Matt Crider navigates the open court like a sports car navigates a winding road.
The Owen J. Roberts senior swingman has virtually as many moves on the hardwood as he has career points.
That is saying something, since Crider became the Wildcats' fifth career 1,000-point scorer in Saturday night's 64-62 loss to Downingtown East.
Whether it's on a knifing drive to the basket, a stop-on-a-dime pull-up jumper, a spin move that leads to separation or a variety of leaners and floaters, Crider has an uncanny knack for arriving at his ultimate destination: the basket.
"Matt's very, very good in the open floor,' OJR coach Kevin Kirby said. "That's where it all starts for him. He has a lot of athleticism, the ability to handle the ball and he can get to the rim at will almost any time.'
The 6-foot-2 Crider has grown plenty on the court since cracking the Wildcats' starting five as a freshman, and not just the seven inches he's sprouted up since then.
"I feel I've gotten a lot smarter on the court,' Crider said. "I've been able to make better decisions, and I know situations better from learning what to do.'
Last year, Crider led the area in scoring at a 21.2 points per game clip, and this winter he's picked up right where he left off.
Despite battling a nagging ankle problem he aggravated in the preseason that caused him to miss one game, Crider is averaging an area-best 21.3 points per game. He began the season by pouring in 29 points in a 71-51 win over Brandywine Heights, and in the Wildcats' three KSA Holiday Classic games in Orlando, Fla., he scored a total of 69 points.
"He does most of his damage from 15 feet in,' Kirby said of Crider, who has just three 3-pointers on the season. "He's got a very good pull-up jumper, and he can get to the basket.'
"He's just a competitor,' said first-year Spring-Ford coach Chris Talley, who coached Crider at OJR the previous two seasons. "The best thing about him is that he's coachable. He just wants to win at all times, and as a coach, that's all you can ask for. He has an ability to penetrate the lane and make things happen in a way only he can.'
Crider — whose 24-point effort Saturday gave him 1,010 for his career — joined Chad Piersol (1,482), Ryan Costello (1,121), Dave Cisik (1,119) and Jeff Baird (1,051) as OJR 1,000-point scorers.
"It's been a goal since my freshman year, something that motivated me to keep working hard at practice every day,' he said. "A real nice treat to the season.'
Even more important to Crider is the fact that he's part of a much-improved squad. After going a combined 14-52 in his first three seasons, the Wildcats are currently 5-6.
"I've never had an opportunity to play in a playoff game,' Crider said. "That would be my main goal, to make the PAC-10 or District 1 playoffs. This is going to be my final hurrah, so I want to play as hard as I can every game.'
No one needs to remind Perkiomen Valley coach Mike Poysden how razor-thin the margin between victory and defeat can be. The defending PAC-10 champion Vikings are 1-3 in league play (and 3-7 overall), with three of those losses by a combined five points. PV's last two games were particularly gut-wrenching as the Vikings fell to Quakertown 55-54 in the Parkland Holiday Tournament consolation, then lost 57-55 in overtime to Boyertown Monday on Tyler Bauman's buzzer-beating layup.
AROUND THE AREA
Boyertown has won three straight since a 1-6 start. The Bears got a season-high 23 points from Ryan Corcoran in Saturday's 65-44 non-league win over Oley Valley. ... Daniel Boone's deep lineup has seen no fewer than seven different players hit four double-digit scoring this season. Steve Sievers scored a season-best 17 points in Monday's 71-48 victory over Muhlenberg. ... Hill School's John Carroll, a 6-foot-8 center from Dublin, Ireland, has scored 27 and 24 points in the Blues' last two games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Methacton has a trio of crossover tests, playing host to Phoenixville Tuesday, visiting Pope John Paul II Thursday and playing host to Pottsgrove Saturday.
Perkiomen Valley has no more margin for error as the Vikings host Pottstown Tuesday, travel to Phoenixville Thursday and host Pope John Paul II Saturday.
In other games of note, Pottstown visits Conestoga in a non-leaguer Monday, Hill School returns from break for a home game against Shipley Wednesday, Daniel Boone hosts Reading High in Berks Conference action Thursday and Spring-Ford travels to Pottstown Friday.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.