The Phantoms turned on the defensive pressure in the second half to force Boyertown turnovers and turn a 14-point halftime deficit into a 66-63 victory in an exciting contest at Spring-Ford High School's gymnasium Monday night.
Phoenixville raised its record to 9-8 in the PAC-10 (10-11 overall) to move into a tie for fourth place with Perkiomen Valley, which dropped a 61-54 decision to Owen J. Roberts. Boyertown fell to 8-9 (10-11) with one game remaining on the regular season schedule.
Ryan Thomas led four Phoenixville players in double figures with 21 points, followed by Alex Johnson (15), Chris Ellis (12 points, eight rebounds) and Jon Hogga (12, three treys). That helped erase a 35-21 halftime deficit and gave the Phantoms their second straight victory following a road win against Lansdale Catholic Saturday afternoon.
Brad Unger powered the Bears with 35 points and 17 rebounds, but Boyertown could not overcome 24 turnovers, 16 of them coming in the second half. Unger tallied 43 points in the first-half meeting against the Phantoms that Phoenixville also won in overtime on the Bears' floor. Brent Howard came off the bench to net 11 for the Bears.
"We kicked around at the end of the first half to sag a little bit and keep pressure on him (Unger)," said Phoenixville coach Bill Detweiler. "The first game we got away from that. We didn't know if we had enough (energy) left to press."
As it turned out, they did, with Johnson and Thomas taking care of the ballhandling out front.
"Alex did a great job tonight," Detweiler said. "They got flustered in the backcourt. Once we got it under 10, we had them back on their heels.
"But give them credit, they answered with two but we got four. Once we got the lead, I thought we had it. It got a shaky at the end when we missed some foul shots, but we also stuck shots that we needed to."
Phoenixville outscored Boyertown 22-12 in the third period and 23-16 in the final eight minutes.
The Phantoms shot 24-for-44 (55 percent) from the floor and 15-for-24 at the free throw line. including Johnson's 9-for-10 effort. The Bears shot 28-for-49 (57 percent) from the field and 3-for-8 at the charity stripe.
The Bears owned a 31-21 advantage on the boards for the game, but Phoenixville had the edge 12-11 off the glass in the second half.
"They (Phantoms) deserved it," said Boyertown coach Mike Wheeler. "They won the second half. They blew us away. We didn't step up in the second half. My hat is off to them.
"The turnover bug has been bothering us all year. It has been that way for a long time at Boyertown. It has been a problem. We don't take care of the ball."
The Bears led 37-21 after an Unger basket to start the third quarter. The Phantoms then went on a stunning 14-0 run to cut the lead to 37-35 with 3:43 left in the stanza. Thomas had three baskets in the stretch, Ellis a drive and Hogga two triples from the left wing.
The Bears held a 47-43 lead entering the last session on a 3-point bomb by Stephen Jaffe in the final second of the period.
The Bears were up 58-54 with 4:05 showing when the Phantoms mustered a 6-0 run to take the lead. Johnson sank both ends of a one-and-one, Thomas made a putback off a Johnson steal and Johnson drained two more foul shots.
Unger halted the spurt with a free throw, but Hogga canned a drive to the basket for a 62-59 lead with 1:52 on the clock.
Ellis came through with a key steal and foul shot with :26 left for a 65-63 lead. After the Bears missed a drive to the hoop, the Phantoms were awarded a team rebound. Detweiler called a timeout and Thomas made another foul shot with six ticks left.
Unger was left with a 3-point attempt from the left corner that did not fall and a desperation rebound before time expired.
Detweiler praised his troops.
"Jon Hogga doesn't play like a freshman," he said. "He made that huge layup that put us up three. That was big.
"We had good balanced scoring. Ryan Thomas had 22 against LC and came back with 21 tonight. He stepped up big tonight. Alex showed leadership on the floor. He got to the rack Chris Ellis was gigantic in the second half against Unger."
He thought the Phantoms showed a lot of character in staging their big comeback.
Phoenixville will play Pottsgrove Wednesday night at Spring-Ford. Perkiomen Valley hosts Pottstown tonight and Boyertown entertains Upper Perkiomen.
Phoenixville won the junior varsity game, 44-42, on two foul shots by Billy Shirk with three seconds left. Mike Odenthal (17) and Travis Ford-Bey (10) led the scoring for the Phantoms while Seth Harman had 13 for the Bears.