Thursday, March 28, 2013

BASEBALL: Walther, Gallagher lead Abington past PW

Montgomery Media / BOB RAINES Abington's Brendan Gallagher scores as the ball gets by Plymouth Whitemarsh catcher Jon Fisher during Wednesday's non-league action.
Senior pitchers Erik Walther and Sean Gallagher, coming off a lights-out performance against Upper Dublin, showed absolutely no signs of slowing down against Plymouth Whitemarsh.

Following a performance which saw the two right-handed pitchers combine to allow just one run and four hits in seven innings of ball, the two Abington hurlers combined to toss a two-hit shutout as Abington defeated the Colonials, 4-0, in a non-conference meeting at Plymouth Whitemarsh on a cold and windy Wednesday afternoon.

Walther struck out three batters while tossing four innings of no-hit ball to earn the win, while Gallagher came in and finished off the Colonials (0-2) with three innings of two-hit ball to earn the save.

SOFTBALL: Neshaminy battles past Souderton

Souderton matched up with Neshaminy for a non-league game that featured two potent offenses in a slugfest. The first three innings of the game saw 10 runs go on the board. The Indians were outscored 7-0 over the final four innings before falling to the visiting Redskins 11-7.

“They made some adjustments to our hitters [around] the fifth inning, especially some of the [hitters] that were really hurting them, they pitched them a little differently and we got a little anxious,” Souderton coach Courtney Hughes said.

The game was played under weather conditions more unpredictable than this year’s NCAA tournament bracket. A cold day with light drizzles succumbed to sunny skies that gave way to snow flurries and back again.

VOLLEYBALL: Souderton sweeps past Upper Dublin

For Montgomery Media / SUSAN KEEN Souderton's Ryan Davison sends the ball over the net against Upper Dublin's Jack Yekel during Wednesday night's action.
People will look at the boxscore of Souderton’s three-set win over Upper Dublin and think that it was a rout, but that would not be giving the Cardinals the respect they deserve.

“People have discounted Upper Dublin for years and I think we proved tonight that we can hang with anyone,” Upper Dublin coach Brandon Ledwith said. “We will be looking to make waves the next time we play these guys.”

The Indians took down Upper Dublin 25-16, 25-23, 25-14 in an early-season Suburban One match. Although Souderton had a major size advantage, a feisty Cardinals team did not go down without a fight. Upper Dublin made the Indians work for every point, keeping volleys alive and keeping each of the three games close. In the end though, Souderton’s size at the net was too overwhelming and the home side took the match.

SOFTBALL: DeCew, Pennridge blank Pioneers

It was her rise ball that was most affective in this one, but pretty much anything Paige DeCew was throwing on Wednesday had a certain zip to it.

“I think she’s kind of on a mission of her own,” Pennridge coach Paul Koehler said. “She’s worked a lot harder in the offseason to get ready for this year. She’s hitting a lot of spots and making a lot of people miss right now. All that’s doing is building up her confidence.”

DeCew struck out 15 in leading the Rams to an 8-0 win over the Pioneers in a non-league matchup played on a windy, rainy day at Dock.

SOFTBALL: North Penn battles past Bensalem

For Montgomery Media / MARK C. PSORAS North Penn's Michelle Holweger rounds third as Bensalem's Isabel Hansberg calls for a late throw during Thursday's non-league action.
If you can say that a pitcher struggled while giving up five hits and two runs in weather that ranged from bright sunshine to snow and sleet, then Jackie Bilotti struggled.

But then that is subjective. She did pitch North Penn’s softball team to a 4-2 win over Bensalem on Wednesday.

She also went the entire seven innings, striking out two and walking two. And a win is a win.

BASEBALL: Gibbs hurls Souderton past CR North

This spring the Souderton baseball team is getting to know the production behind the pitcher.

Lefthander Brian Gibbs came out of the bullpen last season, but the senior sees himself as a starter.

Instead of running down to the pen and taking five minutes to get ready, Gibbs can go through the routine that he has found success.

