New Hope-Solebury’s mission against Palmerton was clear – get the ball inside.
For the most part in the opening half of the District One/11 Class 3A regional final, the Lions did that as they converted more than their share of layups and built a double-digit lead.
But when starters Topher Taylor and Connor Wallace each were relegated to the bench in the second quarter with two fouls apiece, Palmerton cut the Lions’ lead to seven at halftime.
However, the second half belonged to Taylor.
The 6-foot-9 senior center scored 15 of his game-high 21 points after halftime to lead the Lions to a 61-46 victory at Quakertown Community High School Saturday afternoon.
“In the third quarter, we always think of it as starting over,” said Taylor, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. “We want to win the quarter and set the tone.
“I knew I had to start and use my physical size, and I thought I could dominate. I felt like they couldn’t stop me.”
Taylor’s presence inside seemingly altered Palmerton’s usual effective shooting game from the perimeter.
“The game came down to their big (Taylor) who played well and their guards didn’t make mistakes,” added Palmerton head coach Ken Termini. “Part of that is a credit to them and part of that is we didn’t shoot the ball well.
“We took our time on offense and took good shots,” said Lions’ sophomore Philip Weinseimer (nine points, four rebounds). “Defensively, we were able to slide well and get out on their shots.”
Taylor scored six straight points during a 10-4 run over the final four minutes in the third quarter that gave the Lions control the rest of the way. New Hope came off a 60-40 win over Panther Valley in the opening round Wednesday night in Pottsville.
“During the last couple of games, we really came together,” said Lions’ head coach Rick Fedele, who received a Gatorade shower after the game. “Our focus was to get scoring opportunities inside and we wanted to attack the basket. That has been the key the last two games.”
Palmerton, which trailed by more than 10 most of the second half, gained some late momentum to cut the margin to 53-43 with 1:36 left.
But seniors Wallace (13 points, six rebounds) and Patrick Cooney (12 points, five rebounds) sealed the victory when they each sank a pair of free throws with just over a minute remaining.
The Lions again were without starting point guard junior Michael Borys, who went down with an injury before district play.
“Our seniors stepped it up big time for us,” added Fedele. “Since we lost (Borys), our ball handling has suffered a little.
“But we have had two nice games back-to-back and we hadn’t scored 60 points all season.”
The Lions will advance to the state tournament and meet District 12 fifth seed Murrell Dobbins Saturday at Upper Dublin High School.
“Winning this is amazing,” said Taylor. “This is what we worked for all season. We have a lot of momentum going into states.”
“We are playing great at the right time,” added Fedele. “We hope we can continue.”