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The Daily Times' boys basketball blog

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Friday's game is more than a meeting of the giants of District One. It's a meeting of the giants.

Perhaps the only other team in the district with as many capable and talented bigs as Chester is the team the top-seeded Clippers (26-0) will go against – second-seeded Lower Merion (25-2).

Chester boasts senior Tavaune Griffin (6-7), junior Rondae Jefferson (6-7), senior Zimir Geiger (6-6), junior Richard Granberry (6-6) and senior Erikk Wright (6-4). Meanwhile, Lower Merion has senior Yohanny Dalembert (6-7), junior B.J. Johnson (6-5, pictured above) and junior Darryl Reynolds (6-4, pictured below).

Here's what a few had to say about the pairing of the bigs...
Wright: “Playing against Tavaune and Richard in practice makes me stronger.”

Jefferson: “We've got solid, strong guys. Guys like Zimir, Richard and Tavaune are our strong guys. We've got little Erikk Wright, who's tremendous. We love him. There's nothing he doesn't do. We're just going to feed them. We're going to see what they do against their bigs.”

Griffin: “Our gameplan is to get the ball inside and work it inside-out. That's all there is to it.”

Let's see how it all plays out Friday.

(Photos courtesy

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Shawn Oakman, a 2011 graduate of Penn Wood High School, was dismissed from Penn State's football team Tuesday night.

Though it sounds redundant, here is the official statement from Penn State: "Penn State freshman defensive end Shawn Oakman has been dismissed from the football team due to a violation of team rules."

A 6-9, 260-pound defensive end, Oakman was a redshirt freshman who sat out the 2011 football season at Penn State.

Oakman was an All-Delco defensive end for Penn Wood's football team. His senior year, en route to earning All-Delco distinction, he posted 80 tackles (23 for a loss), 16 sacks, nine batted balls, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles as the Patriots went 9-2 and won the Del Val League title.

He also was a standout center who helped the school's basketball team win the PIAA Class AAAA championship in 2009 and the District One Class AAAA championship in 2010.

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Weren't able to make Tuesday's game? Here's a glimpse from the baseline where Times staff photographer Robert J. Gurecki and Journal Register photographer Bob Raines recorded these moments from Chester's 67-52 victory over Wissahickon:

Chester's Rondae Jefferson coasts in for two of his eight points.

Chester's Erikk Wright muscles up, scoring on a putback for two of his 10 points.

Chester's Richard Granberry outraces a pair of Wissahickon players to a loose ball.

Wright pulls down one of his 11 rebounds.

Jefferson tries his best to hold down Wissahickon's Chase Wilson, who logged 19 points.

# # # # #

Here's the Times staff's coverage of the District One semifinals, from Temple's Liacouras Center:
Game story: Chester can shift its focus to district final (Vito)
Column: Confidence is nothing new for the Clippers (Jack McCaffery)
Sidebar: Lower Merion does its part to reach final (Anthony J. SanFilippo)

And from a ninth-place playback:
Game story: There's little consolation for Penn Wood after loss (Bob Grotz)

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Monday, February 27, 2012


Another week of inactivity in the polls for Chester High.

Despite a pair of district-tournament victories, the Clippers (25-0) stayed put in both the PIAA Class AAAA poll (ranked No. 1 by the Harrisburg Patriot-News) and in the USA Today Super 25 (ranked No. 4 nationally).

The Clippers continue their district run Tuesday night with a District One Class AAAA semifinal against Wissahickon, at Temple University's Liacouras Center. Look for a preview of the game in Tuesday's Daily Times. The story will focus on junior forward Rondae Jefferson.

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Last Wednesday, Archbishop Carroll lost in the Catholic League semifinals. This Wednesday, Carroll has a District 12 seeding game. A week from Friday, Carroll opens the PIAA Class AAA tournament.

For those keeping score at home, that accounts for three games in 17 days for Yosef Yacob (pictured) & Co.. Since the opening week of their season, the Patriots (17-7) haven't gone more than four days between games. At one stretch, they played four games in six days.

"Maintaining our focus in a two-week span where we only have one game is asking a lot," Archbishop Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk said over the weekend. "We’re in this rhythm where it’s two practices, game, one practice, game. Keeping guys sharp has become the challenge, as well as keeping them healthy."

So why the lapse in the schedule? Unfortunately, that's the way it is. But why? Well, there's one reason: End date.

To make a five-round state tournament end with a championship weekend in State College, the tournament has to open on a weekend -- thus following a Friday/Wednesday format for Class AAA and Saturday/Tuesday for Class AAAA. So even though most districts will have closed out their tournaments by this weekend or, at the latest, March 6, the PIAA waits to open its state tournaments March 9.

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise for some teams, like those with players nursing injuries or others -- like the eighth seed from District One Class AAAA, which will open its state-tournament run on a three-game losing streak -- which may just need a break from the games.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012


Here's what I know about the recruitment of Rondae Jefferson: A lot of teams have come calling. Here's what I don't know about the recruitment of Jefferson: Everything else.

A Chester junior and one of the nation's top recruits for the Class of 2013, Jefferson has told me he has made no decisions – not even narrowing down the list of schools that have offered. And if he has, Jefferson isn't telling anybody.

I asked Jefferson Friday night, following Chester's 81-31 thumping of Norristown, a few questions about the process:

Who has offered a scholarship?
Jefferson: “I don’t even know. I’ve got a couple offers. I can’t think of them right now. My head’s spinning right now.”

Not even one name?
Jefferson: “I don’t want to say somebody and leave somebody out.”

Temple could join the Big East. What does that mean to you?
Jefferson: “I mean, the Big East is fine. I like the Big East. It doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t think about that.”

