Cheltenham tops Spring-Ford 66-52, Gets First State Bid Since 2006
From the second Noah Baker inbounded the ball to Ryan Fitzpatrick to start Spring-Ford’s first possession until Cheltenham secured the ball in the closing seconds to ensure victory, Cheltenham was running.
Everything started from the defense tonight as the Panthers pulled away late against the visiting Spring-Ford Rams to secure a spot in the quarterfinals and the state playoffs. From Ahmad Bickley’s work to force steals to Kyin Healey’s dominating second half in the post, Cheltenham had all the makings of great team defensive effort.
Cheltenham opened the game with a full court press and continued to throw different looks at the Rams defensively to make the ball handlers uncomfortable. However, despite the turnovers Spring-Ford held tough and each time it appeared that they were falling out of the game, they responded.
The first half saw the Panthers get plenty of turnovers, but not totally reap the rewards offensively. However, Spring-Ford had access to the paint in the first half which allowed them to keep it within five. That was all about to change with the emergence of Kyin Healey in the second half.
Healey would finish with four blocks and altered many more Spring-Ford shots in the process. The 6’5” sophomore did a great job of limiting the impact of both Austin Hokanson and Noah Baker who combined for 12 points in the Rams’ loss.
After the game, Coach John Timms praised the young kid for “taking away their post” with his positive attitude after the coaches got on him for a difficult first quarter where the Rams were able to work it down low.
“He took that (the first quarter benching) and he didn’t sob, he didn’t get upset, he took it and allowed it to motivate him to get back out there and do his job,” Coach Timms explained.
As for the most experienced Panther, Trevonn Pitts provided a spark every time Cheltenham needed one. When Spring-Ford worked the game back to 15-13, Pitts opened up the second quarter with a lay-up and the foul. At the beginning of the second half, he threw down a powerful two handed slam that drove off any momentum Spring-Ford had going into the half. Finally, when Spring-Ford thought they had closed the gap to four before the end of the third, he made an incredible shot between two defenders while being fouled.
Pitts saw his dunk in the fourth quarter as something that caused “the energy to change in the building” and added “we took over the game after that.”
Much of that takeover had to do with the team’s leading scorer for the evening, Bickley, and his clutch free throw shooting. With his team up four and under two minutes left, Bickley put the game on ice with two straight perfect trips to the line. Usually the facilitator for guys like Pitts and Jack Clark, the junior point guard shined on his own tonight.
Bickley even in the postgame denied the spotlight, highlighting his teammate’s achievement’s in the game rather than talking about his own. “Everything started with defense,” Bickley emphasized the importance of his team’s defensive effort, claiming that “we don’t worry about offense.”
The concept of playing as a team and playing “not to lose” as Pitts said, past Cheltenham teams have done have been the driving force behind getting the Panthers back into states for the first time since 2006. It also got them a chance to avenge last year’s season ending loss to Perkiomen Valley with the roles totally flipped.
This time it will be Perkiomen Valley coming in as the favorite with home court advantage this time around and the Panthers will not be taking them lightly at all. Praise was high for the next opponent in line, especially for Vikings’ star Justin Jaworski.
Coach Timms believes “(Jaworski) is 1a, 1b in terms of point guards in high school basketball. You’ve got (Villanova bound) Collin Gillespie, (Kentucky bound) Quade Green, and you got Justin Jaworski…to me that name belongs in that category.”
As for the PAC team that Cheltenham has already played, Spring-Ford will now host Garnet Valley in playbacks to keep their states’ hopes alive. In the loss, Ryan Fitzpatrick starred with 25 points and 5 three pointers. The team’s leading scorer brought them within four with less than two minutes left, but that would be the final points scored by the Rams.
The Rams will be fighting to try to get themselves back into states for the third time in the last four years and ultimately for their season against Garnet Valley. The loss also eradicates any chance of a rare fourth match-up between them and Perkiomen Valley this season in districts. While Spring-Ford may not be able to get revenge on their bitter rival, Cheltenham still is out to make up for last year’s upset.
Pitts and Coach Timms both echoed the same message after the game. One simple and concise message. This game means a little bit more and would be a little bit sweeter. Why?
Revenge. That’s why. Their chance now comes Friday in the gymnasium of the team that denied them a chance to play for states last year. This year, a trip to the district semifinals and Temple University is up for grabs.
(Photo Credit: Wave Lane)