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New-look Norristown soars past Wissahickon in season opener

LOWER GWYNEDD >> It wasn’t the start Wissahickon was hoping for.

Facing the team that had ended their season last year, the Trojans figured to have an advantage with their returning experience while visiting Norristown was not only replacing most of the key cogs of last year’s state playoff team, but playing its first game under a new coaching staff. Instead, it was the Eagles on the front wing and seemingly picking up right where they left off against Wiss in the district playoffs.

Norristown got out and ran every chance it got and that was enough to earn coach Rick Bell and the new rotation their first win with a 60-46 triumph over Wissahickon in the Triangle Club Tip-Off Tournament.

“I think we played well, but I also think our defense can still be a little better,” Norristown senior Jonathan Brooks said. “Our offense was clicking, but there are times we need to slow down and take care of the ball.”

Brooks was great, posting a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds and the rangy, tall and athletic forward added a couple assists and blocks. His powerful dunk at the end of the third quarter was a prelude for a runaway fourth quarter effort that saw Norristown blow a three-point lead into a double-figure downpour with plenty of get-up-the-floor-and-score plays.

Myon Kirlew, the only starter back from last year’s squad that finished runner-up in District 1 Class 6A and reached the second round of the PIAA tournament, scored 11 points and teamed up with Brooks to key the game-breaking fourth quarter run. Miles Daniels went unconscious in the third, hitting all four of his shots for 10 points that kept Norristown just in front of the hosts.

Bell, who took as head coach when Dana “Binky” Johnson stepped down at the end of last season, has let the Eagles use their strengths to their advantage but as Brooks noted, has a plan in place behind it.

“He teaches the three P’s — patience, poise and pace,” Brooks said.

For Wissahickon, it was a disappointing opener in terms of the way the Trojans played. Coming out cold, the hosts started to speed up their pace of play and it only went to help Norristown as Wiss got away from its strengths and fell into the run-run-run type of game the visitors wanted to play.

Led by returning first team All-SOL Liberty guard Earl Stout, Wissahickon had a lot to like about its prospects. Jaylon Williams and Dominic Vacchiano also got plenty of run last season and through the summer and fall, seemingly had a good grasp on what a successful approach would look like for coach Kyle Wilson.

“We played so well leading up to this point,” Wilson said. “While it was ugly at times out there for both teams throwing the ball around, we have three experienced guards and should not have been throwing the ball around like we did. It was disappointing. I thought for a team where a staple is playing smart, working the ball and playing under control, we played more of the style they wanted to play.”

Stout’s jumper took a little while to find him, but the senior came on strong after halftime to put in all 16 of his points following intermission. Williams shot well, hitting 4-of-5 from deep as part of a 15-point effort, but as Norristown built up its lead, there moments where players tried to do a little too much

There wasn’t one specific thing that cost Wiss the game, but an accumulation of turnovers, missed block-outs on rebounds and just lapses on both ends of the floor add up against a team like Norristown. The nice thing is the Trojans’ experience should level out some of those issues over time, they’ll just need to play to their pluses if they want that to happen.

“Our guys need to come to the realization of what kind of team we are,” Wilson said. “Sometimes you can have a false sense from open gyms, summer league or playing AAU but once you get into organized ball, we have to be a little more consistent.”

Norristown will face La Salle, a 48-44 winner over Germantown Academy, in Saturday’s tournament title game. GA and Wissahickon will play in the consolation contest at 5 pm, with the title title to follow.

The Eagles will face a challenge in Explorers’ senior Horace Simmons and a young but deep roster that saw eight players score at least two points to support the Drexel-bound senior’s 17-point, 10-rebound double-double.

“I think going forward, we can really make the type of run we made last year,” Brooks said. “We just have to be confident and play our type of game.”

NORRISTOWN 8 13 18 21 -60

WISSAHICKON 5 13 18 13 – 46

N: Jayden Byrd 2 8-9 12, Jaden Wise 2 0-0 4, Andre Gordon 1 0-0 2, Jonathan Brooks 9 0-2 18, Myon Kirlew 4 1-4 11, Andre Young 1 0-0 3, Miles Daniels 4 0-0 10. Totals: 24 9-15 60

W: Jaylon Williams 5 1-2 15, Brayden Ryan 2 0-0 4, Dominic Vacchiano 3 1-1 9, Earl Stout 6 4-5 16, Andrew Slackman 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 6-8 46

3-pointers: N – Daniels 2, Young, Kirlew; W – Williams 4, Vacchiano 2

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