Chester coach Larry Yarbray told me another school threw its hat into Jefferson's ring.

“(There's) too many right now. Ohio State called me (Friday),” Yarbray said. :He’ll have more (offers) moving into next year, if we continue to win and he keeps playing like he is, plays good on the (summer) circuit, works on his weaknesses, all of that.”

Jefferson's recruitment seems to be one of those wait-and-see things. So you better find a cozy spot on the couch. This could take awhile.

(Times staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)

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Saturday, February 25, 2012


One down, two to go.

That's the task facing senior Malcolm Richardson (pictured) and Penn Wood, which has taken the circuitous route to a fifth-straight bid for the state tournament.

The Patriots, who topped Great Valley Friday, need two more victories in the playback stages of the District One Class AAAA bracket in order to lock up the district's ninth and final berth in next month's PIAA tournament. Next up is Tuesday's date at Council Rock South.

It's only natural to wonder if Penn Wood, which earned the ninth seed last season, is capable of doing it again. Here's how they pulled it off last season compared to this season:

2010-11 District One Playbacks
Round 1: vs. Pennridge (18-7)
Round 2: vs. Wissahickon (15-10)
Round 3: vs. North Penn (21-6) at neutral site

2011-12 District One Playbacks
Round 1: at Great Valley (19-6)
Round 2: at Council Rock North (19-6)
Round 3: vs. Pennsbury (18-7) or Cheltenham (16-9) at neutral site

If we learn anything from the year-to-year breakdown, it's this: Penn Wood will have had a more difficult road to take in order to win the ninth seed should this year's team pull it off. Why? Because their first two playbacks are on the road, as a result of being the No. 14 seed, and because their opponents have a better combined overall record than those of the 2010-11 team.

Said Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones (pictured): “I knew that group last year was anxious to play. This group, I tell them to bring with them all their gear they'll have to turn in. That way, they get the message that their next loss is their last. They respond, man."

The 2010-11 team featured Division I football recruit Shawn Oakman (Penn State), two-time All-Delco and Division I basketball commit Aaron Brown (West Virginia), and junior-college standout Darian Barnes (Harcum). This year's team has Richardson, a do-it-all senior headed to East Stroudsburg.

“We're just mixing-and-matching," Jones said. "I’m doing it with mirrors. Man, I played a 5-9 guy at the 4 (against Great Valley)."

Which would make Penn Wood's journey to states that much more satisfying, should the Patriots pull it off.

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Want tickets to Tuesday night's District One Class AAAA semifinal, between Chester and Wissahickon? Here's what you need to know to buy tickets to the 7:45 p.m. game at Temple's Liacouras Center:

***WHEN: For sale Monday night, 3-7 p.m.
***WHERE: Chester High's athletic office
***PRICE: $10 per ticket

Lower Merion and Abington will play in the earlier semifinal, which tips off at 6 p.m.

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Friday, February 24, 2012


Friday afternoon, one thought crossed Tom Meakim's mind: He needed to be at Monsignor Bonner for the big announcement.

Monsignor Bonner's basketball coach, Meakim said he was at the Catholic high school in Upper Darby Township Jan. 6. That was when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia -- based upon the urging of a Blue Ribbon Commission report -- announced that Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast and three other high schools would close due to declining enrollment, among other things. So, Meakim figured, why not be there for Friday's announcement of whether the schools' appeals would be granted?

"It was the only place to be," Meakim told Delco Hoops by phone.

In a televised news conference, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput announced that the appeals of the four high schools that had been recommended for closure were granted, meaning the doors to Bonner/Prendie would remain open. St. Hubert's Catholic School for Girls and West Catholic, in Philadelphia, as well as Conwell-Egan Catholic, in Bucks County, also were saved by the archdiocese.

"Obviously we're elated," Meakim said. "Frankly, I'm very happy for the other three schools, as well. As I've told you before, my ancestors are West Catholic people. And the other two schools, I'm happy for. I'm most happy for my players, especially the juniors. They have a chance to finish where they started."

Chaput's announcement came with a caveat: Bonner and Prendie will have to merge. The all-boys and all-girls schools, respectively, had shared the same administration for the last few years, but had done so under different roofs. That will change for the 2012-13 school year.

"That's funny you ask, but weren't not changing names," Meakim said. "The school, maybe there will be other changes down the road, but I'm not privy to that yet. I was told the Friar will be Bonner's mascot and the Panda will remain Prendie's. I'm glad those aren't changing, because our team just got new uniforms last year."

When he made it to Bonner's campus Friday, in time for the 3 p.m. announcement from the archdiocese, Meakim said he ran into three seniors from this year's team -- Paul Pfeffinger, Dan McLoone and Mike Proska. Meakim said junior Pat Vanderslice greeted him with "a big hug."

"Pat took the news Jan. 6 the hardest," said Meakim (pictured), referencing the date of the original announcement, that Bonner would close. "He's probably the most-relieved I've seen because, what he was facing was, his whole family is full of Bonner people. Where was he going to go? He'd be scored at every family party that he went to. I'm relieved he doesn't have to make that kind of decision. None (of my players) ever approached me as to what their options were because, I take it, they were very hopeful that they'd be spending next year at Bonner. And, thankfully, that's the case."

"It's been a hard seven weeks, but a hard year ever since the rumor started floating around in September," Meakim continued. "It's been a hard year for any Bonner athlete. I'm one of those people that believes there's good to come out of everything. I like the plan the school has put together for academics, and that our alumni have continued to step forward. They were a sleeping giant that got woken up."

(Times staff photos / JULIA WILKINSON)

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At what seemed like Monsignor Bonner's final home game in the storied history of its boys basketball program, the underclassmen on the roster donned specially-made T-shirts for warm-ups. The green threads read: "FRIARS FOREVER."

