Pottsgrove finds its rhythm behind Robert Stiles and John Fowler to knock off Spring-Ford

By DAVE KURTZ

Pac-10sports.com

POTTSGROVE –Defending PAC-10 boys basketball champion Pottsgrove had spent the early part of the season in a state of flux – up and down - tossing and turning like a crippled ship in the throes of a Category 5 hurricane.

The winds were howling and the losses were mounting for the Falcons, who bookended a Christmas Tournament title at Radnor with a pair of gruesome PAC-10 losses.

It sure wasn’t pretty, and head coach Scott Palladino was determined to keep his listing club from winding up on the ocean floor. So he decided to rock the boat. There were some rotation changes, and a new course was charted. The revised direction was clear:  United they’d stand, divided they’d fall.

“We’d been playing as individuals the last four games, but tonight we played together,” Palladino said after the Falcons showed they won’t abdicate their throne without a fight, handing Spring-Ford its first PAC-10 loss of the season, 61-59, Monday night. “We made some lineup changes and the guys really responded. Even when we got down by 12, they trusted each other. Everyone contributed.”

There were contributions across the board for Pottsgrove, the most notable coming from a trio of underclassmen. Robert Stiles, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, controlled the paint and deposited a career-high 20 points, 6-0 junior guard Johnny Fowler flashed for 17 points and junior point guard Jontae Harper ran the Falcons offense with assembly-line efficiency.

Fowler had the biggest shot of the game - a layup off a nice dish from Bryce Carter at the final buzzer - to put this one in the books for the Grove.

“Stiles and Fowler did a great job,” said Palladino after Pottsgrove improved to 3-2 in the PAC-10, 6-5 overall. “Stiles did it on the inside and Fowler was taking guys off the dribble. Jontae got everybody where they needed to be.”

Spring-Ford was right where it needed to be at intermission, running out to a 32-23 halftime lead with Steve Joyce (21 points) showing the way. But some defensive adjustments at intermission helped contain the Rams electric guard, and Pottsgrove starting finding its rhythm.

“We had no answer for Joyce in the first half,” Palladino said. “He was hitting everything he threw up there. We decided to switch up our defense, running some man and bouncing some zones – 1-3-1 and 3-2 –  at them. That helped keep (Joyce) off balance.”

With Joyce finally under wraps, the Falcons graduallly started making inroads. The deficit had dwindled to 5, 48-43, by the end of the third quarter and crunch time belonged to the hosts.

“We got them into foul trouble, and it paid dividends,” Palladino said after Pottsgrove sealed the deal with an 18-11 advantage in the final frame.  “We hit our free throws.

“We had thrown in some clunkers against Pope John Paul II (a 57-38 setback) and Phoenixville (a 64-44 throttling). Tonight we showed what we can do when we play together.”

Pottsgrove can’t spend too much time celebrating its big win. The Falcons are right back at it Tuesday with a 4 p.m. contest (varsity only) against Boyertown. The game was moved up because of a forecast for snow.

POTTSGROVE (61), SPRING-FORD 59

Spring-Ford (59) – Steve Joyce 21, Zameer McDowell 11, Darryl Branch 4, Josh Dishman 9, Andrew Keys 2, Andrew Scanlan 6, Ryan O’Hara 5, Ryan Keefe 1.

Pottsgrove (61) – Robert Stiles 20, Johnny Fowler 17, Vince Quigley 8, Marcus Marshall 7, Bryce Carter 4, Michael Antoine 3, Jontae Harper 2.

Spring-Ford        18 14 16 11 – 59

Pottsgrove          13 10 20 18 – 61