A clutch 9-0 run late in the fourth quarter last Thursday helped host Council Rock South (15-7, 8-4 National) overcome a slow start and top archrival CR North 45-42.
“It’s a rivalry game and it’s never going to be a blowout,” said South’s Jack Rebholz, whose 17 points led all scorers. “We were ready. They were ready.”
The Golden Hawks clinch second place in the SOL National and advance to district playoffs for the first time in three years. A 16 seed, South hosts No. 17 Abington on Friday.
“I think it starts with the defensive end. We’ve improved at that,” observed South coach Chris Clark. “Offensively, we’ve gotten better at sharing the ball. That’s been a big part of it too. And it’s year two of learning our system, which always helps.”
North (5-17, 2-10 National) led 11-5 after the first. The Indians did a good job limiting South to one and done offensively.
South opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run. Michael Stewart’s 3-point play with 6:30 left in the half briefly gave the Golden Hawks a 13-11 lead.
North’s Hunter Wan rattled off six straight points with two free throws, a layup and a jumper. Wan’s assist on Andrew Stewart’s 3-ball gave North a 20-13 lead. A Rebholz three and two Kevin McNamee free throws slashed North’s margin to 20-18 at the break.
South wanted to push the pace; North was content to play a deliberate half-court game. “We want to be able to play either way – fast or slow,” Clark said. “Great teams can do both. We’re trying to become a great team and they can play at any style. We’re comfortable in a grind it out half court and we love to go up and down too.”
With 40 seconds elapsed in the fourth quarter, Stewart hit South’s fourth triple of the second half to put the Golden Hawks up 32-30.
Wan’s jumper gave North one final 35-34 lead, but South rattled off a 9-0 run to seal the game. “Every day in practice, we talk about defense,” Stewart added. “We kicked the intensity up in the fourth and it helped us so much.”
“I tried to get to the rim a lot so my shots would open up,” Rebholz offered. “We spread them out so there was a big lane to drive. I had a lot of options: to stop, pass or look for my own shot.”
South ends the regular season on a three-game win streak. The Golden Hawks defeated Pennsbury 55-48 on Jan. 31 to sweep the Falcons. South topped William Tennent 52-49 four days later.
CR South is 10-1 when it scores at least 53 points. “Ball movement and making sure we’re always moving,” credited Stewart. “We like to dribble handoff. We get as much motion as possible. It makes the defense rotate more and then they’ll mess up eventually.”
McNamee tallied 12 and Stewart scored 10 for South. Wan’s dozen points paced North. “I think our youth showed a bit. We had trouble executing and South did a great job being physical with us,” explained North head coach Jesse Krasna. “That’s something that the off season can help fix. South is a talented and well-coached team.
“I thought we did a pretty good job throughout the game but in the third quarter, they got loose and in the fourth quarter, we had to extend our defense and they got to the rim and foul line,” Krasna continued. “But I’m proud of our kids. Tuesday was an emotional night with it being Senior Night and a big win. The energy level they brought tonight was really high.”
Two days prior, North came away victorious in the most shocking SOL upset of the year. The Indians beat first-place Bensalem 50-42 on Senior Night to hand the Owls their first division loss. Bernie Parent’s 14 paced North.
“Regardless of outcome, they’ve competed,” Krasna said. Eight of the Indians’ losses were by six or fewer points. “We were on the wrong side of those. We’re not that far away from being a really good basketball program and that is going to motivate us for the offseason.”