It seems that could be the case.

First reported Friday afternoon by, Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast are among the four high schools that avoided closure by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia following extensive appeals processes and fundraising efforts.

The others were West Catholic and St. Hubert's in Philadelphia and Conwell-Egan in Bucks County. Those four high schools had been placed on the Archdiocese's "recommended closure list" by the Blue Ribbon Commission, which revealed the results of its report last month.

It's believed Bonner/Prendie raised more than $5 million, while St. Hubert's collected close to $1.5 million. The Archdiocese made the announcement at 3 p.m. with further details.

UPDATED: 4:21 p.m.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012


Losing Wednesday night in the Catholic League semifinals should have been the first and immediate thing on Shep Garner's mind. Instead, he was thinking states.

A sophomore at Roman Catholic, which lost to Neumann-Goretti, 73-56, Garner said he's looking forward to next month's PIAA Class AAAA tournament. Not for the chance to win a state title, but for the chance to see his hometown team -- Chester High.

"I'm real excited because I'm from Chester, so it's good to know we could run into them along the way," said Garner, who had 20 points in Wednesday's loss. "I'm friends with the whole team – Darius (Robinson), Rondae (Jefferson), Kareem (Robinson), Richard (Granberry), Tavaune (Griffin), everybody. I'm with them every weekend. It's good to think about playing against your childhood friends, guys you played in the Biddy League with."

Garner said he considered "staying home" and attending Chester High will all of his childhood friends, but in the end, he said "Roman was just the right fit for me."

"That's his home, so I expect him to be excited about that," Roman Catholic coach Chris McNesby said of Garner. "With these guys, I'll play against anybody. They're a good group of kids."

In related news, Chester senior Shanier Cottman was spied at the Palestra Wednesday for the Catholic League semifinal doubleheader. He said he was there to see Chester natives like Garner of Roman, as well as Archbishop Carroll's Yosef Yacob, Isaiah Warren and Francis Jackson.

Carroll lost to St. Joseph's Prep, 59-48, in the other semifinal. The Patriots will play Philadelphia Electrical next Wednesday in the District 12 Class AAA third-place game at Archbishop Ryan High School.

(Photo courtesy

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Former Chester coach Alonzo Lewis, who led the Clippers to two state championships and 237 victories, died Tuesday night in Philadelphia as a result of a car accident.

Lewis was 77 years old.

Reports indicate that Lewis, of Chadds Ford, was struck Tuesday night at 6:40 p.m. as Lewis was attempting to cross the intersection of School House Lane and Henry Avenue near Philadelphia University's campus. The driver who struck Lewis, who died later Tuesday night at Temple University Hospital, stopped at the scene and no charges had been filed as of Tuesday.

Lewis was one of Chester's most successful coaches, guiding the Clippers to the state-championship game three times and winning the big game twice. He also directed Chester to a pair of District One titles, including in his final season, in 1994-95.

Lewis coached the Clippers from 1985-86 to 1994-95, amassing 237 wins in 10 seasons. The Clippers totaled eight 20-win seasons under Lewis, including a 30-2 mark during their 1988-89 PIAA title run and a 28-4 mark when they won it all in 1993-94. He owned a .790 winning percentage (237-67) while coaching Chester.

For more on Lewis and Chester, read Thursday's Daily Times.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Something about Rondae Jefferson's game Tuesday night looked unfamiliar.

He shared the ball (six assists). He rebounded well (four boards, two offensive). He played sound defensively (three steals). But the junior combo guard, ranked 19th nationally at his position for the Class of 2013, was cold from the floor.

Jefferson shot 1-for-4 from the field, 1-for-6 from the free-throw line and finished with three points in Chester's 59-31 pasting of Methacton in Tuesday's second round of the District One Class AAAA tournament.

Afterward, Jefferson said he felt "a little sore in my legs. It's nothing. I'm 100 percent." His coach told a different story.

"He wasn't feeling well tonight. He's the type of dude who's not going to tell you that," said Chester coach Larry Yarbray. "I could tell he wasn't well. He was the last one out of the locker room. He's the type who's going to play no matter what. If he's not scoring, he's going to rebound and play defense. Next game, maybe he'll make a few shots for us. But 75 percent of Rondae Jefferson is still better than most high school players.

Even while failing to make a difference in the scoring column, Jefferson led the Clippers in assists. And when Chester made only one bucket in the opening six minutes of the third quarter, he had a pair of helpers to start the fourth ... including a spot-on bounce pass into Erikk Wright's breadbasket to finish off a baseline drive.

"He finds ways to help, always," Wright said of Jefferson. "That's the kind of player he is." Added Jefferson: "I don't know. I just try to come out and play my game. It ended up being a pass-first kind of night."

Top-seeded Chester (24-0), which qualified for the PIAA tournament, hosts No. 9 Norristown Friday in a district quarterfinal.

(Times staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)

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Sunday, February 19, 2012


Somewhere between his fifth and sixth basket of the first quarter, Malcolm Richardson had the feeling it was going to be a good day.

Richardson had 25 points, shooting 11-for-22, in Penn Wood's 76-47 win over Spring-Ford Friday night in the opening round of the District One Class AAAA tournament. He went 6-for-7 from the field in the opening quarter.

"I wanted to come out aggressive," Richardson said after the win, marking five years in a row the Patriots have earned an opening-round district victory. "That's what my coaches wanted, so that's what I did. I think that kind of just helped everybody play a little better, you know, by taking off the pressure."

Richardson credited his success to practice the week prior, when Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones had the Patriots running heavily.

"We ran a lot in our drills this week and that's the kind of game we wanted," said Richardson, an East Stroudsburg commit. "Going over the scouting report, we knew they didn't get back well on defense. So we just tried to use that to our advantage."

