Blogs > Gettin' Schooled

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


The All-Delco boys basketball team was unveiled in Wednesday's Daily Times. And based on the graphic at right - and the headline above - you should already know that Penn Wood junior point guard Tyree Johnson is the 2009 Player of the Year.

Johnson led the Patriots to their first PIAA Class AAAA championship and a Del Val League championship. Along the way, he became the county's best point guard and demonstrated the uncanny ability to make everyone around him play better, resulting in the school's first championship of any kind since 1992.

Four Patriots averaged in double figures this season - including Johnson - and two of them improved their scoring tallies significantly in the state playoffs. All thanks to Johnson's play, thus earning him the honor of Daily Times Player of the Year.

Here's the rest of the All-Delco team:
  • D.J. Irving, Jr. PG, Archbishop Carroll (pictured)
  • Calvin Newell, Sr. SG, Strath Haven
  • Aaric Murray, Sr. C, Glen Mills
  • Duane Johnson, Sr. F, Penn Wood
  • Rahlir Jefferson, Sr. F, Chester
*Murray and Johnson are repeat All-Delco selections.

# # # #

It's been a while since I last posted - following state-championship lag from State College - here's a quick-hitting recap of what you might have missed:
  • Former Chester coach Fred Pickett has thrown his hat into the political ring. He will launch a campaign for a city council spot.
  • Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones was named the PIAA Class AAAA Coach of the Year. Seven Delco players earned state honors, too.
  • Three-time All-Delco Tyreke Evans told that he plans to leave Memphis to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft.

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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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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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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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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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Thursday, February 26, 2009


Wednesday was a big day for Archbishop Carroll and Strath Haven, which locked up PIAA Class AAA state-playoff berths with victories.

Carroll senior D.J. Irving posted a career day in beating Simon Gratz. And Haven senior Calvin Newell (pictured) went off for 40 points, and knocked down the game-winning shot, to dispatch Holy Ghost Prep in overtime.

In an attempt to recap Wednesday night's playoff games, here are a couple great quotes from the games:

***Holy Ghost Prep senior John Glenn on Newell's clutch shot:
"I think he was parallel to the ground. I mean, I just couldn't believe he hit that shot, because there were a couple hands in his face and he seemed to be fading away from the basket. But he's a heck of a player."

***Archbishop Carroll senior D.J. Irving, on the Catholic League earning more state berths than the Public League:
"I like all this Public-Catholic stuff, too. We get to see who's better. We think we are and we want to show them that."

***Strath Haven's Calvin Newell, on his shot selection:
"No layup. No tie. I was going for the win."

***Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk, on the Patriots' win-or-go-home game:
"You want everyone to respond with urgency when it's one and done like this. You look to the seniors first, then the guys who have been doing it all season. And D.J. (Irving) has been doing it all season."

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


From 15 teams, only five Delaware County teams remain in the hunt for the PIAA playoffs. (It's hard to believe that so many teams - 15 of the 24 in Delco, or 63 percent of the schools I cover - advanced to the postseason, but it's been fun.)

Two teams have assured themselves of Class AAAA state-playoff berths - Penn Wood and Chester. Here's what it'll take for the remaining three to move on.

Record: 13-11.
Next up: Wednesday, vs. Holy Ghost Prep, at Wissahickon.
Scenario: A guaranteed state slot from District One Class AAA, with a win.
Notes: Senior Calvin Newell (pictured) and the Panthers have handled the tests. This is a big one, against the No. 2 Firebirds. A win puts Haven in states for the first time since 2003, when it was a Class AAAA school. A loss puts the Panthers in a third-place game, with a state berth on the line.

Record: 21-3.
Next up: Wednesday, vs. Simon Gratz, at Archbishop Ryan.
Scenario: The third-and-final Class AAA slot from District 12 is up for grabs.
Notes: Win and the Patriots are in, and in their first year of state-playoff eligibility. They are the best Class AAA team in Southeastern Pennsylvania - other than Catholic League champ Neumann-Goretti - but the Pats can hang with the Saints.

