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Boys basketball: Pennridge’s Yoder scuttles Eagles

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Naval Academy-recruit Sean Yoder will learn how to command at sea.

The Pennridge guard sure commands on land.

Behind Yoder’s 26 points – the host No. 4 Rams (22-3) commanded the No. 5 Norristown Eagles (19-6) 51-36 in Friday night’s District One 6A quarterfinal.

Yoder set the Rams’ career scoring record early in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 1,361 points.

“I was never really a point guard coming in to high school,” Yoder explained. He has since learned ball handling. “But the biggest (change) has been my leadership ability,” he continued. “We’re trying to get a group of guys on the same page with one goal.”

A late first quarter burst showed why this Rams team is dangerous.

Yoder fed center Jon Post for a basket to take a 12-10 lead. Yoder then stole and hit teammate John Dominic on the perimeter. When the Eagle defense shaded to the ball, Dominic fired back to an open Yoder, who drained a three.

“We stayed relaxed and didn’t just throw the ball around,” Trent Fisher said. “They pressured a lot early so we moved the ball and played really hard on defense.”

A three-point play from Post driving the lane made the game 18-10.

The inside out combo was extremely effective.

“We’ve been working together for a long time,” said forward Fisher. “Once we pound it inside, we create shots for the wide open shooters on the outside.”

“Working the ball in and out all over the court tires the defenders,” guard Dominic added, “and creates open shots for everyone.”

Yoder flashed a wicked crossover dribble while driving for a second quarter layup. The Rams led 27-14 at one point; Norristown cut the halftime lead to 32-22. Yoder and the Eagles traded floor baskets in the third; Yoder’s J at the buzzer increased Pennridge’s lead to 42-32.

Norristown trailed by just six and had the ball with 4:30 remaining, but it traveled. Dominic’s cutter and Yoder’s coast-to-coast layup put the game out of reach.

“I thought it was a tight game,” admitted Pennridge coach Dean Behrens. “Norristown comes at you relentlessly. They are so good defensively, and I recognize they didn’t have their best shooter. They gave Sean fits. He scored 26, but they were earned.”

Thirty-six points was, by far, Norristown’s offensive nadir this season. “Our help defense and communication were ridiculous,” Dominic said. “It’s been like that the whole year. That has been what is winning us games: we hold teams to under 50 points. Even if it’s not clicking on the offensive side, we still have our defense to rely on every game.”

“It was physical,” Behrens pointed out, “but our kids handled it. We rebounded pretty well out of the zone. Tonight, we hit enough shots to win the game. You look pretty good as a coach when you make shots.”

The Eagles’ skilled center Mickeel Allen had just two of his dozen points in the second half. “He was tough. We fronted him,” Behrens explained.

Yoder added eight rebounds while Fisher grabbed four with three blocks. Post had 10 points and four boards while Dominic tallied seven points. Luke Yoder contributed four assists and snagged five rebounds.

A balanced Ram team handled No. 13 Spring-Ford 71-48 in the second round behind Dominic’s 15 and 13 each from Post and Fisher. Sean Yoder suffered a nasty in-game injury, but he later returned.

“I’m fine now, but my teammates stepped up incredibly in that third quarter,” Yoder said. “All credit goes to them. Today, we stuck together as a team, which is what it comes down to.”

Pennridge, who strung together a 17-game win streak earlier this season, reached its first District One final four with the win. In Tuesday final four action, the Rams fell to No. 1 Abington 50-38. Sean Yoder’s 11 points paced the Rams, who will play No. 3 Lower Merion in the third-place game on Friday.

Note: The author appreciates the world class Pennridge dance team’s contribution to this article.


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