ROYERSFORD - Marcus Howell, Greg Hughes and the remainder of the Phoenixville boys basketball players came up just shy of defending champion Methacton, 53-51, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal playoffs last Saturday afternoon at Spring-Ford High School’s Ram Gyymnasium.
The Franklin K. Manley Playoffs were postponed from last Friday night due to the snowstorm. That forced a quadrupleheader Saturday with two afternoon games and two girls basketball games at night.
Howell, a senior guard, and Hughes, a senior forward, led the way for the Phantoms (11-12), who will still compete in the District 1-AAA playoffs.
Howell scored 19 points and Hughes tallied 15 to pace the Phantoms, who made their first trip to the Final Four in three years under head coach Randy Reber. Howell shot 8-for-17 from the field and 3-for-6 from 3-point range with five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one blocked shot.
Hughes shot 5-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-7 from downtown with two rebounds and two assists.
Phoenixville led 18-16 after one quarter and 28-27 at halftime. The Phantoms were also up 39-38 after three periods.
“We executed,” said Howell. “We know their offense. We had a great plan and they beat us by two. We are always outsized, but we beat teams downcourt. He (Hughes) was hot in the beginning and I did it at the end. We did everything we could. No one thought we would be here.”
Hughes nailed three treys in the first quarter for his nine first-half points. Howell had one trey and nine points at the break. He canned two triples in the fourth period and had a last-second shot bounce off the rim.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter,” Hughes said of the size factor. “We are used to that. We knew coming in it would be David against Goliath. One screen beat us. They are a good team, but I wouldn’t trade my experience with these guys for the world. This was the best year of basketball I had. We still got here, and no one thought we would be here.”
Overall, Phoenixville shot 20-for-48 from the field and 11-for-21 from 3-point land. The Phantoms did not have any free throw opportunities in the contest. Phoenixville was also outrebounded, 31-14.
Brendan Casper, a 6-6 senior who has scored more than 1,000 career points, led the Warriors with 20 points, nine rebounds, two assists and one block. He shot 10-for-23 from the field. Matt Forrest, a 6-2 senior, tallied 18 points with four treys, four rebounds and one assist. Zach Jenkins, a 6-3 junior forward who scored the game-winning basket, finished with 11 points and eight rebounds (four offensive) for head coach Jeff Derstine.
Methacton shot 24-for-56 from the field (4-for-13 from downtown) and 1-for-5 at the foul line.
“There are no moral victories,” said Reber. “They made the last shot and we didn’t. But we played so hard and we didn’t quit. We played 32 minutes that were the toughest possible. We made plays late in the game. They made the last shot and beat us on one nice play.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. They have bought into the system we want to play. They understand that good things will happen if we share the ball. They are a good team. They have very good discipline and they have more size and set strong screens. We competed like crazy.”