Pennings, sometimes passive in the past, has turned into a terror for the Gators. He is averaging 16 points and eight rebounds a game thanks to a new attitude.
"He's learning to be tenacious at all times," Ervin said after his team improved to 7-7 overall, 3-2 in the Keystone Conference.
Pennings is in his third year as a starter. He showed promise in his first two seasons, but injuries limited his playing time.
Ervin knew he had a diamond in the rough going into the 1994-95 season. But he had to teach that diamond to be rougher.
"He had to get passionate about the game," Ervin said. "It's happening now. He understands that he has to give it his all at all times."
TURNER TURNS TIDE. Chris Turner always could score, but the Devon Prep junior had to learn that scoring was only part of the game.
"If he wasn't shooting well last year, he would neglect the other parts of his game," Tide coach Frank Steidler said. "He's not doing that this year. If he doesn't score, he's contributing in other ways."
The 6-1 guard-forward pulled down nine rebounds to help the Tide rally for a 61-60 Bicentennial League win over New Hope-Solebury on Friday.
Turner also scored 23 points, including a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to cut Devon Prep's deficit to one, at 60-59. After a missed New Hope free throw, Nick Reis hit a driving basket with four seconds remaining to give the Tide (10-3, 3-0) its only lead of the game.
"We went through a nightmare year last year," said Steidler, whose squad finished 5-16 in 1993-94. "We lost 11 games by five points or less in the last few minutes. We're finding ways to win those games."
And Turner, Devon Prep's leading scorer last season, has been a key.
"There was a lot of pressure on him to score last year," Steidler said. ''As a result, his shot selection wasn't the best.
"But he's matured as a player. His shot selection is better, and he's turned into a fine defensive rebounder."
SMITH PACES PANTHERS. Chris Smith wears an ankle brace, the result of an injury sustained during warm-ups before a recent game against Octorara.
But opponents should not feel sorry for the 6-4 Strath Haven center. Smith, a junior, scored a season-high 17 points Friday to help the Panthers win their fifth straight game, 59-40, over Upper Darby.
"He's playing at 70 percent," Strath Haven coach Bruce Moore said. ''We've recycled the offense so he doesn't have to do as much."
Smith did plenty Friday, scoring most of his points on follow shots and breakaway layups as Strath Haven improved to 8-4 overall, 4-3 in the Central League.
"I'm happy he's been able to keep playing," Moore said. "We'd have problems without him. We're a very small team."
FORDS PERSEVERE. Haverford High coach Brian Shane certainly doesn't like his team's record: 0-7 in the Central League, 1-11 overall.
But the first-year coach, who took over a team hurt by graduation, isn't complaining about his players' attitude.
"They've played as hard as they can play," Shane said. "We just haven't been able to put four quarters together."
The Fords played well for two quarters Friday and led Springfield, 24-16, at halftime. But a rash of turnovers after intermission led to a 52-44 loss.
"We just don't know how to win yet," Shane said. "That comes with experience.'