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Reading High boys are battle-tested after ‘unforgettable’ week

Playing a difficult non-league schedule always has been a priority for the Reading High boys basketball team.

Rick Perez has maintained that tradition in his 11 seasons as Red Knights coach, but the last week might have been unprecedented during a regular season.

Reading played five games in seven days, including a neutral-site matchup vs. defending District 1 Class 6A champion Lower Merion, a much-anticipated meeting with North Carolina-based Vertical Academy and a rematch of the 2021 PIAA Class 6A final against Archbishop Wood.

“That’s what we’re all about,” guard Myles Grey said. “We like to play the best competition possible in the state of Pennsylvania and even outside the state.”

Grey, Ruben Rodriguez and their teammates won’t soon forget what happened over those seven days.

After a four-point loss to Lower Merion, Grey made a school-record 10 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points against Twin Valley on Tuesday.

Rodriguez scored a school-record 50 points in less than 2.5 quarters against Daniel Boone on Wednesday. Two nights later in front of 4,400 fans at Santander Arena, he scored 22 and reached 1,000 in his career against highly touted Mikey Williams and Vertical Academy.

Reading High’s Ruben Rodriguez (2) goes up to the basket to score his 1,000th point against Vertical Academy’s Dj Dudley (13). High School boys basketball, Vertical Academy vs the Reading High Red Knights at the Santander Arena in Reading, PA Friday night January 21, 2022. (BEN HASTY — READING EAGLE)

The Red Knights (15-2) capped the week with a 64-58 victory over Archbishop Wood in the Geigle Classic on Saturday night, Rodriguez scoring 19 points and making a couple memorable plays.

“I would say it (the week) was unforgettable,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of stuff happened this week: ups and downs, wins and losses. It feels good to be able to finish the week on a positive (note).”

Reading has played challenging opponents, including Imhotep, La Salle College, Pocono Mountain West, Devon Prep and Chester. Last week’s hectic schedule was a higher degree of difficulty for the Red Knights, the defending PIAA Class 6A champs.

“In life there’s an opportunity every step that you take,” Perez said. “Windows are always open. Cracks are always open. The door doesn’t open wide for you every time.

“They kept their heads up (after the loss to Lower Merion). They kept moving. … Every single day this week their approach to the game was amazing. I commend them for that.”

Reading could have had a letdown against Archbishop Wood after a special night for Rodriguez and the Knights against Vertical Academy, made up of players from across the country. That, however, is not how they operate.

They played with the same tenacity and energy as they often do, creating 18 turnovers and getting rebounds over the taller Vikings.

“You just want to play,” Grey said. “When you’re a hooper, you want to come out and compete against the best. When you have two tough teams on your schedule, you get up ready. You get up ready to compete at a high level.”

He did, scoring eight of his 15 points in the first quarter and six in the fourth with the game on the line.

“Anything is his role,” Perez said. “He hits the open shot. He’s going to steal the ball as he did  Friday night (late in the fourth quarter). He’s going to play aggressive defense. He’s going to communicate.

“Myles is the guy who makes sense. He has an amazing balance in his life. He can be funny, but he can be serious. He just knows how to put things together.”

Rodriguez made an impact, as he almost always does.

He scored off a pass from Daniel Alcantara to beat the second-quarter buzzer and tie it Saturday. Late in the third, he sprinted down the court, grabbed the basketball before it went out of bounds and flipped it behind his back to Joey Chapman for a basket. Then he drove for a layup just before the third-quarter horn.

In the fourth, Rodriguez stripped the ball from a Wood guard and brought the crowd to its feet with a dunk.

“I have the best seat in the house and I get to watch him grow,” Perez said. “He’s so wiry. He plays with this joy. The way he plays is his personality. He’s just a silly guy. Sometimes he’ll do some things that will make you want to pull your hair out.

“You have to trust in what he’s going to do next. The save tonight? Unreal. The steal and the dunk? Who does that? Those are things that you just can’t coach.”

The Red Knights will face only Berks Conference teams the rest of the regular season: four Berks I opponents and Berks II leader Muhlenberg. It would be shocking if they lost to any team in the county.

They are No. 1 in the District 3 Class 6A power ratings and will be difficult to beat once the playoffs begin. They are battle-tested and they are very good.

“Yes, but I feel like we can do way better,” Rodriguez said. “I feel that we took some losses that we shouldn’t have had because of stupid mistakes. I feel like if we bounce back and see those teams later, we’ll be good.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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