Pennridge coach Dean Behrens didn't see a start like this coming.
But after the Rams beat North Penn on the road Tuesday night, 59-51, to improve to 6-0, the coach was elated for an obvious reason: With the win in the Suburban One League Continental Conference game, Pennridge equaled its win total of the past two boys' basketball seasons combined.
"If you told me we'd be 6-0 to start the year, I wouldn't have believed you," an energized Behrens said. "The kids are really starting to believe in this team."
Pennridge (6-0, 2-0) dealt North Penn (3-1 overall, 1-1 league) its first loss behind a balanced scoring attack and on a series of solid runs that put the host Knights on the ropes, despite North Penn's one-point halftime lead.
"They had some guys that we didn't know could score," North Penn coach Ron Hassler said.
Both teams were hot early, trading blows throughout the first two quarters, with the Knights holding a slight advantage on the heels of a 7-0 spree to begin the game and an 11-3 run with four minutes to go before halftime.
The Rams kept their poise and scrapped to within one at intermission, 31-30.
The third quarter changed everything. North Penn totaled just three points in that period, and Pennridge dropped in 11, despite having to adjust to a man-to-man defense after the Knights had used a matchup zone the entire first half.
"I was pleased that they did that," Behrens said. "All summer, I'm thinking of things to run against [North Penn's zone defense]. . . . I thought our kids executed well. . . . I thought we took good shots. There was only one or two I would have questioned."
For Hassler, it was the polar opposite.
"We didn't execute some things designed, and I don't know why we did that," he said of the third quarter, adding he wanted to get the ball into the post, but his squad instead settled for low-percentage perimeter jumpers.
The Rams, conversely, were efficient in the third and carried the momentum into the fourth, going up by 10 points with 2 minutes, 35 seconds remaining for the game's biggest lead.
Behrens didn't make a substitution in the final 16 minutes of play because he thought the starting five "was going so well."
The Knights went on 9-1 run behind guard Sean Brooks' eight fourth-quarter points, clawing back to within two with 42 seconds remaining. Brooks led North Penn with 15 points.
But by that time, it was a matter of the Rams hitting free throws to close the game, and they delivered. Senior point guard Mike Goldin knocked down seven of those in the final 40 seconds, on his way to a game-high 19 points.
Tim Abruzzo added 17 for the Rams, going 7 for 9 from the line. Junior forward Andrew Lyons added 10 points for Pennridge.
North Penn point guard Wes Brooks, who fouled out with 56 seconds to play, scored 11 points, and forward Jameus Somers had eight.
Overall, it was Pennridge's collective energy and its poise in the third quarter during a North Penn letdown that decided the contest.
"They had more energy than us," Hassler said. "That wins games."
Pennridge 13 17 11 18 – 59
North Penn 14 17 3 17 – 51
P: Mike Goldin 19, Tim Abruzzo 17, Drew Decew 2, Rocky Ferrier 6, Kyle Peters 2, Andrew Lyons 10, Jared Schaffer 3.
NP: Wes Brooks 11, Taylor Koffke 1, Sean Brooks 15, Matt Possanza 8, Javi Alvarino 6, Tom Scott 2, Jameus Somers 8.