On Wednesday, Gibbs did not waste a second of pre-game and was prepared to face Council Rock North in non-league action. In his first start of the season the southpaw spun four scoreless innings to help the hometown Indians walk away from Harleysville Park with a 4-1 win.

BOYS LACROSSE: Upper Merion rallies past Upper Moreland

For Montgomery Media / ADRIANNA HOFF Upper Merion's Trevor Kupecky looks for an opening around Upper Moreland's Mark Williams during Wednesday's Suburban One American Conference action.
There are few questions about the talent of Upper Merion High’s offense.

But even high-powered engines require a little maintenance and some tinkering once in a while.

And with this spring’s weather about as predictable as Lindsay Lohan’s hair color, most of the Vikings’ tinkering has been confined to the school gymnasium.

Hence, in its first handful of games this season, Upper Merion’s offense has been spotty, at best.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BOYS LACROSSE: Penn Charter eases past Archbishop Wood

Montgomery Media / BOB RAINES Archbishop Wood's Stephen Kajmo turns for the goal around Penn Charter's Dean Roseman during Tuesday's non-league action.
Archbishop Wood knew that going up against Penn Charter would be its first true test of the season, but it certainly hoped for a better outcome.

The Quakers jumped out to a 9-0 lead after one half and an 11-0 lead three minutes into the third quarter and ran away with a 14-5 victory over the Vikings in a non-league matchup at Penn Charter on Tuesday afternoon.

VOLLEYBALL: Pennridge rallies past CB East

Pennridge didn’t get the start it would have hoped, dropping the first set to visiting Central Bucks East 24-26. The Rams however would settle down and win the match 3-1 (24-26, 25-15, 25-16, 25-17).

“It took us a while to get going, the guys were nervous for sure,” said Pennridge coach Dave Childs.

Both teams played a tight match for the first set and about half of the second before the Rams took a sizeable lead in the second and never looked back. The spark could be credited to timeout taken by Childs in the second set where he urged his team to ‘get their heads in the game.’

“[I thought they responded] fine, I think I scared them a bit,” he said.

DONOFRIO CLASSIC: Cavaliers roll over Pizza Time

For Montgomery Media / RICK KAUFFMAN Pope John Paul II's Brent Mahoney splits defenders Hyking Brisbon and Lamar Stevens in the Donofrio Classic at the Conshohoken Fellowship House on Tuesday.
First thing you have to understand about the rules of the Donofrio Classic is the rules of regular season basketball do not apply. The season over, the state championships won (or lost), the players’ allegiance to their school colors null, rivalries forgotten — this is an entirely different beast. And despite the fact men in black and white striped shirts sprint the floor, the whistles are sucked on but not blown. This is tough and physical play at its finest and unless the audible sound of wrist being slapped is heard, they let them play.

Teams Pizza Time and the Cavaliers (otherwise known as “Old School”) began their battle at 7 o’clock sharp at the Fellowship House of Conshohocken Tuesday night. Players from Pope John Paul II, Lansdale Catholic, La Salle, Plymouth Whitemarsh and more joined to form the Pizza Time squad. While the Cavaliers’ jersey were occupied by Philadelphia-area high schools: Fels, Esperanza, Southern, Master Charter North and others.

Despite coming out hot, the Cavaliers let Pizza Time cool off before devouring them, 91-63.

BOYS TRACK: Pennridge edges North Penn

It was not until the last javelin throw was marked and measured that the Pennridge boys track team were able to edge North Penn in an important early season league meet. Fresh off a strong winter indoor season, the Rams runners helped knock off the Knights 78-72 at Helman Field on Tuesday.

The Knights placed in most of the field events and swept the pole vault to keep the meet tight all the way up to the last event. The Knights’ pole vault was led by Brad Deckle. The Rams received a first-place finish from Mike Tatarowicz in the triple jump and John Dubyk in the javelin to secure to the win.

“We knew it was going to be a matter of four of five points either way,” Knights coach Jay Jones said. “We took 1-2 in the high jump, swept pole vault, and everywhere else they held serve.”