It wasn't just offense that helped Richardson and the Patriots pull out a win. The senior shooting guard marked Spring-Ford's Josh Dishman. The Rams' leading scorer this season, Dishman was limited to 4-for-7 shooting and only 16 points, which was below his season average.

"Defensively, I knew I could stick No. 20 (Dishman)," Richardson said. "That was the focal point of their offense. He scores a lot of points for them, so if we could get the ball out of his hands early, we had a chance to run it up and make things a bit easier on ourselves."

No. 14 Penn Wood visits No. 3 Coatesville Tuesday night.

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Saturday, February 18, 2012


If you're looking ahead to the PIAA Class AAAA tournament -- for teams Chester or Penn Wood could face, should they get that far -- I'm sure you've already seen this video.

Thursday night, Central Dauphin's Devin Thomas shattered the glass backboard on the follow-through of an alley-oop pass from a teammate. Friday night, when the game resumed, Thomas and CD defeated Greencastle-Antrim, 77-55, to win the Mid-Penn Conference championship. The monster dunk made ESPN's top plays.

Thomas and Central Dauphin (23-1) opened the week ranked No. 6 in the latest PIAA poll.


Joe Rapczynski told the Daily Times he has stepped down as Garnet Valley's head coach, citing time restraints created by his position as a teacher at Brandywine (Del.) High School as a primary reason.

Garnet Valley posted 1-21 records in each of Rapczynski's seasons.

However, under Rapczynski, the Jaguars' program made concerted efforts to dedicate to the freshman and junior-varsity levels. Rapczynski refused to take younger players from lower levels of the program if it meant stunting their development.

With that mindset, the JV program improved its record by eight wins from last season to this season, and the freshman team posted 25 wins in the last two years.

Read more about Rapczynski in Saturday's Daily Times.

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Friday, February 17, 2012


Well, in a span of one week, Delaware County went from 24 boys basketball teams to 13. And Friday, that number was trimmed to five.

First-round games of the District One Class AAAA bracket ended the seasons of seven teams, and a few game-changing players.

High-scoring guards Shawn Church and Christian Irons are gone, their Ridley and Interboro squads respectively bowing out. Defensive stud Raheem Harvey's career is over, with Glen Mills getting cast aside. Three-point threat Alex Graham's season came to a close before Penncrest even took the floor against Lower Merion, when the senior broke his ankle in a practice this week.

Marple Newtown, Springfield and Upper Darby also capped their seasons in district play.

Now, the hopes of a lengthy postseason run rest in the hands of five Delco programs: top-seeded Chester and No. 14 Penn Wood coasted in their Class AAAA openers, while Archbishop Carroll advanced to the Catholic League semifinals and locked up a PIAA playoff berth. Delco Christian and Sun Valley are awaiting the starts to the Class A and AAA brackets, respectively.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012


Here's a look at Delaware County's free-throw shooting leaders for the 2011-12 season, with only two stipulations to make the cut: Players must have attempted an average of four free throws per game (88 for a 22-game season and so on) and must have knocked down at least 50 percent of them.

Without further ado, your leaders:

84.3 ... Dan Rutecki, Springfield (75-89, 22 G)
75.4 ... Kevin Gladstone, Haverford (98-130, 22 G)
75.3 ... Jerry Price, Penn Wood (61-81, 20 G)
73.2 ... Ryan Kelly, Garnet Valley (71-97)
71.5 ... Shawn Church, Ridley (63-88, 22 G)
69.2 ... Ryan Furst, Marple Newtown (72-104, 22 G)
68.1 ... Rob Pittman, Chichester (96-141, 19 G)
67.6 ... Alec Stavetski, Arch. Carroll (71-105, 21 G)
65.9 ... Malcolm Richardson, Penn Wood (56-86, 21 G)
64.2 ... John Fender, Strath Haven (68-106, 22 G)
63.3 ... Yosef Yacob, Arch. Carroll (76-120, 22 G)
62.4 ... Rondae Jefferson, Chester (73-117, 22 G)
58.3 ... Christian Irons, Interboro (84-144, 22 G)
55.9 ... Erikk Wright, Chester (52-93, 22 G)
55.4 ... Sammy Foreman, Haverford School (51-92, 22 G)
51.6 ... George Walker, Glen Mills (62-120, 22 G)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Below, I've typed up the All-Central, All-Catholic and All-Inter-Ac League teams, which have a heavy dose of Delco representation.

I've yet to receive the All-Del Val teams in my email, but -- in the interim -- here are the others:

All-Central League
B.J. Johnson, Lower Merion jr. (MVP)
Raheem Hall, Lower Merion jr.
Shawn Church (pictured), Ridley sr.
Matt Sherman, Harriton jr.
Ryan Furst, Marple Newtown sr.
Darryl Reynolds, Lower Merion sr.
Jared Seltzer, Conestoga sr.
Kevin Gladstone, Haverford sr.
Matt Fox, Springfield sr.
Ralik Wise, Upper Darby sr.
Yusef Ross, Upper Darby jr.
Alex Graham, Penncrest sr.
Conestoga: Brandon Thompson, Sam Bevin
Garnet Valley: Ryan Kelly, Jonathon Vandenberg
Harriton: Itay Levy
Haverford: Pat Morgan
Lower Merion: Jaquan Johnson, Mike Robbins
Marple Newtown: Andrew Brandt
Penncrest: Eddie Baxter
Radnor: Nelson Blickman
Springfield: Mike McKale, Dan Rutecki
Strath Haven: John Fender
Upper Darby: Mahamane Toure, Daquan Timmons

