Dereck Lively, a springy 7-foot sophomore, blocked eight shots, as Westtown beat Academy of the New Church, 81-57, on Thursday night.
Franck Kepnang, an athletic 6-10 junior, threw down three dunks, as the Moose manhandled their fiercest Friends Schools League rival.
But don’t look at Westtown’s towering front court, which includes 6-8 Pitt recruit Noah Collier, for clues to the visitors’ imposing victory in Asplundh Field House.
This was a guard’s game, from three-point shooting to tempo control to the ability to turn ANC’s renowned pressure defense against the Lions.
Did we mention the three-point shooting?
“We made a lot of shots,” Westtown coach Seth Berger said. Former Temple and Penn coach Fran Dunphy "has a great quote, ‘The team that won the game is usually the one that made more shots.’
“I think we shot a better percentage on three-pointers than we did from the foul line,” Berger said.
Senior guard T.J. Berger, the coach’s son and a Penn recruit, made six three-pointers on his way to 25 points for Westtown (15-5 overall, 6-0 in the league), the No. 2 team in the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.
Junior guard Jalen Warley, who is emerging as one of the state’s top recruits in the class of 2021, made a trio of three-pointers and finished with 20 points.
“Those guards can play,” ANC coach Kevin Givens said of Berger and Warley. “They are consistent, smart, and they can really shoot the ball.”
Senior guard Isaac Marshall scored 23 for ANC (10-4, 5-1).
“We’ve got a lot of work to do if we want to see them again,” Givens said, referring to the league tournament. “This was a bad one for us. We usually turn people over, and they turned us over.”
The game was drastically different than two meetings between teams last season, when ANC won, 48-47, in the regular season, and Westtown emerged with a 52-48 victory in the league championship at La Salle.
In both of those games, ANC’s defensive pressure disrupted Westtown. But things were different on Thursday night, as Berger and Warley were able to spread the floor, move the basketball, and create openings for each other and the Moose big men.
“We played more together, we talked to each other,” Warley said. “We stayed together when times got tough and communicated.”
Coach Berger said the 6-4 Warley’s improvement from last season was evident in his ability to handle ANC’s pressure defense.
“Last year, when we lost 48-47, he couldn’t handle their pressure,” the coach said. “Today, he was inviting their pressure so he could just run through it.”
Warley, Berger, and reserve guard Nymire Little were able to get into the paint, drawing defenders for kick-outs or lobs.
“T.J. made three or four mistakes with the basketball, but other than that, his decision-making was excellent," their coach said. “He did a really good job of pushing when he should push and setting up half-court offense when he should set it up.”
Westtown built a 47-27 halftime lead. When ANC made a third-quarter run to ignite its small but spirited student section, Berger used a step-back-and-go move to get to the rim for a traditional three-point play, then buried a three-point jumper to restore order for the Moose.
“The key was staying composed,” the guard said. “When the crowd got into it, when the other players started upping their energy, we stayed with our game and with what we do.”
Westtown 22 25 16 18 – 81
Academy of New Church 10 17 18 12 – 57
W: TJ Berger 25, Jalen Warley 20, Noah Collier 4, Dereck Lively 8, Frank Kepnang 12, Wade Chiddick 8, Quin Berger 2, Nymire Little 2.
ANC: Devin Bryant 8, Anthony McCall 6, Glenn Sabb 6, Isaac Marshall 23, Kai Allen 1, Elijah Muhammad 8, Al-min Ajibade 4, Zahir Thomas 1.