GIRLS TRACK: Pennridge impresses in win over North Penn

For Montgomery Media / MARK C. PSORAS North Penn's Victoria Finley clears the bar as she competes in the pole vault during Tuesday's Suburban One Continental Conference meet with Pennridge
If the Pennridge girls track and field team is to repeat as Suburban One Continental Conference champion, Tuesday’s victory over rival North Penn was an awfully good start.

The Rams were fast and deep in the sprints, outlasted the Maidens in the distance races, took two of the three relays and won three events out in the field to earn an impressive 88-62 win at North Penn in the dual meet opener for both squads.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Spring-Ford tops Cumberland Valley for state title

For Montgomery Media / JOHN STRICKLER Spring-Ford defeated Cumberland Valley to win the PIAA Class AAAA championship Friday in Hershey.
There was no yelling and screaming at halftime, just a request to play the type of Spring-Ford basketball that shot the Rams on a 23-game winning streak and into the PIAA Class AAAA final Friday evening in the Giant Center in Hershey.

The Rams responded.

And, boy (or girl), was there a whole lot of hooting and hollering afterward.

After leading by just two at the break, thanks to a buzzer-beating, three-point bomb by Maggie Locke to end the first half, the Rams turned up the tempo, tightened up its defense, and – as they have time and time and time again this memorable season – went on yet another break-out run in the third quarter en route to a 60-45 romp over Cumberland Valley for the state title.

BOYS LACROSSE: Abington edges Downingtown West in opener

Montgomery Media / BOB RAINES Abington's Matt Gormley gets by Downingtown West's Jared Wolf.
After losing 12 seniors and bringing in a brand new head coach this season, the Abington boys’ lacrosse team has a very different look than it has had in recent years.

But even with all the chances, this year’s squad certainly appears poised for continued success, similar to what the team had been doing ever since before last year’s graduated seniors were freshmen.

With brand new head coach Joe Staerk at the helm, the new era of Abington lacrosse started on a positive note, as the Ghosts defeated Downingtown West, 9-6, in a non-league meeting at Abington High School on a cold Friday afternoon.

BASEBALL: La Salle rallies past Haverford School

As long as a team keeps the game close, it is just a couple long balls away from tying the score or taking the lead. La Salle wasn’t exactly crushing the ball as a team against the Haverford School, but the Explorers got clutch bombs when they needed it.

Although Fords’ starter Pat Valentine put in a solid six-plus innings of work, Chris Melillo and AJ Greszseszak took him deep twice, including once each in the top of the seventh inning, to erase a 4-2 deficit and open the season with a 7-4 win on the road.

BASEBALL: Abington falls to Holy Ghost Prep in opener

Holding on to a 1-0 lead for a majority of the game, a four-run sixth inning did in Abington in its season opener against Holy Ghost Prep 7-2.

Abington got the scoring started in a fashion that would be indicative of the way the game went. After third baseman Sean Gallagher walked and stole second base he was then sacrificed to third on pop fly by catcher Nick Bein, two batters later leftfielder Arron Rawdin walked then got in a rundown which allowed Gallagher to score.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Defense lifts Spring-Ford into state final

For Montgomery Media / BARRY TAGLIEBER Spring-Ford's Sarah Payonk tries to drive past Cardinal O'Hara's Shanice Johnson during Tuesday's PIAA Class AAAA semifinal at William Tennent.
Spring-Ford ran into a roadblock last year.

Not this year, though.

Nearly a year ago to the day, the Rams’ drive to the PIAA Class AAAA championship stalled in the semifinals when they were the victims of Archbishop Carroll’s hit-and-run attack. But Tuesday night, the Rams found a direct route to Hershey, shifting their game into high gear in the waning moments to pass Cardinal O’Hara, 53-49, and earn a trip to a state final showdown against Cumberland Valley at the Giant Center.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: York Catholic out-muscles St. Basil

It was a great PIAA tournament run for St. Basil, but in the end size is important for winning championships and the Lady Panthers just didn’t have enough of it against York Catholic.

