EAST WHITELAND -- The faces were long and the walk was silent as the Avon Grove boys basketball team trudged to the locker room Friday night after another tight, late game loss, one that has typified the feisty Red Devils so far this season.
Even though Avon Grove received a superlative effort from Eric Ligda, who led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds, they bowed to Upper Dublin, and super sophomore Simeon Fryer, 57-51 in thefirst round of the Great Valley Holiday Tournament.
Fryer led all scorers with 25 points, including four 3-pointers. The Cardinals (4-5) had seven threes on the night. For the Red Devils, it was their fifth loss of the season by six points or less.
“We did not do a good enough job of closing out on the 3-pointers,” Avon Grove coach Jesse Drelick said. “They hit them tonight and we also gave the ball away with 16 turnovers and did not do a good enough job on the offensive glass.”
For the first three periods, the Red Devils (1-6) did not do a great job of anything as they trailed the Cardinals, 47-38, after three, and were getting killed on the offensive glass. But, as tough teams do, Avon Grove came alive in the fourth period.
When Fryer drained a three to give Upper Dublin a 52-42 lead midway through the fourth, it looked like lights out for the Red Devils. But, Ligda answered with a 3-ball to make it 52-45. Fryer missed an open jumper, Avon Grove ran the ball up the court briskly and Ligda scored in tight to make it 52-47.
Then, the Avon Grove center stole a pass, drove the length of the floor and scored on a layup to cut the lead to 52-49 with 1:33 to play.
“Eric is a real good player and a great kid,” Drelick said. “He is very coachable and he is a leader. He played tremendous tonight for us.”
Fryer was whacked on a baseline drive and hit one of two free throws. But Ligda was not through. He hit on a turnaround move to close the gap to 53-51 and it looked like the night for the Red Devils to break through. Upper Dublin helped matters by turning the ball over with 48 seconds to play.
Avon Grove got a good look from Ligda, who missed in close. Quinn Parsons missed on a follow and the Red Devils fouled Kevin Woods, who hit both free throws to make it 55-51 to ice the game for Upper Dublin.
Avon Grove shot 6 for 13 in the fourth, but was just 17 for 43 through the first three periods when they fell behind the Cardinals.
“Our record could really be turned around with all the close games,” Ligda said. “I would trade those 21 points for a win tonight. We just decided after the third period to play harder and make a game of it. We will get it turned around.”
Drelick said that there is no quit in his team and the Red Devils have to keep battling.
“We really don’t have a option. We are going to keep fighting and try to play the way we played in the fourth period the whole game,” he said.
Avon Grove will play Uupper Moreland in the consolation game today at 6 p.m.. Upper Dublin will face the hosts for the championship at 7:30 p.m.m
Upper Dublin 57, Avon Grove 51
UPPER DUBLIN: Fryer 10 1-2 25, Woods 3 5-7 11, Abel 2 2-2 8, Barrett 2 0-0 5, Greenburg 1 2-4 4, Stover 0 0-0 0, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Santileran 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-15 57.
AVON GROVE: Ligda 10 1-2 21, Parsons 3 0-0 6, Dietz 3 0-0 7, Colagreco 5 1-3 13, Guckin 0 0-0 0, Hung 0 0-0 0, Huver 0 0-0 0, McGrory 0 0-0 0, Barto 2 0-0 4. Totals 23 2-4 51.
Avon Grove 14 7 17 13-51
Upper Dublin 10 17 20 10-57
3-point goals: Fryer 4, Abel 2, Barrett, Colagreco 2, Dietz.