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Malvern Prep revs up defense to stop Phelps in PAISAA semifinal

Whitpain – No. 3 seed Malvern Prep used some strong defense, particularly in the fourth quarter, to earn a 72-56 win against No. 7 seed Phelps in the PAISAA boys’ basketball state semifinal at Montgomery County Community College.

In the final quarter, Malvern held the Lions to just seven points. Malvern (27-4) will play top seed Westtown School in the PAISAA state final Saturday evening at Montgomery County Community College.

“We brought it up defensively tonight,” said Malvern Prep head coach John Harmatuk. “It’s tough for us to guard bigs, because we are not very big, we just have one big kid [6-foot-7 junior Fran Oschell], but if you put pressure on the ball and do some other things to make it hard for them to get into the post…I think we did a good job of that tonight. Phelps rushed and [missed] some deep threes late, and we converted on the other end.”

The biggest player on the Phelps roster, 6-foot-11 junior Sam Onu, tallied five field goals in the first half. He had none after halftime.

The Friars broke open a 16-16 first quarter tie with a strong second period, led by the scoring talents of their all-time scoring leader, Bucknell-bound Deuce Turner (19 first-half points, 29 points total) and a couple of well-timed treys from Lonnie White. The Friars led 39-29 at halftime.

Near the end of the third quarter, Phelps rallied briefly when senior Danny Dade hit back-to-back treys from the top of the key to cut Malvern’s lead to 54-48 with 48.5 seconds left in the third period.

Turner was scoreless in the third quarter, until he hit a trey from the left side just before the buzzer sounded to end the third period, giving the Friars a 57-49 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Malvern was grabbing rebounds off Phelps’ missed shots, converting them into points, and gradually pulling away. Malvern senior Spencer Cochran tallied 14 points in the second half, and finished with 21 (including a trio of treys).

“I thought Spencer Cochran played really well, got us some big baskets tonight,” said Harmatuk. “Fran Oschell and Lonnie White did an unbelievable job in the post, battling. We switched some defenses up a couple of times, and they did a really good job with it. This was a good team effort.”

For No. 7 seed Phelps (16-11), the loss marked the end of the season. The Lions had four players in double scoring figures Friday, senior Devin Butler (15 points, including all seven of the Lions’ fourth-quarter points), Onu (12 points), Dade (11) and 6-foot-8 senior Jarnel Rancy (11).

It was a season of adjustments for the gritty Lions and their first-year head coach Trey Morin.

“When I moved to the Philadelphia area [last] June 20, I had two guys on the roster,” said Morin. “I’m happy that Phelps took a chance on me, and for a first-year head coach in July to ask a kid to come to the Phelps School is a little bit taxing and monumental, but our players did a great job. To have eight seniors who kind of had eight different high school careers – for these kids to come together in six months the way they did, I think is impressive. They played hard, put up a fight. I’m proud of them.”

To get to Friday’s semifinal, Phelps (16-11) upset No. 2 seed Hill School, 54-48, in the quarterfinal.

“We thought Hill was a good matchup for us,” said Morin. “They’re almost a polar opposite of Malvern – they’re big and they’re long and physical. Malvern plays very fast, they shoot a lot of threes, and if they get open space they’re going to knock it down. Malvern plays hard and scrappy, they don’t care how big you are, and they’re going to try to outrun you. My hat’s off to them.”


Malvern Prep 72, Phelps 56

Phelps                         16     13     20     7       –        56

Malvern Prep            16     23     18     15     –        72

Phelps (56): Amazan 2 1-1 5, Butler 5 4-6 15, Dade 3 2-2 11, Gardler 1 0-0 2, Rancy 5 1-1 11, Onu 5 2-7 12, Totals 21 10-17 56.

Malvern Prep (72): McElwee 0 1-3 1, Cochran 7 4-4 21, Turner 8 11-13 29, White 3 2-2 10, Dudek 1 0-0 2, Oschell 4 0-0 9, Totals 23 18-22 72.

3-point field goals: Phelps – Butler, Dade 3. Malvern Prep – Cochran 3, Turner 2, White 2, Oschell.

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