All-Catholic League
Stephen Vasturia, SJ Prep jr. (MVP)
John Davis, Neumann-Goretti jr.
Shep Garner, Roman Catholic so.
Jamal Nwaniemeka, Conwell-Egan sr.
Ja'Quan Newton, Neumann-Goretti so.
Yosef Yacob (pictured), Archbishop Carroll jr.
Miles Overton, St. Joseph's Prep jr.
Derrick Stewart, Neumann-Goretti sr.
Pat Smith, Archbishop Wood so.
Amar Stukes, La Salle jr.
Steven Griffin, Father Judge jr.
Alec Stavetski, Archbishop Carroll sr.
Gene Williams, St. Joseph's Prep sr.
Christian Rivera, Archbishop Ryan sr.
Britton Lee, Roman Catholic jr.
Billy Shank, Neumann-Goretti sr.
Brahieme Jackson, Bishop McDevitt sr.
Joe LoStracco, Archbishop Wood so.
Bryan Okolo, Archbishop Ryan jr.
Shafeek Taylor, Roman Catholic jr.
Matt Rodden, La Salle jr.
Markeise Chandler, Bishop McDevitt sr.
Brian Hennessey, Father Judge sr.
Rashann London, Roman Catholic so.
Ed Allen, Cardinal O’Hara sr.
Coach of the Year: Paul Romanczuk, Archbishop Carroll

All-Inter-Ac League
Brendan Kilpatrick, Malvern Prep sr. (MVP)
Steve Perpiglia, Malvern Prep sr.
Malik Garner, Chestnut Hill sr.
John Moderski, Penn Charter sr.
Nick Lindner, Germantown Academy jr.
Greg Dotson, Germantown Academy jr.
*Billy Dooley, SCH sr.
*Luke Mulvaney, SCH sr.
Sammy Foreman (pictured), Haverford School fr.
Mike McGlinchey, Penn Charter jr.
Brian Metzler, Episcopal Academy sr.
Tom Pitt, Malvern Prep sr.
Zach Thomas, Haverford School sr.
Chestnut Hill: Michael Hayes, Bobby Keyes
Germantown Academy: Julian Moore, James Drury
Haverford School: Sema’j Reed, Eric Anderson, Tao Xu
*-honorary selection (injury)

(Church and Yacob photos: Times Staff photos / ROBERT J. GURECKI; Foreman photo courtesy The Haverford School)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Chester didn't rise or fall in any of the major weekly polls that were released Monday.

The Clippers (22-0), who finished their fourth unbeaten regular season in program history, stayed put at No. 4 nationally in both the and USA Today rankings. They also remained at No. 1 in the state in the Harrisburg Patriot-News' poll.

Chester, the top seed, opens the District One Class AAAA bracket Friday night when No. 32 Downingtown West comes to the Clip Joint.

Prepare for a lopsided game.


One other note: It's worth mentioning that, barring the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's reversal of the Blue Ribbon Commission's recommendation, Monsignor Bonner's appeal to remain open will not be accepted. A decision is due by Friday.

So with that said, the final bucket in the storied history of Bonner's gym belongs to Mike Proska, who scored on a left-handed scoop layup with less than 10 seconds to go in the Friars' Feb. 10 loss to La Salle.

The final point scored in that Upper Darby Township gym belongs to Nkingi Jones, a senior in his first season with the varsity team. Jones, who saw action in only nine games this season, went 1-for-2 from the free throw line late in Bonner's loss to La Salle.

Here's hoping Bonner survives. If it doesn't, the Friars went out with their boots on, with a great game to close out their gym.

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Matt Smith and I give you the latest installment of "Talkin' Delco Hoops," previewing the boys and girls District One Class AAAA playoffs.

Among the talking points are teams that host opening-round games and which ones can pull the upset:

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Monday, February 13, 2012


Archbishop Carroll has been a breeding ground for guards, with Division I backcourt players dotting Matsonford Road with regularity.

So for Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk to be leaning upon two sizeable options in the paint this season is quite a departure from the norm.

Senior Lou Dominique (6-4, 200) and freshman Derrick Jones (6-5, 165, pictured) are having similarly successful seasons. Dominique, who's considering East Stroudsburg for football, averages 8.4 points per game with eight double-figure scoring games and four double-doubles. Jones averages 7.4 points per game with seven double-figure scoring games and four double-doubles.

“It’s fun to see a senior get his shot, pay his dues, wait for his time and flourish once he’s there. That’s special," Romanczuk said of Dominique. "Lou has been tough for us. He’s been a great defender, a great inside presence. Having seniors step up and play like he did is great."

"(Jones) has got tremendous potential and he’s only going to get better," Romanczuk added. "He’s 14-years-old playing with 17- and 18-year-olds who have been through the battles of the Catholic League. Nothing he does surprises me. He’s going to continue to mature and get better."

Dominique had 14 points and seven rebounds and Jones had seven points and seven rebounds in Carroll's double-overtime victory Sunday over St. Joseph's Prep.

Added Dominique: “It’s a nice combination. Derrick and I, we crash the boards, we get blocks and we get some defensive rebounds. We’re good down there."

