With some key losses from last year’s team, Pennridge lowered its profile this season, but the Rams haven’t lowered their level of play.
Their 49-41 win over Wilkes-Barre Area at Wilkes University Saturday afternoon in the opening round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs was another indication.
The Rams (19-8) switched momentum late in the game and then again relied on their staunch and steady defensive pressure to reassure themselves of their current state. They were only the third Pennridge team to win a state game.
Whether or not Pennridge advanced past Roman Catholic Wednesday at Bensalem (results unavailable at press time), the Rams continue to build on their foundation.
“It was a good win for us,” said Pennridge head coach Dean Behrens. “They (Wilkes-Barre) are a very good team, and it made it that much more difficult.
“These guys have followed suit like the other teams we have had the past 10 years. During that time, we have six division titles in 10 years, and have been to states four out of the last seven years.
“They have bought in especially on the defensive side and that doesn’t always happen. They really love to play defense, and that has helped us to win this season.”
Against Wilkes-Barre, Pennridge battled back from an obvious momentum swing late in the third quarter and into the fourth.
Anthony Phillips converted a 3-point and one play and cut Wilkes-Barre’s margin to 41-39. Paul Croyle followed with a 3-pointer that sealed the win.
Pennridge limited Wilkes-Barre, the District Two champion, to four points in the final stanza with its effective zone defense. The Rams also had a 29-15 advantage on the boards, grabbing 10 on the offensive side.
Offensively, it was another balanced effort paced by Colin Post’s 13 points with Trent Fisher adding 12 and Christian Guldin chipping in with 10.
“We rebounded very well,” added Behrens. “To get 10 offensive rebounds is saying something. Anthony’s show changed everything. When we went to the zone, we were able to shut them down.
“These kids have established their own identity, and they haven’t taken anything for granted all season.”
Guldin anticipated his team would fly under the radar to begin the season.
“Coming into the season, a lot of people doubted us and sold us short,” said the senior. “We didn’t let that get into our heads and used it as a motivation to play harder. At the halfway point, we were 6-0 and people started realizing that we were a good team.
“We had a tough draw in districts against Methacton, but we were able to regroup and focus on states.”
Post’s development has been a pleasant surprise and a major transition for their second-half success.
“In December, he (Post) didn’t get a lot of time,” said Behrens. “When Paul Croyle broke his foot, Post took advantage of the opportunity and came to the forefront. He gave us good minutes and has been competing at a high level for us.
“We have had him cover the other team’s best offensive player. He has taken on that responsibility and also has helped us in other areas.”
Post has adapted well to his new status.
“I think my role has been to play hard every possession and bring energy to the team,” said Post. “Throughout the season, a big part of my role was to take advantages of mismatches on the court.
“My teammates and I believe that it doesn’t matter who is winning us games, but how we win. This played a big role in how successful we’ve been.”