by Jonathan Vander Lugt
“Trust the process.”
It’s what former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie repeated, ad infinitum, in response to his team being among the league’s worst for years.
The idea was that they were going to stick through some tough stretches, add talent piece-by-piece along the way and wait patiently until they get better.
The phrase has, at this point, become a cliché.
Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Julian McFadden knows that, but he still calls to it after games like Wednesday’s 59-49 loss to Bishop McDevitt.
“The process is what it is and you’ve got to go with it,” he said. “I try not to say it too much because my players and my coaches will laugh at me, but there’s no other word to describe what building a program is.”
His Blue Devils fought hard, winnowing a once double-digit lead to just four points late in the fourth, but inexperience – turnovers, missed shots, poor on-court awareness – kept them from closing the gap any further.
“It’s something I have to say, because I don’t have another word for it,” he went on. “These are the things that’ll come with experience. As much as I want them to be ready because they are talented, it doesn’t really work like that.”
SCH led after the first, and the trim 8-7 margin was the largest that they would have for the game’s remainder. McDevitt took a 28-20 lead into halftime and a 42-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
“They made us do a lot of things that we didn’t want to do and we didn’t respond,” McFadden said. “Some of that is growing pains, and some of it is just executing. We know the positions – we’ll go to practice and watch film, and they’ll tell me exactly where they’re supposed to be.”
Often, sophomore guards Delonce Hines and Ke’Shawn Williams would dribble up the court, look for a seam to the lane and come up empty. McDevitt’s length and athleticism were more than what they were used to, and they struggled to adjust.
At other times, one of them (Williams, mostly) would operate off ball and break free along the perimeter, only to be unnoticed and watch in frustration as the team’s possession went up in smoke.
“It’s part of the process,” McFadden said, echoing Joel Embiid’s favorite sentiment. “You’ve got sophomore guards that have played, but haven’t been in situations where they’ve had to really control the game.”
Williams finished with 14, while Hines scored just two.
“I’ve got to trust them because I’m the one that put them out there,” McFadden said. “I told them it was going to be tough. It’s the same stuff I’ve seen in the past with other young guards that have been thrown into the fire.”
One moment stood out in fourth. Down just four, Hines took the ball up the left side of the court. Facing a bit of pressure from his defender, he almost lost the ball about one-quarter up the hardwood. He recovered, only to nearly lose the ball again – this time on his own accord – near half-court.
McFadden called a timeout soon after.
“I put those guys in position to either make plays, or to mess up and learn from it. He messed up, and I knew that could happen,” McFadden said. “I told them in that time out that I knew that they were young, but that they had to handle this kind of pressure. I’ve got to make sure though that they still trust what I’m saying and that I still have confidence in them. We’ll get better – we’ll grow.”
Despite the close margin, McDevitt went on to pull away by the game’s end. McFadden is content to chalk this one up to growing pains, partially because it’s still non-conference play and partially because he knows his team is going to struggle at times.
And it’s not like he doesn’t have positives to find from the game either – Jack McDonald had his best game of the year, leading the gym with 18 points to go along with five rebounds. Jesse Balcer warmed up to score 11 second-half points, the pair’s contributions are mostly what kept SCH in the game.
“Jack has been doing a great job at taking in everything we’re asking him to do and just doing it,” McFadden said. “He’s learning on the fly. He’s been putting in the work, making shots and crashing the boards which is what we need out of him. It was a great step forward and hopefully he can keep it rolling for the rest of the year.”
Up next is a mid-week tournament in Wildwood, N.J. After that, league play begins on January 5.
“I think they learned from this one,” McFadden said, “and I think they grew. That’s all I can ask.”
Around the league, Penn Charter now sits at 8-3, while Germantown Academy has fallen to 3-6. It’s the Patriots’ worst start in years, but freshman guard duo Lacey Snowden and Jordan Longino are continuing to provide hope for the future. In a loss to Cardinal O’Hara, Longino tied his career high with 24 points, while Snowden set a new one with 19.
For Penn Charter, Mason Williams and Ryan Holmes continue to impress. Holmes has now scored double digits in eight straight games, while Williams hasn’t scored less than 13 at any point this year.
Germantown Friends has continued its bounce back from a rough start, and has won two straight going into a mid-week tournament at Wilmington Friends School. The Tigers, now 6-5, are led by seniors Peter Gard (averaging 16.7 points per game) and Pietro Berghella (14.7 points and 10 rebounds per). Berghella had a monster game against King (Ct.), with 24 points and 21 rebounds.