by Jonathan Vander Lugt
“We executed,” said Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Julian McFadden following his team’s win over Germantown Friends last Friday. “This time last year, we weren’t doing that. It looked pretty good tonight.”
Few could have put it better after the Blue Devils sped their way to a 61-41 victory over GFS.
The first half was close as each team worked to find its rhythm. The Tigers, coming off of a 58-32 drubbing at Penn Charter three nights prior, had six-foot-eight senior forward Pietro Berghella back for the first time all season.
“Pietro’s first practice back – the first time he was even cleared to move at full speed – was yesterday, so I’m confident that he’s going to progress as he continues to play more,” said GFS head coach Shawn Werdt. “We knew he wasn’t going to be at 100 percent. You could tell he was a bit hampered by the ankle – his power moves weren’t there, in addition to normal basketball rust.”
Nonetheless, he did the best he could to make it work. Berghella’s three first-quarter points matched the totals of three other Tigers, and the teams went into the second quarter knotted at 14.
Meanwhile, on the strength of an eight-point quarter by sophomore point guard Ke’Shawn Williams, SCH went into the half with a three-point cushion at 25-22. Williams, finally healed up after a broken collarbone sidelined him for most of the football season, stole the show.
He scored seven more in the third to help pad the Blue Devil lead to 11 at the end of the frame, though his last two, netted part way through the fourth, were his most impressive.
As he drove – lighting-quick – into the lane, he cut to his left and floated the ball up for a layup, as he had been successfully doing most of the night. Berghella caught him though, stepping in and swatting the shot back toward the left side of the court.
Looking for revenge, Williams hustled, found the ball, and stopped for a moment to size Berghella up. In a flash, he dribbled two steps back and hoisted a long two over his defender’s outstretched arms.
“He’s a fiery kid – he’s a Philly guard with a nasty demeanor,” McFadden said. “He’s going to keep coming at you regardless of how he’s playing. That’s what I love about him.”
Williams led the Blue Devils with 20 on the night.
“He’s got so much quickness and athleticism that it’s tough to keep up with him,” McFadden said. “He’s still learning how to be a point guard – when to slow up, and when to go. He was phenomenal tonight though. He really carried us.”
Elsewhere, Jesse Balcer knocked in five treys to finish the night with 15 points, while newcomer Zion Grant chipped in with 13. After a 73-50 loss on Saturday to the Perkiomen School, SCH played Shipley Tuesday.
“We really preach having a devil’s intent,” McFadden said. “The guys have been listening and embodying that, and it’s been great so far. By definition, a devil is someone who comes in and tears everything up and leaves.”
Without a doubt, that’s what his squad did to Werdt’s Tigers. Though they got double figures out of Berghella and senior Peter “my name is my position” Gard (credit to Ted Silary for the moniker) – 10 and 13, respectively – GFS struggled with ball control and couldn’t find a consistent rhythm.
Part of it is that Berghella is still recovering. If he trusted his ankle more, he could have leveraged his size over a team that doesn’t have anyone within six inches of his height. Instead, he resorted to less authoritative, awkward jump steps in the offensive paint, and battled a relative lack of lateral mobility on the other end.
“We couldn’t keep them out of the lane – our defense was not good,” Werdt said. “Pietro has bailed us out of a lot of mistakes, and tonight you didn’t see that happen. My biggest concern is the backcourt. We had too many turnovers and we gave them way too much on the offensive glass. It’s killing us.”
The Tigers next game came against the Episcopal Academy Saturday, and it featured more of the same. The 65-39 margin made it three straight double-digit losses to open the year.
“I’m hoping that these experiences will pay off when we get into league play,” Werdt said. “The team will improve, we’ll get better, and the only way to do it is growing pains.”