The 2017-2018 Plumstead Christian Panthers made school history by reaching the state elite eight.
The ’18-19 Panthers needed only 16 minutes to make history again.
Setting an unofficial school record for points in a half, host Plumstead took a 48-30 lead into intermission against Valley Forge Baptist en route to a 75-54 opening night Friday win. The Panthers never trailed.
“Our kids are good at that – our Safari defense,” commended Panther coach John Elton. “They did really well at stealing the ball and getting layups out of it. That was the big difference. We got a lot of easy layups; their team was relying more on a half court offense to score.
“I was impressed with Valley Forge Baptist. They’re a solid team and they gave us a good run in the second half,” Elton continued.
Plumstead Christian used a Josh Parry bucket, a three from center Drew Grow, a steal and layup from point guard Carson Curry and two free throws to build a 9-0 first quarter run and a 25-10 lead.
The Patriots whittled the lead to 35-27 with 4:34 left in the second period, before the high octane Panthers posted an 8-0 run over the next three minutes. Starting with a Grow block on the defensive end, Plumstead got a layup from Danny Loving, a three-point play from Matt Bortolotti and a Curry-assisted Scott Gisondi runner.
“We play three outside of the perimeter so we try and swarm,” Curry described. While the aggressive defense has drawbacks, “overall you get steals for layups, which is a good trade.”
The Patriots took advantage of Panther turnovers to trim the lead to 59-46 at the end of the third quarter. But Grow’s three with 6:23 remaining extended the Panther lead to 20. “We didn’t make any adjustments,” Bortolotti said. “It’s easy to fall behind when you’re up that much. We wanted to keep the intensity up and make sure we came out of there with the win.”
Grow’s dunk several minutes later put the Panthers up 72-48 and gave the win an exclamation point. “Last year, I took about five or six 3s a game and shot about 40 percent. I’m working on driving more this year,” Grow responded when asked about his perimeter shooting. “It gives us more weapons and more for the defense to worry about. If they cover me on the 3, it leaves the paint wide open for the other bigs.”
Curry tallied 23 with nine assists. Grow paced all scorers with 24 while Bortolotti added a dozen and two assists. Josh Davis’ 21 points led Valley Forge Baptist.
“A big piece of our offense is Carson driving and kicking. Kicking to Drew. Kicking to Scott or to me,” Bortolotti offered. “(Carson) is a big part, Drew is a big part. The rest of us try to fill in the gaps.”
“We push whenever possible,” Elton explained. “We have the athletes like Carson, Drew and some of the younger guys too who can run, fill lanes and flourish in that kind of offense versus a half-court offense. I think that will be a key to us this season.”
Curry’s six steals led the Panthers, who recorded a baker’s dozen thefts. Sixth man Parry impressed with five points and several rebounds.
“We lost seven seniors,” Grow said. “We had to work in some new guys and get better chemistry with each other. But we’ve been playing together for so long that it’s good we get to put it to use in some games.”
“We hang out a lot of weekends,” Curry said. “We’ve been playing fall ball and in open gyms all throughout last school year trying to get some chemistry going. The other three new starters really stepped up and played awesome.”
Curry (45 points) nearly singlehandedly outscored Coventry Christian on Saturday as Plumstead thumped the Eagles 80-48. The Panthers were 3-0 at presstime after beating Life Center 67-57 on Tuesday. Curry entered Tuesday’s contest needing just 11 points for 1,000 in his career. Plumstead travels to Bicentennial League foe Bristol on Friday.
“It was a good start to our season,” Elton summarized on Friday. “We’re really happy.”