Blogs > Gettin' Schooled

A boys basketball blog hosted by Daily Times reporter Christopher A. Vito

Saturday, March 21, 2009


The basketball season is over, but not before three Delaware County teams brought home state championships.

Penn Wood, picked as favorites at season's outset, stepped up to that high praise and claimed the Class AAAA crown by topping William Penn-York, 72-53, at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center Saturday.

Senior All-Delco Duane Johnson and sophomore Aaron Brown chipped in with 20 points apiece, Tyree Johnson had 14 and Will Brown added 12 for the Patriots, who wrapped up their first state-title season with a 28-4 record.

The Archbishop Carroll boys did it Friday, then the girls followed suit by beating Lampeter-Strasburg for the Class AAA championship.

Erin Shields and Hollie Mershon each put in 13 points for the Patriots, who finished their season 30-1 with the 68-45 rout of the Pioneers. Kerri Shields tallied 12 in the last game of her fantastic Carroll career.

That's all there is to report from Happy Valley. Make sure to read it all in the Sunday Times and thanks for your readership through basketball season, both at Gettin' Schooled and Live at the PIAA Championships.

The spring sports season is here, but I need a blogging breather. I'll take a few days off from the blogosphere but keep reading the Daily Times until I get back.

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One team is coming home with the hardware. The other one had a hard night.
Archbishop Carroll's boys basketball team claimed the PIAA Class AAA title over Greensburg-Salem (game story). The Patriots said afterward that their rigorous schedule - which featured three games vs. Neumann-Goretti and meetings with Roman Catholic and Norristown - got them ready for this stage (sidebar).
For Cardinal O'Hara, the trip to Penn State wasn't so memorable. The Lions girls basketball team lost to unbeaten Mt. Lebanon in the PIAA Class AAAA final (game story). A magical end to the Lions' season was not meant to be. Once ranked No. 1 nationally, the Lions lost star center Steph Holzer in the third quarter before losing the game (column).
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There, you will find up-to-the-minute updates by the Daily Times staff on Archbishop Carroll's bid for the PIAA Class AAA girls title and Penn Wood's claim on the PIAA Class AAAA boys crown.

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Friday, March 20, 2009


I think it goes without saying that Delaware County has never had four teams playing for PIAA basketball championships. So the higher-ups at the Daily Times decided to create a blog for this weekend's big games.

Thus Live at the PIAA Championships was born.

The Daily Times staff that is Bryce Jordan Center-bound will be posting throughout the weekend with random musings, score updates and everything you need to know from Happy Valley. Of course, I'll be posting all weekend on Gettin' Schooled, but please give some love to Live at the PIAA Championships, where you'll find me, columnist John Lohn and girls basketball writer Harry Chaykun typing away at PSU.

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Last installment before hitting the road for PSU. Safe travels to everyone heading up there for the weekend:
Nervous? Who's nervous?

Andre Wilburn isn't. The senior captain for Archbishop Carroll tells all of his teammates (somewhat jokingly, of course) that he hasn't been nervous since playing in eighth grade. His AAU career has taken him to Duke's Cameron Indoor Arena and North Carolina's Dean Smith Center. With the Patriots, he's played at the Palestra.

If only for what's at stake, it doesn't get any bigger than Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center, Wilburn said. So will he be nervous on the bus ride up to State College?

"I think I will, but all the guys will talk for a little bit and then everybody will put their iPods in and just relax," Wilburn said earlier this week. ",I'll put on a little Jay-Z, some Li'l Wayne. None of the new stuff - well, maybe some - but mostly the older stuff.

Wilburn likes Jay-Z's 'The Blueprint' and 'The Black Album' as inspirational music before a game. "But I have to watch," he said. "Sometimes, they take the iPod away from me because I get too hyped up before a game."

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Thursday, March 19, 2009


Archbishop Carroll is playing for a championship Friday. It's not the championship the Patriots perennially focus on, but it's a championship nonetheless.

The end-all, be-all of the Catholic League is the league crown. If you don't win one, you're season is a failure. But when the CL joined the PIAA this season, suddenly there's another reason to play.

