Boys basketball notebook: Pottsgrove proves to be ready for prime time

By DAVE KURTZ

Pac-10sports.com

LOWER POTTSGROVE – The anticipation was building all week, escalating like a kid’s excitement on Christmas Eve.

The tweets and Facebook postings were flying around like basketballs in a fastbreak drill. Everyone was talking the talk. Now, it was time to get out from behind the keyboards and I-pads and see who was going to walk the walk.

The answer came with the emphatic thump of a slam dunk. Pottsgrove nailed down neighborhood bragging rights with an impressive 72-57 conquest of rival Pottstown Friday night.

 “There was a lot of trash talking,” said Pottsgrove point guard Jontae Harper, who dished out 4 assists and cashed 15 points to help the Falcons improve to 2-0 in the PAC-10. “The schools are 5 minutes apart. It’s the best game of the season.”

Pottsgrove (3-2 overall) saved its best for an atmosphere percolating with electricity. The overflow crowd in the small gym was abuzz, as if the Dave Matthews Band had decided to perform at a local nightclub.

There was a Matthews in the house – Pottstown senior star Dawon Matthews, who dropped 11 points in an uneven performance. But the Trojans, who squandered an early 10-point, first-quarter lead, couldn’t match the hype.

“We let the atmosphere, as great as it was, take over,” said Pottstown coach Jai-T Randall. “We were undisciplined, and we let some of our bad habits seep out.”

The Trojans (0-1 league, 2-2 overall) forced shots and committed careless fouls. The foul trouble prevented them from employing their trademark,  baseline-to-baseline pressure defense.

Pottsgrove was on the verge of wilting in the big-game heat, giving the ball away 8 times in the opening 8 minutes while falling behind by as many as 10 points. But once Pottstown pulled back its press because of the foul difficulties, the Falcons began to hit their stride.

“This was really fun,” said Pottsgrove’s 6-foot-3 senior center Bryce Carter, who lived it up with 19 points and 6 rebounds. “It started with the tip-off of the JV game.”

The preliminary bout - a Pottsgrove win in the junior varsity contest - seemed to whet everyone’s appetite for the main course. The Falcons proved to be ready for prime time.

“This is our crosstown rival,” said Pottsgrove coach Scott Palladino. “There was a lot of chatter back and forth. I told our kids to let our play speak for itself on the court.”

Reber hits milestone

The wins have been piling up like chicken bones at a wing-eating contest.

Long-time St. Pius X coach Randy Reber hit another milestone last Friday night in is illustrious career, earning his 400th career victory as his Phoenixville Phantoms took care of Upper Perkiomen  70-51. Marcus Howell filled up the stat sheet with 22 points, 6 steals, 5 assists and four rebounds to lead Phoenixville (1-1 PAC-10 Frontier, 2-2 overall), which also got 21 points (6-6 from 3-point range) and 8 rebounds from Rasheed Lawson.

“I guess it means I’ve been around a long time,” said Reber, in his first season at the helm in Phoenixville after the Pius closure. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot of good players and assistant coaches over the years to get me to this point.”

Reber has made it all work. While at Pius, the Pottsgrove High and Susquehanna University (where he played baseball) product guided the Winged Lions to 10 Final Four appearances and 6 championship games, winning titles in 1995-96 and 2005-2006. All told there were 10 district titles and two PIAA semifinal bids during his regime as boys coach.

That followed a run that saw Reber’s girls team at Pius win the PAC-10 title in 1988-89, post 2 district championships and go 3-2 in the state playoffs, with one trip to the Eastern Regional semifinal.

“To have a winning percentage over 60 at all levels, league and districts, I’m proud of that,” said Reber. “The only place I have a losing record is in the state playoffs, and I’m only one game under .500. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

“I‘ve just been real lucky to have had a great staff over the years and kids that bought into my philosophy.”

Vikings take flight

Don’t look now, but Perkiomen Valley is quickly turning heads in the early going. The Vikings are 4-1 overall, 1-0 in the PAC-10 Liberty Division after taking apart Boyertown 57-42 in their PAC-10 opener behind Andrew Kenney (19 points) and Ian Rykaczewski (13) … Spring-Ford is off to a solid start, despite losing its first game Saturday. The Rams (2-0 PAC-10 Liberty, 4-1 overall) fell to Malvern Prep 64-60 in double overtime at the Mid-Atlantic Shootout in Coatesville. Spring-Ford hosts tough Catholic League foe Cardinal O’Hara tonight in Royersford … There are 3 PAC-10 boys games tonight, highlighted by Pope John Paul II at Pottstown, Pottsgrove at Phoenixville and Boyertown at Methacton. All games are expected to tip off between 7:15 and 7:30.

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