MARPLE — It wasn’t a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt, but Marple Newtown certainly delivered in the first round of the Class 5A District 1 playoffs on Friday, painting a 57-47 decision over West Chester Rustin.
The Tigers trailed three hoops to nothing when senior Justin “Bones” DiBona said enough was enough with a bombshell three-pointer that woke up his teammates and a cheering crowd at Marple Newtown High.
“When that first shot was thrown, it was just another basketball game,” Tigers coach Sean Spratt said. “We executed the game plan and it kind of went through.”
As the first quarter ended, the seventh-seeded Tigers (14-9) began to find open men. Eric McKee got them within 12-10 entering the second frame with five of his team-high 18 points.
The Tigers never looked back after scoring 10 of the last 12 points in the first half to take a 24-21 lead at intermission. Jordan Bochanski, DiBona, McKee and Owen Mathes all had points in the race.
The 10th-seeded Golden Knights (11-12) made up for the rest of the night as they trailed a dozen points in the third and four quarters before a final push that took them to seven with 2:57 left on a three-pointer from senior Ryan Seelaus, who hit three triples on the night en route to a game-high 20 points.
“It was a great game, a home and away game,” Seelaus said. “In the end, they just took a few more shots than us and ran. But we wanted to give him everything we could, and we did. It was the first year with Coach Vince (Mostardi). He did a great job with his team, he really brought us all together.
The Tigers did a solid job of adapting to the Knights, who tested them with different and robust defenses.
“It looked like they were going 3-2 and 2-3,” said McKee, who finished with four assists and three rebounds. “So we were trying to put it in the middle and get some low looks. It’s kind of our identity. We try to get him in and kick him out a lot.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights had accumulated fouls, although Matt Nochumson was the only starter to foul.
The Tigers got plenty of assists as DiBona contributed seven points, five rebounds and four assists, Owen Mathes had 11 points and nine boards, and Johnny Small six points and seven rebounds.
The Tigers also made 14 of 20 free throws on the night, with their final nine points coming from the charity strip. It was just a hole too big for Rustin to get out of.
For the Tigers, who face Chester in the second round for the second straight season, it was another impressive feat to add to their growing basketball success.
“This is a huge win for our program,” Spratt said. “In terms of (male) population, we are the smallest school in the Central League. So, as a program, Marple has had a solid year in a row. But to finally put consecutive years with winning records, consecutive years with a playoff win, that’s just huge for younger kids to see.
For the Knights, it was a tough way to end, although Seelaus earned respect.
“He was a really good player,” McKee said. “He was creating shots the whole game. You’re just trying to keep a hand up when he comes out of the pick and roll. He has a good shot. »
For Seelaus and others, this was probably the last opportunity to play organized basketball. Seelaus said he intended to be a full-time student at Bucknell, likely majoring in finance. You have to wonder if Seelaus, a guy with a knack for finding his way, will change his mind.
No matter what, Seelaus will never forget what the past four years have been like and what he and his teammates have shared. These memories are forever.
“Just time together,” Sealaus said. “You won’t remember points and turnovers, but you will remember how you made your teammates feel, how to be a teammate.”