Haverford’s storybook season didn’t get the ending many of the Fords had hoped for Saturday in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA Tournament. Though the Fords’ season came to a decisive end in a 67-49 loss to William Penn of York, there were some positives to take away. Some extra points:
– Guard Mike O’Halloran was pretty adamant afterward that the Fords came into the meeting with the Bearcats believing they could pull a pretty sizeable upset over the District 3 champs. But they were obviously nervous from the opening tip and unable to keep composed possession of the ball. How else do you explain a normally disciplined team coughing the ball up 12 times in the first half, including six of the first nine times they got possession? Some of it had to do with William Penn’s length and press, but the Fords also had an alarming tendency to get trapped in the corners in their halfcourt, hardly conducive to running their offense. Plus, all those turnovers gave William Penn myriad opportunities in transition. By the time they stabilized their offensive plan, they were too far behind to execute the deliberate sets they wanted, forced to hurry up to recoup the deficit.
– Then there’s the fact that you simply cannot shoot the way Haverford did and think you’re going to go into a hostile environment (Dallastown Area High School is only a seven-mile trip for the Bearcats) and spring an upset. The Fords were 5-for-18 from 3-point range (truth be told, it didn’t even seem to be that efficient during the game) and just 10-for-19 from the free throw line. They did execute some nice backdoor cuts to get open, but their penetration from O’Halloran (save the third quarter) and Jack Donaghy was almost nonexistent.
– I had a feeling, just looking at the measurables of William Penn, that Haverford would be a bit susceptible to such a rangy, athletic team. But they had no prayer of stopping the Bearcats once they got into the lane. I don’t keep points in the paint, but I imagine that at least 15 of the 21 baskets scored by the Bearcats came within five feet of the cup. Jahaire Wilson was a monster on the boards with 13 rebounds to go with his 21 points, and all this came with Trey Shifflett slowed and slightly tentative about driving the lane.
– For upsets like this to happen, I always think that someone has to step up and go off for the underdog to have a chance. No one did. Tom Leibig shot 2-for-9 from the field and missed both of his 3-point opportunities. The step-back jumpers he usually relied on to create separation and rise over the defender were nowhere near as effective given the Bearcats length. Donaghy was invisible, unable to get into the lane as he had this season. Both spent long stretches on the bench. Chris Lyons picked up some of the slack, but most of his points were of the second-chance and secondary option varieties, cleaning up after things broke down. It simply wasn’t enough.
– A work about William Penn: They are a solid team that knows what it is, a dribble-drive team that doesn’t settle for a lot of jump shots (they went just 1-for-4 from 3-point land Saturday). They are able to present multiple guard looks and have tremendous balance of scoring. But they are susceptible. They have a tendency to clutch and grab and commit lots of fouls. They can be undisciplined in a slowdown setting and take ill-advised rushed shots when they should be slowing the tempo. And if Wilson gets into foul trouble, they can go small quickly. I see them as susceptible to a really well-executed halfcourt team, one that can make its shots (as Haverford didn’t) and can get a fast enough start to employ a zone defense that limits their penetration avenues and forces them into jump shots.