At Wednesday's practice, I asked a couple of the guys about whether they think their head coach - Paul Romanczuk, who played for the Carroll team that won the Catholic League title in 1995 - is enjoying this state-title push more than the league-title season during his playing career:

Junior guard D.J. Irving (pictured): "He talked about the Catholic League championship he had and how special it was for him. We couldn't get that for him, so hopefully we can get this one for him. I think this (stretch) has been more fun for him, as a coach."

Senior forward Pat Daly: "You might have to ask him about that. If I had to answer, I'd say yeah he is having more fun this year. He feels really close to this team. He believes in us and has been pulling for us. He wants to see us go out winners."

Senior captain Andre Wilburn: "He's excited. We're all excited. We just have to get up there and take care of business and win the medal."

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Duane Johnson dunks so often, he usually does not think twice about it. The Penn Wood captain had to Wednesday night in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinal.

The senior forward, pictured, drew a technical foul when he dunked on Mt. Lebanon five minutes into the Patriots' 79-58 win over the Blue Devils. A second T would have made him ineligible for Saturday's title game, so Johnson had to pull back on his second dunk later on.

There's a chance that the tech was issued because the folks at Big Spring High School, the site of the game, don't see dunks all that often. Big Spring's public-address announcer Wes Bawer asked media members who cover Penn Wood, "Are we going to see some slamma-jammas tonight?"

According to Bawer, only one player had dunked in Big Spring's six-year-old gymnasium. It occurred during a holiday tournament and the slam was by a Muhlenberg High player. Wondering if there would be multiple dunks, Bawer concluded, "I don't think the backboards can stand more than one."

Johnson dunked once more, teammate Shawn Oakman threw one down and a Mt. Lebanon player softly rattled the rim in the second half, with the rout already in progress.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The field is complete.

Delaware County has gone a perfect 4-for-4 in sending its playoff teams to the PIAA state basketball championship games. Archbishop Carroll boys and Cardinal O'Hara girls won Tuesday to do it, then Penn Wood boys and Archbishop Carroll girls joined the party.

Perfect was the talk around Penn Wood Wednesday. Sophomore Aaron Brown went 10-for-10 from the floor, scored 22 points and led the Patriots past Mt. Lebanon, 79-58, at Big Spring High School in Newville. The Pats will play York in the Class AAAA final Saturday.

At Reading's Geigle Complex, the Carroll girls punched their PIAA title-game ticket by getting past Trinity, 49-45. The Patriots will take on either Lampeter-Strasburg or General McLane (the game wasn't decided as of this post) Saturday night in the Class AAA title tilt at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

More to come in Thursday's Daily Times. Again, we have to get on the road. (It's a 2-hour, 45-minute drive from Big Spring.)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It's official: the Archbishop Carroll boys basketball team is headed to the PIAA Class AAA championship game. The Patriots ended York Suburban's season with a 65-57 win at Reading's Geigle Complex.

That puts the Patriots, who are new to this state-playoff thing, in the final.

In the girls Class AAAA semifinal:
Cardinal O'Hara knocked off Downingtown East to punch its state-final ticket. The Patriots' boys team and the Lions' girls team will play Friday night at PSU's Bryce Jordan Center.

More to come in Wednesday's Daily Times. (Got to get in the car and head home from Reading...)

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An unfortunate incident plagued the Chester Clippers basketball team this winter. One of their players - freshman reserve Kareem Robinson - was wounded in the lower back by gunfire Feb. 10.

Robinson, who missed the remainder of the Clippers' season, spoke to the Daily Times for an exclusive look into his recovery process.

According to Robinson, it won't be an arduous one for the 5-7, 125-pound point guard, who is already back in the gym shooting and has a tremendous support system behind him. Fans, coaches and teammates met Robinson in his hospital room the night of the shooting, and have been by his side ever since.

Kareem's big brother Laquan Robinson (pictured, background) misses playing with Kareem. So did the rest of the Clippers. "Because I couldn't play," Kareem Robinson said, "we talked basketball all the time. That's all we could do."

Kareem Robinson was on the bench for the Clippers' seven playoff games (five district, two state), including their season-ending 62-49 loss to Williamsport March 11. Who knows how far the Clippers could have gone with their sparkplug freshman in the rotation? He posted some strong numbers in his first season at Chester. Here are his per-game averages: 6.1 points, 2.8 steals, 2.2 assists, 2.0 rebounds.

Robinson is on his way to a complete recovery.

