Simon Gratz senior Rashon Johnson swatted a Penn Charter three-point attempt with just seconds left in the Bulldogs' 54-41 victory at the Make-A-Wish Basketball Showcase at Germantown Academy Friday night.
Johnson, a 6-foot-4 forward, then corralled the loose ball and dribbled slowly up court with the tiniest hint of delight in his eyes.
"I was going to shoot it," he said smiling. A teammate's mother was telling him to shoot, "but I thought, 'Nah, that would be wrong.' "
Instead, he dribbled out the clock and waited for the buzzer to sound before hoisting a three-pointer, which he, of course, made.
Every bit of the sequence was indicative of the entire game. Gratz (3-1) made quality defensive plays, and then the Bulldogs didn't seem bothered by who scored their points.
For example, Johnson scored all 17 of his points in the first half and took only one shot in the second half.
"It was mostly just trusting my teammates because I know we have a really good team," said Johnson, who hit three three-pointers. "I know if I'm having a good [half], everybody can have a good [half]."
The Bulldogs used the hot start to build a 27-18 lead by intermission.
In the second half, junior wing Jahmaris Jefferson, who finished with 11 points, supplied the offense. Jaron Flowers scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Johnny Eden shot 1 of 15 from the field but made significant contributions on the defensive end and made a few plays for teammates on offense.
"Even though his shot wasn't falling he can do other things," Johnson said. "I was trying to get him more involved because he's a senior as well. We have a bunch of good players, so I didn't feel as though I had to be the only one scoring. As long as we get stops, we're good."
That defense seemed to thwart the Quakers (3-3) each time they made the game interesting. Penn Charter was led by senior guard Adam Holland's 16 points. Will Samuel, a junior, added 10 points.
The Bulldogs, who made a surprising run to the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals last season, are looking to accomplish even more this season.
"I've expressed that to them throughout [the preseason]," said second-year Gratz coach Lynard Stewart, who coached at Penn Charter from 2012 to 2015. "I took aside some of the older guys like [Johnson] and [Eden] and told them, 'We'll go as far as you guys take us.' And they've been handling it well."
Simon Gratz 13 14 11 16 - 54
Penn Charter 7 11 13 10 - 41
SG:Rashon Johnson 17, Jahmaris Jefferson 11, Johnny Eden 2, Kyon Gordon 2, Isiah Wallace 2, Williams Moore 3, Quadri Blount 8, Jaron Flowers 9.
PC: Adam Holland 16, Ryan Holmes 3, Dylan Burnett 5, Owen Pighini 3, Mason Williams 4, Will Samuel 10.