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Chester County Press

Avon Grove suffers tough OT loss, 55-49

01/24/2017 01:18PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Moments after his team ended that evening's roller coaster ride, one that took them within minutes of a victory and then to a rapid descent that ended in defeat, Avon Grove head coach Roy Blumenthal took solace in an empty stairway at Avon Grove High School late Monday night, and stared at the cement walls.
The unapologetic narrative of the 55-49 overtime loss to visiting Neshaminy was written on the rumbled sweat of his blue shirt, all over his reddened face and in the dark hollow look of someone who wants a do-over but can't have it. He had just seen his scrappy club, down by three points at halftime, go on a furious third-quarter run that put them ahead by ten points, only to see it slip away possession by possession in the fourth quarter, when a last-second three-pointer by Neshaminy's Mark Gentry put the game into overtime. Most cutting, he had just witnessed his team lose in OT not by sharp-shooting gunnery, but by methodical, boring, one-by-one free throws.
“In the third quarter, you can't lose the game,” Blumenthal said. “In the fourth quarter, you can. The kids don't know how to win yet. That's just the bottom line. I haven't been able to make them believe the things that happened are things that are just natural instincts in basketball.”
If there was any advice that Blumenthal may have told his team before the game, it was to contain Neshaminy's Chris Arcidiacano, the younger brother of Ryan Arcidiacano, who was the point guard on Villanova's 2016 NCAA Championship team. While Arcidiacano reeled off eight points in the first quarter – on his his way to a game-high 28 points in the game – Avon Grove's defense shut down the remainder of the Redskin team, holding them to just a basket.
After Arcidiacano's last-second three-pointer tied the game at 10-all at the end of the first, he continued to peck away at Avon Grove slowly, with six free throws in the second that helped give his team a slim 22-19 lead at halftime.
Were pure logic applied to the game of basketball, it would have predicted that Arcidiacano would come out of the locker room duplicating his first-half efforts, en route to an easy win. Apparently, no one told Blumenthal's squad about pure logic at halftime. They outscored Neshaminy 16-3 in the third quarter, mostly on the shooting of Brandon McCullough's 11-point quarter, which included a clutch three-pointer with 3:08 left in the quarter. More importantly, the team held Arcidiacano to one free throw.
Again, pure logic would forecast that Avon Grove would ride the momentum it had going into the fourth quarter to an easy win, but no one on Neshaminy was listening. Three early free throws by Arcidiacano trimmed Avon Grove's lead to 35-28. After a give-and-go from Alden Russo to Destin Murphy to Russo pushed Avon Grove's lead to 39-28, a layup off of a steal by Zach Tredway came with 4:58 remaining. Two free throws by Gentry cut the Red Devils' led to six points with 4:06 left, and ten seconds later, Arcidiacano made one of two free throws to trim the lead to five points.
While a huge dagger came in the form of a three-pointer by Neshaminy's Anthony Papeo that brought the Redskins to within two points with 2:08 remaining, it was Avon Grove's poor decisions on both sides of the court that did the most damage. Careless offensive turnovers were met on defense by an inability to put pressure on Neshaminy shooters.
In an effort to calm his team down, Blumenthal called a timeout with 1:14 left in the game with his team ahead, 42-41. With 15 seconds left, Avon Grove's Scooter Whiteside calmly hit two free throws to give the Red Devils a three-point lead.
One Neshaminy's next possession, Gentry was left all alone in the corner, where his three-pointer sent the game into overtime, where a second three-pointer by Papeo and six free throws by Arcidiacano sealed the victory.
“We missed foul shots,” Blumenthal said. “We threw the ball away. I told them, 'Do not leave the shooter,' and they leave the shooter all by himself and he hit a three.
“We need to be in those situations more,” Blumenthal added. “Not just here. We need to be in those situations when we're on the playground. We  need to be in those situations when we're playing pick-up. Those are the things we're learning – to be able to do the small things it takes to win. We don't know how to finish games, and that takes time.”
Avon Grove was led by McCullough's 18 points, followed by Russo with 11 points, and Murphy and Karl Forst, who scored nine points each. With the loss, the Red Devils fell to 8-7 overall, and look to get back on the winning track on Jan. 26, when they tip off against Bishop Shanahan at Avon Grove.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].