Abington reaches AAAA state semifinals

Abington's Anthony Lee led the way with 19 points in the Ghosts' victory. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Abington’s Anthony Lee led the way with 19 points in the Ghosts’ victory. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)

A lot has happened since 1975.

39 years ago, then-U.S. President Gerald Ford escaped two assassination attempts, Jaws hit theaters and the Broad Street Bullies were putting the finishing touches on their second-straight Stanley Cup.

It was also the last time the Abington Galloping Ghosts found themselves in the state semifinals.

So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone at Colonial Elementary School that the Ghosts were excited to rewrite some school history, pouring onto the court to make their first trip back to the semifinals in almost four decades after beating Martin Luther King, 56-52.

“It feels great, you can hear the kids in there and they’re enjoying it,” Abington coach Charles Grasty said. “This is a high school and we’re telling our seniors we’re not done with them yet. But it just feels great to see the kids work their butts off all year. Since open gyms, they’ve dedicated themselves in the weightroom, running, me screaming at them for months on months. So it just feels great.”

Abington was led by their top three scorers in Amir Hinton, Matt Penecale, who had 13 points and eight assists, and Anthony Lee. Hinton made some school history of his own, scoring 11 points and becoming the first Ghost player to score in double-digits in eight straight playoff appearances since former Abington and Utah Jazz guard Junie Lewis did it seven consecutive times. But it was Lee that led the way with a game-high 19 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the field and adding four rebounds and two steals.

“It feels good,” Lee said of the Ghosts’ postseason run. “At first, they doubted us in the beginning of the season, they thought we were going to do bad. Now look where we’re at.”

With the score knotted up at 40 apiece at the end of the third quarter, both sides had shots at putting together a winning run. But it was the Ghosts, who opened the final quarter on a 9-2 run, that struck first.

King had their chances at the end of the game to make a comeback. Down by five, Cougar guard Jabri McCall drew a foul from three-point range and hit two. Down by three, King forced a turnover to get the ball with 17.8 seconds remaining and a chance to tie it.

The first attempt, a Chase Rodgers three-pointer from the corner, was blocked by Penecale and the Cougars retained possession. With 10 seconds left, McCall drew a blocking foul and hit one of two from the free throw line.

With a two-point lead, Hinton received the ball and was fouled. The junior hit the final two free throws to make it a two-possession game and put the game away.

Lee, the senior who doubled as the Ghosts’ starting quarterback for the football team, suffered a broken left fibula during the football season and didn’t return to the court until mid-January.

It took him some time to get re-adjusted after sitting out so long, but the senior has progressively gotten more comfortable. That led to his big day on one of the biggest stages for the Ghosts.

“It was tough,” Lee said. “In the beginning of the season, I just wanted to get back on the floor. Every game out there, it just got better and better and now, I think I’m almost 100 percent.”

“Anthony is a senior, we knew he would help us out once he got healthy,” Grasty added. “He had that broken leg and he kind of struggled, he came back and he wanted to fit in well with the team and I thought he took the backseat a little bit. Now, he’s a senior captain. We need him and he knows.”

Before his injury, Lee was getting looked at by several Division I schools for basketball. Now that he’s worked his way back onto the court and shown that he is back to his old self, those schools are starting to take notice. Along with Division II schools Gwynedd-Mercy and Kutztown, Lee says that he’s been hearing from Lafayette, Monmouth and Fairfield.

“He’s a player,” Grasty said of the senior. “And we know that he’s a player and he can knock down a lot of shots.”

In the second half of a game that the Ghosts found themselves down by two possessions, Grasty flipped the switch defensively and went to a press. The result was turnovers that put the Ghosts in a good position to capitalize on the other end.

“We had to. At halftime, we talked about giving everything we have and we came out, pressed them, got some turnovers and easy baskets in transition,” Grasty said. “Coach Wilkinson and my former coach, [Dr. John] Giannini, were here tonight. They always say “teams that like to press don’t like to be pressed”. We used that motto and we went after them.”



 

Dave Burman
105.5 WCHX radio
Lewistown, PA