Last season, the North Penn boys basketball team needed a strong finish to the regular season to earn a spot in the District 1-6A playoffs.
The Knights went 5-3 over their final eight games to finish 9-13 and grab the 24th and final postseason spot. They upset CB West in the first round and, after losing to Pennridge, picked up wins over Council Rock South and CB East to earn a spot in the state tournament.
North Penn is starting faster this year, getting out to a 4-2 start with a chance to move into first place in the Suburban One League Colonial Division at home against CB East Tuesday night.
The Knights credit their offseason work for their early-season success. The players got into three groups of five – led by Billy Coley, Josh Jones and Joe Larkins – that would meet during the shutdown to work out.
“We did whatever we could – shoot around, work out any way we could – and that was a big piece,” Jones said, “because we spent about a month with each other when some other teams weren’t able to really meet. I think that kickstarted it for us.
“We would go to parks, we’d run hills, all kinds of stuff like that for a solid month. The groups were competing, we had to send in videos to get points with the coaches. The winners got gift cards of their choice, my group won, so we all got Chipotle gift cards.”
“I like to believe we put in more work than any other team during preseason even when we couldn’t get in the gym,” Coley said. “We worked on building chemistry early, I told the guys in my group we have to have good chemistry if we want to win basketball games.”
That chemistry has the Knights on a three-game winning streak heading into Tuesday night’s 7 p.m. tip against the Patriots.
Despite area basketball teams playing this season with limited offseason work, a couple freshmen are quickly making an impact on the court – Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Jaden Colzie and Upper Dublin’s Amy Ngo.
Colzie has played a key role in the Colonials 5-0 start to the 2021 campaign. In their two closest wins of the year – both coming last week – the point guard scored 11 points in a six-point win over Upper Dublin and 16 points in a 12-point win over Abington.
Against the Cardinals, Colzie scored seven of his points in the second quarter to help extend a 17-15 lead to 28-19 at halftime. He hit three three-pointers to highlight his team-high 16 points against the Ghosts.
Ngo was stealing the show on Upper Dublin’s Senior Night against Wissahickon before exiting the game early in the fourth. She scored 16 points – which led the team before she sat with the game in hand – and showed she could score at all levels Friday night. She hit a pair of three-pointers during a 10-point second quarter and her defense helped force the Trojans into 20 turnovers. She also had 13 points in a win over Hatboro-Horsham earlier in the season.
Can’t Stop Stover
Upper Dublin center Drew Stover is scoring at will this season. Through six games, the 6-foot-7 senior has scored 26, 29, 31, 27, 28 and 30 points. His 28.5 points per game average has the Cardinals at 5-1 and in second place in the SOL Liberty Division.
“He’s a force,” Upper Dublin coach Chris Monahan said after Stover posted 27 points and 13 rebounds against PW last week. “He’s got a soft touch around the rim, can finish with both hands around the rim. He’s doing a better job this year establishing position. He’s doing a good job offensive rebounding and getting put-backs. He’s a problem for other teams.”
“It’s not an easy job,” PW forward Luke DiCianno said of guarding Stover. “The gameplan really was to try and stop him from getting into the post. He’s dominant in the post.”
The Cardinals, who are currently No. 7 in the District 1-6A rankings, face Hatboro-Horsham and Quakertown this week.
PCL Ready To Go
The Philadelphia Catholic League basketball season starts this Friday and area teams are ready to get back on the floor.
On the boys side, Archbishop Carroll hosts Archbishop Ryan at 6 p.m. and La Salle hosts Neumann-Goretti at 7 p.m.
For the girls, Carroll travels to Archbishop Wood for a 7 p.m. matchup.
MediaNews Group reporter Andrew Robinson contributed to this article.