DOWNINGTOWN >> It is never too late to learn something about your team. And the second half of Tuesday’s regular season boys’ basketball finale revealed a lot about both West Chester Henderson and Bishop Shanahan.
The visiting Warriors won it, 60-52, but not before having to absorb and respond to a furious late comeback bid by the Eagles, which sliced a 15-point deficit down to six on several occasions.
“Unfortunately at times this season, and especially tonight, we defend the score and not the man,” complained Henderson head coach Jason Ritter. “So if we have a lead, we let off the gas a bit. But they got stops when they had to.
“Credit (Shanahan head coach John) Dougherty’s team – they are never going to quit.”
Both squads will now advance to district action. The Warriors finish with an 8-4 mark in the Ches-Mont National (13-8 overall). They entered the day 18th in the District 1 6A Power Rankings. The top 16 will earn a first round home game.
“If things break our way, we have an outside shot to get a home game,” Ritter said.
“We are excited to get in and now it is one game for our lives. But we’ve been in playoff mode the last week.”
The Eagles (4-8, 7-15) have struggled to stay with some of the larger schools in the league, but are definitely battle-tested. Shanahan is likely going to finish as the third seed in class 4A.
“Our league is difficult on both sides, especially the National Division,” Dougherty said. “There are no easy games. And we had a challenging non-league schedule. We’ve played a lot of really good teams, but there is a reason for it. We want to be prepared for districts.
“We have senior leadership, we are growing together and I think we are only going to get better.”
Trailing 43-28 through three quarters, the Eagles scored the first nine points of the fourth, including a four-point play from Roman Alexander. And when fellow senior Ben Rodner-Tims completed a three-point play with 4:15 on the clock, it was suddenly 51-45.
“It seems like a trend every time we play Henderson – our second half is much better than our first,” Dougherty said.
But that’s when Henderson turned to junior Jesse Smith, who came off the bench to score three critical buckets in succession – the last coming with 1:49 to go to make it 57-49. It was part of a 7-2 run that put it away.
“To be in there (in crunch time) builds my confidence a lot,” Smith said.
“Jesse has it in him,” Ritter added. “The only ones that can stop Jesse is me and himself. He’s had some big moments for us this season, he just needs to stay locked in. Tonight, he showed a bit of what he is capable of, and we expect big things from him the rest of this season and next season as well.
“He is one of the better shooters on our team, and once he gets his stroke going, he has the green light.”
The Warriors dominated the middle quarters, with junior standout Nyle Ralph-Beyer scoring 20 of his game-high 24. He opened the second period by scoring the first eight points to spark a 16-5 rally.
“(Henderson) is a good team,” Dougherty said. “You have to pick your poison. Nyle is a great player and he has a great supporting cast. We tried different (defenders) and we tried different defenses on him.”
Junior guard Connor Fleet finished with 14 points for the Warriors.
Rodner-Tims and Alexander paced Shanahan with 15 points apiece, and Kapczynski chipped in with 13.
West Chester Henderson 60, Bishop Shanahan 52
W.C. Henderson 9 18 16 17 — 60
Bishop Shanahan 10 5 13 24 — 52
W.C. HENDERSON – Ralph-Beyer 10 0-0 24; K. Smith 2 1-5 5; Fleet 4 6-8 14; J. Smith 4 0-0 9; Surowiec 3 0-0 6; Nelson 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 7-13 60.
BISHOP SHANAHAN – Alexander 6 1-1 15; Boyle 2 1-3 7; DeMaio 1 0-0 2; Kapczynski 4 2-2 13; Rodner-Tims 6 2-5 15. Totals 20 6-11 52.
Three-pointers: Ralph-Beyer 4, J. Smith, Alexander 2, Kapczynski 3, Rodner-Tims.