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Boys basketball: Historic run continues - Pennridge to play for first state title

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Pennridge head boys basketball coach Dean Behrens bought Hershey kisses and bars for his team in anticipation of advancing to Chocolate Town for the title game Saturday night.

However, Behrens forgot them.

Now, he’ll have a second chance.

Pennridge continued its magical and valiant ride as it advanced to the PIAA Class 6A state title game for the first time in school history with its 52-47 win over La Salle College in a semifinal game at Norristown High School on Tuesday.

The Rams (27-5) will meet District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic in the championship game Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Hershey’s Giant Center. Pennridge won its fourth straight postseason game after it dropped games to Lower Merion and Abington.

“I forgot them (Hershey kisses and bars),” said a jubilant Behrens. “We just wanted to get to Hershey. We got hot at the right time. The kids have been mentally and physically in tune.”

With 40 seconds remaining, senior Jack Gillespie drained a corner three that broke a 47-all tie, and sent the Rams to their first title tilt. John Dominic hit the finishing touch with a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left.

“In situations like that, there’s not much thinking going on,” said Gillespie, who had a team-high 15 points. “When I caught the ball, I knew I had the opportunity, and I felt confident in shooting it and letting it fly.

“But none of this happens tonight without the help of my teammates.”

“John Dominic’s free throws were huge,” added Behrens. “He has been very consistent for us all season long.”

From the opening tap, it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a tight game. Both teams also shot well from the field, and Pennridge had a 24-22 lead at halftime.

Pennridge broke through in the third quarter, as they built a 42-36 advantage heading into the final frame. The Rams increased their lead to 45-36 on Dominic’s three with just under 7:30 remaining.

La Salle cut into their lead and the Explorers eventually tied the game at 47 with a minute left to play. Their desperation 3-pointer fell short in the final seconds.

“We knew La Salle would put pressure on us,” said Behrens. “We knew they would come at us in the end.”

Senior Sean Yoder, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Methacton three days earlier to send the Rams into the semis, knew it was going to be a game decided late.

“It was a crazy up and down game, and a great high school basketball game to be a part of,” said Yoder, who had 13 points. “We knew they were going to make a run at us, and we just had to limit it as much as possible.

“I didn’t try to force shots and went with whatever the defense gave me.”

Yoder, who has a litany of heroics this season, relished the Ram’s cohesiveness throughout the night.

“We played together and each guy had a role and perfected it,” he stressed. “It’s awesome to be part of this team, and the community coming out to support us has been unbelievable.”

Behrens and his players will cherish the moment.

“We’re excited to be going,” said Behrens about his impending trip. “I told the kids to soak it in and not get too high.

“It’s a really cool experience for everyone.”


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