"We missed him a lot," Chester coach Larry Yarbray said, "but he'll be back for us next year. He's still smiling. ... The important thing for him was understanding that he's in the Chester Clippers' family. Once you're in the family, you're always in the family."

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Penn Wood's opponent Wednesday in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinal has made a habit of rallying in games. Mt. Lebanon, of Pittsburgh and District 7, posted a comeback win over quarterfinal draw Erie Cathedral Prep, 51-41.

Here's how the Blue Devils (24-5) did it:
Exhibit A. Evan Pierce (pictured), a junior guard who scored zero points in the first half, went off for 15 in the final nine minutes of the game.

Exhibit B. Deion Turman, a junior 6-8 center, posted an all-around game - with seven points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. He also threw down a dunk with 2:57 remaining, one that broke open the game and broke Erie's hopes.

Apparently, Turman's size is not a fluke. The entire lineup has a lot of size, much like Penn Wood's. In that regard, the cross-state opponents will match up well.

And then there's that rallying thing. Let's not forget that Penn Wood erased Pennsbury's 16-minute lead midway through the third quarter to advance to this round, the Western State title game.

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Monday, March 16, 2009


When York Suburban and Archbishop Carroll go at it Tuesday in a PIAA Class AAA semifinal, they very well may be catching each other at their hottest.

I don't need to tell you about Carroll (26-3), which stunned league rival and perennial thorn-in-side Neumann-Goretti. But the Trojans (27-3) looked their best in their Round 3, 47-35 win over District 2 champ Crestwood.

Consider that the Trojans:
  • Scored 16 of the game's first 18 points
  • Led by as many as 19 points
  • Limited Crestwood to 14-of-35 shooting
  • Held a 28-18 advantage in rebounds
  • Forced 18 turnovers

Those are all impressive numbers, but how about this one: Crestwood finished the year having held opponents under 50 points in 25 of their 29 games. What does that tell me? That York Suburban (which scored only 47) was able to play someone else's game and still win.

The Trojans weren't all that intimidating when I saw them against Strath Haven in the second round. They don't have much size or much speed. They play a balanced team game. Expect at least three guys to hit double figures in scoring. The Patriots will need to spread the ball, too, so count on their All-Catholic backcourt of D.J. Irving and Juan'ya Green (pictured) to carry the load.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


The PIAA unveiled its state-semifinal sites and times for this week. And they favor the local gas stations. Looks like everyone will be driving at least 45 minutes to see any of Delco's four remaining basketball teams.

Archbishop Carroll fans caught the luckiest of breaks. Both the boys and girls teams are playing only a 70-minute drive away, in Reading, on separate nights. It's even better for Cardinal O'Hara girls fans, who only have a 45-minute drive to endure to Ro-Fo.

Sorry, Penn Wood backers. You (and your favorite boys basketball beat writer) are making the 2-hour, 45-minute commute out west. Newville, by my estimations, is about 15 miles west of Harrisburg. Should (not) be a fun drive.

Here are the details you need to know:

Class AAA Boys: Archbishop Carroll vs. York Suburban
***At Reading High's Geigle Complex, 7:30 p.m.

Class AAAA Girls: Cardinal O'Hara vs. Downingtown East
***At Spring-Ford High, Royersford, 7 p.m.

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Class AAAA Boys: Penn Wood vs. Mount Lebanon
***At Big Spring High, Newville, 7 p.m.

Class AAA Girls: Archbishop Carroll vs.
***At Reading High's Geigle Complex, 6 p.m.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009


At Villanova's Pavilion, two of Delaware County's remaining playoff basketball teams moved on to their respective brackets' semifinals. Here are some final scores:

Penn Wood 54,
Pennsbury 50
Notes: Duane Johnson scored 16, Aaron Brown had 13, and Tyree Johnson added 11 more for the Patriots, who advanced to the state semifinal round for only the second time in school history.

Archbishop Carroll 56,
Mount St. Joseph 35
Notes: Kerri Shields, who had only four points at halftime, struck for five 3-pointers after the break to lead the Patriots past the defending state champions.

