District 1 6A: Lezanic, Robinson lead Conestoga past Cheltenham in OT



02/17/2018, 12:30am EST
By Rich Flanagan

Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)

When his team needs a basket, Mike Troy consistently looks to two of his veteran guards: Milton Robinson and Zach Lezanic.
The Conestoga head coach trusts the junior backcourt mates to make the right play and has the confidence in them to nail shots in pivotal situations. That trust was never more evident than in Friday night’s district playoff game against Cheltenham.
Behind 20 points from Robinson and a clutch 3-pointer from Lezanic, the Pioneers escaped with a 56-54 overtime victory over the Panthers in the opening round of the District 1 Class 6A Tournament. Lezanic finished with 11 points and shot 3-14 from the field with all three made field goals coming from behind the arc.
In the overtime period, with his team trailing 51-49 after Cheltenham’s Kyin Healey (11 points, nine rebounds, three blocks) converted an and-one, Lezanic avoid a double team and nailed a one-dribble pull-up from the wing to give his team a one-point advantage with under 30 seconds left to play.
Troy stayed with his savvy point guard, who only had one basket in the first half but also contributed four boards and a steal, because he has come to expect that type of play from him.
“I thought they tried to pressure Zach pretty hard early but he showed the maturity to stick with the game plan,” Troy said. “He set up guys for a lot of easy buckets and had that big three in overtime to get the win.”
Robinson was the catalyst on offense, scoring 20 points including a pair of treys. He put Conestoga (15-8) up early, hitting both of perimeter shots in the first quarter, the last of which gave the Pioneers, the No. 14 seed in the tournament, a 15-9 lead early in the second quarter. For Robinson, who scored all of his points in regulation, he knew he had to carry the team early on but believed Lezanic would control the game down the stretch.
“[Coach Troy] kept telling me to be myself and to be aggressive,” Robinson said. “We have full confidence in him. We knew he was missing a couple of shots but we also knew when the game came down tight he was going to make the shot. We have full confidence in our whole team and every player.”
If Robinson controlled the offense in regulation, Lezanic took over in the extra period with his big-time trey then a pair of free throws, both of which pushed the Pioneers lead. Cheltenham’s Amir Lewis, who led his side with 19 points and seven rebounds, had an opportunity to win the game but his heave from the top of key came up short. In a season defined by La Salle commit Jack Clark going down with a torn ACL in his left knee, Cheltenham (14-9), the 19th seed, was also without head coach John Timms, who was missing due to family issues. Interim head coach Faron Hand was nearly able to lead the Panthers to a come-from-behind win.
After Robinson’s three made the score 46-37, Lewis nailed a three-pointer to cut the deficit to six. The Panthers were able to get buckets on their final three possessions: one from Healey and two more from the 6-1 Lewis.
Chestnut Hill College commit Ahmad Bickley (10 points) hit one of two from the foul line to force OT. Zahree Harrison, a transfer from Archbishop Wood, scored the first point of the overtime period with a free throw but that was the last time Cheltenham had the lead. He finished with 12 points and two steals.
Hand said the team’s motion offense really took control after halftime.
“We were trying to get the screen and roll action at the top of the key where we have our two shooters in the corners,” Hand said. “This way guys can come off, look to score or pass to a teammate, so that was our motion offense. We were looking at it a lot in the second half.”
Denison (Ohio) commit Charlie Schappell only scored four points but corralled 12 rebounds and junior forward Evan Medley chipped in eight points and four boards for the Pioneers, who advanced to play Central League rival Lower Merion in the second round.
That will be fourth time in five years the Pioneers and the Aces will face off in the district playoffs. Conestoga has won the last two matchups, including the regular-season matchup, 65-61 at Lower Merion behind 20 points from Lezanic and 12 from Meldey.
Robinson says his teammates can harp on past success against a league opponent that they have a lot of familiarity playing against.
“We can’t overlook them at all,” Robinson said. “Just because we beat them twice doesn’t mean anything. It’s going to be a dogfight from the first to the last quarter. We just have to be ready to play.”
Troy isn’t surprised his team is playing the Aces once again and feels like this matchup continues to become a regular occurrence.
“It’s kind of ironic that we’re in the same league and this is the fourth or fifth straight year that we’re meeting them in district playoffs,” Troy said. “The basketball gods must want a third game between us every year. They’re a very good team and they’re the fourth seed for a reason so we have to make sure to bring our A-game on Tuesday.”