St. Basil fought its heart out and made things interesting with the three-pointer, but a bad first half foreshadowed an even worse second stanza as the Lady Panthers lost 45-28 in the semifinal round of the PIAA Class AA tournament at Reading High School. Unable to cope with a very physical York Catholic team, St. Basil was out-rebounded and out-muscled all night in what would be the final game of a great season.

“What can you do, they were the better team,” St. Basil coach Terry Mancini said. “I’m disappointed for our seniors. Obviously we got the experience to make a run like this. We had two student fan buses come out tonight, which was great. I’m proud to be a part of the Basil community and I’m proud of the 15 girls in that locker room.”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: St. Basil topples Notre Dame, advances to Eastern final

Adversity is something that comes along with playing in the state tournament. How a team handles that adversity shows how far it can go. If St. Basil’s quarterfinal win is any indication, the Lady Panthers have what it takes to win the whole thing.

“We were out of sync in the third quarter,” St. Basil coach Terry Mancini said. “We were playing a patient game and they got us running up and down. If you had asked me if we would be in the final foul after losing to Villa in the league, I wouldn’t believe it. I give the girls a lot of credit.”

After a disastrous three-point third quarter, St. Basil rallied in the final period with good defense and clutch shooting to clip Notre Dame-Green Pond, 45-42, and clinched a spot in the PIAA Class AA final four. Led by Kalee Fuegel’s 12 points, St. Basil battled all game and was rewarded with the prize of a shot at a state title.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Spring-Ford eases by Dover into state semifinals

For Montgomery Media / BARRY TAGLIEBER Spring-Ford's Sammi Haas drives past Dover's Maxine Herman during Friday's PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal game.
All season long, the Spring-Ford girls have been on a mission to make it further than they did last year. And after 32 games, that goal is finally right at their fingertips after they advanced to the PIAA Class AAAA Final Four for the second straight season on Friday night with a 67-45 win over Dover at Garden Spot High School.

One Ram or another seemed to have a hot hand the entire night as five players scored at least nine points, including 15 apiece by Sammy Stipa and Sarah Payonk. Alayah Hall scored 20 for Dover. Spring-Ford (30-2) will face Cardinal O’Hara, a 60-24 winner over Central Dauphin, in a Tuesday semifinal at a time and place to be determined.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Cumberland Valley handles North Penn

For Montgomery Media / MARK C. PSORAS North Penn's Jackie Bilotti and Cumberland Valley's Alyssa Hinish battle for a loose ball during Friday's PIAA Class AAAA playoff game.
A poor start left the North Penn girls basketball team trailing Cumberland Valley by 10 at halftime of Friday night’s PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal.

But if anybody had the blueprint to come back from that deficit, it would have been the Maidens. Three days prior, North Penn erased Wilson’s 10-point advantage at intermission en route to a second-round win over the District Three champion.

Cumberland Valley, however, tore whatever rally plans the Maidens had to shreds at the very start in the second half.

The Eagles opened the third with a 10-0 run, extending their advantage to 20 and North Penn never recovered as its season came to an end with a 53-36 loss at Garden Spot High School.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lancaster Catholic eases past Archbishop Wood

Everything appeared to be going right for Archbishop Wood.

The three-time defending state champion Lady Vikings, whose experience has gone a long way over the past few postseasons, weren’t missing many shots. Their opponent, Lancaster Catholic, was missing almost everything, and the momentum appeared to be on Wood’s side.

But then, the third quarter happened.

It was a tale of two halves, as Lancaster Catholic finished the third on an 18-1 run and eventually cruised to a 54-46 win over Wood in a PIAA Class AAA second round playoff at Reading High School’s Geigle Complex on Wednesday night.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Steelton-Highspire speeds past Jenkintown

Jenkintown had one of the better seasons in recent Lady Drakes’ history, but a deep run into the state tournament was not in the cards for Jim Romano’s crew.

Steelton-Highspire essentially led wire to wire in a 74-39 win over Jenkintown in the PIAA Class A second round at Garden Spot High School. The Lady Rollers’ transition game and physical play proved too much for the Lady Drakes from the opening tip-off and although they played better as the game went on, it was never close.

