Indians fall to Sun Valley in PIAA playoffs, 60-46
● By Richard Gaw
Ask any athlete or coach to reveal his or her greatest fear in competition, and more often than not, their answer would be “Getting off to a slow start.” During the first quarter of last Saturday’s round two PIAA Division 1 District 5A playoff game, that fear became reality for the Unionville basketball team, and despite their heroic march to get back in the game, the five points they scored in the first quarter proved too large a burden to overcome.
During the Indians’ 60-46 loss to visiting Sun Valley, one story line came in the form of the Vanguards’ 6-foot-2 shooting guard Vinny DeAngelo, who torched Unionville for 34 points, including 15 of 16 from the free throw line. DeAngelo racked up nine of his team’s 14 first-quarter points, while Unionville’s primary shooters – Bo Furey-Bastian, Wyatt Hockenberry, Drew Lenkaitis and Logan Shanahan – could not bury their jumpers, or do much to penetrate Sun Valley’s 3-2 zone defense.
Unionville began to slowly claw its way back into the game early in the second quarter, beginning when Shanahan found Lenkaitis for a basket in the paint, but it was answered by a three-pointer by Sun Valley’s Marvin Freeman that extended his team’s lead to 17-7. With 2:20 left in the half, Furey-Bastian nailed a three-pointer, which was followed by two Hockenberry free throws and a Lenkaitis jumper that closed the Vanguards’ lead to 25-14 at halftime.
As the third quarter opened, however, the offensive side of Unionville’s game began to get wider, as the Indians opened up the floor and took better shots. Within two minutes, what once had been an 11-point halftime lead had been whittled down to three points, following Furey-Bastian’s steal of a Sun Valley pass that ended in a layup to make the score 26-23. With 4:30 remaining in the quarter, DeAngelo coughed up the ball that led to a pass from Lenkaitis to a cutting Connor Ash, followed by a three-pointer by Hockenberry with 3:20 left that trimmed Sun Valley’s lead to 29-28.
“We were getting some open looks early, but we began pressing a little bit, and when we got into a deficit, there wasn’t as much trust there,” said Unionville coach Chris Cowles. “Even with that deficit, we ended up getting it back to basically a tie game.”
It was about then – as the clock wound down to its final minutes of the third quarter -- that DeAngelo effectively made the game his own. His eight points in the quarter all came in its closing minutes, which included a jumper at the buzzer that extended Sun Valley’s lead to 12 as the quarter closed.
During the fourth quarter, the ball remained largely in DeAngelo’s hands, but this time, it was mostly from the free throw line. In a whistle-filled eight minutes, DeAngelo went 11-12 from the stripe, where Sun Valley scored 16 of its 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“I think the refereeing was pretty horrendous,” Cowles said. “I think that had a lot to do with [Sun Valley] getting bonus [free throws] because they were struggling offensively, but when the refs began calling touch fouls on their end and not our end, then it became a situation where [Sun Valley] was shooting foul shots every time we were on defense. That actually had an impact on the game. It wasn’t the reason we lost the game, but certainly those guys [the referees] took it upon themselves to take over in that fourth quarter.”
After DeAngelo, the Vanguards’ next-highest scorer was Isaac Kennon with nine points, then Freeman, who scored eight points. Furey-Bastian led Unionville scorers with 18 points, while Lenkaitis had 13 points.
The Vanguards advanced to the second round of the District 1-5A playoffs after a convincing 82-65 victory over Phoenixville in their opening round game that set up a rubber match against Unionville, who split their series with Sun Valley during the regular season.
The Indians earned the right to get to the second round of the PIAA playoffs with a 60-46 first-round victory over Radnor on Feb. 21, backed by a 21-point effort by Lenkaitis, 18 points by Furey-Batian and a stellar effort by Jon Passarello, who knocked down 11 points while subbing for the ailing Hockenberry.
Backed by a well-rounded scoring attack and a swarming defense, Unionville jumped to a 14-17 first-quarter lead, holding Radnor’s top scorer Jack d’Entremont to just one three-pointer. Working his way for better shot position, d’Entremont tallied nine points in the second quarter to send his team into halftime down 25-21, but in the second half, Furey-Bastian and Lenkaitis took over, scoring 27 of their team’s points, while Passarello contributed six points of his own.
Unionville head coach Chris Cowles said Passarello made strong contributions to a team effort whose patient offensive perimeter scheme continually found cracks in the lane that led to crisp passing and layups.
“Wyatt [Hockenberry] had been sick for the past three or four days and hadn’t practiced, so we felt that Jon was the best decision to get us off to a good start,” Cowles said. “If we have good spacing, everything’s going to open up for us. We also have to be disciplined in our first two reads and if we are, then things really open up. We did a great job doing so in the second half. It was the best we’ve done in a long while.”
With the win over Unionville, Sun Valley will face Pottstown in the District 1 5A playoffs on Feb. 27, while the Indians will face off on the same night against Holy Ghost in a playoff consolation game.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.