oing to be easy facing Abraham Lincoln High School practically in its backyard at South Philadelphia High School in the first round of a state playoff game March 9.
Fortunately for the Rams, they methodically worked their way through an intense, tight-knit contest and came away with a 49-45 victory.
Senior guard Sean Yoder, who had a team-high 15 points, sealed the game when he sank a pair of free throws with 14.5 seconds left that gave the Rams a 47-45 lead, and then Yoder drew a charging call with 3.8 seconds remaining that helped send Pennridge to the next round.
Yoder, who is a Naval Academy recruit, is determined to help his team win another state playoff game for the first time in school history.
He knew this one wasn’t pretty.
“It was an ugly game, but we found a way to get it done,” said Yoder.
“We came up with a few big stops in the end that gave us momentum and ultimately won us the game.
“Pennridge hasn’t won a lot of state playoff games. But we came in here and trusted each other. We really needed to pull everything from each other. It really came down to trusting each other, and it felt good to get a win.”
The Rams, the fourth seed from District One, finally opened the game against Lincoln, the third seed from District 12, when they built a 34-26 advantage early in the fourth quarter and appeared to be in control.
But Lincoln rallied with a 17-6 run to take a 43-40 advantage with momentum apparently back on their side. Yoder knotted the game at 43-all when he drained a 3-pointer with just over two minutes left.
John Dominic’s layup would tie the game at 45, setting the stage for Yoder’s late-game heroics. Jack Gillespie ended the scoring with a pair of free throws with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Lincoln led by a small margin in the opening half and led 20-17 at halftime.
With Yoder leading the way, it was another solid team effort on the Rams’ ride this season.
“Being in the state playoffs is a true testament to our guys,” said Pennridge head coach Dean Behrens. “All of these guys believe in themselves and they have had a lot of fun.
Now, the Rams will look to make history, facing another laborious task.
They met Abington for the fourth time this season at Bensalem High School Wednesday (results unavailable at press time). Pennridge dropped both regular-season meetings and it also lost to the Ghosts in the district semifinal.
The Rams are faced with again stopping 6-foot-8 Villanova recruit Eric Dixon, but they still will look to play their game.
“We know what we have to face and do,” said Behrens about meeting Abington again. “We have to hit our shots and be aggressive.
“We are going to prepare like we always do and compete,” added Yoder. “We’ll come out and see what happens.”