Two archrivals meeting on a basketball court promises to be an exciting affair. The final regular season match-up between Neshaminy and Pennsbury proved just such a battle. The two crosstown foes battled the entire game before the Falcons came away with the 61-59 victory.
Both teams entered the contest with two main goals. They wanted to fete their senior players and keep their slim district playoff hopes alive. Pennsbury, who started the season with a 2-7 record, had climbed back into contention with a late run that saw them take 3 of their last 4 games. Neshaminy experienced a similar fate, losing 5 straight games in midseason only to rally back with 5 wins in their last 7 games.
The Falcons and the ‘Skins both had 10-11 overall records entering the big showdown. A victory would grant them a .500 season, a mark that in itself would help give the graduating seniors a lasting memory. The Falcon’s roster featured several seniors (Cooper Arnold, Collin Connor, Kyrie Miller) who had tasted playoff action early their career.
Neshaminy, on the other hand, used the pregame ceremonies of their final home game to honor their seniors; Jon Desir, Brandon Kelly, Andrew Mays, Damon McGovern, Kyle Saglimben and Jack Simkiw. To emphasize the game’s main importance Neshaminy coach Mark Tingle started an all senior lineup.
Pennsbury began the action right where they left off on January 14th when they beat the ‘Skins 72-64 on the Falcon’s home court. This time around, baskets by Shane Simmons, Collin Connor and Kyrie Miller gave Pennsbury a 7-1 lead with 5:22 left in the first quarter.
The trio would continue this pace the entire game. Simmons would lead the Falcons with 15 points followed by Connor with 14 and Miller with nine. Sophomore Evan McNealy contributed to the Pennsbury cause with 10 points including two clutch free throws down the stretch.
After a Neshaminy time out the ‘Skins Jon Desir nailed a three pointer to narrow the margin to 7-4. The Falcons answered immediately with clutch baskets by Connor, Cooper Arnold and Miller to give them a ten point advantage,
In what would become the game pattern, Neshaminy was not about to surrender, rallying back with baskets by Brandon Kelly, Kyle Saglimben and Matt Drapkin. Kelly’s three pointer was one of five he would hit from beyond the arc. He would lead the ‘Skins in scoring with 19 points on the night.
Pennsbury appeared to break the game wide open when they went ahead 34-21 with minutes left in the second quarter. Tallies by Neshaminy’s Desir, Kelly and Simkiw, however, showed the ‘Skins were not ready to surrender. They would go into halftime down by a 38-28 score.
Pennsbury came out of the locker room at half ready to ice the game. With Connor providing the offensive spark they increased their lead to 47-30. Neshaminy, however, continued to battle back. Hoops by Jimmy MacDonald, Simkiw, Desir and Drapkin kept the home crowd’s hopes alive and set up a wild fourth quarter.
Falcon coach Bill Coleman summed up the remaining action saying, “I think our guys just figured the game was over at the end of the third quarter. We really had a hard time scoring in the fourth quarter. We closed it out on the free throw line. We were 7-of-9 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.”
Kyrie Miller led the parade at the charity stripe hitting 3-for-4 shots. Evan McNealy nailed a pair of free throws with 30 seconds on the clock. Evan Reichard contributed 2 free throws in the closing minutes.
Reichard, in his postgame interview, credited the defense with saving the game. “At the end it was what coach said, ‘Just finish. Finish the game.’ We mainly focused on defense. Every time our defense let down they kept coming back.”
Three pointers by Desir, Kelly and Saglimben helped fuel the ‘Skins last ditch comeback effort. A second, high arching trey by Saglimben at the buzzer saw the end of Neshaminy’s hopes. The Falcons had escaped with a 61-59 victory.
In many ways, the game was a success for both teams. Win or lose, the seniors had certainly gained one last great memory from their high school basketball days.