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Boys basketball: Central Bucks West hoping to duplicate 2018 playoff run


For 10 Central Bucks West seniors, these are their final days on the boys varsity basketball team.

This time last year, this group was rounding out their junior campaign after topping CB East in a District One Class 6A opener before falling to Norristown and Spring-Ford, which both went on to states.

The year before, the Bucks put together a PIAA qualifying run of their own, making it all the way to the Elite Eight.

Before their time on Court Street has elapsed, the boys want to make the most of it.

“It’s a big thing for us – the chemistry and the bond that we have,” said co-captain Mika Munari of his teammates. “We all have one goal so that’s going to make it really easy for us.

“We want to make a big run, just do what we can together to have as much success as we can.”

The only coach this class has ever known, Adam Sherman says the group is devoted to the game.

“These kids have invested a lot. I want to see them have a lot of success,” he said. “They’ve worked so hard and invest so much, you want to see them have a great experience.

“You don’t want to see them get gypped out of what they’ve worked for.”

Two years ago, after earning the fourth seed in districts and a first-round bye, West toppled East and fifth-seeded Coatesville before falling at the hands of top seeded Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the District One semifinals.

Despite an ensuing loss to Lower Merion, the Bucks advanced to states. In the PIAA tournament, West thrashed District 11 rival Emmaus by 19 points before topping District Three champion and defending state champ Reading by 13 points in overtime in the Sweet 16. Despite a nine-point deficit with two minutes left in regulation, Jake Reichwein and Collin MacAdams led the Bucks to a 60-47 triumph over the Red Knights, scoring 18 points, each.

“We’re all looking back at two years ago, the things that that team did – that’s our same goal,” admitted Munari. “We want to make another run. We want to go just as far as they did.”

After recently wrapping up a second-place finish in the Suburban One League (SOL) Continental Conference at 8-4, West took on unbeaten SOL American champ Cheltenham last Saturday in an SOL tournament opener at Bensalem.

Trailing the Panthers 30-23 at the half, the Bucks closed the gap to two points late in the third quarter, thanks to a layup by Jack Slaymaker, a driving bucket by Owen Haney and a 3-pointer by Munari.

Three steals by Cheltenham on three consecutive CB West possessions led to easy baskets for the Panthers, helping the opponent extend their lead to 40-32 heading into the final frame.

“We lost our focus a little bit there and it came back to haunt us,” admitted Sherman.

In the fourth quarter, Cheltenham made most of its free throws (10-of-12), defeating the Bucks 52-43 and putting its 21st win of the season in the books. Entering districts as the No. 3 seed, the Panthers won’t play until round two on Feb. 18.

“That’s a fantastic basketball team that we just played – one of the best, if not, the best in the district,” stated Munari. “That’s the type of team that you have to beat if you want to play at Temple (the site of the District One semifinals) or make a run at states.

It was a learning experience, he added.

“We learned a lot about handling pressure – transition – just what it really means to grind out four quarters.”

The Bucks enter the postseason ranked ninth in the district so they’ll host North Penn in a District One Class 6A opener on Feb. 14. The teams split a pair of earlier season matchups with the Rams emerging with a 48-43 triumph Jan. 31 in Lansdale.

After a win over Quakertown on Feb. 4, West wrapped up the regular season with its second of the season over CB South on Feb. 6 on the Titans’ home court.

Against Cheltenham, Munari was a warrior – as always, leading the Bucks with 20 points, including eight in the first quarter. His fourth field goal in the initial frame, helped West enter the second quarter tied at 12-all.

“It was a lot on him today. The way they play, they put a lot on your point guard,” explained Sherman. “I thought he responded really well and he played well.”

From there, a pair of sophomores ignited the Panthers’ offense. Point guard Saleem Payne canned a short-range jumper and a 3-pointer while 6-2 shooting guard Rasheem Dearry added a trey of his own, sparking a 10-2 Cheltenham run in the first three minutes of the second period.

CB West senior Jack Neri (12 points) made good on a pair of give-and-go layups and Munari canned a short-range basket in the lane but the Bucks just could not keep pace with the Panthers, who got another 3-pointer from Dearry, one from senior Jaelen McGlone and another jumper from Payne.

“The way we were guarding them, they needed a shooter,” explained Sherman. “(Number) 11 (Payne) came in and hit a few jump shots. That really opened things up a little bit for them.”

Coming back from the break, CB West managed to slow the game down enough to catch up ... well, almost.

“The plan was to not get into a race with them. They have much better athletes than us,” explained Sherman. “We felt a half-court game played more in our favor.”

Sherman says his team needed more time to prepare for the Cheltenham matchup.

“They are such a different team in our league. It’s hard to prepare for a team like that with just one day,” the coach said.

“They were changing defenses a lot and getting us extended and trying to make us uncomfortable and they did a good job of it.”

After a 52-48 loss at CB East in mid-January, the Bucks responded with wins over Continental Conference rival Souderton and conference champ Pennridge, two teams they had lost to earlier in the season.

“In a lot of those games earlier in the year, we lost because we weren’t playing the right way,” stated Munari. “Both games, we prepped a lot, getting it into our brains, taking care of the basketball and the rest will figure itself out.”

Sherman wants to see this group take on a deep postseason run.

“We’ve got 10 seniors and you want to see them have good times in February,” the coach said.

“The goal is to go deep into February and maybe have the opportunity to play in March.”

The way to accomplish that is to keep your eyes on the road ahead, he said.

“You gotta play with no rear-view mirror – just look and see what’s out in front of you and take one step forward. That’s all you can do – learn from it and move on.”

@stevesherman222 on Twitter