Bucks County Herald

Panthers wrap up state bid


An adage says it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year.

“It’s a fact,” Plumstead Christian head coach John Elton said. “Both teams know what each other is going to do. They know your plays and your defensive and offensive sets. It’s very difficult to overcome that.”

Still, Elton’s Panthers place doubt on that adage. Beating a team three times in one year – the second time Plumstead pulled off that feat this winter – locked up the Panthers’ first-ever state berth.

On Saturday, the third-seeded Panthers (17-10) defeated No. 4 Phil-Mont Christian, 58-54, in the District One Class A third-place game.

Plumstead took a 36-25 lead into intermission and withstood Phil-Mont’s perimeter shooting in the second half. Carson Curry’s 23 points paced the Panthers, while Kyle Elton, Drew Grow and Luke Brautigam each scored 10 or nine.

“It was for the rights to states and the loser goes home. We knew we’d get Phil-Mont’s best shot and they really gave it to us,” John Elton said. “Their story is three-point shooting. We were trying to overdeny the threes. But they still made nine of them. They got to within two at one point and were always within five or six the rest of the way. It was a dogfight to the very end.”

The Panthers dramatically beat their Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) rival, 64-60, five days before Christmas in a double-overtime thriller. Curry’s 28 points paced Plumstead. When it was the Panthers’ turn to host Phil-Mont in late January, Plumstead comfortably topped the Falcons, 53-39.

Saturday’s game was not the first time that week in which Plumstead had to thrice beat a rival. In the opening round of districts, the Panthers spotted BAL foe and No. 6 Jenkintown a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter but rallied to win, 48-45. Grow tallied 22 for the victors.

Plumstead blew out Jenkintown, 55-34, on Jan. 24 but needed overtime to get a 41-39 win on Feb. 8.
In the district semifinals, the Panthers trailed No. 2 Girard College 17-3 at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers lost, forcing the third-place showdown, but played the defending state finalist Cavaliers virtually even in the final three quarters.

The presence of the appropriately named Grow gives the Panthers a strong big man to complement the backcourt of Curry and Kyle Elton. Grow, by far Plumstead’s leading rebounder and shot-blocker, averages more than 13 points a game. Sniper Elton has sunk 66 three-pointers to give Plumstead another scoring option besides Curry, who usually tallies 20 a night. Elton and Curry combine to average more than five steals per game.

“We have six seniors, so we have a team that has played together for a number of years,” John Elton pointed out. “The kids have wonderful chemistry. There is not a selfish bone in their bodies and the ball moves freely from person to person.”

Plumstead plays District Three champion York Country Day School this Friday evening in Dillsburg. The Panthers’ winter banquet was on Monday. On Tuesday, the celebrations ended. The Panthers got back to work with a hard scrimmage against Dock Mennonite to help both teams prep for states.

“These kids have been playing organized basketball going back to when they were 9 years old. We have nine or 10 years into building this program up,” Elton noted. “To make states as a reward for who knows how many hours were spent in the gym and the traveling ... this was the culmination of it. The feeling in the gym when the buzzer sounded [on Saturday] was just euphoria.”



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