For years under head coach Troy Sowers, the staple of William Penn Bearcats basketball has been its ability to take their opponents out of their game with a relentless full-court press.
Thursday was just another example of that...at least for the first 16 minutes. WIlliam Penn pressured the Lions early, jumped out to a big lead, and held on late for a 62-54 win on the road.
"Our staple is our full-court pressure defense," Sowers said. "We did a nice job of converting off that. We just went ice cold in the third quarter. Our shots weren't that bad. They just weren't falling...Then you get into a close game in their gym and it's a dogfight."
The Bearcats made the Lions uncomfortable, forcing seven turnovers while holding Red Lion to 4-of-18 shooting in the first quarter. The Bearcats' offense meanwhile was clicking on all cylinders. Sowers' squad shot better than 50 percent in the first half and pushed the lead to as many as 19 three different times, before settling for a 42-25 lead at the half.
"The speed of the game seemed to fast for us for some reason," Red Lion head coach Steve Schmehl said. "They got out in transition and got a lot of easy layups and we couldn't get a shot inside the paint. The lead grew quick."
The second half, however, was a "dogfight" as Sowers described it. The Bearcats missed their first seven shots from the field and scored just six points in the third which allowed Red Lion to cut the lead to 48-40.
"We're a younger team, we're trying to gel and we're up 17 so let's see how they react," Sowers said of the Bearcats' mindset at the half. "It wasn't good. You turn a 17-point lead into a dogfight for 10 minutes."
Kendrick Boyd-Gillespie scored all 11 of his points in the second half and the young Lions squad kept pushing.
"You have to man up a little bit," Schmehl said. "You're at home, it's the home opener and you don't want to get embarrassed. Our kids came out and played with a little more intensity. And when your shots start falling you start playing a little harder defense."
First they cut the lead to eight, then six, then eventually down to 52-50 on two Boyd-Gillespie free throws with three minutes to go. But Trey Shifflett, who recorded a game-high 21 points, scored six points in the final two-plus minutes to seal a 62-54 win.
"When you get down that big to a good team, it's hard to get over the hump," Schmehl said. "It was tough but I was proud of the way they fought."
William Penn 62, Red Lion 54
William Penn (62)
Trey Shifflett 7 4-6 21, Kris Johnson 5 5-8 16, Jacquez Casiano 5 0-0 11, Morgan 2 1-3 6, Wilson 3 0-1 6, Iturmendi 1 0-0 2, Smallwood 0 0-2 0, Anderson 0 0-2 0, Snyder 0 0-0 0. Totals — 23 10-22 62.
Red Lion (54)
Jason Rebuck 6 3-7 15, Kendrick Boyd-Gillespie 4 3-3 11, Ryan Schreckengast 4 0-0 10, Tyson 4 0-0 8, Frey 3 0-0 6, Hunt 1 2-4 4, Foster 0 0-0 0, Urey 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 8-14 54.
William Penn _ 22_ 20 _ 6 _ 14 _ — _ 62
Red Lion _ 9 _ 16 _ 15 _ 14 _ — _ 54
3-point goals — WP 4 (Shifflett, Casiano, Morgan, Johnson), RL 2 (Schreckengast 2).