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Unionville rallies but falls to Holy Ghost Prep in overtime

Bensalem >> A few minutes after Unionville’s emotional 49-36 overtime loss to host Holy Ghost Prep in the playback round of the PIAA District 1 5A boys basketball tournament, Indians’ head coach Chris Cowles circulated among his crestfallen players, consoling and thanking them for a great season that unfortunately ended in disappointment Wednesday night.
“It’s tough, this was a very intense game,” said an emotional Cowles. “This loss really hurts now, but as you go through life, you realize that the relationships the players formed with each other is important, even more important than, say, you won a state championship or something like that. And, certainly at a time like this, you’ve got to focus on that, you’ve got to reflect on the big picture.”
Unionville got into overtime after an improbable fourth-quarter Indian rally that followed three quarters of ice-cold shooting by the visitors. The Indians shot 2-for-20 in the first half, trailed at halftime 15-7, and still was behind 30-21 midway through the fourth quarter. With the help of a pressure defense that triggered numerous Firebird turnovers, the Indians began to find their shooting touch and rallied to go ahead 32-30 with 1:26 left in regulation. In overtime, the Indians led by two points with 1:31 left – then the wheels came off.
With the loss, Unionville, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, finished the season at 17-10. Holy Ghost Prep (20-8), the second seed, will face No. 5 seed West Chester Rustin in the fifth-place game Friday. Both Holy Ghost Prep and Rustin will advance to States.
After making the 50-mile trip to Bensalem Wednesday afternoon, Unionville started the game slowly. Both teams used a patient offense, passing often and penetrating rarely. After Unionville senior Wyatt Hockenberry hit a trey from the right wing to tie the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter, the Indians went scoreless the remainder of the first half, and trailed the Firebirds 15-7 at halftime. Holy Ghost Prep wasn’t exactly a ball of fire from the field in the first half either, going 6-for-21.
“We really struggled to make shots,” said Cowles. “We were getting pretty good shot opportunities, but the ball just wasn’t going in – that’s how it goes, sometimes.”
Late in the third period, Unionville began to spring a full-court press on Holy Ghost Prep, and it caused several turnovers that were followed by field goals from Indian seniors Drew Lenkaitis and Sean Rafferty, cutting the Firebirds’ lead to 21-17.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Unionville’s comeback from a 30-21 deficit was led by junior Logan Shanahan and senior Bo Furey-Bastian, who combined for 13 of the Indians’ 15 points in the period.
Shanahan’s putback cut the Firebirds’ lead to 30-23, then following a Holy Ghost Prep miss from underneath, the Unionville junior got the ball again and nailed a trey to make it 30-26. The Firebirds came upcourt and tried to penetrate, but a Shanahan blocked shot gave the ball back to the Indians; then Rafferty was fouled and made both free throws.
Shanahan then blocked another Firebird shot, and Bastian drove in for a field goal to tie the score at 30-30 with 2:55 left in regulation. One minute later, Bastian made both ends of a one-and-one to give Unionville its first lead of the night, 32-30, with 1:26 left.
“We did a good job of turning Holy Ghost over in the fourth quarter, and we knew we could do that; it was a matter of not being in the bonus situation too early,” said Cowles. “And I think part of the comeback was just making a shot here and there.”
A couple of Firebird free throws sent the game into overtime, and both teams started out patiently in the extra period. Finally, with 2:04 left, Unionville senior Connor Ash was fouled, and he made both free throws, giving the Indians a 34-32 lead.
Thirty seconds later, with the Indians holding a 34-33 lead, Lenkaitis grabbed a rebound following a Holy Ghost Prep miss, was fouled and converted a free throw to put the visitors up 35-33. After the Firebirds’ junior forward Sean Elliott nailed a trey from the top of the key, Furey-Bastian converted a free throw to tie the score at 36-36 with 51.8 seconds left.
Holy Ghost Prep held a slim 37-36 lead with 44.7 seconds left, then following a Unionville miss from the outside, a foul was called on the Indians 19 seconds later, and shortly thereafter, a technical foul. Firebird senior guard Greg Sylvester and senior forward Jack Rittenmeyer took full advantage, combining to go 4-for-4 from the charity stripe, then the ball went back to Holy Ghost Prep. Firebird junior guard Tyler Mish promptly was fouled, made both of his free throws, and with 27 seconds left, Holy Ghost Prep had a 43-36 lead.
Following a Unionville miss from the outside, a foul was called on the Indians, and another techincal foul on Cowles. Then the hosts went 4-for-4 from the free throw line to make it 47-36.
“Obviously it was a very intense game, things happened in overtime, but we had control over the overtime at one point, too,” said Cowles. “Every game we kind of reflect afterward what we could have done better; but this isn’t a time for that, this is a time for appreciation, gratitude for our guys for what they brought to our program.”
The defeat to Holy Ghost Prep marked the end of the high school basketball career of a bunch of talented Unionville seniors. Lenkaitis will be playing lacrosse for the University of Vermont; Hockenberry will be playing basketball for Elizabethtown College; Sean Rafferty will be heading to Alvernia; and Furey-Bastian (who scored 13 points Wednesday) is still deciding where he’ll play basketball.
When the Unionville players emerged from the postgame locker room into the Holy Ghost Prep gym, a sizable group of Indian fans was waiting for them, applauding.
“This group had a lot of accomplishments, and at the end of the season, they all were [bonded] tight – at our team banquet, they talked about how the team became a family for the first time,” said Cowles. “I’m thankful for these guys – they’re great kids, and everyone in the [Unionville] community know they’re great kids. We had a great fan base this season too.”

Holy Ghost Prep 49, Unionville 36
Unionville 4 3 10 15 4 – 36
Holy Ghost Prep 7 8 8 9 17 – 49
Unionville (36): Furey-Bastian 4 5-6 13, Ash 1 2-2 4, Shanahan 3 0-0 7, Hockenberry 2 0-0 5, Rafferty 1 2-2 4, Lenkaitis 1 1-3 3, Totals 12 10-13 36.
Holy Ghost Prep (49): G. Sylvester 0 3-4 3, Mish 1 5-6 8, Rittenmeyer 4 4-4 13, Calvin 2 0-0 4, Elliott 4 4-6 13, Morrison 0 0-0 0, S. Sylvester 2 4-6 8, Totals 13 20-26 49.
Three-point field goals: Unionville – Shanahan, Hockenberry; Holy Ghost Prep – Mish, Rittenmeyer, Elliott.

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