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So here's what next week's schedule looks like. Sites and times have not been announced. For whatever reason, the PIAA site has not been updated with the same rapidity as in earlier rounds (Go figure. It should be easier. There are fewer teams to deal with.) In any case, a preliminary schedule:

  • Archbishop Carroll boys vs. York Suburban
  • Cardinal O'Hara girls vs. Downingtown West
  • Penn Wood boys vs. Mount Lebanon
  • Archbishop Carroll girls vs. Trinity

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Friday, March 13, 2009


In 32 minutes Friday night, Archbishop Carroll went from PIAA Class AAA dark horse to favorite in the state playoffs.

The Patriots did the unthinkable and dispatched Neumann-Goretti, 70-65, in a quarterfinal at Archbishop Ryan High School. They move on to the semifinal round against York Suburban.

To get there, the Patriots needed to beat a team they hadn't since 2001. The District 12 and Catholic League champs, the Saints held an 18-game winning streak over the Pats' heads. This is the same N-G team that is ranked No. 1 in the PIAA by the Harrisburg Patriot News and No. 14 nationally by ESPN. Even though Carroll is the state's No. 2 team, this is considered a monumental upset and a huge step forward for Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk's program.

D.J. Irving had 26 points, leading a quartet of Carroll scorers in double figures.

More to come in Saturday's Daily Times.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009


When Penn Wood knocked off Bartram Wednesday night, the reality set it: the Patriots are Delco's sole survivors in the state playoffs.

Well, sort of.

You've got the Penn Wood Patriots in the Class AAAA bracket and the Archbishop Carroll Patriots in the Class AAA field. Penn Wood beat Bartram, 78-53, at O'Hara, and Chester bowed out of the AAAA tournament with a 62-49 loss to Williamsport.

It seems like both teams have their stiffest tests yet in this weekend's quarterfinal round. The Lansdowne Pats will face Pennsbury in a Saturday tilt that is without a site or time. The Main Line Pats will see league rival Neumann-Goretti at Archbishop Ryan at 7 p.m. Friday.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


One of the best all-star games around – the All-Star Labor Classic – announced its rosters Wednesday. The game, which benefits United Cerebral Palsy, will be held Sunday, April 5, at La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena. It follows the Suburban vs. City format.

The Suburban team, coached by Glen Mills’ Craig Mellinger and Conestoga’s Mike Troy, features nine players from Delaware County (including three from Penn Wood):

Cory Goodman, G, Episcopal Academy
Marvin Holman-Little, F, Penncrest
Rahlir Jefferson, F, Chester (pictured)
Duane Johnson, F, Penn Wood
Aaric Murray, C, Glen Mills
Calvin Newell, G, Strath Haven
Khayri West, G, Upper Darby
Thomas White, F, Penn Wood
Chris White, G, Penn Wood

Kasheef Festus, C, Archbishop Carroll

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Wednesday morning, the PIAA announced sites and times for the Class AAA boys and Class AAAA girls quarterfinal rounds. Only two Delaware County teams remain in those classifications, and here's where they will be Friday night:

Boys PIAA Class AAA Quarterfinal
Archbishop Carroll vs. Neumann-Goretti
**Friday, at Archbishop Ryan High School, 7 p.m.

Girls PIAA Class AAAA Quarterfinal
Cardinal O'Hara vs. Lower Merion
**Friday, at Spring-Ford High School, 6:30 p.m.

More to come, when the AAAA boys and the AAA girls play tonight.

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Last week, I blogged about the inadequacy of the PIAA when it allowed Glen Mills to host a play-in game to the Class AAAA state bracket.

And here we go again.

In Tuesday's second round of the Class AAA playoffs, the game between District One's Strath Haven and District Three's York Suburban was officiated by . . . a District Three referee crew from Berks County.

York Suburban won the game, 59-45. In the contest, York went to the foul line for 20 attempts and Haven had 10 free throws. The Trojans were whistled for seven fouls and the Panthers were called for 18, including a technical. Clearly, we have a couple discrepancies on our hands.

Now, I don't want to be the one to call out the PIAA this time of the year. And by no means do I want to insinuate that the referee crew was making calls to favor York. I saw the exact referee trio at the Archbishop Carroll/Phoenixville game last week, and they were just about as fair and thorough as I've seen all season.

And with 64 playoff games across the boys and girls hoops scenes taking place in a 48-hour span, it’s safe to assume that Pennsylvania's governing body for high-school athletics is probably stretched a bit thin.

