After losing in the District One Class A title game, Phil-Mont Christian was left to figure out where it was as a team and how good it could be during the state playoffs. While the Falcons looked like a defeated team in the first three quarters of their PIAA Class A opener, they dug deep and kicked on the urgency just in time.
The result was a 13-point comeback, a forced overtime period and an 11-point win to secure a spot in the second round.
Phil-Mont looked shaky in the first three periods, but were led by seniors Zach Dolton and Micah Baldez in an epic 76-65 comeback win over New Media Tech Charter on Friday night. The Falcons stole the momentum away from the Jags in the fourth quarter to force overtime then carried it through to victory.
It is Phil-Mont's first trip into the second round of states and a win that no one in attendance will forget.
"I think, coming in, there was a question in the minds of some of the guys of how good we really were,' Phil-Mont coach Glen Dolton said. "We haven't had a lot of success in states and some of that stuff was in the back of their head. I'm proud of how they continued to battle, stuck together and finally got into our regular flow at the end of the game.'
While the Falcons did not necessarily play poorly in quarters one through three, they were certainly out-played by their opponents. They struggled to rebound, turned the ball over far too much and New Media Tech shot the lights out. Even though Phil-Mont outscored the Jags in the second period, it was sandwiched in between two quarters in which the Falcons gave up 21 points. By the end of the third, Phil-Mont was down 53-40 and it looked like the season would be over imminently.
"We were playing a team that likes to go to the basket, yet they shot incredibly well tonight,' Glen Dolton said. "I thought late in the game, we put a lot more pressure on their three-point shooters and attacked the basket much better. It was debatable whether or not we were going to come back or stay in the game at one point, but we found our rhythm.'
But good teams can kick the switch on in dire times. It just so happens that, despite their play earlier in the game, Phil-Mont is very good.
You could sense the urgency flowing through the Falcons from the opening whistle of the fourth quarter. The seniors felt that they had come too far to go out like this, so if this was their last game they would go out swinging.
Dolton, who had just four points through three quarters, tallied nine points in the fourth. Baldez, who was more of a consistent scoring threat, scored six of his 17 points in the frame as well.
After a poor performance in the district title game, Dolton was poised for a turnaround game in this one and delivered.
"I wasn't trying to get frustrated, I wanted to wait for the game to come to me and it did,' Zach Dolton said. "That first three I hit, I knew the momentum was shifting to our team. Once that happened, things started opening up. Our coach keeps saying that we don't know how good we can be and I believe that. If we are hitting on all cylinders, we can be scary good.'
The comeback attempt became real when Dolton and Baldez hit back-to-back buckets to put the Falcons within three with less than four minutes remaining in regulation. Less than a minute later, after one of the many turnovers caused by Phil-Mont, Baldez buried a mid-range jumper to bring his team within one. Before the Jags could blink, two more turnovers led to baskets by Noah Baldez and Sean Griffin, giving the Falcons their first lead since early in the first.
"We came out lazy, but we went into desperation mode in the fourth quarter,' Micah Baldez said. "We have to come out with intensity and keep it throughout the game. We wanted to win desperately. This is the first time we've gotten to the second round, so our confidence is extra high. We feel that we can go all the way.'
Although shaky free throw shooting led to the game being deadlocked at 59-59 when the final whistle blew, the momentum was firmly in Phil-Mont's favor and their swagger was restored. In overtime, Dolton added another six points from the charity stripe and Osaze Thornton added three points off the bench. With their bravado restored, the Falcons shut it down on defense and completed the epic comeback.
It was not always pretty, but Phil-Mont proved how good it can be. When all was said and done, the Falcons had four players in double figures: Baldez (19), Dolton (17), Griffin (16) and Seth Brandenburg (13), while holding New Media Tech to just 12 total points in the fourth and overtime. With sights set on a title run, the Falcons are flying high with confidence.
"The guys are excited and happy to be moving on,' Glen Dolton said. "I think they are confident and excited that they can come in and play another game. They proved that they are mentally tough and kept fighting. You have to fight to advance and that finally kicked in.'
New Media Tech (65): Fieffe 7 5-6 22; McFadden 6 0-0 15; Bullock 4 0-0 10; Boswell 2 2-2 6; Cumberbatch 1 0-0 2; D. Goran 1 0-0 2; Thomas 2 4-4 8; Shields 0 0-0 0; L. Goran 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 11-12 65
Phil-Mont Christian (76): M. Baldez 8 0-2 17; Dolton 5 8-13 19; Griffin 7 2-2 16; Brandenburg 3 6-8 13; Thornton 3 0-0 6; N. Baldez 1 1-2 3; Bird 1 0-0 2. Totals: 28 17-27 76
Three-point goals: Fieffe (3), McFadden (3), Bullock (2); Dolton, M. Baldez, Brandenburg
New Media Tech 21 11 21 6 6—65
Phil-Mont Christian 13 13 14 19 17—76