William Penn coach Troy Sowers knows what most people might think. His team is supposed to be world beaters, they are -- after all -- the defending league champions. Coming off a 24-win season, the Bearcats must be the team to beat, right?
But perception is not always reality, at least not this early in the season.
After the Bearcats survived an ugly, foul-filled 66-61 victory against South Philadelphia in the season opener, Sowers joked he had a new item at the top of his agenda for this morning's shoot around. He wants to see one of his players shoot a 3-pointer.
"I just want to know, yes we can still make a three," Sowers said.
William Penn shot 0-for-16 from beyond the arc against South Philadelphia.
"That's rare, I don't think we'll have a game where we shoot like that again," William Penn senior Tavon Parker said. "But it shows how good of a team we are, because the threes weren't falling and we didn't shoot our best from the free-throw line but we still found a way to win. That's what good teams do: They find a way to pull out the wins."
Despite all that went wrong in this season opener, William Penn still had a couple things going in its favor. First and foremost, Parker still wears a Bearcats jersey. All he did to kick off his senior season was score a game-high 35 points. He scored 11 points in a back-and-forth third quarter. And then he allowed William Penn to stretch its lead with a 16-point fourth quarter.
The Bearcats also have Derek Wilson back on the floor. The 6-3 senior showed glimpses of what could be a special year. He threw down a reverse dunk, he missed another dunk off an in-bounds pass and he skied to set up a William Penn steal and fast break. Those three plays may have been the most athletic plays of the game.
But William Penn -- even with Parker and Wilson -- might not win this game if they don't wear down South Philadelphia in the second half.
"Typically we wear teams down in the third and fourth quarters," Sowers said. "I think we're in better condition because I just run the guys to death."
The period featured four ties and four lead changes, before William Penn took the lead for good with about five minutes to play in the third. The Bearcats then closed out the quarter with a 6-0 run. The win, however, illustrated that the key for William Penn may be continuing to improve as the season progresses.
"When you have four kids that have ever played varsity basketball on your team ... I kind of figured tonight might be a little ugly," Sowers said. "We had one day of practice on our court in the last week, because they were re-doing our floor. I don't know if that affected us, but we typically don't shoot that poorly.
"At least I can say we'll never shoot that bad again."
The Bearcats advance to play Williamsport at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the championship game of William Penn's tip-off tournament.
The Millionaires held off a Reading rally in the second half to win the tournament's opening game, 79-70. Jahad Thomas scored a game-high 27 points for Williamsport. Isaiah Washington (16 points) and 6-foot-6 Chris Kinley (15 points) helped pace the offense.
Reading will play South Philadelphia in the consolation game at 6 p.m.
SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (61)
Ralik Wise 5 8-13 18, Wayne Brunson 6 4-9 17, Yusef Ross 4 4-4 12, Harris 2 2-5 6, Means 2 0-0 4, Lomax 2 0-0 4, Limontoro 0 0-2 0, Leonard 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Bain 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 18-33 61.
WILLIAM PENN (66)
Tavon Parker 14 7-10 35, Derek Wilson 4 3-5 11, Casiano 2 2-4 6, Stephens 1 3-4 5, Jackson 2 1-2 5, Dickson 1 1-4 3, J. Wilson 0 1-2 1. Totals 24 18-31 66.
S.Philadelphia 13 13 12 23 -- 61
William Penn 12 15 17 22 -- 66
3-point goals -- South Philadelphia 1 (Brunson).
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