SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Scranton Prep coach Andrew Kettel had two requests for his team going into Tuesday night’s game at Abington Heights for the Lackawanna League Division 1 boys basketball lead.
“The things we focused on in the pregame were a fast start and a total team effort,” Kettel said.
The results speak for themselves.
“I think everyone in this gym tonight can say those two things were achieved,” Kettel said after the 73-61 victory in a sold-out Abington Heights gym with more fans watching a video feed in the auditorium.
Scranton Prep took over sole possession of first place in the division by opening leads of 13-0 after just 2:55, 23-7 in the first minute of the second quarter and 36-12 with 2:40 left in the first half.
The team effort?
Four starters scored at least nine points while the other, Joe Rossi, provided seven rebounds despite having his night shortened by foul trouble and an ankle injury.
Four substitutes scored at least four points as five Scranton Prep reserves combined to provide 17 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
By avenging its only league loss of the past two seasons, Scranton Prep (9-1 in the division and 16-2 overall) took a one-game lead in the division with three games left, putting itself in position to repeat its division championship if it can win the final three games. Abington Heights fell to 8-2 and 17-2.
Pressure defense ignited the fast start. The Cavaliers forced the Comets into 25 turnovers, 19 of which came in the first half.
“That’s our game,” Kettel said. “Our best offense is our defense.”
Logan Bailey played just 32 seconds in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls, but went on to score 16 of his 22 points in the second half. He also led all players with eight assists.
Nick Dende had 10 of his 14 points in the first half when Brett Para had all five of his assists. Paddy Casey had nine points, five assists and four steals before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with a cut over his left eye.
Abington Heights did its best to reduce the 36-12 deficit, scoring the last seven points of the second quarter and first nine of the third quarter behind a series of plays by Jordan Hollander to close within 36-28. The Comets got as close as 53-47 on a 3-pointer by Jackson Danzig on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
Timmy Toro, who grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, and Danzig each scored 14 points for the Comets. Hollander had 13 points and four steals.
“We withstood it this time,” Kettel said of the differences between Tuesday’s win and the first meeting when Abington Heights used a 17-2, second-half run to rally for a 57-52 victory at Scranton Prep. “They made a run at us in the third quarter and we kind of crumbled last time. We went on a scoring drought.
“Tonight, they did it and we made our free throws. We went to the rim and we just continued to hold on to that lead.”
The Cavaliers were 10-for-16 at the line in the fourth quarter.