But… when your season is on the line, a line has to be drawn.

"I don't think it came down to that," said Strath Haven coach Steve Lewis. "I don’t think my team made the right decisions, the ones necessary to win the game."

Added star guard Calvin Newell: "I wish they would have let us play the game and made it a little closer (in foul calls)." When Newell, pictured, was informed that a District Three crew called his final high school game, he said, "It happens."

The fact is, it shouldn't. The PIAA should know better, so as to preserve on-court talent as the dividing line between teams, and not the scheduling of a referee crew.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Well, members of Archbishop Carroll's boys basketball team talked about it. They wanted it, and now they've got it.

The Patriots, with their 62-51 win over Shamokin in the second round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs, get another shot at Catholic League Blue Division rival Neumann-Goretti. The Saints won Tuesday, as well, beating Susquehanna Township, 65-51.

After their first-round win last weekend, the Patriots so desperately wanted another meeting with the Saints (26-3). Of course, they didn't want to look too far ahead, but Andre Wilburn could not resist.

"They won the division championship, the league championship, the district championship," the senior forward said. "We want to win something. We want to get them again."

In their last meeting, the Saints dunked nine times on Wilburn and fellow senior big-man Kasheef Festus. (Even though Ben Mingledough, pictured, got one of his own in there.) The site and time for the highly-anticipated third meeting have not been announced, but you have to imagine it'll be close by.

More to come...

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Three boys basketball players from Penn Wood earned First Team All-Del Val League honors when the teams were unveiled Monday night. The Patriots' entire starting lineup is represented in the First and Second teams, and a reserve makes an appearance on the Third Team.

Here's a complete look at the Del Val All-League teams:

Rahir Jefferson, Sr. F, Chester
Aaric Murray, Sr. C, Glen Mills
Duane Johnson, Sr. F, Penn Wood
Tyree Johnson, Jr. PG, Penn Wood
Maurice Nelson, Jr. SG, Chester
Aaron Brown, So. F, Penn Wood

Devon Cain, G, Academy Park
Dan Clapp, F, Chichester
Tyrik Gass, F, Glen Mills
Brian Parker, F, Chichester
Shawn Oakman, C, Penn Wood
Thomas White, F, Penn Wood

Malik Carter, G, Chichester
Laquan Robinson, PG, Chester
Reggie Miles, PG, Glen Mills
Richard Irwin, G, Interboro
Lavander Johns, SG, Glen Mills
Chris White, SG, Penn Wood

Charles Bolger, Interboro
Kareem Robinson, Chester
Learon Pray, Chester
Devin Hunter, Academy Park
Kenny Green, Academy Park
Keimonte Dago, Glen Mills
Mike Chambers-Coles, Chichester
Dymere Crews, Chester
Brian Seitz, Interboro
Jake MacCrone, Interboro

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Monday, March 9, 2009


The sites and times for second round games in the PIAA Class AAAA and AAA playoffs have been announced.

And if you have interest in following your favorite Delco teams, you better hit the gas stations before you hit the road. With exception to one game, each site is at least an hour away:

Strath Haven (15-12) vs. York Suburban (25-3), 7:30 p.m.
***At Garden Spot H.S., New Holland
Archbishop Carroll (23-3) vs. Shamokin (24-1)
***At Parkland H.S., Allentown

Chester (24-4) vs. Williamsport (22-3), 7:30 p.m.
***At Martz Hall, Pottsville
Penn Wood (24-4) vs. John Bartram (18-8), 7 p.m.
***At Cardinal O'Hara

The rest of the Class AAAA and Class AAA brackets . . .

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Sunday, March 8, 2009


The feelings Glen Mills coach Craig Mellinger expressed openly outside his team's HersheyPark Arena locker room Saturday night were those of remorse. Maybe there was some regret dashed in there too.

Mellinger, who has been around long enough to win his 300th game this season (pictured), has been down this road before. He knows that the Battlin' Bulls' first state playoff team since 2004 might have been their last for quite some time. There is never any certainty which student-athletes will be back next season at Glen Mills, a school for court-adjudicated youths.

"How many am I guessing I'm losing? Every single kid in our locker room," Mellinger said after the Bulls' 59-44 loss to Central Dauphin East in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament. "And that's always a huge question-marked proposition. A, who's going to still be committed to the court system, and B, who will be in a situation where maybe it's not conducive for him to go back home and they need to stay here and get processed.

