Upper Perk's Stephen Bell grabs up a loose ball on the court in last Thursday's final PAC-10 game of the season against Phoenixville.
It has been a long, long season for the Upper Perkiomen boys basketball team, and a 67-27 smackdown by Phoenixville last Thursday night at home may have been the lowest of low points.
The Phantoms (7-4, 10-9) were led by junior Eric Wallace who unleashed a rain of three pointers and scored 25 points. Seven of Wallace’s nine buckets were from beyond the arc, and the 6’ guard personally extinguished whatever glimmer of hope the Tribe had of a comeback when he scored eight points in the first 1:33 of the second half to open a 39-10 lead.
Wallace was the only double figure scorer for the visitors, but nine different players rang up points.
“They have a lot of shooters,” said Upper Perk head coach Bruce Schmidt. "They were just getting open, and Wallace can really light it up. Their offense is predicated on the three-point shot, and when they get open, they don’t miss.”
The Tribe actually made a game of it into the second quarter. Forty-two seconds in, Mike Winters hit a bucket to cut Phoenixville’s lead to 13-8.
But Wallace sank a pair of treys to kick off a 16-0 run by the Phantoms broken, finally, by a Nate Weinstein basket with 54 seconds left in the first half.
“They beat us in every aspect of the game, and, at times, we were very disjointed, out of sync. I don’t think we really showed up tonight to play,” lamented Schmidt, whose team (3-16) remained winless in the PAC-10.
Chandler Junk and Stephen Bell were the Tribe’s high scorers with five points apiece.
Schmidt saw a couple of bright spots through the gloom, including the continuing development of sophomore Matt Ruskey.
The diminutive point guard was in the starting line-up, and while he only scored four points, he showed the ability to handle the ball.
“I thought Matt did a nice job of running the offense late in the game,” said Schmidt. “He does a good job for us at penetrating zones, and taking the ball to the basket man to man. He’s improved every practice, every game.”
Ruskey sees the court very well and has a knack for finding the open man. Schmidt would like to see a softer touch on his passes, however.
“He’s just got to feather the pass a little bit. He throws some of those 95 mile an hour three foot passes. I think Nate (Weinstein) is lucky he didn’t lose a couple of teeth and maybe a nose on the one.”
Going into this week, with three remaining games, Schmidt was determined to end the season on a high note.
“It’s frustrating, but I see things, some things, that are going better. We’re taking steps forward, but then we’re taking side steps, we’re taking steps backwards. We want to get the last three forward so we have some impetus into next year Schmidt had a special guest on hand to use as an example of positive thinking. Former Upper Perk coach Jeff Huddleston was an honorary captain for the game.
“I told the kids in the locker room: If you’re looking for somebody to look up to, there’s a perfect example right there,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt should know, having played JV basketball under Huddleston and coaching for many years as Huddleston’s assistant, right up to his last game.
“I’ve been with him, it seems like an eternity,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know of a better coach at the high school level. He’s a great person to learn from in how he conducts himself on and off the court.”