Abington senior Robbie Heath is a 6-3, 170-pound guard with quick feet, has a polished pull-up jumper and the ability to finish above and around the rim.
Yet, Heath, who was born in Australia, hadn’t received the type of local recruiting interest that he and Ghosts coach Charles Grasty had wanted.
That, however, is beginning to change, and after his performance Wednesday night at in a Class 6A second-rounder at Archbishop Ryan, Heath’s stock might be on the rise.
Heath led the Ghosts to a 66-61 victory against St. Joseph’s Prep in front of a packed crowd, which was treated to duels between two of the top forwards and top guards in the area.
In Saturday’s quarterfinals, the Ghosts will face District 2’s top seed, Hazleton, which beat Pocono Mountain West Wednesday evening. The time and location has yet to be determined.
On Wednesday, Heath finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists while shooting 12 of 21 from the field.
His counterpart, Hawks senior guard Darius Kinnel, gave the Ghosts all they could handle.
Kinnel, one of the area’s most improved players, finished with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting and 3 of 6 from behind the 3-point line.
On the interior, Ghosts junior forward Eric Dixon added 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but shot just 5 of 19 from the field.
Meanwhile, Hawks senior Ed Croswell, finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots, but was limited by 3 fouls in the first half.
Also key was the Darius Brown’s 14 points and sticky defense and the versatility of long-armed forward Lucas Monroe, whose ability to handle the ball created mismatches in the Ghosts’ favor.
The game turned in the fourth quarter when, after leading, 34-30, at intermission and, 49-43, after the third, Heath notched back-to-back buckets to yield a 10-point edge.
He scored 10 points in the frame and the Ghosts seemed to give him the ball when they needed a basket most.
“He’s been doing that the last four years,” Grasty said, “but he really stepped up today. Robbie’s confidence is through the roof right now. He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. For whatever reason he’s getting overlooked right now by these coaches in the area and he feels like he’s just as good as these guys they’re recruiting.”
Heath, a 4-year starter, said he was offered scholarships by Hartford and Drexel after the team’s first-round win against Harrisburg.
“I go back to Australia every summer and all I think about is the local schools not giving me offers,” he said. “I think performing on the big stage some school has to offer me…I just have to keep going and my team has to keep winning so I can get more exposure.”
Heath’s father, Robert “Tiger” Heath, was a standout for the Ghosts who graduated in 1982 and played professionally in Australia.
The father and son duo both amassed 1,000 career points for the Ghosts.
For Abington to advance again, Robbie’s offensive and defensive abilities will likely need to be keys, which should open the eyeballs of even more college coaches.
“He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder,” Grasty said. “He’s playing the right way. He’s making the right plays. He’s proving that he’s a good talent, and some of these coaches who are passing up on him are missing out on a heck of a player.”
Abington 21 13 15 17 66
St. Joseph’s Prep 14 16 13 18 61
A: Robbie Heath 27, Eric Dixon 16, Darius Brown 14, Lucas Monroe 6, John Paul Nolan 3.
SJP: Darius Kinnel 28, Trevor Wall 11, Ed Croswell 9, Kyle Thompson 4, Gabe Arizin 4, Chris Arizin 5.