"Honestly, and I'm not being facetious – we're probably going to lose every kid in there, so we'll have to start over again."

It also does not help the Bulls' cause that they lose 6-10 All-Delco center Aaric Murray, a La Salle signee who you can pencil in for a double-double almost every night. Murray, who prior to three years ago had never played organized basketball, was considered a project at The Mills.

"All of these guys, from the moment they set foot on our basketball court, are our kids and our projects," Mellinger said. "Some, their learning curve is going to be a lot quicker. Other guys, we’re willing to work with any and all. We just got done saying to these guys, ‘It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with you all.'

"…From November and until now, I don't think they realize how far they've come. I think they'll reflect back on it in a couple of weeks and they'll understand it."

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Here are some links from Saturday's high school action:

Chester 66, Red Land 50: Click for the story; Click for photo slideshow by Eric Hartline.
Penn Wood 51, Penn Manor 46: Click for the story; Click for video by Bob Gurecki.

Archbishop Carroll 59, West York 42: Click for the story.
Camp Hill 54, Sacred Heart 41: Click for the story.
Delco Christian 51, Greenwood 45: Click for the story.

Springfield's Andre Petroski, the reigning Daily Times wrestler of the year, took the bronze medal in the 189-pound division at states. Jon Campbell has the story. He and Daily Times sports editor Rob Parent tag-teamed (wrestling term, get it? Albeit a WWE one) the state championships, where Springfield had four wrestlers make states and three win medals.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009


Sometimes, you just can't have it all.

Five Delaware County boys basketball teams advanced to the state playoffs, and four shored up spots in the second round. Glen Mills' loss Saturday means only those four remain.

Here are the details from Saturday's games:

Chester 66, Red Land 50 - Why is Rahlir Jefferson (pictured) so excited? He and the Clippers are movin' on. In the process, Jefferson recorded his first triple-double of his career (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and became the Clippers' all-time leading rebounder.

Penn Wood 51, Penn Manor 46: The Patriots trailed, 25-19, at halftime only to roar back in the second half. Aaron Brown and Duane Johnson had 15 and 12 points respectively for the Pats.

Central Dauphin East 59, Glen Mills 44: Aaric Murray concluded his career with 14 points and 11 rebounds but the Battlin' Bulls could not stop Demond Bates, who went off for 20 of his game-high 27 points after halftime.

Of course, you're all aware of what Archbishop Carroll and Strath Haven did Friday in the Class AAA field. Now it's onto the next round.
One more thing: here's a shot of Chester's Learon Pray (nine points) by Daily Times staff photographer Eric Hartline, who busted his tail all weekend. He shot the Chester game at HersheyPark Arena, then ran across the street to the Giant Center to take shots of the state wrestling finals.
It's safe to say we're all happy this weekend is coming to a close.

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Friday, March 6, 2009


The first two teams on the chopping block in the state playoffs passed their opening-round tests.

Archbishop Carroll and Strath Haven both survived the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. Carroll knocked off District One champ Phoenixville, 56-50, and Strath Haven bested District 12 runner-up Franklin Learning Center, 76-56.

For Carroll, junior guard D.J. Irving and senior center Kasheef Festus each netted 20 points on their way to the Patriots' first win in the state playoffs in school history.

For Haven, senior guard Calvin Newell poured in 18 points by halftime - half of the Panthers' 36 points through two quarters - in their first-round rout.

Wins by Carroll and Haven were only the beginning. Five teams from Delaware County are in the state playoffs. The Del Val League triumvirate of Penn Wood, Chester and Glen Mills square off in opening-round games Saturday in the Class AAAA bracket.

For more on the boys basketball scene, pick up a copy of Saturday's Daily Times.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009


This time of year is fun for a number of reasons: For one, the games begin to matter more (the same goes for every possession).

And we get closer to naming an All-Delco team.

I have about 10 players in consideration for the six spots available on the All-Delco boys basketball team (five players - one for each position - plus the Daily Times Player of the Year).

