It was the worst possible start for Allen Betrand and Roman Catholic in Wednesday night’s PIAA Class 6A second-round basketball playoff against Plymouth Whitemarsh.
The Cahillites fell behind by 15 points in the first quarter and trailed by the same number midway through the second. The Catholic League champs shot a miserable 11 for 30 (1 for 9 from beyond in the arc) and coughed the ball up 11 times in the opening 16 minutes.
“We knew we weren’t playing our best basketball,” Roman coach Matt Griffin said. “At halftime, we made a commitment to stay composed, trust in each other, and do the little things to get back in the game.”
The Cahillites began to mount a comeback late in the third quarter, attacked the basket with ferocity, handled PW’s defensive pressure better, and stunned the favored Colonials, 75-71, before a packed crowd at Bensalem.
“Even though we were down by a lot in the first half, I knew they weren’t going to run us out of the gym,” Betrand said. “We just weren’t going to let that happen.”
Just as his teammates did, Betrand struggled in the first half. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior wing was held to six points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Betrand mustered a major turnaround and, with 10 points in the third quarter and the same in the fourth, finished with a game-high 26 points. He added seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
“I never got down on myself,” the Towson recruit said. “I knew I had to get to the rim more. Also, a big thing was that the guys got me the ball. They trusted me a lot.”
Next for Roman (21-6) is a quarterfinal against Central Bucks West (23-7) on Saturday afternoon at a neutral site and time to be determined. The Bucks outlasted defending state titlist Reading, 60-47, in overtime Wednesday.
Betrand, who did not score in Saturday’s first-round defeat of Pennridge, shot 6 for 6 from the floor (1 for 1 from downtown) and 7 for 8 from the line in the second half.
“I’m so proud of him,” Griffin said. “He played with such confidence down the stretch. It was easily his best game of the year.”
PW had 19-4, 27-12, 30-15 and 34-19 cushions in the first half. Jim Donofrio’s squad was in front, 56-48, with just under seven minutes remaining. “Give them a lot of credit,” Griffin said. “I think their defensive intensity put us in tough spots.”
John Kelly’s layup, off a nice feed from Betrand, gave the Cahillites their first lead of the night, at 65-63, with 2 minutes, 10 seconds to play.
Lynn Greer’s three-point play with 13 seconds remaining was the clincher, giving Roman a 73-68 edge. Off an inbounds pass, Seth Lundy heaved the ball down the court to the sprinting and wide-open floor general.
Roman’s Hakim Hart drilled three second-half treys en route to 18 points. Greer (12 second-half points) and Lundy (eight boards, three assists, two steals) each chipped in 13 points.
Ahmad Williams paced the Colonials (28-2) with 20 points, six boards, five steals, and two assists; Naheem McLeod, a 7-2 junior center managed 13 points, four boards and 2 blocks despite foul trouble; and Ahmin Williams, Ahmad’s twin brother, was next in line with 11 points and three assists.
McLeod, who was watched Wednesday by St. Joseph’s University boss Phil Martelli, was whistled for his third foul with 5:11 left in the second quarter and picked up his fourth late in the third.
PW was missing a key starter in 6-4 senior forward Alan Glover. A solid rebounder and up-close scorer, he sat out after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s opening-round win over District 2’s Dallastown.
The resurgent Cahillites shot 17 for 25 from the field and 13 for 15 from the line in the second half. The Colonials committed 10 turnovers in the last two quarters.
Plymouth Whitemarsh 19 15 14 23-71
Roman Catholic 6 17 22 30-75
PW: Ahmin Williams 11, Ahmad Williams 20, Naheem McLeod 13, Ish Horn 13, Jason Cherry 4, Danny Cooper 10.
RC: Lynn Greer 13, Allen Betrand 26, Seth Lundy 13, John Kelly 2, Hakim Hart 18, Nasir Lett 3.