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Sunday, February 12, 2012


The brackets for the upcoming District One Class AAAA and AAA tournaments have been announced, following this morning's meeting at Council Rock South High School. Ten Delco teams made the cut. Have a look:

District One Class AAAA
First Round - Feb. 17
No. 32 Downingtown West at No. 1 Chester
No. 17 Springfield at No. 16 Methacton
No. 25 Kennett at No. 8 Pennsbury
No. 24 Ridley at No. 9 Norristown
No. 29 West Chester East at No. 4 Central Bucks West
No. 20 Upper Dublin at No. 13 Cheltenham
No. 28 Glen Mills at No. 5 Wissahickon
No. 21 Upper Darby at No. 12 Bensalem
No. 31 Penncrest at No. 2 Lower Merion
No. 18 Plymouth Whitemarsh at No. 15 Conestoga
No. 26 Central Bucks South at No. 7 Council Rock North
No. 23 West Chester Henderson at No. 10 Souderton
No. 30 Harry S Truman at No. 3 Coatesville
No. 19 Spring-Ford at No. 14 Penn Wood
No. 27 Interboro at No. 6 Great Valley
No. 22 Marple Newtown at No. 11 Abington
Second Round: Feb. 21
Quarterfinals: Feb. 24
Semifinals: Feb. 28 at Temple University
Championship: March 2 at Villanova University
NOTE: Nine (9) teams qualify for the PIAA tournament.

District One Class AAA
First Round - Feb. 22
No. 1 Holy Ghost Prep, by
No. 9 Phoenixville at No. 8 Upper Moreland
No. 4 Pottstown, bye
No. 12 Sun Valley at No. 5 Pope John Paul II
No. 2 Octorara, bye
No. 10 Upper Merion at No. 7 Harriton
No. 3 Lower Moreland, bye
No. 11 Bishop Shanahan at No. 6 Pottsgrove
Quarterfinals: Feb. 25
Semifinals: Feb. 29 at Plymouth Whitemarsh HS
Championship: March 3 at Haverford College
NOTE: Three (3) teams qualify for the PIAA tournament.

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A couple odds and ends from the first few minutes of this morning's District One seeding meeting:

***Temple University will host the Class AAAA semifinals Feb. 28.
***Villanova University will host the Class AAAA championship March 2.
***Haverford College will host the Class AAA championship March 3.
***The game to decide which team wins Class AAAA's ninth and final spot in the state bracket will be played at a neutral site. In past years, it had been played at the site of the higher seed.
****In the state's next two-year enrollment cycle, it's believed District One Class AAAA will receive 10 spots in the 32-team PIAA bracket (up from nine currently and eight as recently as 2008).



The crown belongs to Lower Merion.

The Aces (21-2, 17-0) ran the table in the Central League, and topped Upper Darby (13-11, 13-5) for the third time this season -- including Saturday's 71-31 victory at Penncrest High School -- to lock up the Central League championship.

Upper Darby, which had been the champion, went unbeaten in league play a year ago.

The Royals were done in by paltry scoring in the middle quarters, being outscored by the Aces, 40-6, between the second and third quarters. The game looked manageable after the first eight minutes, with Upper Darby trailing Lower Merion, 17-11.

Kuity Slanger and Beni Toure led the Royals with nine points apiece.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012


The District One brackets are announced Sunday, after closed-door morning meetings at Council Rock South High School.

We'll know where all of Delco's top teams are seeded -- or not, for those who don't make the cut -- thus opening the door for prognosticators and playoff pickers, alike.

So without seeing the bracket, who do you like?

Who's got the best shot to win it all?

Who's the underdog who will earn a state-playoff berth?

We can assume Chester is the No. 1 and Lower Merion is No. 2. But let's hear your thoughts on how the bracket will shake out.

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Friday, February 10, 2012


It was tense. It was loud. And, for the first 16 minutes, at least, it was everything Monsignor Bonner expected, wanted or dreamed its final game at home would be.

The Friars lost to La Salle, 58-44, Friday night in what might have been the final basketball game at Bonner. Of course, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia - which condemned Bonner to death Jan. 6 - still has the final say and could accept the school's appeal to remain open, but that seemed to be in the rearview during this game.

Bonner's seniors -- pictured above, from left, Dan McLoone, Paul Pfeffinger, Kevin Sheridan, Mike Proska, and Nkingi Jones -- took a certain level of pride in knowing they might be the final graduating class for the Friars' storied program.

Here's what some of them had to say:
DAN McLOONE (two assists)
"I don't want to view it that way, but there's that saying: think the worst is going to happen but hope for the best to happen. I pray this place will stay open because it's a great place. Even when they told us, we all said, 'This is not possible.' It hasn’t sunk in. It’s not over until it’s over."

PAUL PFEFFINGER (11 points), who led the Friars in scoring
“This was probably the most important game of our season. We only have one more game (Sunday at Archbishop Ryan), and we expect to win. Could be the last game ever. Let’s try to get a win for Bonner."

MIKE PROSKA (5 points, 6 assists), who made the final bucket in the gym's history
"I wasn’t even thinking that. It didn’t cross my mind, but that’s big."
"I worry about (this school closing), but I know we're in good hands. Mr. Brannick (Bonner's principal) and Fr. Olsen (Bonner's president) are looking out for us. I have faith in them. Look at this: you’re talking to me, we’re in the news, we’re all over the papers, we’re raising money. It’s not over."

TOM MEAKIM, the coach
"We're not done. We have noon practice (Saturday)."

GAME STORY: Bonner keeps battling, on and off the court
McCAFFERY COLUMN: Blake, fellow alums give Bonner proper send-off

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Who should make the All-Delco team?

You might say to yourself, 'Well, that was blunt.' But, hey, that's how this debate should go down, don't you think?

Each year, I like to open it up to the readers to see who they think should make the cut for this year's All-Delco boys basketball team. And even though my All-Delco team won't be announced until after the state playoffs, now you have a platform to do so.

I have only two stipulations for this open dialogue between readers:
1. Pump up your candidates without cutting down others.
2. No crass language or curse words.

That's it. Have fun and post away. I'll peek in periodically to see what everyone thinks.


Thursday, February 9, 2012


Upper Darby defeated Conestoga Thursday for a chance to defend its Central League title. Here's a snippet of our coverage, from Friday's Daily Times:

Mahamane Toure’s double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds helped Upper Darby get past Conestoga, 50-47, Thursday night in a Central League tournament semifinal and earn a chance to defend its championship.

