PHOENIXVILLE - A few weeks ago, Phoenixville appeared on the verge of being bounced right out of Pioneer Athletic Conference boys basketball playoff contention.
But how quickly matters can change, and they certainly have in a big way for coach Randy Reber’s Phantoms. Phoenixville is now in the running for a league crown after guaranteeing its hold on a Final Four playoff berth following a 72-46 thumping of shorthanded Pottsgrove Saturday afternoon.
The Phantoms, who have now won five consecutive games, currently stand at 8-4 in the PAC-10 (11-9 overall) and in a tie with Pope John Paul II, which eliminated Pottstown from the chase with a 59-40 victory also Saturday.
That setup an interesting matchup for Monday evening in Phoenixville, when PJP and the Phantoms played a makeup game. The way the season has unfolded, that contest had a division title on the line and seeding berths for both schools in the Final Four against schools from the Liberty Division.
Led by Greg Hughes’ 19 points and three more players contributing double figures, too, the Phantoms broke out to a 20-13 first-quarter lead against the Falcons (5-8, 6-15) and stretched the differential to 17 points by halftrime at 38-21.
Marcus Howell, DeAndre Gadsden and Victor Bozzelli each finished with 11 points for the Phantoms, who made six 3-point field goals on the day and shot 30-for-60 (50 percent) from the field and 6-for-6 at the free throw line.
Nazhir Goldston led the Falcons with 12 markers, including three treys, while Mike Fowler finished with 10.
“We are taking care of business,” said Reber. “We did what we had to today. Pottsgrove was a little undermanned. We came out and did what we hoped to do. We took control of the game early. We had a little lapse in the second quarter a little bit. But we finished the first half strong. We played a strong three quarters to take control of the game.”
Hughes and Howell each scored six points in the first period while Gadsden had four and Ian Harrigan and C.J. Lindsay two each as Phoenixville shared the basketball well on Senior Day for seven 12th graders plus the cheerleaders.
Hughes had 13 and Gadsden 11 by intermission.
“When we got beat at Perkiomen Valley, every league game became a playoff game for us,” said Reber. “We had the good win against Spring-Ford and then we beat Boyertown. Now we have beaten three teams in our division in winning the last five games. If we would have stumbled, we would have put ourselves out. We knew the task at hand for us, and we really worked hard to win these games, and we have played decent basketball.”
Hughes is one of those veteran senior leaders for the Phantoms.
“We play together on defense,” said Hughes, a 6-1 forward. “That’s what it is. When we play defense, then it leads into our offense. We share the ball really well. We all do it together. We don’t have a 20-point scorer, but we all chip in a lot. We want to win. That is all we care about. We have our eyes on the PAC-10 championship.”
“Coach Reber really kept us focused when we could have gotten down. We support each other. We are a team this year, not individuals. It has been smooth.”
Gadsden grabbed 10 rebounds for the Phantoms and he also had one blocked shot and a steal. Howell (three assists) and Bozzelli each made two steals. Bozzelli scored six points in the third period and drained his triple during the fourth quarter.
With the big lead, Reber was able to substitute freely. He used 13 different players in the game.
Pottsgrove shot 17-for-49 from the floor and 8-for-12 at the foul line. Deyon Doctor and Fowler each pulled six rebounds for the Falcons. Mark Dukes had six points while Doctor and Mike Graves (one trey) had five apiece.
Dukes shot 4-for-6 at the foul line.
Phoenixville’s seniors include Bozzelli, Lindsay, Harrigan, Howell, Darford Saunders, Richard Martin and Hughes. ... Bozzelli, Howell, Martin, Gadsden, Hughes and Mike Anthony canned triples for the Phantoms.