Phoenixville tops Pottstown, gains Frontier Division lead

PHOENIXVILLE >> Friday night’s game at Phoenixville was befitting of two teams battling for a division lead.

Momentum swings, mini-runs, close calls, and tight play went both ways, with little separating the host Phantoms from visiting Pottstown.

Little, that is, except for Phoenixville senior Christian Cervino.

Cervino poured in a career-high 27 points to lead Phoenixville to a come-from-behind 64-55 win over Pottstown, moving the Phantoms into the top spot in the PAC’s Frontier Division.

Deacon Baratta (13) and Max Lebisky (12) joined Cervino in double figures as the Phantoms stormed back from an 11-point second quarter deficit to earn the win.

“Everyone on this teams knows their roles,” said Cervino. “Even when we start off slow, no one panics, we all just help one another out and I was able to do that tonight.”

Phoenixville improved to 9-4 (4-1 PAC, 4-0 Frontier) with the victory, moving within a single victory of last season’s total with nine regular-season games remaining.

More importantly, the win moved the Phantoms into first place in the Frontier Division above the Trojans. The teams have identical 4-1 league records, with the Phantoms getting the nod due to the head-to-head result.

The two teams meet again at Pottstown on January 30.

Cervino was consistent throughout the contest, connecting for at least two field goals in each quarter, including a three-pointer in each of the first three periods.

Phoenixville snaped a 42-all deadlock after three quarters, dominating the fourth period as foul trouble and turnovers betrayed visiting Pottstown (7-4, 4-1 PAC, 3-1 Frontier).

The aforementioned slow start was the result of some aggressive defense from Pottstown, who turned a half-dozen Phoenixville turnovers in the opening stanza into a seven-point lead after one quarter.

Pottstown was led by Abdul Jackson’s 14 points, but it was power forward Nahzier Booker who made the early difference for the Trojans.

Booker, a first-team All-Area running back during football season, brought his brand of physicality and athleticism to the hardwood this winter, and was rewarded with his best statistical game of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

“The 13 points, that’s a season high,” said Pottstown coach Ken Ivory. “But the rebounds, that’s nothing new. He’s been up around 20 rebounds in at least one game this season.”

Coming into the game, the story was the height and experience of Phoenixville against the quickness and athleticism of Pottstown. Early on, however, it was the Phantoms looking rattled as the Trojans negated the height advantage with numerous players crashing the boards and blocking shots from close range.

Booker swatted an early attempt from Phoenixville’s Lebisky, while Jurrell Young provided a highlight sprinting the length of the court for a chase-down block on a would-be breakaway layup.

Meanwhile, Booker added to his inside arsenal with a three to end the first period to grow Pottstown’s lead to seven, and Jahmir Jackson grew that lead to double digits with an old-fashioned three-point play halfway through the second.

But that’s when Phoenixville discovered the best way to utilize their size advantage – a 2-3 zone defense that seemed to confound Pottstown’s dynamic ball handlers.

“At the end of the first half we se saw them struggling with the zone,” confirmed Deacon Baratta. “So we stuck with it for the second half, and with our big guys down low we were able to force turnovers.

Also instrumental to the turnaround were Phoenixville guards Kurran Booth, Brady O’Donnell, and Cervino, who crowded the Pottstown ball handlers and forced some low-percentage opportunities.

“Shot selection, ball security – we started turning the ball over, taking ill-advised shots,” said Pottstown coach Ken Ivory.

“Plus (Lebisky) started getting downhill, we lost track of (Cervino) – and when you can’t find him, you can count it. We haven’t seen the 2-3 zone in that situation yet this year.”

The Trojans, in fact, did strong work on Lebisky, holding the 6-foot-5 Phoenixville forward without a field goal until the 2:20 mark of the third quarter. Lebisky connected only twice from the field but registered 8-of-10 foul shooting and started several fast breaks with pinpoint outlet passing.

Pottstown’s late scoring opportunities came mostly in transition, with Abdul Jackson getting a breakaway layup followed quickly by a steal-and-score.But Baratta gave Phoenixville the lead for good a minute into the fourth quarter, and Cervino put the game out of reach with three consecutive field goals.

After the game, Friday night’s star said there’s no ceiling on what the Phantoms can accomplish in the PAC.

“This is the most close-knit team I’ve played on in high school,” said Cervino. “It makes all the difference when you’re down at half. We come in, we have a talk, and we show what Phoenixville basketball is all about.”


Phoenixville 64, Pottstown 55

Pottstown   21   10   11   13   —   55

Phoenixville   14   10   18   22   —   64

Pottstown (55): A. Jackson 6 0 2-3 14, Young 2 1 2-4 9, J. Jackson 1 0 1-2 3, S. Jackson 2 1 4-4 11, Wood 1 0 1-2 3, Perry 0 0 0-0 0, Butler 1 0 0-0 2, Booker 5 1 0-0 13, Totals 18 3 10-15 55.

Phoenixville (64): Absher 0 0 0-0 0, Yurick 0 0 0-0 0, Booth 0 0 1-2 1, O’Donnell 3 0 0-0 6, Leo 0 0 0-0 0, Meadows 0 0 0-0 0, A. Cervino 0 0 0-0 0, Baratta 5 0 3-4 13, C. Cervino 8 3 2-2 27, Lebisky 2 0 8-10 12, McClintock 2 0 1-2 5, Totals 20 3 15-20 64.

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