Unionville falls to Radnor in PIAA District final, 61-3603/05/2023 12:21PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Unionville’s Ryan Brown gets off a shot in the key during the third quarter of the Longhorns’ 61-36 loss to Radnor in the PIAA District I 5A championship game on March 4 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
As it made its way to a 22-4 overall record during the 2022-23 campaign, the Unionville boys varsity basketball team used patience, sound defense and effective shooting to win the Chest-Mont’s American Division, and defeat Upper Merion and Chichester to qualify for the PIAA District I 5A championship final.
On March 4, en route to holding the winners’ trophy high above them, however, the 12th-seeded Longhorns ran into a perfect team, figuratively and literally.
Radnor, the No. 1 seed in the tournament and ranked third in Pennsylvania boys basketball, extended its undefeated season to 27-0 by defeating Unionville 61-36 to win the District championship, before a crowd of 4,000 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
The game didn’t start the way it finished. After two early baskets by JT Anderson and a three-pointer by Ryan Brown, Nick Diehl scored on an inside-the-paint drive that gave Unionville a 9-5 lead with 3:24 left in the first quarter and led to a Radnor time out.
Two free throws by Radnor’s Danny Rosenblum were followed by a basket by Jackson Hicke that tied the score 9-9, but the Longhorns quickly jumped back on a three-pointer by Anderson that gave Unionville a 14-9 lead.
While the Longhorns carried a slim 14-13 lead heading into the second quarter, the tempo that the Raptors had established throughout their entire season actually began with seconds remaining in the first, when Henry Pierce hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer that shifted all momentum in the Raptors’ favor.
Highlighted by two steals by Hicke and Cooper Mueller – both of which finished with break-away slam dunks – Radnor forced Unionville to commit crucial turnovers in the second quarter (14 in all during the first half) that led to a 19-0 scoring run and gave the Raptors a comfortable 34-21 halftime lead.
“Our guys didn’t come to the ball, we didn’t have strong movements and that’s what led to the turnovers, and it actually began the end of the first quarter,” said Unionville Coach Chris Cowles. “We had great opportunities in transition, so we weren’t necessarily slowing down, but it really was just us not executing with strength.
“Radnor is an elite team, and we’ve had this issue throughout the year, which is that we can’t just pick and choose when we’re going to kick it in, because we’re going to get exposed, and [today] we got exposed every single time we didn’t do something strong.”
As the third quarter began, Unionville began to chip away at Radnor’s lead, by going on a 7-0 scoring run that brought the Longhorns to within six points of tying the game. After Radnor broke a five-minute scoring slump on a Hicke basket with 2:55 left in the half, the senior then sent his team into the fourth quarter with a 40-30 lead on a basket just as the quarter expired.
Despite a desperate attempt
to shave away Radnor’s growing lead in the fourth quarter, Unionville could not
find the outside shooting range that has helped define its success this season, as they were
completely shut down by Radnor’s defense that held the Longhorns to just six points while scoring 21 of its own.
Hicke led all scorers with 18 points, while Mueller contributed 11 points to the Raptors' win. Brenner and Anderson had 10 points apiece for Unionville.
Radnor will attempt to extend their perfect season on March 10, when they play host to the number eight seed from District 3 in the opening round of the PIAA 5A playoffs, while Unionville (22-5) will host the district’s fifth-seeded team on the same day.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].