VPS upends shorthanded Toad hoopsters
By Jesse Phelps
Villanova seniors Ryan Kirby, Djadji Daffe
and Chris Gerhart received roses before their Condor League showdown
against Thacher Wednesday night, then each proceeded to make
a strong contribution in his team's 55-44 victory over the shorthanded
In their final home games, excluding potential playoff matchups,
the three seniors set the tone early, paving the way for an important
win that positioned the team positively for a CIF playoff berth.
Gerhart scored four points and grabbed five rebounds, including
four on the offensive end, all in the first half. Kirby and Daffe
took it from there. Daffe controlled the game from the paint,
scoring 19 points on seven of 13 shooting, and adding 12 rebounds.
Kirby hit a huge three with time running out on the shot clock
late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Thacher, with two players out due to ankle injuries and a flu
bug plaguing many of the remaining available roster, played with
only seven players. Guard Graham Douds was clearly ill but managed
to score nine points, including a perfect three-for-three in
the second half as Thacher surged.
Thacher head coach Jason Carney said of Douds, "I've never
seen a kid like him in terms of his spirit and his fight."
Villanova scored the first four points of the game and Thacher
was forced to play catch-up all night. At halftime, the Wildcats
had extended their lead to 27-18 behind the scoring of Daffe,
Gerhart and Kota Matsushige and the intimidating defense of Nate
Langelier was a big contributor on the night for Villanova, notching
a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He was four of
five from the field in the second half, many of those hoops coming
as Thacher made a fourth quarter run to pull within four points.
"He's a great athlete," said Villanova head coach Matt
Dunn of Langelier. "He's a very athletic kid and he's the
kind of kid we almost gotta calm down sometimes, he's so athletic.
You saw a couple of those blocks tonight, they're real spectacular
but he fouls a lot, too. As he's improved, we've improved as
The Toads had managed to hold the Villanova lead to between seven
and 11 points throughout the third quarter and entered the fourth
down 39-30. Thacher capitalized with two free- hrows as Villanova
got called for a technical foul with six men on the court but
then was unable to score on the ensuing possession.
As the fourth quarter got under way, Thacher began to make a
solid run at the lead. Junior Chris Willoughby nabbed an offensive
board and put-back to pull the toads to within seven. Sam Felton
then drove to the hoop, made the shot and got fouled. He missed
the free throw, but suddenly Thacher was as close as they'd been
since the first quarter.
On the other end, Langelier got loose in the lane to make the
lead seven again, but was answered by Douds to make the score
43-38. After a Daffe free throw, Willoughby hit again from the
baseline to pull Thacher to within four points.
Villanova guard Clark Tevis then drilled a free throw. Thacher,
with Daffe on the bench for a quick breather, had a chance to
move within a bucket with a three-pointer but Felton missed on
his 11th trey attempt of the game.
Daffe returned moments later and scored immediately. Douds hit
again to keep Thacher within five, setting up Kirby's big moment.
With two minutes on the clock, Kirby calmly drilled his only
three of the game, a dagger to give the 'Cats an eight-point
cushion. From there, Daffe hit again, drawing a foul from Thacher
guard Brenton Sullivan in the process.
Moments later, Sullivan stole the ball and went coast to coast
but it was too little too late for the Toads. He finished with
11 points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals to lead
Thacher in defeat.
After a series of free throws, Villanova had its sixth league
win of the year, against a single defeat, and now looks forward
to a playoff game after its next game at Cornerstone Christian.
Dunn praised the effort of his three seniors. "They do it
in their own way. Djadji's our go-to guy, he's a big horse. He
did a really nice job tonight of staying really calm. He's got
three and four guys guarding him every night, it feels like.
Ryan Kirby's our general, he's real steady. He made a big three
there at the end. That was the one that kinda put us over the
hump. And Chris Gerhart is, he's a kid who's a leader. He sets
the tone every day in practice."
The Ojai Valley News
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