Boys Hoops: Davis right on time for Upper Darby
By MARK HOSTUTLER, email@example.com/27/2006
LOWER MERION - Uncharacteristically poor shooting from the perimeter and an inability to finish around the rim over the last week ensured that the Upper Darby boys basketball team suffered through its worst stretch of the season.
The Royals, who entered that span on a 10-game winning streak, split overtime tilts with Conestoga and Haverford, causing fans to wonder if perhaps they peaked too early this winter.
Thursday night after road warrior Upper Darby outlasted Lower Merion, 60-56, in a Central League thriller, however, the visitor not only proved its critics wrong, but also redirected such speculation on the host.
The Royals' win marked the second time in less than a week that an opponent waltzed into the Aces' den and stole a victory on their home floor.
And Upper Darby (16-3, 11-3), the fourth-ranked club in the Daily Times Super 7, did so in dramatic fashion.
With the Royals down, 56-55, with less than 30 seconds remaining, forward Kevon Davis kissed a wild, off-balance layup off the glass to give his squad a one-point lead.
"I thought I got fouled, so I figured I'd just throw the ball up at the basket," said Davis, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. "Fortunately, it went through and gave me the biggest win of my career."
Lower Merion's ensuing inbounds pass went awry, giving the ball back to the visitors, who dumped the ball back inside to Davis, who was fouled in the act of shooting.
The 6-1 senior came out of a timeout, calmly stepped to the charity stripe and buried two free throws, yielding the Royals a three-point lead at 59-56 with 12 seconds left on the clock.
"(Upper Darby) coach (Bob Miller) kept saying during the timeout that I was going to make them," Davis said. "He was drawing up plays for after two makes, as if there wasn't any question I'd hit them."
After an unsuccessful Ace possession, junior guard Clinton Cole iced the game with another foul shot, his 12th and final point of the night, as the visiting fans went berserk.
The contest was truly a tale of two halves for Upper Darby, which trailed by nine points at the end of the first, but outscored the Aces (15-4, 12-2) by the same margin in the third quarter to knot the contest entering the fourth frame.
"I told our kids at halftime that the game was ours," Miller said. "I saw some of their (Lower Merion's) players tugging at their shorts toward the end of the first half. The goal was to press them like we're capable of. And I almost threw someone in the shower to get my point across. "We honestly believe that if we're in the game in the fourth quarter, we're gonna win."
Cole quickly buried a 3-pointer from the parking lot to hand the Royals their first lead of the night. Then, one of his team's unsung heroes took his game to another level.
Senior swingman Dontae Rogers stepped up by scoring a team-high 15 points on several big shots in the second half. Furthermore, he relieved the pressure placed on his floor general, Tad Gillis, by bringing the ball up the court as a point forward, a role pioneered by future NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. Rogers' versatility put his defender - Lower Merion's Garrett Williamson, a more heralded college prospect - in foul trouble.
"I'll do anything to help my team win, especially on the defensive end of the floor," the 6-1 Rogers said. "As a senior, I wanted this game so badly. We've had a history of being blown out in this gym, so I was just trying to set the tone tonight and be a leader."
Junior guard Elie Daniel and reserve wing Brandon Robinson added eight points apiece off the bench. Ace Ryan Brooks hit for a game-high 23 points, including the 1,000th of his career.
With solid wins over Glen Mills, Academy Park, Reading, Springfield, Conestoga, Strawberry Mansion and now Lower Merion, Upper Darby, which appears poised for a third-place league finish, may have all but locked up a seed within the 9-11 range in the district playoffs.
"This whole year has just been unbelievable," Rogers said. "We're just hoping the magic doesn't run out." In other Central League action:
Springfield 60, Penncrest 51
Dan Geriot tallied 22 points, and Chris VonTanhausen pumped in 12, all on treys, for the Cougars, who moved into a first-place tie with Lower Merion.
Steve Sharp's 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocks paced the Lions, who cut their deficit to two points with 1:38 remaining. Greg Tyrrell added 12 points.
Ridley 58, Radnor 51
Steve Egee (18 points), Dan Robinson (12) and Marcus Payton (10) each reached double figures for the Green Raiders.
Glenn Washington scored a team-high 15 points for the Red Raiders, while point guard Taylor Smith had 12 points and 17 rebounds.
Conestoga 52, Haverford 50
Brian Murphy's team-high 16 points weren't enough for the Fords.
American Christian 85, Mount Zion (N.C.) 84
The Eagles avenged a five-point loss in late November by overcoming a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Tyreke Evans poured in 38 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Nasir Robinson (19 points, 11 boards) also pitched in with a double-double.
©The Daily Times 2006