The Royals (13-10, 13-4), who won the league crown last season with an unblemished mark, will face rival undefeated Lower Merion (20-2, 16-0) Saturday at Penncrest in an 8 p.m. tipoff.

Upper Darby lost to Lower Merion Tuesday night, going 0-2 against the Aces in the season series.

“Even though it’s for the championship, our kids don’t need any sort of motivation to get up to play Lower Merion,” said Upper Darby coach Bob Miller. “It doesn’t matter if we’re both 0-20. It’s still Lower Merion. Our kids are going to be ready.”

Ralik Wise scored seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, and finished with eight rebounds for the Royals. Kuity Slanger and Yusef Ross also helped UD’s balanced attack, contributing 11 and eight points, respectively.

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So it's come down to this.

Upper Darby and Conestoga played 16 league games apiece. They both won 10 of them. Now, they have to win one more. Well, two more...but first things first.

The Royals, technically the home team, and the Pioneers will go at it tonight at Strath Haven High School for the right to play Lower Merion in Saturday's Central League championship game.

Here's what you need to know about these teams:
Upper Darby, which won its first league games, closed out the season by losing three of four ... one to Conestoga and another to Lower Merion. Coach Bob Miller's team doesn't have a legitimate scorer to stop, which might work in the Royals' favor. On any given night, Ralik Wise, Mahamane Toure, Yusef Ross (pictured) or Kuity Slanger could assume the scoring duties.

Conestoga, meanwhile, has won four in a row. The Pioneers, who lost their first game against Upper Darby Jan. 13, rebounded to take down the Royals in the second go-around Feb. 3. Mike Troy's team counts on Brandon Thompson and John Grib to handle the scoring duties.

Even after Tuesday's loss to Lower Merion, Toure remained optimistic: “It’s not the end of it for us," he said.

So did Miller, who said it's nice to know the Royals have at least one more game to polish things up. “Hopefully it’s two games," he said.

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012


For a team accustomed to making the state semifinals (or better), Penn Wood's record might be viewed as a letdown.

But the Patriots, their youthful lineup and all, could stand to make some noise in the upcoming District One Class AAAA tournament ... and beyond.

Penn Wood (12-7), which will finish runner-up to Chester in the always competitive Del Val League, won the PIAA crown in 2009, lost the title game in 2010 and suffered an overtime defeat in the state semis in 2011. But these Patriots look far different than their counterparts from recent years. They don't have twin towers like Shawn Oakman and
Darian Barnes. They don't have an All-Delco point guard like Tyree Johnson, or an All-Delco power forward like Aaron Brown.

Instead, Penn Wood has Malcolm Richardson, pictured — one of the county's top scorers — and junior guards Jerry Price and Tyree Bynum. The Patriots' tallest player? Quardiar Sewell and Ali Sesay, who measure up to 6-2.

“District One basketball is unique because teams do their work. Coaches do their work," said Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones. "When you get to the playoffs, you know the other team has seen you at least a couple times. I’m expecting — I mean, we’re still making lineup changes — that we will be ready for districts.

"We’re not sure how far we can go. If we shoot well and defend, we can beat anybody. If we don’t, we’ll lose in the first round."

We'll know beginning Sunday, when the brackets are unveiled.

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Ask and you shall receive.

Springfield athletic director Glenn Mallon forwarded over the schedule and locations for this weekend's Central League championship tournaments. Here they are:

BOYS SEMIFINAL - At Strath Haven
Conestoga vs. Upper Darby, 7

Radnor vs. Upper Darby, 6
Haverford vs. Lower Merion, 8
Boys semifinal – 7:00 at Strath Haven Thursday 2/9

Two semifinal winners, 6
Semifinal winner vs. Lower Merion, 8

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Lower Merion (20-2) assembled the kind of season that makes outsiders salivate.

I had been hearing all year that the Aces were the best competition that Chester (20-0) could see for the District One and PIAA Class AAAA crowns.

Now that I've seen them, I'm convinced all that talk was legit ... because the Aces are legit. Lower Merion, which will play for the Central League championship Saturday night, has the total package: A trio of frontcourt players who will make most high-school forwards tremble and a capable point guard in Jaquan Johnson, who might actually be the Aces' only weakness in a meeting with Chester.

In Tuesday's win over Upper Darby, B.J. Johnson (6-5 junior) had 19 points and three rebounds, Darryl Reynolds (a 6-7 senior seen defending UD's Ralik Wise) totaled 10 points and 14 rebounds and Raheem Hall (6-2 junior) had 10 points. Yohanny Dalembert (6-7 senior) came off the bench for two points and four boards.

Not bad, huh?

“I’ve never had one 6-7 guy, so to have two is quite a luxury," said Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer. "We don’t lose much when we go to the bench, which is the sign of a good ball club."

As for hanging with Chester, though...

"I haven’t seen Chester, but I’m told they don’t have four guys like (Lower Merion)," said Upper Darby coach Bob Miller. "In all we’ve scouted, we have not seen a team with that much size. … We haven’t seen that much. To bring a 6-7 kid off the bench is good."

Added Downer: “Of course, every journey eventually would have to go through Chester. They’re just phenomenal, playing at a national level. We just take it one step at a time: win games, win the Central League, go to districts, be competitive, make states. That’s how we look at it."

(Times staff photo / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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One glance at the and USA Today national rankings, and you'll see that Chester is ranked No. 4 in both polls. But rank is nothing but a number.

If you eliminate the 'elite' admissions policies of 'prep' schools like Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep, and the private school from Jersey City, N.J., which can recruit - sorry, admit - players from all over the state, that would make Chester the top-ranked legitimate high school team in the land.

