Note: This article originally published in The Reporter and on PaPrepLive.com
CHELTENHAM >> Defense is the catalyst to all good things for the Cheltenham boys basketball team. Head coach John Timms just wishes he didn’t have to remind his team of that fact so often.
“Right now we have the tendency to forget that we’re a defensive team. In the first half we were trying to outscore people and we were recognizing that we can’t do it,” Timms said. “I think in the second half we picked up our intensity…and created some turnovers.”
One turnover was key on this particular night.
A Tre Pitts steal and score with one second remaining on the clock gave Cheltenham a 78-76 win over Hatboro-Horsham in an overtime thriller.
Here’s the last play pic.twitter.com/njYcBLLuMj
— Steve Richards (@srichards31) January 11, 2017
“I saw my teammates’ guy look at (my guy) right in the face. I knew the pass was coming, so I went for the steal,” Pitts said. “As soon as I got the steal, the only thing I was thinking was ‘I have to score. I have to. There’s no other choice.'”
Pitts finished with a game-high 36 points, including 28 in the second half and overtime. The senior also grabbed 13 boards for the Panthers (6-3, 5-1 SOL American).
“Trevonn is a unique player. He can dominate games,” Timms said about Pitts. “I laugh because he had eight in the first half because he probably missed about 5-7 layups. What he did was convert the opportunities that he had in the first half.”
Pitts was a spark in multiple ways Tuesday night. One of the ways he converted his opportunities in the second half was with a putback dunk that got the crowd fired up.
“It gets the crowd going, it gets the team amped up for sure,” Pitts said. “And it just shows as a leader it’s like ‘Oh he’s not giving up, so then we really gotta play hard. That’s what gets the game going.”
Cheltenham’s leader also took a charge against Hatboro’s star player, Clifton Moore, to foul him out of the game in overtime.
“Our coach, he stays on us about taking charges,” Pitts said. “When you see your teammate on (the opposing player’s) right shoulder and he’s driving to the paint it’s an easy charge. So you just step in and take one…I knew (Moore) had four fouls so I had to get down there and help my teammate out.”
Hatboro-Horsham (6-5, 4-3) did jump out to a 12 point lead at halftime behind the scoring of Moore and Cheltenham transfer Jay Davis. Moore finished with 24 points, while Davis scored a team-high 27 (18 in the first half). Chris Edwards did a little bit of everything for H-H, scoring 7 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists. Ryan Black canned three 3s en route to 18 points.
The Hatters were able to sustain nine turnovers in the first half, but 11 in the second half and overtime proved to be too much.
“We just let a game slip away that we should have won,” Hatters head coach Ed Enoch said. “Give (Cheltenham) credit, they played hard. They did a lot of good things when they had to. But we missed foul shots, missed layups, turned the ball over. That’s a bad recipe for basketball.”
Hatboro finished 14-24 at the line, which can be a tough pill to swallow in an overtime game. While they had full control over that statistic, once Cheltenham ratcheted up defensively the gym could almost feel the turnovers coming.
“This generation is more offense and, how can I say it, social media and YouTube-ish. They don’t get that defense is what gets your adrenaline pumping,” Timms said. “They don’t get that the better offensive players are generally the best defensive players…you always want the responsibility of guarding the best player because it keeps you involved in the game. We got a bunch of offensive guys, so if they’re not guarding the best player, they’re not necessarily involved in the game.”
They were all involved in the second half. Now it’s about taking the momentum into the rest of the season.
“We have no time to think. We have (Academy of the New Church Wednesday),” Timms said. “We’re fortunate that we beat a great Hatboro-Horsham team…we just want to make sure that we cover our court in-conference.”