The Quakertown Panthers checked a lot of boxes last Wednesday night in their crossover at New-Hope Solebury.
61-24 winners in a game whose original Jan. 19 scheduling was snowed out, the Panthers not only snapped a six-game losing streak but gave head coach Tony DaCosta his 200th career win while also equaling last season’s victory total.
“It feels really good. I’m a senior who has been here for four years and I’ve seen everybody grow,” said Panthers forward Kyle Rosenberger. “I want to send the season out on a high note and make sure everyone knows how we play.”
Quakertown played virtually turnover-free in the first half. “We’ve been looking for that all season long. We’ve struggled with that at times but tonight we played clean,” DaCosta noted. “We’ve been playing some pretty good basketball. It’s been a tough stretch and we’ve had some real stiff competition. I think what you saw was a team who has learned from those experiences and we were able to play a lot cleaner tonight.”
NH-S cut the Quakertown lead to 9-6 when Ethan Tomlinson answered with a bucket off an offensive rebound. Post baskets from Anthony Callan and Sam Wilkin put Quakertown up 15-6, and opened the game ending run.
“We’ve always had a lot of trust in our bigs, especially Ethan,” Rosenberger said. “He has put up some big numbers for us. In practice every day, the group is working on post passes.”
The Panthers used those six points to start a 30-5 stretch over the end of the first quarter and most of the second quarter. Paint buckets opened up the outside for Wilkin, who sank four threes in a row.
“When they are taking up a lot of attention, it absolutely is easier to find my shot at the 3-point line,” said Wilkin, whose 19 points led all scorers. “I’ve put in a lot of work into shooting and I go in with confidence every game.
“Once you get one going,” Wilkin added, “it immediately boosts your confidence and the rim gets bigger and bigger.”
Wilkin and Rosenberger, who added 14 points, opened the second half by converting five straight free throws, to give Quakertown a 44-14 lead and start the running clock.
Liam Ross’ 13 points paced NH-S.
The Panthers had been very competitive in most games. They lost by six to playoff-bound William Tennent. On Jan. 24, the Panthers led Cheltenham, another playoff participant, after the third quarter.
Two nights later, Quakertown trailed area power Plymouth Whitemarsh by three at halftime and played them evenly in the first, second and fourth quarters.
“I’m extremely happy. Years ago, those would not have been close games to be frank,” DaCosta admitted. “We weren’t good enough to be competitive against those teams. We’ve grown over the years and have gotten better. Now what you see are a mature group of seniors and juniors who know what it takes to play in that kind of environment and play teams consistently in the District One playoffs.”
Miles Longacre snapped heads on opening night when he went for 40 points in Quakertown’s 66-52 win over archrival Pennridge. Yet the Panthers have developed other threats; Wilkin poured in 26 against Wissahickon in a 60-57 loss on Jan. 30 and Tomlinson scored 30 against Plymouth Whitemarsh.
DaCosta feels that “the way we have competed” has been an area that Quakertown has improved as the season progressed. “I think they understand that to be successful and win the games you want in a tough Suburban One League, you’re going to have to bring it every night,” he said. “We have learned from that.”
On the other sideline, demographically Mike Connors has an uphill battle at New Hope-Solebury, the smallest school in the SOL. He has praised his Lions’ work ethic. On Jan. 26 the work came to fruition as NH-S earned its first SOL win in two seasons when Ross hit the game-winning jumper to beat Springfield (M) in overtime 53-51. The night before, the Lions dispatched New Foundations 73-55.
Quakertown (4-12 SOL) closed its season on Tuesday with a record of 8-14. NH-S (3-18, 1-14 SOL) takes on Morrisville on Thursday.