And by legitimate, I mean a four-year public high school that can accept student-athletes only from within its city's geographic boundaries.

Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. These national polls are littered with schools that use open enrollment, unlike Chester: FAB 50
1 Oak Hill Academy (35-0)
2 Findlay Prep (22-1)
3 St. Anthony (16-0)
4 Chester (19-0)

1 Oak Hill Academy (35-0)
2 Findlay Prep (22-1)
3 St. Anthony (16-0)
4 Chester (19-0)

Not trying to hate on the private or prep schools. But ... I'm just saying you should consider the logic I'm using here.

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For all intents and purposes, Monday's win over Roman Catholic was nothing more than Archbishop Carroll's attempt to finish out the regular season on a strong note.

But we all know that's not the case.

Once again, as evidenced, by the 46-45 win over the Cahillites, Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk has his Patriots pointed in the right direction as the Catholic League Playoffs approach.

Carroll has won 10 of its last 12 games, dating back to Jan. 6, and the Patriots haven't lost consecutive games since December. Not a bad run to be having.

Against Roman, Carroll's leading scorer Alec Stavetski didn't score a single point. Freshman Derrick Jones continues to contribute in more ways than one, with scoring, rebounding and blocking shots. And junior Yosef Yacob, pictured, had a huge night, dropping 17 points and resembling the player who turned heads last season in the PCL tournament.

If the PCL playoffs began today, Carroll would clinch third place. Listed below are the standings, as well as the remaining schedules for Carroll and Roman:
PCL ... Team (Overall Record)
11-0... Neumann-Goretti (17-3)
11-0... St. Joe's Prep (18-2)
9-2 ... Arch. Carroll (14-6)
8-3 ... Roman Catholic (12-8)

Archbishop Carroll at West Catholic, 6:30
Roman Catholic at Father Judge, 7:30

Archbishop Wood at Roman Catholic, 2:30
St. Joseph’s Prep at Archbishop Carroll, 3

(Times staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)

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Thursday, February 2, 2012


Part II had a familiar feel to Part I.

Chester beat Penn Wood handily Thursday night, using an 80-57 victory at the Clip Joint to all-but-officially clinch the Del Val League championship. It would take Penn Wood (11-7, 6-2) winning out and Chester (19-0, 8-0) losing out to force a tie, but that's unlikely to happen.

Here's another glance at what happened Thursday:

****Penn Wood opened up a number of six-point leads in the first half. The reason? The Patriots shot 9-for-16 in the opening half. In the second half, they shot 11-for-27 -- not nearly as scorching.
****No one seems to pay attention to Tymier Butler (pictured). The Chester senior had nine points, six boards and four steals, on 3-for-8 shooting. "No one was bothering with us, really," Butler said. Fellow second-stringers also had big games Thursday.
****In the first half, Chester used three different players to defend against Malcolm Richardson, who shot 7-for-16 from the field, 7-for-10 from the foul line and finished with 21 points. "He's a matchup problem, isn't he?" Pats coach Clyde Jones said.
****Chester junior Rondae Jefferson didn't knock down a shot until the third quarter.
****Chester senior Erikk Wright got hit in an, umm, unforgiving location in the third quarter, forcing him to exit. He got back into the game in the fourth quarter feeling "a lot better than I did earlier," Wright said.

"This was my career-high tonight. Well, at least my career-high since I've been here. I had a lot of fun tonight. A lot of fun."
---Chester senior Shanier Cottman (pictured), who scored 16 points. Cottman, who at times looked unguardable while knocking down teardrop shots in the lane and uncontested layups, said he scored a career-best 22 points last year at New Beginnings Academy.

Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones told me two Patriots alums playing at Harcum could find their way onto Division I rosters in the near future. Tyree Johnson, the 2009 Daily Times Player of the Year, and Darian Barnes have garnered interest from Cincinnati and Temple, respectively. Johnson, a point guard, is sitting out the year due to transfer rules while Barnes, a big man, is in his freshman year.

The usual Chester alums were there, with Mo Nelson, Laquan Robinson and Rahlir Jefferson all sitting together across the court from the benches. Villanova assistant coach Doug West took in the game from the West corner of the bleachers. And Kareem Robinson watched the game from the bench. The senior point guard missed his second straight game due to a weak back.

(Times staff photos / ROBERT J. GURECKI)

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Cardinal O'Hara needs help ... and a few wins.

With four games to go, the Lions (8-9, 2-7) will require a strong finish to the regular-season slate if they hope to make the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs, which accepts 11 teams. (The bottom two play one another for entry and, as it stands, O'Hara would be No. 10 if the postseason began today.)

"I think they realize that we clearly do need a few wins here," O'Hara coach Tim Kelly said Wednesday night. "There's a couple teams out there for us that are must-wins and there are others we might need to (win to) secure a spot. They really seem to be getting prepared game-to-game."

Here's a look at the rest of O'Hara's schedule:
at West Catholic (7-11, 2-7)
vs. St. Joseph's Prep (16-2, 9-0)
at Lansdale Catholic (3-14, 1-8)
vs. Father Judge (12-6, 4-5)

Is it impossible for the Lions to sweep? Absolutely, but you have to like their odds because they have the fortune of playing their toughest two opponents at home. Is it likely they can swipe two wins here at the end? Definitely.

Mike Louden and Ed Allen have become O'Hara's most-potent scorers on the outside and the inside, respectively. And Pat Hagenbach, Sean Havink and Chris Duffin round out the scoring.

"I don't really talk to them about scoring individually," Kelly said, "but we talk about playing better defensively and rebounding. Scoring will take care of itself."

So the Lions hope.

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