After a tight first quarter, Abington Heights put together a 20-0 run over the final 5:44 of the first half and rolled to a 70-42 win over Central Columbia in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA boys basketball playoffs at Lackawanna College March 7.
Abington Heights (27-1) will play Archbishop Carroll (24-4) in the second round on Tuesday at a time and date to be determined.
Central Columbia guard Kevin Krause hit a 3-pointer to pull the Bluejays to within 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. Two free throws by Payton Aucker, who led Central Columbia with 15 points, cut the lead to two with 6:02 left in the second quarter.
“We gave up too many easy baskets on backdoor cuts,” Abington Heights head coach Ken Bianchi said. “We knew they were going to try to control the tempo of the game, so we wanted to pressure them into shooting, but not give them layups. I wasn’t pleased with our defense at all, but I give a lot of credit to them. They were scrappy, they got a lot of loose balls.”
Then, Abington Heights picked up its intensity on both ends of the floor.
Six-foot-10 center Evan Maxwell, who scored 20 points, scored nine during the Comets spurt.
“We just played better defense,” Bianchi said, “that was the difference. Instead of giving up layups, we were getting deflections.”
Bianchi has been pleased with the development of Maxwell, a Liberty recruit, as this season has progressed, but believes he still has room to improve.
“This is his first year of starting,” Bianchi said. “He has to get more aggressive with the ball. We work on his inside moves every day. He looks to dunk, but he has an array of inside moves and doesn’t use them enough.”
The Comets got a boost from their bench after one starter, forward Tim Toro, picked up two early fouls and others struggled to find their game early on.
James Sherman scored all six of his points in the first half and also grabbed four rebounds for Abington Heights.
“James gave us a big lift because Timmy (Toro) got two quick (fouls),” Bianchi said. “He fit in nicely and scored four points as soon as he got in, and got a couple of boards for us.”
Clay Basalyga also provided 14 points for the Comets in limited action.
Maxwell added a dunk off an alley-oop to start the fourth quarter and push the Comets lead to 59-29, and is excited about the potential of the team moving forward.
“We feel like our season is just beginning,” he said. “Now in the state playoffs, we’re going to get some really competitive games. We’re working hard and want it just as much as everyone else.”