A few days after the new year started, the Meyers Mohawks hopped on a bus, headed to Philadelphia and played Constitution. The result was a 73-47 loss.
Now the teams meet again at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Parkland High School in Orefield, just outside Allentown, in the PIAA Class 2A boys basketball semifinals. Anybody looking at that Jan. 4 game and rubberstamping Constitution into the state title game on Saturday needs to take another look.
“They know now what kind of pressure they’re going see (against Constitution),” Meyers coach Pat Toole said. “We’re going to get that fullcourt diamond trap. But again, ‘Baltimore’ wasn’t with us at that time, Lamont wasn’t with us and it was Matty’s first game back. I think our guards are a little bit stronger now and better with the basketball.”
Senior guard Tyon Thomas — aka “Baltimore” — didn’t play in the 26-point loss. Senior point guard Lamont Twyman didn’t play for Meyers until Feb. 16, after his transfer from GAR was approved by District 2. And senior forward Matt DeMarco, a starter last season, suffered a nasty ankle injury during the football season and initially didn’t go out for the basketball team.
So District 2 champion Meyers (22-7) played D12 champ Constitution (26-5) in early January minus three of its current seven-player rotation. Plus, Toole admitted junior combo guard Shahee Aurelus wasn’t used on the perimeter enough.
Those facts haven’t escaped Constitution coach Rob Moore.
“They were missing their point guard Baltimore,” Moore said. “And they had another kid (Twyman), did he transfer in? I saw they had another kid with the same name that played earlier in the season.”
Moore is a basketball junkie. He identified potential state opponents early in the season and accumulated game tapes or went to see them in person.
“I’ve seen Meyers play five times, including our game with them,” Moore said. “I’ve seen Holy Cross play at least four times during the season. I’ve seen Trinity play six times, thinking at some point I might run into them. … There’s a website in District 4 with all Loyalsock and Lewisburg games on it. I’ve watched them all season. You can never be too prepared.”
Moore was so prepared last season that he had Meyers pegged as the top 2A team in the state until Steward was injured. Meyers was ousted in the first round last season; Constitution lasted until the second round, where it lost to Holy Cross.
Meyers was down 39-24 at halftime the first time around against Constitution and 60-38 after three quarters. The only bright spot — and one that has continued to glow since then — was senior forward Tyriek Steward. The Wyoming Valley Conference Division III MVP scored 27 points, the only Mohawk in double figures.
“The fun part is we have the experience of playing them,” Toole said. “It was early in the year, and we’re a much better team. But they’re formidable. Everyone has known since the first day of the season this was the team to beat in 2A. They’re here for a reason — they are very, very good. So if there is ever a Cinderella story, it’s certainly Meyers against Constitution.”
The clock nearly struck midnight Saturday. Meyers turned over the ball seven times in the fourth quarter as D12 third seed Delaware Valley Charter turned up the heat on defense. The Mohawks eventually outlasted Del-Val Charter 52-50 in double overtime.
Meyers should see more of the same today.
“Defense. Using our quickness, size and athleticism on defense,” Moore said. “It lets us get easy baskets and maintain a lead early in the game. Once you get the lead, late in the game you don’t allow the Mid Valleys and Holy Crosses to dictate how things go in the second half.”
That was pretty much how the Generals defeated D2 runner-up Holy Cross 72-62. The defense allowed Constitution to build a cushion and hold off any forays by Holy Cross.
The victory was Constitution’s second straight against a District 2 opponent. The Generals defeated D2 third seed Mid Valley 67-52 in the second round. Oddly, Meyers has eliminated the other two District 12 teams. The Mohawks topped D12 runner-up West Catholic 51-41 in the second round before defeating Del-Val Charter.