WEST CHESTER – The last time that squared off with Downingtown East, it was senior captain T.J. White who complemented the McCormick twins in the delivery of another Ches-Mont National Division victory. But White is out for the year with a back problem and that scoring void is no small matter for a Henderson team with post-season aspirations.
Enter P.J. Costello. Thursday night at Downingtown East,the senior guard had 13 points, including the only three threes that Henderson tallied, to provide the extra punch that the Warriors needed to secure a 68-58 league victory and improve to 7-2 there and 12-6 overall.
Two of those threes came in the first quarter, when Henderson established a 19-11 lead that set the tone in a difficult road game atmosphere. The third came in the second period, when Downingtown East closed to within three. He proved he can get to the rim shortly thereafter to put the Warriors up eight and the homestanding Cougars never got closer than that the rest of the way.
“P.J. Costello helped them by hitting those threes early,” stated D-East coach Dan Massimini, who missed flu-ridden point guard Corey Miller as his team dropped to 6-11. “And his floor game was terrific, too. But the twins are the catalysts. They have outstanding energy and the other boys feed off it.”
“P.J. is definitely becoming a threat,” Henderson coach Chris Bruno offered in reference to his team’s need for long-ball capability against tight zones designed to keep the McCormicks out of the lane. “He’s developing as a player right before our eyes.”
The Warriors will need all hands on deck as they try to win their final four regular season games – Saturday at Kennett (2:30 p.m.), Tuesday at home versus Avon Grove (7:30 p.m.), the Ches-Mont National Division showdown with Downingtown West at home on Tuesday, Feb. 7 (7:30 p.m.) and the intra-city rivalry finale on Thursday, Feb. 9, at West Chester East.
The McCormick of choice on this night was Chas, who had a game-high 26 points, including three offensive rebound put-backs that had Massimini shaking his head. They all came in the second quarter, when he had nine points as Henderson headed to the lockerroom in control, 38-23.
Led by Gary Jay and Montrose Jennings, D-East battled throughout the second half and the outcome was not fully decided until Henderson demonstrated an ability to break the Cougars’ fourth-quarter press, maintaining a double-digit lead through to the buzzer.
One of D-East’s biggest weapons was the long-range bomb, with Jay converting three of six and the team hitting seven of 17. Jay was his team’s leading scorer with 17 and Jennings contributed 15.
For Henderson, Jason McCormick contributed 14 points and two well-timed steals. Declan Kane added nine and did the difficult work underneath as the team’s most reliable big man.
For Bruno, it was another positive night. “Our defensive intensity is getting better. Our stretches of focus are getting longer,” the first-year Henderson coach concluded.
Downingtown East won the junior varsity prelim, 45-36, behind eight points from Elijah Crawford and seven each from Basil Szustak and Brandon Borostad. Alonzo Matthews and Colin Costello scored nine points for Henderson and Luke Weaver added seven.