I try to allow the readers of this blog and of the newspaper an outlet to make their cases for their favorite players. So here's your chance, but I do have two rules. If you're going to provide an argument in favor of a player, you have to:
  1. Be respectful of other teams and other players. After all, we're talking about high school student-athletes, not pros.
  2. Cut the bad mouthing and the foul language. Keep it clean. Because when you state your case for a player and include curses in your blog comments, you indirectly represent that player and school.

Thanks in advance for the feedback. (Last year, we had 42 comments on a post similar to this one. Let's see if we can engage in a similar discussion.)


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


There are certain things coaches are willing to look the other way on:
  • A turnover amidst a flurry of assists? Surely.
  • A missed dunk during a blowout? Of course.
  • A home playoff game in states? Ummm . . . .

Hazleton Area coach Mike Joseph was furious with the decision to play Tuesday's PIAA Class AAAA play-in game at the site of the opponent: Glen Mills.

It's where the Battlin' Bulls were 9-3 entering the game. And it's where four players, including Aaric Murray (pictured) scored in double figures in Glen Mills' double overtime win.

"You know, we didn't get ourselves caught up with why we had to do it," said Joseph, whose team ended its season 20-7. "I think the PIAA really needs to re-think the idea of this play-in situation because this team (Glen Mills) didn't win a championship of any kind. We played in a championship game in our district. They played in playback games. For them to get a home game, for either team to get a home game or an advantage, I think, is unfair.

"We didn't sit around for the last few days and think, 'Oh boy, we have to go down there and play.' We looked at it as a positive thing, and another test for us."

For Joseph, he saw it this way: Hazleton, despite losing the District 2-4 combined region title, claimed the District 2 championship for a fifth time in six seasons.

For the PIAA, the governing body likely saw it this way: Glen Mills was the ninth-best team among District One's 51 teams in Class AAAA, which apparently outweighs being the second-best team in a region (District 2 and District 4) that has 6 Class AAAA squads. That's the reason for the home game.

Does that mean it's fair to do it this way? Absolutely not. But I think it's a fair compromise, considering Glen Mills had to win three consecutive single-elimination games just to get this far. All things considered, however, the game should be on a neutral floor.

In what other playoff system do you see a game this late in the year played on a team's home court? On top of that, Glen Mills is known state-wide for its built-in fan base, raucous home arena and decibels-loud crowd. It was unrealistic to think Hazleton Area had a shot to win this one.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The wait is over. Finally.

Ridley officially announced that Dennis Decker, a former standout with the Green Raiders, will take over as coach of the school's football team. The decision was made official when the Ridley school board confirmed Decker's hire Monday.

This is big news for the Green Raiders. Not only do they get a class-act hometown boy to follow in the footsteps of freshly-retired coach John Waller, they also get someone who is quite familiar with the legacy of Pennsylvania's all-time winningest football program.

In leading the Raiders to the 1990 PIAA championship game, Decker accrued 2,737 passing yards - a single-season record in Delaware County. The 35-year-old told Daily Times staff writer Jon Campbell he is aware of the pressure involved with the Ridley job.

"There is a little more at Ridley, with the tradition," Decker said. "Passion runs depe with Ridley football. Guys follow the program 30 or 40 years. There was going to be pressure whether I got this job this year or four or five years down the line."

Decker's hire comes three months after Waller stepped down. There was much debate how long Ridley could hold out without a coach.

As of Monday, the Green Raiders have found their man.

For Campbell's story in its entirety, click here.

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I've had some time to diagnose how the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs will shake out. Here are a couple observations I made:
Most Likely First-Round Blowout
Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. South Philadelphia. The Patriots (22-5), despite losing to Chester in District One's fifth-place game, are playing some of their best basketball. And Southern (16-11) lost two straight heading into states. And they aren't the most qualified - 5 of their losses are by more than 10 points ... ouch.
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Biggest Headscratcher
Why are Roman Catholic and Central Bucks South playing at Archbishop Ryan? I have a great appreciation for Ryan (my father's alma mater), but the gym is decrepit and dingy, and - frankly - not an ideal spot for a state game.
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Most Overrated Team
Pennsbury: Rated at or near the top in most state polls - and garnering some national attention - the Falcons have yet to demonstrate an ability to win the big game. They lost in the district semis this year (and last year) and stumbled in the state semis last season. I'm waiting for the Falcons to make me eat my words.
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Most Underrated Team
Central Dauphin East: Wouldn't want to play C.D. East, and here's why: it just knocked off the state's lone Class AAAA undefeated team (York-William Penn) to win the District Three title. It's a tough first-round draw for the winner of tonight's playback - either Glen Mills or Hazleton Area.
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Beware the Del Val
I know Plymouth Whitemarsh, Norristown and Pennsbury all made the bracket, but the Suburban One League isn't fit to tie the shoe strings of the Del Val League. A six-team league sent three teams - Penn Wood, Chester and Glen Mills - to states. It's safe to say that trio is already battle tested.

