Penncrest doesn’t need a reminder that the end to the season was less than ideal.
From 10-3 on Jan. 9, the Lions stumbled to a 3-6 finish to the season, landing them at No. 28 in the District One Class AAAA tournament and saddling them with a daunting trip to No. 5 Penn Wood.
That doesn’t mean that coach Mike Doyle is preparing for the Lions’ seventh consecutive trip to the tournament to be a short one.
Doyle admits that his team had some unsightly missteps down the stretch, including losses to Garnet Valley and Harriton. But one of the team’s weaknesses is in matching up with smaller teams that play four guards and spread his team out defensively. One of the few teams in the Central League with two bona fide post presences in AJ Taylor and Chandler Henry (plus a serviceable backup in John Nichols), the Lions excel when they can play a three-guard, two-forward look at both ends of the court.
Doyle is hopeful that Penn Wood presents just such an opportunity. While the Patriots are undoubtedly guard-oriented, they do have taller players like Jordan Johnson and Kwabriem Jenkins who stay in the post, while Calvin Melton has the game, if not the height, of a power forward who can shoot. While Penn Wood is a good rebounding team, Henry and Taylor have a chance to impact the game on the boards.
Doyle, meanwhile, has some plans as to how to contain the influence of the Patriots’ Addison Scott and Malik Jackson. Penncrest’s perimeter players like Mike Doyle, Drew Hanna and Nolan Carroll are good on-ball defenders, but they haven’t had to contend with many players as explosive as Scott and Jackson in the Central League, and certainly not two such players on the court at the same time.
There’s also the issue of mitigating the emotional swings. Jackson’s ability to shoot from anywhere makes him dangerous in transition, and if Penn Wood can create turnovers, they can score in bunches very quickly.
“We have to keep our composure at all times,” Carroll said after practice Tuesday. “They’re going to have their runs, but we have to keep doing what we can do.”
Another issue of late has been slow starts, something that doomed them against Harriton. Carroll takes the responsibility for that, saying he and Doyle need to be more patient and judicious in their shot selection.