SHARON HILL — Penn Wood coach Kareem Wright realized earlier this week that he needed to push the reset button on his team’s 2018-19 season.
Wright, a former Rutgers University standout and Harlem Globetrotter, has been around the game long enough to know when his players require a mental break.
Following a 29-point setback to Kennett Tuesday, the Patriots’ sixth in 10 games, Wright held a team meeting Wednesday.
“We’ve been trying to understand what it takes to play. We didn’t practice yesterday, intentionally,” Wright said. “Instead of a practice, we had a talk as a team and I went over what it takes to be successful. I said to them, if it comes down to effort, that’s something that I can’t coach. So, after our talk, we came into (Thursday’s game) with a whole new idea of being relentless.”
The Patriots answered their coach’s call with an impressive 61-47 victory over reigning Del Val League champion Academy Park.
“I asked them to be relentless on how we run our offense and to be relentless on defense. And, most importantly, to be relentless on how you pick up your teammates,” Wright said. “I just harped on that and they came out and gave me that tonight. I’m extremely proud of them because they mentally tuned-in to what I was talking about. It really seemed like our talk pushed them over the limit tonight.
“We had a tough loss against Kennett the other day, so I felt like pulling them together and getting them mentally focused would be more beneficial. The seniors really stepped up. Awa (Dicko) played her tail off and so did Ashley (Cyrus).”
Dicko led all players with 16 points to go with a game-high seven steals. Cyrus, Dicko’s backcourt mate, tossed in 14 points and dished out five assists.
“It felt good coming here and winning. We looked forward to it,” Cyrus said. “We wanted to come back and play our hearts out and get this win.”
“We were excited to win,” Dicko added. “It’s all we wanted to do.”
Dicko and Cyrus fueled the Patriots with their aggressive defense and smart decision making on the offensive end. It also helped that both players combined to go 12-for-20 from the floor.
And they brought a lot of energy.
“We just want to pick our teammates up,” Cyrus said. “We want to get it going.”
The Patriots (5-6, 1-0 Del Val) used a 12-1 run in the second quarter to pull away from the Knights (5-6, 1-1). Raquel Curry (seven points, eight rebounds, two assists) made a runner before the end of the first half to give the Patriots a 36-21 advantage.
Penn Wood’s lead ballooned to 41-21 midway through the third quarter before AP’s Lashay Jackson hit a free throw to end the run. The Knights went more than an entire period without a field goal, but eventually cut their deficit to 13 points before the end of the third quarter. The Patriots, though, closed the period with six straight points and Dicko kicked off the final stanza with a steal and layup to extend the lead to 20 points. A pair of 3-pointers by Taylor Smith gave the Knights some late life, but the Patriots eventually seized control and iced the win.
Penn Wood shot 60 percent (26 of 43) from the field. Academy Park had a tougher time, making just 16 of 56 field goal attempts.
Junior forward Jada Hutt was a big factor in the low post, pairing nine points with seven rebounds and two blocks. Senior guard Ashley Trabanino netted seven of her nine points in the second quarter.
For the Knights, Lashay Jackson registered 14 points and three assists off the bench. Gabrielle Jackson finished with 12 points and four steals, while Smith added 13 points.
Elsewhere in the Del Val League:
Chester 36, Interboro 34 >> Shaymoni DeShields hit a free throw to give the Clippers (2-6, 2-0) the lead with 10 seconds to play. Seconds later, DeShields, who led all players with 17 points, went back to the foul line to close out the win.
Monique Colbert had nine points and 18 rebounds for the Clippers, who overcame a 10-point deficit at halftime. Madison Diehl paced the Bucs with nine points.
In the Central League:
Haverford 38, Penncrest 21 >> Erin Doherty scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the second quarter. Doherty added five rebounds and four steals and Lindsey Lane chipped in with nine points for Haverford.
Alexis Calloway netted a team-high eight points for Penncrest.
Strath Haven 53, Upper Darby 40 >> Cayden Frazier and Dagney Lott fronted a balanced attack for the Panthers (9-1) with 10 points apiece. Faith Raymond, Danielle McNeely and Alisha Lewis all tossed in nine points.
Jasmine Forrester powered the host Royals with 19 points and Gabby Libero contributed nine.
In the Catholic League:
Bonner & Prendergast 64, Conwell-Egan 24 >> Ariana McGeary scored eight of her 12 points in an opening quarter that saw the visiting Pandas (8-4, 3-2) race out to a 23-2 lead. Dakota McCaughan scored 10 points, Alexis Eagan contributed nine points and four assists, and Reagan Dolan paired seven points with six boards for the Pandas.
In the Catholic Academies League:
St. Basil 47, Sacred Heart 22 >> Four players scored four points each for the Lions, who were outscored 24-8 in the second half.