Pancoast fuels Malvern Prep

Posted: January 07, 2014

THERE WAS an anticipatory, collective gasp from the Malvern Prep bench on Saturday when Andy Pancoast caught the ball in the open court with just one Penn Charter defender in pursuit.

To the uninformed at Philadelphia University's Gallagher Center, it was a sound that announced the 6-4 senior forward possessed some serious rise.

Alas, the lads were disappointed when Pancoast, who committed to Bucknell as a track and field high jumper, was fouled from behind and couldn't spring forth.

The Friars eventually quelled the Quakers, 75-70, in the 20th installment of the Daniel Dougherty Inter-Ac tripleheader. (The event was named in 2011 after Dougherty, who retired as the winningest coach in city-leagues history - 621 in 36 seasons at Malvern, 1962-66, and Episcopal, 1977-97, 2001-10.)

Malvern's victory was fueled by Pancoast's team-high 14 points off the bench. Not bad for a three-sport guy [also football] who's going to college for a sport he unintentionally fell into.

"I picked it up by accident," said Pancoast, a West Chester resident. "We were running sprints for football and I saw a high-jump bar out there and I knew I could jump pretty high, so I tried it out. The track coach [Mike Koenig] came over and didn't really give me a choice . I just picked it up and it grew on me."

That's why teammates wanted to see liftoff. As a sophomore, Pancoast finished second in the league with a 6-5 high jump. He won the title as a junior at 6-6.

"I'm still trying to get that first dunk," he said, grinning. "Anytime I get out in the open floor I want to get up . . . "

The free throws he buried [8-for-8] were more important. A 13-for-15 team effort from the line helped the Friars (1-0 league, 6-6 overall) survive a 12-2 third-quarter run and another late PC surge in the fourth.

First-year head coach John Harmatuk said his new squad lacked similar poise to start the season.

"In the stretches where other teams went on runs we've kind of just given up," Harmatuk said, "but [Saturday] we fought back and that's the next step in the process."

The Quakers [0-1, 5-5] were led by Demetrius Isaac's 24 points, which he nabbed, in part, because Malvern spent second-half time in a diamond-and-one defense against PC's Colgate commit, Sean O'Brien, who finished with 16 points on 4-for-11 shooting (1-for-6 from three).

The Friars' offense was a group attack. Chance DiFebbo added 12 (4-for-5, 2-2 from three) off the bench. Will Powers (5-for-8, 2-for-5) and Joey Fitzpatrick (4-for-6, 3-for-4) also each tallied 12. As a team, Malvern shot 10-for-18 from the three-point line.

After a 1-9 record in league play last season (9-20 overall), an early win brings hope.

"It's huge," said the 18-year-old Pancoast. "We came into the game thinking we could win it. We feel pretty good about our team. Coming off last year was a real rough ride, so to start off 1-0 is huge for us."

His athleticism and versatility, which seems to run in the family, could help the Friars return to competitive form. Pancoast's two older brothers, Sam and Wes, were both former Friar lacrosse players. Wes currently plays at Roanoke College. The patriarch, Frank, was a Bucknell running back [1978].

"He can play [center], he can handle the ball, he can play above the rim," Harmatuk said. "And, if he'll believe in himself more . . . I think night in and night out he can do what he did [Saturday]."

Later, Pancoast nodded his head in agreement.

"I recognize that. Usually it takes for good things to happen for me to get my confidence up, and I need to work on that."

In other Inter-Ac action: Germantown Academy [1-0, 9-5] slammed Springside Chestnut Hill, 68-37. Sam Lindgren led the way with 18. Tim Guers and Evan-Eric Longino added 14 and 13 respectively. Dylan Parsons (11) and Frank Jackson (10) led SCHA (0-1, 4-7).

Haverford School held off Episcopal Academy, 61-48, in a game the Fords (1-0, 10-2) controlled throughout despite being pushed by the tenacious Churchmen. HS's Lamar Stevens led all scorers with 18 on 7-for-11 shooting, a triple and three freebies. Twin two-handed power dunks punctuated his day. Levan "Shawn" Alston (17 points, 7-for-9) added his own throw-down after relieving the previous possessor of the ball at halfcourt. However, Alston's game was highlighted by seven assists. For the Churchmen (0-1, 9-4), Mike Jolaoso poured in 16 and gave the Fords fits with unrelenting penetration (4-for-14, 8-for-10 from the foul line). Chris McNeal tallied 13 (4-for-14, 3-for-8 on threes).

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN