Coley moly! Knights upset Stoga to advance in districts

Billy Coley’s 19 pts pace the Knights in win


Caitlin Tecklin

Billy Ball! North Penn’s Billy Coley takes a shot against #2 seed Conestoga in the Knights’ District 1 Tournament upset victory on Tuesday night.

BERWYN – For this North Penn basketball squad, the underdog mentality is nothing new. 

“Personally, I think we have been underrated all year. We know we were being doubted by some people and we wanted to go out and surprise some people,”Senior Billy Coley said. 

Clearly using this as a chip on their shoulders, the 18th seeded Knights went out and beat 2 seeded Conestoga 52-45 in the second round of District 1 playoffs. In typical March Madness fashion, the game was close the whole way with only one double digit lead throughout the contest. Coley led the Knights with 19 points and three 3-pointers. Senior Josh Jones and Sophomore Ryan Zelt each contributed 10 of their own. 

The Knights missed each of their first 3 shot attempts. They were very sound defensively not allowing anything and Jones was able to reject a shot out of bounds to keep both sides scoreless early on. The Pioneers also had a great defensive game plan that included a full court press that seemed to rattle the Knights ball handlers at first but, after a timeout any adjustments were visible.

 A steal and layup by Senior Jeremiah Miller was the first bucket for either side. After caraling a rebound, Coley was able to get a nice scoop layup to end the drought and get North Penn on the board with 4:18 remaining in the first. Another Panther miss led to Sophomore Mario Sgro getting the assist to a Jones three from the corner. The ensuing possession saw Junior Ryan Mackey go to the line and cash in on both of his attempts. Coley was able to answer right back with his signature running floater to push the lead to three. Seniors Jordan Cuthbert and Austin Fontaine connected on back to back shots inside to regain the lead for the Pioneers. Jones was able to counter with a putback layup and a Conestoga turnover led to a Coley 3 pointer. As the buzzer was sounding Senior Michael Costigan drained a triple to cut the deficit to one heading into the break. 

The Knights forced a quick turnover to start the second. Being able to capitalize off of the Conestoga miscue, Coley pulled up for a midrange jumper to push the margin to 3 in North Penn’s favor. After getting back on defense and forcing another miss, Junior Milind Pulugura was able to drain another North Penn 3 pointer that fired up the bench and forced Conestoga to call timeout. Senior Jack Liedtka was able to come out the timeout and hit a three to cut the lead in half. 

Coming down the court Coley was able to get open and drain his second 3 ball of the game, that put the Knights up 20-14. Junior Joe Larkin forced a steal and Zelt put back the first missed shot attempt. A three by 6’8 Junior Michael Walz brought the game to within 5 until Zelt answered with a three of his own. Walz came back down and hit another jumper with the hands of Jones in his face. Jones sunk a layup with a couple seconds before half and sending the Knights up 8, 27-19, going into the break. Knights were able to outscore the Pioneers 15-8 in the quarter. 

Coley came out the break once again firing on all cylinders by hitting a mid range jumper. Conestoga made adjustments both offensively and defensively during the break and it was paying dividends. It started with Mackey hitting a layup, then Walz finding the bucket, and Senior Andrew Fox getting another layup to go to cap a 6-0 run to bring the score to 29-25. 

A Zelt layup was able to cool down the flames but Senior Jordan Cuthbert answered with a layin of his own. A four point swing came when Coley hit a layup and on the other end Jones blocked a shot, then gave a great pass to Larkin for the score. Fontaine was able to get another one to go from close range. A nifty pass by Larkin in mid air found Pulugura open underneath the basket for two. A last second dunk by Cuthbert made the North Penn lead 37-31 going into the final quarter. 

A 5-0 run by Conestoga containing buckets from Fontaine and Miller brought the deficit to 1. Jones drew a foul and split a pair at the line. Mackey also split a pair on the next Pioneer possession. Coley found an open spot in the corner and drained his third three,  only to be answered by a Fontaine three of his own. In the next possession, Jones drove left and the defender closed out to Coley in the corner, which led to Zelt being open who drained the three to make it a 4 point game. 

“I was just able to find my spot,” said Zelt. “Coach tells us to be in our spots and I was just able to hit the shot at the right time. It was huge.” 

A Conestoga turnover and foul saw the Knights get into the bonus. Larkin hit 2 free throws to push the lead to six. Fox hit a layup on the other end and fouled Sgro on the ensuing inbound. Sgro hit both, which once again pushed the North Penn lead to six. After a Liedtka three that saw the lead cut in half, Larkin once again stepped up to the line and hit both to make it a 2 possession game and out of reach. Jones added on two more free throws to close out the upset of the #2 seed and advance to the District 1 sweet sixteen. Coley elaborated on the importance of the underclassmen in a game like this. 

“They all make big plays,” said Coley.  “We could not be where we are today without those guys playing how they have been playing all year. That shot by Zelt was amazing.”

North Penn will advance and play the #7 seed CB East on Friday. The Knights and Patriots have already met twice this year with one game going into overtime. Once again, the confidence is there for the Knights. 

“Conestoga is in the rear view mirror now,”  said Coley. “We are going to take it one game at a time and focus on East. If we play how we did tonight we will make some noise.”