Boys Basketball: Penn Wood-Lower Merion extra points

I expected Penn Wood to have a tough go of it, even with homecourt advantage, against No. 9 seed Lower Merion. I didn’t expect the Aces to run away as they did, winning 58-43. A few extra points from the game (or you can listen to the replay of the audio stream, with a very special halftime guest, if I do say so myself):

Lower Merion's Justin McFadden, left, played a big role in bottling up Penn Wood's Malik Jackson in the Aces' 58-43 win Tuesday. (Times staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)

Lower Merion’s Justin McFadden, left, played a big role in bottling up Penn Wood’s Malik Jackson in the Aces’ 58-43 win Tuesday. (Times staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)

– You can’t help but be impressed by Justin McFadden, not just offensively but by his dogged work on the glass, especially after the Patriots seemed to get the better of that facet of the game early. His ability to hit open 3-pointers was ultimately the difference maker, and his size and speed was something the Patriots couldn’t answer. While no necessarily captured by the stats, he also was a potent deterrent in the lane, doing so without fouling. If McFadden plays like this, the Aces are going to be a tough out.

Malik Jackson wasn’t on Tuesday, and for as much as the Penn Wood staff maintains that they can win when he isn’t at his best, the fact remains that they can’t beat a team of Lower Merion’s caliber with him limited. While 15 points looks nice in the scoreboard, averaging one point per shot attempt doesn’t do it. He was 6-for-15 from the field and 2-for-9 from 3-point land, several of the attempts quite forced. I mentioned this on the broadcast, and though Jackson downplayed it afterward, I just wonder if the open look he missed with about 10 seconds left, which could’ve tied the game at 28, might have stuck with him.

– I’ve alluded to this before, and I think it’s time to analyze it in greater detail. Let’s start with a math lesson. In terms of averages, Jeff Padilioni (7.4 ppg), Naeem East (6.3) and Amadou Kaba (5.7) are averaging 19.7 points per game. They are remarkably consistent in hitting that number, but they also rarely deviate from those averages. It seems like those guys tend to go “3 0-0 6,” and no more. Between the three, they have 14 double-figure performances, and only once has one of the them topped 20 points. Only four times this season have they combined for more than 24 points, a modest improvement on their season average, while 14 times they’ve hovered between 14 and 22 points. So what does that mean for our purposes? Well, they’re consistent and steady, but in a game like Lower Merion where Penn Wood sought someone to step up, none of the three obliged. The notion of a “quiet” points may seem statistically silly, but that’s how you’d describe the performances of Jackson and Kaba, who had 11, against Lower Merion. Early foul trouble took East completely out of the game, and Padilioni scored six of the game’s first eight points, then was held without a shot attempt the rest of the way.

– One other thing about the Penn Wood bigs: They don’t have the best hands. Several times they were hit right in the mitts by good passes by Addison Scott (who continues to impress me with his growth as a guard) but dropped them. By the time they had recovered, Jule Brown or McFadden had closed down the space. When coaches talk about failing to execute, that’s the kind of things they’re thinking of.

– Presented without commentary: Penn Wood was whistled for 20 fouls, including an intentional, while Lower Merion was called for 10. Lower Merion went to the line 29 times; Penn Wood four, and not for the first time until the waning seconds of the third quarter.

– I was extremely impressed by JaQuan Johnson, who was the main orchestrator of the Aces’ dribble-drive, penetrate-and-kick offense. I had him for seven assists, which may have been a low figure, because it seemed that he and fellow guards Steve Pendleton and Archbishop Carroll transfer Nick Jones provided a pinpoint outlet pass whenever needed, often getting Lower Merion easy transition hoops.

– Let’s talk playbacks. Penn Wood needs two wins. They have No. 17 Methacton, a slow-it-down, deliberate team that they could have some trouble with. Then they would play the winner of No. 20 Harriton and No. 12 Oxford. They get to be at home for both of those prospective contests, which is a big edge, and based on the seeds, they should have the edge. But I highly doubt it’ll be that easy.

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