UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Pope John Paul II returned home from a six-game road trip Thursday night and rallied to a 55-50 Pioneer Athletic Conference cross-division win over Norristown to extend its winning streak to 10 games.
After leading for the entire first quarter and part of the second, the Golden Panthers (15-3) fell behind, 17-15, before halftime. They trailed until Drew McKeon hit a three-pointer in the fourth quarter to give them a 44-43 lead. Justin Green hit another three on the next possession to make it a four-point game with 3:10 to go.
The Eagles tried to get back into the game behind Willie Anderson, who scored five of his game-high 19 points down the stretch, but PJP guard Jaden Workman went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line to close out the 55-50 victory.
“At the end of practice we shoot free throws for like 20 minutes,” Workman said. “I just really work on my free throws and I feel comfortable at the line.”
“Jaden Workman made 8-for-8 at the free-throw line there at the end as a sophomore,” PJP coach Brendan Stanton added. “I can’t even tell you the last time Jaden’s missed a free throw in all honesty. He always seems to make big plays. Ice water in the veins. He makes free throws whenever he needs to.”
Norristown’s last chance came down three with 20 seconds left. The visitors went for a quick two, but Green was there for his eighth block of the game. Workman grabbed the rebound and extended the lead to five with his final two free throws.
“(Green) had a few 10-block games last year as a sophomore,” Stanton said. “He’s an unbelievable defender. This year we have utilized him a little more on wing guys and have pulled him out of the paint a little bit. Tonight he was guarding some post guys and he was able to really protect the rim. He’s also really good at changing shots. I can’t tell you how many times those Norristown guys made those layups in the first half they didn’t make in the second half. He just brought unbelievable energy.”
The Golden Panthers, the top team in District 1-4A, have mostly enjoyed comfortable wins during their 10-game streak. In close games they held off Delco Christian, 55-53, in December and edged Pottstown, 58-57, earlier this week. The Norristown game was the second time they needed to rally, along with a 43-38 win over Boyertown on Jan. 11.
“I knew tonight was going to be a different test,” Stanton said, “just because of the way Norristown plays. Their style of play – they were going to be up on us. I was really excited because getting back home, playing in front of our fans, I think winning definitely helps people come out to games. I was confident that we would respond well, but I think tonight we learned a lot about ourselves as far as not really a tangible basketball thing, but our willingness to never get down. We were down 11 in the third quarter … We passed the ball more, we got some good shots and our kids just stuck with it.”
Workman led PJP with 16 points, Green added 14 and Luke McCarthy had 10.
Anderson was the only Eagle in double figures. Chris Dinolfi scored nine points and John Paulino and Chaz Middleton each added six.