When Troy Sowers exited the William Penn locker room after the Bearcats faced Bermudian Springs in the opening round of the YAIAA playoffs, the coach slowly exhaled.
"It's the playoffs," he said with obvious relief.
The Red Lion location was the same as in 2012 when the eventual champion Bearcats needed overtime to dispatch Delone Catholic, a scenario that looked possible, for awhile at least, again on Saturday night against the Eagles.
Bermudian pulled within two points with two minutes to play in the third quarter, but William Penn got its wheels going over the final 10 minutes and advanced behind a 60-38 victory.
The Bearcats improved to 21-2 and will face Northeastern in Wednesday's 8 p.m. semifinal back at Red Lion.
But this was no normal 22-point win, something Sowers is well aware of.
"You don't blow teams out in the playoffs," he said. "It would be nice to show up and win the game by 40 like the fans want. These are high school kids."
William Penn definitely struggled at the offensive end, especially in the first half. Still, the Bearcats opened a 22-8 second-quarter lead before Ryan Markle came off Bermudian's bench and launched a 3-pointer.
Silas Murren followed a William Penn turnover with a layup that turned into more when Derek Wilson was called for hanging on the defensive rim.
Neil Murren hit both technical foul shots, and with the Eagles maintaining possession, Markle drained another 3 and capped the 12-point run with a jumper for a 22-20 halftime score.
Tavon Parker scored the Bearcats' first eight points of the second half, but Bermudian (16-6) hung tough.
Late in the third, two Silas Murren free throws cut William Penn's lead to 37-33, but Parker followed with a smooth drive to the basket and Wilson fired up a 3-pointer that not only barely beat the buzzer but also put William Penn up nine points heading to the fourth quarter.
It also set the stage for the Bearcats' 13-4 run that opened the fourth quarter, featuring dunks by both Wilson and Parker, who finished with 15 points each. Jahaire Wilson added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
"When you play against them, they are so athletic, you can't make mental mistakes," Bermudian coach Tom Flaherty said. "We broke down. You do that a couple of times, they get baskets."
Markle's 10 points off the bench led the Eagles, who fell to 16-6 and will wait for their matchup in the District 3 Class AA playoffs.
"They are a very fundamental team. They made us work for everything tonight," Sowers said. "We were funky on offense, especially the first half. We haven't played a man-to-man defense in weeks.
"The second half we passed the ball a lot better. The first half we were sort of standing around watching. Luckily we played good defense, 38 points (allowed) will win a lot of games."
Missed shots and turnovers plagued both teams. The usually sure-handed Eagles committed 27 turnovers, while the Bearcats had 15.
Tickets on sale: Tickets for Wednesday's YAIAA tournament semifinal game against Northeastern will be available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the William Penn High School athletic office. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3 for students.
BERMUDIAN SPRINGS (38)
Ryan Markle 4 0-0 10, N. Murren 0 2-2 2, Orwig 1 2-6 4, S. Murren 2 4-4 8, J. Stroup 0 1-2 1, Z. Stroup 1 0-0 2, B. Markle 0 0-0 0, Hartzell 1 1-2 3, Shearer 0 0-0 0, Moore 1 0-0 2, Horst 3 0-0 6. Totals13 10-16 38.
WILLIAM PENN (60)
Derek Wilson 6 2-5 15, Casiano 1 1-2 4, Rivera 0 0-0 0, Stephens 2 0-0 4, Dickson 0 1-2 1, Jackson 0 0-0 0, Beard 1 0-0 2, Shifflett 1 2-2 5, Jahaire Wilson 7 0-2 14, Tavon Parker 5 4-6 15. Totals23 10-19 60.
Bermudian Springs 4 16 13 5 -- 38
William Penn9 13 20 18 -- 60
3-point goals -- Bermudian Springs 2 (R. Markle 2); William Penn 4 (D. Wilson, Casiano, Shifflett, Parker).