Mike Doyle has been at the helm of Penncrest for 250-some games over 11 seasons. In that time, his team had never gone without a made 3-pointer in a game … until last Sunday, when they were blanked from behind the arc by Conestoga in a 55-33 loss in the Central League semifinals.
Despite that loss – the Lions’ fourth straight and fifth in their last six outings, Doyle isn’t worried about his No. 11 Penncrest team as they head into a date with No. 22 Central Bucks West to open Districts.
For a team that has hit 118 triples this season and boasts two of Delco’s – and, as Doyle quickly points out, Southeastern Pennsylvania’s – most prolific 3-point shooters in Nolan Carroll (50 made 3s) and Mike Doyle (43), he’s fine with viewing the Conestoga game as an aberration.
The Pioneers, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, employed a different strategy against Penncrest, taking their lumps in the paint with bigs Rahmi Halaby and Ben Casanova, but completely negating the Lions’ perimeter players. With the Lions (15-8, 10-7) slow to adjust to that approach, they fell with their lowest point production of the season by far.
The loss is the latest installment in a late-season swoon that has involved a 1-5 record down the stretch. All five of those losses, including two to Conestoga, have come to teams qualifying for districts.
That streak comes on the heels of a six-game winning run and a stretch of nine wins in 10 outings, one that may have fostered an inflated sense of confidence.
“We believe that obviously they could’ve played better,” Doyle said. “Early on, we snuck up on teams and, as I think is natural for our players being 17- and 18-year-old kids, they thought maybe they were better than they were. With the teams we had already beat and with the RPI systems we were using, we were carrying so much weight in terms of points that teams came out swinging for us.”
The Lions aren’t getting too low about it, though. Doyle, for one, expected to come back to earth from the lofty heights of their 15-4 start, especially given a schedule with such a difficult stretch at the end.
What they get in CB West is a team that plays a very Central League-type style. The Bucks (13-9, 8-6 Suburban One Continental) have scored over 60 points in a game just four times this season.
It was the Bucks who two seasons ago delivered one of the worst affronts to the game of basketball ever seen, a 29-28 overtime loss to Glen Mills in the opening round of districts that I had the distinct misfortune of sitting through.
Their offense is guard heavy, orchestrated by point man Jared Kelly and featuring Patrick Kelley. They aren’t overly big and should be a good matchup for Halaby and Casanova, averaging 14.7 and 13.5 points per game, respectively to get their points.