When Boyertown's boys basketball team opened the season by losing six of its first seven games, contending for a Pioneer Athletic Conference playoff spot seemed about as likely for the Bears as the Philadelphia 76ers winning the NBA's Atlantic Division title.
Over the past two and a half weeks, though, the Bears are as hot as anybody in the league.
"Right now we're really meshing as a unit,' said Boyertown junior guard Ryan Corcoran. "We're all playing together; we all have each other's backs.'
That was apparent Tuesday night, as the Bears rallied from a nine-point third quarter deficit to defeat Pottstown 46-44 for their fifth win in their last six games.
Corcoran continued his torrid streak by scoring a game-high 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:47 left — as Boyertown improved to 4-2 in the Liberty Division and 6-7 overall.
"I just try to provide a spark,' said the 6-foot-2 Corcoran, who is averaging 23.3 over the past four games. "I just try to go hard every single play out there, whether it's attacking the rim, penetrating or getting guys open for jump shots.'
"Ryan's playing really well, no doubt about it,' Boyertown coach Mike Ludwig said. "I'm just really impressed with his development as a player. He's working really hard, and he's also getting his teammates involved.'
Corcoran, a sweet-shooting southpaw, came out smoking by scoring his team's first nine points, and teammate Colton Moyer hit a follow to close out the opening period and put the Bears up 13-12.
It was 20-20 at the half — a tempo Ludwig had to love, given the Trojans (3-4, 5-8) were averaging 93.5 points over their previous two games.
"I think we had a good game plan coming in, then the kids went out and executed it,' Ludwig said. "We switched it up on them. We were trying to slow them down with a little pressure, just to keep them from running up and down the court. We were doing a lot of zone into man (defense) combinations.'
Still, Pottstown came out strong in the second half, with Marleeke Lear and Rich Duvivier (team-high 15 points) keying an 11-2 spurt capped by a 3-pointer by Dave Smalls that gave the Trojans their largest lead at 31-22 with 4:16 left in the third.
Just as quickly, however, the Bears came romping back behind Tyler Bauman (16 points), who converted a three-point play and nailed a 3-pointer to kickstart a 12-2 run culminating in a three-point play by Corcoran that put the Bears back up 34-33 with 1:12 left in the third.
Smalls canned a 3 that gave the Trojans a 37-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Bauman answered with a trey to open the fourth quarter and put the Bears back up.
Pottstown took its last lead at 40-39 when Bryant Quill pounced on a loose ball and scored underneath with 3:07 remaining in the game before Corcoran gave Boyertown the lead for good with another 3-pointer 20 seconds later.
"It's always the 3,' lamented Trojans coach Cal Benfield. "Against Pope John Paul II (a 58-54 loss), it was the 3. Against Spring-Ford (a 108-104 overtime loss last Friday), it was the 3. This game it was the 3. We're just not guarding the 3-ball well.'
Boyertown went up 44-40 on two foul shots by Bauman with 41 seconds left, but the Trojans fought to the bitter end, getting within 45-44 on Duvivier's follow with 10 seconds remaining.
Boyertown's Christian Smith made 1-of-2 foul shots with 8.5 seconds left and after a Bears foul with 0.8 seconds left, the Trojans had one last shot. But Denzel Harvey's bank attempt off Lear's inbounds lob rimmed out and the Trojans suffered yet another hard-luck loss. Three of Pottstown's four league defeats are by a combined six points; the other was the OT loss to Spring-Ford.
"Second chances killed us tonight,' Benfield said. "They rebounded the ball offensively very well and we did not shoot well at all.
"It's sad, because we can't play around like this. Now we're solidly in third place (behind PJP and Pottsgrove in the Frontier Division). This could have put us in second place.'
While Pottstown will try and bounce back Friday against Owen J. Roberts, the Bears hope to keep their momentum going against Phoenixville.
"The sky's the limit for us when we all play together,' Corcoran said.
"Honestly, this is just a gutsy group of kids,' said Ludwig. "They never stop playing. I think the biggest difference is that we're taking care of the basketball and getting good possessions on offense. Our possessions have been much stronger the past five games.
"Everybody's doing their job. We've been trying to preach team, team, team. And this team gets it. We've kind of taken that motto that we have to play the game that's in front of us. That's the one we can control, and that's what this group has done.'
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.