Bucks County Herald

Quakertown mounts comeback in OT loss


Junior Christian O’Donnell swooped in for a lay-up to extend the Upper Moreland lead to 26-10 over visiting Quakertown with 3:25 remaining in the first half.

“You have two options: get embarrassed or dig deep and show what you’re made of and show some pride,” longtime Panthers head coach Kevin Keeler noted, “and we talked about pride a whole lot the last couple of practices because we didn’t play well our last game (a 60-40 loss to Hatboro-Horsham on Jan. 2).”

Quakertown ended the half on a 7-0 run and ran it to 10-0 on a junior Matt Lucas three-pointer early in the third quarter. By that point, Lucas had already buried four threes and was well on his way to a career night with eight treys and 26 points.

“I know he can knock down 10 threes in a game,” classmate Eli Ortiz said. “I’ve seen him do it. I have full confidence every time he shoots the ball, contested or not.”

Lucas followed up his three threes in the second quarter with three more in the third.

Trailing 31-26 late in the third, the Panthers went to Ortiz, whose three-point play with three seconds left made it a 31-29 ballgame going to the fourth.

“I was taking too many jump shots in the first [half],” Ortiz admitted. “Coach told me to do what I do best, which is drive [to the basket]. It was there all game. I overpowered the guards and got a couple of and-ones, made my free throws, just did my best to get our team back in the game.”

Quakertown finally caught Upper Moreland at 40 in the fourth on two Lucas free throws – Lucas’ first two foul shots of the season. Senior Brett Brossman’s three handed the lead back to the Golden Bears. Ortiz sank two at the line to make it 43-42. Senior Ryan Coyle answered with two at the stripe for Upper Moreland.

But the Panthers had senior Jon Rey, who sent the contest into overtime with a clutch three-pointer with less than two seconds remaining.

“It was great,” Lucas said. “We got the rebound, kicked it out [to Rey]. He did it earlier this season, so we had confidence in him and he knocked it down.”

Lucas was referring to Rey’s three-ball that forced overtime at Germantown Academy on Dec. 8. The Panthers dropped that game, 51-46. The Panthers dropped Tuesday’s in Willow Grove, 55-47.

“We could have folded, but they kept on playing,” said Keeler, whose team fell to 3-7 overall. “Matty Lucas gave us a shot in the arm with those threes. He was unreal. And Eli started going to the basket, but [Upper Moreland’s] guards are solid. They made foul shots at the end and give them all the credit, but I’m really proud of my kids. I’m really proud of them. They played well.”

It’s not like Quakertown is oozing with varsity experience. Keeler reported only senior Kevin Juszynski earned quality minutes a year ago.

“We’re there,” Ortiz said. “We need to do a better job in those last minutes of the game. I need to make my lay-ups. We need to just work better as a team. Sometimes, certain players, including myself, try to play ‘hero ball’ and that can’t be. We have to have a team mentality. Everyone’s equal; no one’s better than the person next to them.”

Ortiz had 10 points and a team-leading five rebounds against the Bears. He hit all four of his foul shots. Juszynski tallied six points, all in the first half.

Coyle netted 15 points to lead Upper Moreland. O’Donnell chipped in 12 points. Brossman had 10 points and seven boards, while Jake Villanueva nearly had a double-double with nine points and 15 rebounds. Tyler Ibbotson also scored nine.

The Bears improved to 2-2 in the Suburban One League (SOL) American Conference; the Panthers slipped to 1-3.

Lucas was asked what Quakertown needs to do to start flipping some of those losses into wins. A comeback like the one on Tuesday will surely help.

“Just fight harder, make shots down the stretch,” Lucas said.

“We know that when we’re down by 16, we need to grind, grind our hardest and just never give up,” Ortiz added. “We can’t hang our heads for a 16-point deficit. We need to just say, ‘All right, it’s only eight baskets – that’s nothing.’ ”

“I can’t wait to get to practice tomorrow and build on this,” Keeler concluded. “We have Springfield coming to our place on Friday and we’ll see what we can do.”




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