CHAMPS RALLY: Tinsley Leads Abington Heights’ Comeback Against Sem
KINGSTON — The state champs were in town Tuesday night.
But longtime Abington Heights head coach Ken Bianchi would prefer that label stay attached to the 2017-18 Comets, until this season’s group proves worthy of the same distinction.
The Comets took a big step toward that at Wyoming Seminary, where they erased a 13-point deficit and beat Sem, 52-50, in a nonleague game between two state-ranked boys basketball teams.
“I told them (earlier), ‘The team that walked off the court last year is miles ahead of where you are now. I don’t care how many of you are back — you’re not even close,’” Bianchi recalled. “Now, I told them after this game, ‘The team that I see now is the team that we had last year. Last year’s team would have made that comeback.’”
Binghamton recruit George Tinsley led the charge, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter. Tinsley, a 6-foot-6 first-team All-State selection a year ago, finished with 27 points and nine rebounds.
“This win shows a lot from our team,” said Tinsley, whose Comets (4-1) entered Tuesday coming off a loss last week at Pottsville, their first loss since Feb. 3. “It shows the heart. It shows that we still have the energy. We just never gave up. It feels good right now, but we gotta realize we made a bunch of mistakes and we gotta come back and fix it.”
Such mistakes allowed Sem to take the driver’s seat early, leading 17-11 after a fast-paced first quarter that saw Sem attempt 15 field goals.
The second quarter was mostly played at a slower pace, but still favored Sem (5-1), which took a 27-21 lead into halftime.
Sem’s Dimitri Gnall was particularly impressive, scoring 16 first-half points en route to a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double.
“Dimitri Gnall is, I think, one of the most talented players in this district,” said Sem head coach Pete Moses. “He’s obviously our horse and we all feed off of his energy. I think that Dimitri’s effectiveness helped other guys, as well, to get open.”
Junior Todd Phillips knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:50 to play in the third quarter, extending Sem’s lead to a game-high 13 point, 38-25.
But then, Abington Heights began chipping away with Tinsley and Trey Koehler scoring four points apiece to bring the Comets within 40-33 going to the fourth quarter.
Gnall scored off an offensive rebound to put Sem ahead 48-44 early in the fourth.
However, Tinsley countered with a putback of his own. Then, Tinsley gave Abington Heights the 49-48 lead when he stole the ball and set his feet for a 3 from the top of the key.
“I love playing against really good competition with him guarding me and me guarding him,” Tinsley said of his matchup with Gnall. “I feel like it elevates both of our games. It’s always really fun to play a person like that.”
Abington Heights led 52-50 when Sem got its final chance, fast-breaking down court with only seconds to play after a missed Abington Heights free throw.
Gnall got a nice look for 3 from the right wing and released it at the buzzer.
“I just turned around and saw he was decently open,” Tinsley said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. No way.’”
Gnall’s shot clanked off the rim and missed, sending Abington Heights home with the win.
In addition to Tinsley’s 27 points, Trey Koehler added 16.
Nick Ganter also hit double figures with 12 points. Jeremy Callahan scored nine and Phillips added seven for Sem, which begins WVC play Thursday at Northwest.
“I’m very proud of my boys, that they really embraced our preseason schedule,” said Moses, whose Blue Knights are in Class 3A. “We walked away playing four 5A teams and a 6A team in the preseason, going 5-1. They are just a group of guys that want to get better every day. They want to play up, they want to play good competition. As much as we are obviously disappointed in the outcome, we know that this makes us better in the long run. We’re definitely thinking about the conference and the district.”
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