NORTHAMPTON TWP. >> All season, Delco Christian has been a study in perseverance — through injuries, suspensions and myriad suboptimal predicaments.
Try as they might, against Class A juggernaut Phil-Mont Christian Saturday, those absences were too glaring to conceal.
The Falcons intensified their defense after halftime, muzzling the Knights’ limited options and restraining DC to 15 points after the break in a 58-41 triumph in the District One final at Council Rock South High School.
No. 6 seed Delco Christian (14-12) trailed by just one at the half and surged ahead, 33-32, with 2:25 to play in the third quarter. But top-seeded Phil-Mont (28-1) scored 26 of the game’s final 34 points to run away with the title.
Phil-Mont’s dogged deterrence on the defensive end finally tipped the scales. The Falcons’ length closed out shooters on the perimeter and accounted for seven blocked shots — three each for rangy 6-foot-2 guard Noah Baldez and sturdy 6-foot-4 forward David Giuliani — and many more altered drives to the rim.
Coach Glenn Dolton opted to smother DC’s most dangerous threat, Wyatt Harkins, scorer of 40 points in the first round of the tournament. The result was a frustration-laden, 4-for-19 day shooting for Harkins, who was shackled to well below his season average with 13 points.
“I knew going into the game, I was going to get face-guarded,” Harkins said. “I think that’s what really threw us off. They tried to keep me out of it as much as they could. We did have guys step up, but when you play a team of that high caliber, everyone has to be clicking on all cylinders for you to be good.”
Beyond Harkins, the options dried up quickly. T.J. Tann provided a spark with 16 points, including a pair of third-quarter 3-pointers that kept Delco
Christian in touch, coupled with a stretch of six Phil-Mont turnovers in eight possessions. But with second- and third-leading scorers Devin Hill and Grant Fischer suspended, the Knights were bereft of options.
Jordan Parks scored five first-quarter points, but foul trouble limited him to a paltry two field goal attempts over the last three quarters before he fouled out with 4:54 remaining. Bryce Shook couldn’t get his mid-range game going against much bigger defenders, and the rest of DC’s eight-man rotation provided few credible shooting threats.
When they got shots off, a Phil-Mont hand was rarely far away.
“Our length helps us a lot because we can get our hands up in what seems to be open shooters’ faces, and we can grab defensive boards,” Giuliani said. “It’s a big help to have such a long and athletic team.”
Once that team got moving, it spelled trouble for Delco Christian. Baldez took the ball to the hoop at will, scoring 16 points to go with eight rebounds. Giuliani absorbed plenty of punishment in the low blocks, making 11 of 12 attempts from the charity stripe en route to a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. And Osaze Thornton added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Even without the biggest of their bigs, Sean Griffin (eight points, four rebounds, four steals), having a consistent impact due to fouls, Phil-Mont found plenty of potency. “It’s a great feeling when we start picking up the pace, when Noah starts sprinting the ball up the court and starts getting open layups for Sean or Osaze and we’re getting open looks,” Giuliani said. “It gets us all excited. It gets us more involved in the game and what’s happening.”
“After a score, we have to get a stop,” Tann said. “They stopped, then scored, then stopped, then scored. It’s tough to rebound from that. I feel like they handled the momentum very well.”
Momentum was in short supply for Delco Christian. Tann hit a triple midway through the third to tie the game at 32. The Knights’ next field goal came at 3:57 of the fourth, a Harkins 3-pointer. In between, Phil-Mont authored a 16-4 run that iced the game.
Though Delco Christian couldn’t defend last year’s title, they still have the opportunity to embark on a deeper states run than the quarterfinals they reached last year.
Forgetting Saturday’s outcome quickly could prove beneficial in that quest.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Tann said. “The past is the past, and we’ve got to keep going. If we dwell on this loss, it’s going to keep on carrying on, but we’ve got to forget about this loss. It’s a tough loss. It’s a championship game, but we have to move on.”