Even with three returning starters, fresh off back-to-back District 3 Class AAAA championships, William Penn coach Troy Sowers was concerned with his team’s lack of varsity experience.
Hosting Williamsport in one semifinal of the Bearcat Tip-off Classic, William Penn got all it could handle and more through four quarters and beyond.
It’s a good thing his group learned on the fly on Friday night. But it sure helped having Kris Johnson, Trey Shifflett and Montrel Morgan back in the mix.
Johnson finished with a team-high 24 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, Morgan had 18 and Shifflett added 16 as William Penn opened its season with an 81-75 overtime victory against the Millionaires.
Getting a close game on opening night is something Sowers said should pay dividends as the season gets going.
“We get so much more, end of game situation, up one, down one, tie game,” he said. “I was asked if I thought the guys basketball IQ got better from the beginning of the game to the end, and it did.
“These kind of games battle test you. You can’t actually get it until you battle with teams like this.”
The Bearcats will face Reading in Saturday night’s tournament championship game. The Red Knights defeated South Philadelphia, 75-52, in Friday’s opener.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes and even more ties, William Penn pulled ahead 68-65 on Johnson’s 3. However, Millionaire Stanley Scott dropped a clutch jumper in the final minute, tying the game and forcing the extra session after the Bearcats missed a pair of shots in the waning moments.
Johnson’s steal and bucket opened overtime, but Isaiah Hankins answered for Williamsport. Morgan’s jumper gave the Bearcats the lead for good with 1:40 to play in overtime, but the suspense was far from over.
Morgan, a primary ball handler, fouled out with 1:23 to play in overtime, but with the opportunity to fold, William Penn didn’t.
Jayden Iturmindi grabbed a big rebound off a missed Millionaires free throw, and the Bearcats other new starter, Elliott Wilson, pulled down a defensive board on the next series, leading to Shifflett’s driving layup with 35 seconds to play.
Reserve Jacquez Casiano swiped a rebound after Williamsport missed a 3-pointer, and closed out the game with a layup, giving him 13 for the game.
"Jayden Iturmindi got better towards the end of the game," Sowers said. "It was his first varsity start and his length at 6-6 is big for us. When Montrel fouled out we needed him. He is only going to get better.”
“It’s probably good to have a close game with a young team early so as we continue to get better and we get stronger and go through a little adversity,” Johnson said. “I am so proud of my team for pulling out the win.”
Williamsport’s Nyrie Gosley was a challenge to defend all game. Gosley finished with a game-high 27 points, 16 in the second half. His 3-pointer put his team up 61-60, and a short while later his three-point play helped the Millionaires retake the lead, 65-63, midway through the fourth quarter.
“It was a great win,” Sowers said. “I feel bad for Williamsport, they left everything out on the court. It wasn’t a chippy game at all, it was a battle. The whole game was three or four points, nobody could stretch the lead out.”
William Penn 81, Williamsport 75, OT
Nyrie Gosley 10 5-8 27, Stanley Scott 6 1-2 13, Thomas 1 0-0 3, Micah Peterson 5 0-2 11, Isaiah Hankins 5 1-3 13, Carson 1 0-0 2, Ali 3 0-2 6. Totals — 31 7-17 75.
William Penn (81)
Jacquez Casiano 5 2-2 13, Smallwood 0 0-0 0, Kris Johnson 8 7-8 24, Iturmindi 1 0-0 2, Montrel Morgan 5 8-10 18, Trey Shifflett 7 1-2 16, Wilson 4 0-1 8, Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 30 18-23 81.
Williamsport _ 13 _ 22 _ 19 _ 19 _2_ — _ 75
William Penn _ 14 _ 23 _ 19 _ 17 _8_ — _ 81
3-point goals — Williamsport 6 (Gosley 2, Hankins 2, Kalob Thomas, Peterson); William Penn 3 (Casiano, Johnson, Shifflett).