“We knew going in the first quarter was going to show us where we were at in the game,” Romano said. “Steel-High is a very experienced team and this is our first time here in a while and these girls first time here. The first quarter was definitely a telling time in the game.”

BOYS BASKETBALL: Norristown falls to Coatesville

The hanging heads of Norristown’s players tell the tale differently than how the song should be sung. Filing out of the gym one by one with long faces shrouded beneath jackets, tears in their eyes, the Eagles’ season came to an end Wednesday night.

Coatesville, the victor, played a game quite similar to the style Norristown has become accustomed to — an unstoppable machine of high flying players with big dunks, sick handles and opportune shooting. Coatesville played the game Norristown wished they had, winning 58-52.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SPRING TRAINING: Biddle's patient working his way up the ladder

CLEARWATER, Fla. – When you talk with Jesse Biddle, you feel like you're speaking with someone older than 21. Not only does he come across as more mature than his age, but you get the sense that he is aware of it, as well.

Thirty-two months ago the Germantown Friends product was the first-round selection of the Phillies, a strapping left-hander with a lively arm and an even livelier imagination.

"When I signed," Biddle said, "I was like, 'I'm going to be in the big leagues by the time I'm 19.'"

It was confident thinking. Or, it was silly thinking. You can count the number of players who have made their debuts as teenagers over the past decade on one hand. The number of pitchers is two – Seattle's Felix Hernandez, perhaps the best pitching prospect of the last quarter-century, and Baltimore's Dylan Bundy, who got to make two relief appearances with the Orioles in 2012 when their pitching staff was so wracked by injuries and thinned by a long extra-inning game late in the year that they had little choice but to turn to the 19-year-old.

FOOTBALL: Eagles sign Dorenbos, Anderson

Newly signed veterans Jon Dorenbos and Colt Anderson swear they don’t know what direction the Eagles will go in when free agency officially begins today at 4 p.m.

But the newly signed duo figures anything is better than the way it was.

It’s early, but Eagles players think rookie NFL head coach Chip Kelly is a breath of fresh air compared to Andy Reid, who was fired after 14 predictable seasons, the last one a 4-12 collapse.

“We’re making moves to get good guys back,” said Anderson, who as a restricted free agent signed a one-year tender Monday. “We’ve got Chip Kelly, who’s beyond his years as far as knowledge of the game. I think it’s going to bring a whole new energy and we’re going to win a few more games than we did last year.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Jenkintown eases past Paul Robeson

At some points in the game between Jenkintown and Paul Robeson, it looked more like a game of one-on-one than five aside basketball. Jenkintown was able to force turnovers throughout the game leading to fast breaks with minimum Robeson defenders back.

The Huskies offensive strategy was to go through their best player guard Tiffany Then to attack the Jenkintown man-to-man defense.

In the end the defensive pressure of the Drakes combined with easy fast break points as well as efficiency in half court sets saw them overwhelm Paul Robeson and cruse to a 58-27 win in the opening round of the PIAA Class A tournament.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Abington falls to St. Joseph's Prep

Montgomery Media / BOB RAINES Abington's Khalid Gibson lofts a shot over St. Joseph Prep's Miles Overton during Saturday's PIAA Class AAAA playoff game at William Tennent.
After a regular season good enough to give Abington its first conference title in 10 years, followed by a district playoff run which helped the Ghosts to their highest win total since 1997, it wasn’t an ideal start to the state tournament for coach Charles Grasty and his team.

Already with star senior Jordan Simmons out of the lineup due to off-the-court problems, Abington was forced to play from behind from the very start against a tough St. Joseph’s Prep team which finished second overall in a talented Philadelphia Catholic League.

In the end, the combination of missing one of their best players and a size disadvantage down low was enough to do in the Ghosts, whose season ended following a 48-33 loss to the Hawks in a PIAA Class AAAA first round playoff at William Tennent High on Saturday afternoon.