’s done.”
Cheltenham 66, Penn Wood 50
Penn Wood 12 12 16 10 – 50
Cheltenham 14 10 17 25 – 66
Penn Wood scoring: Massenburg 3 3-4 10, Murray 3 3-4 9, Borward 6 0-2 12, Shillingford 3 1-4 7, Purnell 1 2-2 5, Fountain 2 0-1 5, Crawford 1 0-0 2, Totals 19 9-17 50.
Cheltenham scoring: Dearry 8 2-4 18, Hutson 3 1-2 7, Walker 5 2-4 12, Edens 0 0-0 0, Bush 4 1-2 9, Weimer 1 0-1 2, Savage 7 1-3 15, Healy 1 0-0 3, Metcaufe 0 0-0 0, Fevrign 0 0-0 0, Totals 29 7-16 66.
Three point goals: Penn Wood – Massenburg, Purnell, Fountain. Cheltenham – Healy.