Boys basketball: State honors for Pope John Paul II's Stanton, Green, McKeon

Owen McCue (MediaNews Group)

UPPER PROVIDENCE – The ground-breaking, earth-shaking 2019-20 Pope John Paul II boys basketball season suffered a painful, premature death in the Elite Eight of the state, derailed by the coronavirus pandemic that obliterated the PIAA playoffs and has generally rocked the planet.

But while the Golden Panthers never had a chance to pursue their dream of a state championship or get any real closure to their season, there has been a groundswell acknowledging their special achievements.

Second-year PJP coach Brendan Stanton headlined the plaudits by being named the PIAA Class 4A Coach of the Year by the Pennsylvania Sportswriters Association. PJP juniors Justin Green and Drew McKeon were also recognized, named third team all-state in the same classification.

Stanton, who was recently chosen as the All-Area Coach of the Year by the Mercury, directed the Golden Panthers to the best season in the program’s 10-year history, headlined by winning their first District 1-4A crown with a 67-56 conquest of Lower Moreland before advancing to the Elite Eight in the state with the program’s first PIAA wins – beating Bartram (56-46, first round) and Allentown Central Catholic (44-42, Round of 16). The Golden Panthers were slated to face District 11’s third-place team, Tamaqua, in the state quarterfinals before the curtain came crashing down thanks to COVID-19.

Just two years removed from an ugly 6-15 campaign, PJP has taken flight under Stanton, capping the ascent this year to 21-6 by recording program records for overall wins (21) and regular-season wins (17) while capturing its second straight Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division regular season championship and first district crown.

“I didn’t score a single point, I didn’t do anything,” Stanton said on papreplive.com. “I really don’t even call that many plays. (Our) guys just sort of make things happen. I think that’s been the coolest thing. When I got the job two years ago, I never would have expected anything like this or really even the success we’ve had so quickly.

“It’s been awesome to see and it’s just a testament to the kids we have. They believed from Day 1 that they were going to be really good and I believed in them. It’s unbelievable just how things have worked out. We’ve had a lot of lucky bounces with the ball and things like that, but it’s been an amazing ride.”

Green, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, was a versatile force at both ends of the floor for PJP, averaging 13.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.2 blocks and 2.6 steals while earning first team All-Area (Mercury) and All PAC Frontier honors. Equally dangerous from the paint and the perimeter, where he knocked down 35 three-pointers, Green’s play at the defensive end may have been his strongest trait. Case in point came in the second round of states where he held the Eastern PA Conference MVP 6-foot-8 Nick Filchner to just 8 points in the 44-42 win over Allentown Central Catholic.

McKeon, a  6-foot-3 wing with the deadly touch of a hired gun, hit 70 three-balls while shooting 51 percent from the floor, averaging 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals while be named first team All-PAC Frontier and second team All-Area. In the 56-46 PIAA opening round win over Bartram, McKeon deposited 13 points.

“They’ve really been the heartbeat of this turnaround,” Stanton said on papreplive.com. “I’m going to get this award and (Area Coach of the Year), but those two guys have really done everything to turn it around in terms of their leadership and their work ethic.

“I feel like how seriously they take the game and how seriously they prepare themselves, it really trickled down to everyone in our program from seniors to freshman. That made my job a helluva a lot easier.”

Pennsylvania Sportswriters All-State Team – 2019-20 - Class AAAA
FIRST TEAM
*Jordan Longino, 6-4 Jr. F, Germantown Academy
Tyreese Watson, 6-4 Jr. G, Bonner-Prendergast
Elijah Taylor, 6-8 Sr. F, Imhotep
John Camden, 6-7 Jr. F, Archbishop  Carroll
Donald Whitehead, 6-7 Jr. F, Hickory
Caleb Dorsey, 6-8 Sr. F, Hill School
SECOND TEAM
Isiah Warfield, 6-5 Sr. F, Central Valley
Nick Filchner, 6-8 Sr. F, Allentown CC
Ibrihim Kane, 6-5 Sr. F, Polumbo
Jake Kelley, 6-3 Sr. G, Bishop McDevitt
Gabe Dorsey, 6-6 Jr. F, Hill School
Zach Rovinsky, 6-7 Sr. F, Western Wayne
THIRD TEAM
Drew McKeon, 6-3 Sr. G, Pope John Paul II
Steven Ressler, 5-11 Jr. G, Bedford
Donovan Rodriguez, 6-0 Sr. G, Bonner-Prendergast
Johnny Crise, 6-6 Sr. F, Highlands
Justin Green, 6-5 Jr. F, Pope John Paul II
Peyton Mele, 6-3 Jr. G, Hickory
Coach of the year: Brendan Stanton, Pope John Paul II