PENNY HILL – Going against the Mount Pleasant boys basketball team can be like riding a roller coaster.
The Green Knights can soar to incredible highs, then plunge to inexplicable lows. Then their depth and intensity often pushes them up again to a level the opposition struggles to match.
Fourth-ranked Appoquinimink got off the ride feeling dizzy on Tuesday night, as top-ranked Mount Pleasant thrilled its home fans by pulling away for a 79-60 victory in an early Blue Hen Flight A showdown.
The Green Knights (8-0 overall, 2-0 Flight A) got off to an overwhelming start, as seven of the 11 Mount Pleasant players to play in the first quarter scored early. They reeled off 13 straight points – including an alley-oop slam by KVonn Cramer, a 3-pointer by Ny’Jere Hodges and a straight-off-the-bench jumper by Douglas Sneh for a 13-3 lead with 4:19 left in the opening period.
“It’s defense. Everything starts around our defense and rebounding,” Green Knights coach Lisa Sullivan said. “When we’re out running, playing hard and everybody’s into the game and excited, our energy level is up and a lot of things can go our way.”
It kept going Mount Pleasant’s way, as Ty’Reek Johnson bombed a 3 from the right corner and scored off the offensive glass. Then Keon Taylor hit a floater in the lane and Hodges made a free throw for a 27-11 lead with 6:25 remaining in the second quarter.
“We were playing excellent defense,” Cramer said. “The intensity was up there, and it was just high-paced.”
But suddenly, the Green Knights stopped doing all the things that led to the big lead. And Appo (5-1, 2-1), led by Seton Hall signee Myles Cale and Keith DeLoatch, quickly got back in it.
The Jaguars went on a 22-6 run, including a 9-0 burst on Max Somelofske’s offensive board, two layups by Amir Richardson and a DeLoatch 3-pointer, to tie it at 33 with 1:16 left in the half.
“We’re playing against a pretty good team with a Division I basketball player,” Sullivan said. “I told them it’s going to be a game of runs, and it’s who can run the longest and the fastest is the one that’s going to win the game.”
Sullivan made some adjustments during a quick timeout, and Taylor sandwiched two free throws and a fast-break layup around Hodges’ score off a rebound for a 39-35 halftime lead.
“It’s very important because we get our easy fast breaks and our layups,” Taylor said of the fast-paced first half.
The Green Knights kept pressing that pace in the third quarter. A 12-2 run provided separation, as Cramer, Hodges, and Fah’Mir Ali scored on fast breaks, Cramer banked in a layup and wowed the crowd with an all-alone dunk, and Johnson scored off a rebound to push the lead to 57-43.
“We’re going to have stretches where we don’t play well,” Sullivan said. “We’re still building team chemistry. There are a lot of new kids in our program.”
Two veterans made it click to start the fourth quarter, as Cramer curled off his defender and jammed Taylor’s alley-oop pass for the second time.
“It’s a nice sight to see,” Taylor said Cramer cutting to the basket. “The crowd’s going to go crazy, and he’s going to dunk it.”
Cramer, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks. Taylor scored 14, Johnson had 13, Hodges chipped in 10 and 6-4 DeJon Backus added four points and eight rebounds as Mount Pleasant piled up a 51-24 advantage on the boards. Cale led the Jaguars with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“Knowing that we have the No. 1 ranking, it was a big game,” Cramer said. “Everybody is going to be coming at us, and that was a hard-fought game.”
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