The Rockets led by 20 in the third quarter and held on to win by eight
Eli Brooks pumped his fist as he ran down the court with a huge smile on his face.
The Spring Grove junior had just sealed a 65-57 home win for the Rockets against William Penn by slamming home a dunk that put his team up eight with 15 seconds to play. Needless to say, Brooks was pretty pumped up.
"That was pretty exciting," Eli Brooks said. "We haven't gotten York High twice in a while. It's a big win, a really big win."
It was a big win for the Rockets (14-2, 8-2 YAIAA Division I), who entered the season having not beaten the division-rival Bearcats since the 2001-02 season. Thursday's win marked their second over William Penn (11-7, 7-3 YAIAA Division I) this season, having beaten them in overtime on Dec. 19.
Another overtime game seemed very unlikely for most of Thursday night, as the Rockets led by 15 at halftime and by 20 two minutes into the third quarter. But the Bearcats fought back, cutting the deficit to 12 going into the fourth and trailing by just three with less than three minutes to play.
That would be as close as William Penn would come, as the Rockets scored 10 of the game's last 15 points to seal the win. Afterward, Spring Grove coach James Brooks said he fully expected the Bearcats to make the game competitive at some point.
"York High has a way of coming back on people, so that was my only fear," James Brooks said. "I thought they'd come out and fight, I actually thought it be a little earlier than that. But we thought if we got the ball in the right people's hands we'd do well."
While Eli Brooks finished with a game-high 28 points and senior Darin Gordon chipped in with 16, it was a couple of role players who made the biggest plays for Spring Grove down the stretch.
With the Rockets clinging to a three-point lead in the final three minutes, Grant Wierman and Drew Gordon hit baskets on consecutive Spring Grove possessions. Drew Gordon then hit two foul shots to put Spring Grove up nine with less than two minutes to play.
"We have a lot of faith in those guys," Eli Brooks said. "Grant, Drew, they know their role and do it day in and day out. We knew they were gonna play strong."
Although the Bearcats outscored the Rockets in the second half, they weren't able to overcome a first half in which they struggled to get rebounds and defend. According to William Penn head coach Troy Sowers, the Bearcats didn't give a strong enough effort for four quarters on Thursday.
"They wanted the game a lot more than we did in the first half," Sowers said. "We can't play with passion and intensity once we're down by 15. We have to learn our lesson. This team right now doesn't have the passion from the tip, and when we play really good teams, it's gonna end up like this."
William Penn (57)
Montrel Morgan 4 6-9 15, Jacquez Casiano 3 4-4 11, Trey Shifflet 7 0-2 16, Kristopher Johnson 4 2-2 11, Iturmendi 1 0-0 2, Snyder 1 0-0 2, Drayden 0 0-0 0, Wilson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 12-17 57
Spring Grove (65)
Eli Brooks 9 6-7 28, Darin Gordon 7 1-3 16, Grant Wierman 5 0-0 11, Drew Gordon 1 6-6 8, Flaherty 0 0-0 0, Sager 1 0-0 2, Panter 0 0-0 0 Messersmith 0 0-0 0. Totals — 23 13-16 65
William Penn _ 11 _ 9 _ 18 _ 19 _ — _ 57
Spring Grove _ 15 _ 20 _ 15 _ 15 _ — _ 65
3-point goals — Spring Grove 4 (Brooks 2, Darin Gordon, Wierman), William Penn 4 (Shifflet 2, Morgan, Johnson).
JV score — William Penn 61, Spring Grove 43