I expected Penncrest and Upper Darby to put together a strong game befitting the do-or-die nature of the Central League this season. I didn’t quite expect the overtime thriller the two teams put together Thursday.
It wasn’t always attractive to watch, but the 52-46 overtime win by Penncrest is the type of triumph that separates title contenders from pretenders. A few extra points from the game:
– Because the game got so good, I only alluded to this in the game story, and I can’t believe I couldn’t play it up bigger. But Upper Darby had a nine-point possession in the second quarter. A NINE-POINT possession, in a quarter where Penncrest scored eight points total, no less. Here’s the breakdown: Corey Williams hits a lay-in (running counter: 2 points). As the ball is bouncing on the rim about to go down, Ben Casanova of Penncrest is called for a push. Upper Darby retains the ball, side out. Beni Toure misses a shot, gets his own rebound, then scores two (4 points) and gets hacked by Rahmi Halaby. While the foul is being relayed to the scorer’s table, Penncrest’s bench is assessed a (very dubious) technical foul. Toure sinks the and-one (5 points) and the two technical free throws (7 points). Upper Darby gets the ball after the technical, and Toure drives to the hoop for a lay-in (9 points). Nine points without a Penncrest hand touching the ball. Amazing.
– While we’re on the subject of refereeing oddities, let’s discuss the kerfuffle with 9.5 seconds left where Nolan Carroll was given a timeout while diving out of bounds with a rebound. You know, that rule that was changed around 2006 because it was patently ridiculous. Penncrest got the timeout, though, because that type of mistake is an “uncorrectable error” after the fact. So basically the refs admitted that the call was incorrect, but they couldn’t change it after the fact. So instead of the ball, down 1 with 9.5 seconds left, it was Penncrest ball for Casanova to hit one of two free throws. Torey Green eventually tied the game with .8 seconds left, but overtime could’ve been avoided.
– I leave the game immensely impressed with the ability of two star players to step up: Upper Darby’s Green, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Halaby, who scored the first six points of overtime to put Penncrest in control. Big-time players step up at important moments; that’s exactly what they did.
– For Green, it’s all the more impressive given that he’s scored just three points in each of his last two outings, both Upper Darby losses. Green has scored fewer than 10 points on four occasions this season; the Royals are 1-3 in those games. In the Royals’ five losses, Green is averaging 8.2 points per game; in their 11 wins, he’s at 15.0. That can’t be a coincidence.
– All season, I’ve been intrigued by the dynamic for Penncrest, and they are just a good basketball team. Their strength stems from the inside-out balance. Halaby and Casanova can keep defenders packed in the lane, but they’re adept at putting the ball on the floor to create shots, both jumpers and getting to the basket. That gives the outside shooters a chance to operate. The guards are good but not spectacular, able to hit the 3s when needed and Drew Hanna is the kind of error-resistant point guard needed to make it run. I like their district prospects.
– Upper Darby is a dangerously streaky team, and it’s in the midst of a bad run at the moment. In their last seven games, the Royals have gotten over 50 points just twice. Thursday, Penncrest turned to a zone defense at times, daring the Royals to shoot out of it. I’m surprised that Upper Darby didn’t turn up the pace more in the face of that defense. I suppose the flipside of balance for Upper Darby is the lack of players to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Quadir Rice had eight early points Thursday, then disappeared. Only three of Toure’s 15 points came after halftime, when he was 1-for-7 from the field. They just aren’t able to get everyone involved consistently enough, and they haven’t been able to run enough in transition to contend with the Central League teams that want to slow things down.