Reading High senior Lonnie Walker opted to stay with his high school team even when people told him he needed to transfer to a powerhouse program. The Miami recruit once again has Reading thinking about a state title run in 2016-17. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
With less than two minutes to play in Sunday afternoon's William Penn tip-off tournament championship game, the Bearcats found themselves in a four-point game with a defending District 3 Class AAAA champion Reading squad featuring the reigning Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year in senior Lonnie Walker IV.
William Penn began the fourth quarter down 17.
Reading survived the rally by the Bearcats and earned a 73-66 win, but William Penn may have learned a bit more about itself in the process.
"Grit. Determination. Perseverance," William Penn coach Clovis Gallon said. "Those are things that we talk about all the time. We talk about playing for 32 minutes. We're going to fight until the end. We are going to fight, scratch and claw for every ball. Every single possession.
"The kids believed. They believed they still had an opportunity to win. If our kids can buy into that, I think we can play with anybody."
William Penn entered the game with less size and less experience than Reading, who were led by the 6 feet 5 inch duo of Walker and Tyrone Nesby. Senior Jayden Inturmendi is the Bearcats tallest player at 6 feet 6 inches and one of just a handful with any significant varsity experience.
Reading led by nine after the opening quarter and opened up a 12-point lead by halftime, despite Nesby sitting a few minutes after picking up two fouls in the first quarter and his third a minute before halftime.
Nesby scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the first quarter, while Walker was limited to one 3-point goal in the first half and wound up with just seven points in the game, due in part to some second-half foul trouble.
"I watched film [of Walker on Saturday night] and said what are we going to do?" Gallon said. "We just can't go out here in a generic man-to-man defense with some help. So we shot a little bit of everything at them. The whole kitchen sink.
"We played a little 2-3 [zone], then we played some diamond-and-1, then some triangle-and-2, then to some man-to-man. Normally for us, we would practice some of those gimmick defenses, but with the short turnaround we didn't. We played late (Saturday night). The kids just picked up on them. We have some smart kids. I can't believe they were able to pick up on everything so fast."
Senior swingman Jeremiah McCarter and 6 feet 2 inch sophomore Clovis Gallon Jr. helped spark the fourth-quarter surge by William Penn. McCarter and Gallon Jr. combined for 13 of the points in a 19-6 Bearcat run that took up over half of the quarter.
"We tried to make a run there, but it was a little too late," Gallon said. "I do appreciate the fact our kids did fight until the end."
McCarter led William Penn with 18 points while Inturmendi added 17 points and Jacquez Casiano scored 15.
"We try to focus on one game at a time, but it was definitely a measuring stick for us," Gallon said. "We try to focus on the things we can control. Take care of the ball. Limit turnovers. Box out on very single shot and work for quality shots."
Walker earned the MVP of the tournament, while Nesby, Iturmendi, Stanley Scott of Williamsport and Barry Quartlebaum of South Philadelphia made the all-tournament team as selected by the coaches.
Butler 2 0-0 4, Walker 3 0-1 7, Hector Dixon Jr., 7 4-4 18, Tarawally 0 0-0 0, Cook 4 3-4 12, Tyrone Nesby 8 2-3 20, Starks 1 0-0 2, Hummel 0 0-0 0, Whitfield 3 0-0 6, Lopez 1 2-2 4.
Totals — 29 11-14 73.
William Penn (66)
Jacquez Casiano 6 1-2 15, Smallwood 0 1-2 1, Iturmendi 7 3-3 17, Marquise McClean 1 2-4 4, Gallon Jr., 3 0-0 8, Generett 0 1-2 1, Handy 1 0-1 2, Jeremiah McCarter 7 1-1 18.
Totals — 25 9-15 66.
Reading 23 16 19 15 — 73
William Penn 14 13 14 25 — 66
3-point goals — R, Nesby (2), Walker, Cook. WP, McCarter (3), Casiano (2), Gallon Jr., (2).