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Monday, March 2, 2009


The March Nor'easter couldn't keep Archbishop Carroll down.

The headline news from this week's installment of the Harrisburg Patriot-News' PIAA polls is Carroll's ascension from No. 5 to No. 2 in the Class AAA rankings. Grabbing the third seed from District 12, the Patriots (22-3) leapfrogged District Seven's Chartiers Valley (24-1), which suffered its first loss. The poll also had two teams drop completely out of the top 10.

In other news, Penn Wood (23-4) sank from No. 2 to No. 4 with its fall in the District One Class AAAA title game. And Chester (23-4), which earned the district's fifth seed in states, moved up one spot to No. 5.

Team (District) Record -- Previous
1. Roman Catholic (12) 18-8 -- 3
2. Norristown (1) 22-5 -- 5
3. Pennsbury (1) 22-5 -- 1
4. PENN WOOD (1) 23-4 -- 2
5. CHESTER (1) 23-4 -- 6
6. Lower Merion (1) 23-6 -- 7
7. Conestoga (1) 26-3 -- 9
8. Williamsport (4) 21-3 -- 8
9. C.D. East (3) 26-3 -- 10
10. York (3) 28-1 -- 4
Honorable mention: Harrisburg (3) 22-6; Mt. Lebanon (7) 21-5; North Catholic (12) 17-8; Parkland (11) 24-3; Peters Twp. (7) 23-2; Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1) 22-5; Pocono Mountain East (11) 23-5; Red Land (3) 16-11.

Team (District) Record -- Previous
1. Neumann-Goretti (12) 24-2 -- 1
2. ARCH. CARROLL (12) 22-3 -- 5
3. Farrell (10) 21-4 -- 7
4. York Suburban (3) 24-3 -- 8
5. Chartiers Valley (7) 24-1 -- 2
6. Shamokin (4) 23-1 -- 9
7. Hampton (7) 22-4 -- NR
8. Crestwood (2) 22-5 -- NR
9. Franklin L.C. (12) 19-6 -- NR
10. Susquehanna Twp. (3) 22-5 -- 6
Honorable mention: Abington Heights (2) 23-2; Eastern York (3) 25-4; Highlands (7) 19-7; Holy Redeemer (2) 19-8; Perry (8) 21-4; Phoenixville (1) 21-5; Southern Lehigh (11) 21-6; Wyomissing (3) 20-6.

For the Class AA and A rankings, check out the Patriot-News' sports blog.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009


Another day, another Delco team falls in a district title game.

Strath Haven dropped a heartbreaker Saturday night by losing to Phoenixville, 56-55, in overtime in the District One Class AAA championship at Villanova. A day earlier, Penn Wood had lost to Norristown in the Class AAAA final.

This one was a little more devastating.

Senior guard Calvin Newell (pictured, above) did just about everything he could, save win the game. Newell scored - seemingly at will, in some moments. He dropped in a game-best 33 points and, along the way, hit the jaw-dropping shot that sent the game into overtime.

Newell's 3-point bank shot with five seconds to go in regulation tied the game at 50. But it wasn't just a regular 3-pointer.

The 6-0 guard found himself trapped just over halfcourt between two Phoenixville defenders. He cut between them, spun away from another defender and hit the shot as he faded to the left.

At first, it looked off. Newell never doubted himself - or his shot.

"It was the only thing they gave me, so I had to take it," Newell said after the game. "I couldn't get a regular shot off because they had hands in my face. The only thing I could get was the backboard, and I felt good about it going in as it left my hands."
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Newell - who scored all five of Haven's post-regulation points- fouled out in overtime and they could not recover. Senior guard Dan Morris (pictured, below) took the last shot of the game - a half-court heave that fell short.

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