Record: 17-7.
Next up: Tuesday, at West Chester Rustin.
Scenario: Ninth-place playback in District One Class AAAA.
Notes: The Bulls lost in the second round, one win shy of a guaranteed state spot. But they - with the help of All-Delco center Aaric Murray (pictured) - kept alive their slim playoff hopes with a win Friday in a playback game. They need to beat Rustin and win again later this week to make states for the first time in five seasons.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009


There will be no Delaware County representation at this year's McDonald's All-America Game.

Roman Catholic's Maalik Wayns (pictured), a Villanova signee, was Southeastern Pennsylvania's only choice for the game, which will be played April 1 in Miami, Fla.

Four players from Delco had been nominated for entry in the game: Glen Mills' Aaric Murray, Penn Wood's Duane Johnson, Strath Haven's Calvin Newell and Chester's Rahlir Jefferson.

Dominic Cheek, a 6-6 guard from St. Anthony in New Jersey, was Villanova's second selection to the prestigious game. Villanova, with two recruits selected, has more representatives in the game than all schools except North Carolina, which has three.

Delco was vying for a representative in the game for consecutive seasons. American Christian's Tyreke Evans made last year's game, and earned MVP honors. Archbishop Carroll's Barry Bekkedam is the county's only other rep in the McDonald's showcase.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009


Two of last year's All-Delco boys basketball selections - Aaric Murray of Glen Mills (pictured) and Duane Johnson of Penn Wood - were among those chosen as candidates for the McDonald's All-America Game.

Calvin Newell (Strath Haven) and Rahlir Jefferson (Chester) also were named nominees. They are among the 1,500 nominated players who are vying for 24 roster spots.

On the girls side, three Delco players were nominated for spots on the McDonald's teams: Notre Dame's Devon Kane, Cardinal O'Hara's Stephanie Holzer and Archbishop Carroll's Kerri Shields. They are three out of 1,000 who are vying for only 24 roster spots.

The teams will be announced later this month. The games will be played April 1 in Miami.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009


Tuesday, Marple Newtown junior Soutiri Sapnas became the school's third 1,000-point scorer when he dropped 38 points against Radnor.

Saturday, he outdid himself. Sapnas poured in 49 points as the Tigers beat host Sun Valley, 75-68, notching four accomplishments in one game:
  • 1. The 6-3 point guard became Marple Newtown's all-time leading scorer. He surpassed 1995 grad and All-Delco selection Frank Zanin, who owns 1,085 points. (Sapnas has 1,097 and counting.)
  • 2. Sapnas established a career-best point total. His previous best was the 38 he hit up Radnor for earlier this week.
  • 3. He moved into the lead this season's best single-game scoring tally. Strath Haven's Calvin Newell scored 39 against Haverford earlier this month.
  • 4. Sapnas broke his own school record for single-season scoring. He scored 527 points last season in his sophomore year. (He has 568 thus far in 2008-09.)

To further emphasize how big Sapnas' week has been, check this out: His scoring average at the start of the week was 25.4 ppg. After Saturday's game (the third of the week), its 27.1 ppg.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


By now, you probably know that Penn Wood pulled off the upset of Chester Tuesday night. (Junior point guard Tyree Johnson, pictured, was the hero. He scored 26 points, hauled in six rebounds and dished out six assists in the 53-52 win.)

But what you don't know is what else went down before, during and after the game. Here are some observations:

1. Chester's Laquan Robinson must like Beyonce, because he was singing the words to 'Single Ladies' in pregame warmups as the top-40 hit was being played in the gym.

2. The DJ manning the table slipped up, then made up for it. In bad taste, he let some expletive-laced songs play in a gym filled with children. Later on, though, he had the Penn Wood fan base in stitches as he played music over the Chester cheerleaders.

3. As Chester's Learon Pray lined up for the playing of the national anthem, there was one small problem: there was no flag in the gym. He mouthed to Chester coach Larry Yarbray, 'Which way do we face?'

4. According to a couple sources, only 250 presale tickets were made available to Chester fans. Which made for a mess at the front door, as a couple hundred more were turned away before the game.

5. I'm a big fan of high school mascots. Who isn't? But Penn Wood's version of the colonial patriot was weak. The person in the costume had rhythm and energy but the shabby suit was too big and the giant head kept falling off. Thumbs down to that.

The Daily Times was there Tuesday, with columnist Jack McCaffery turning in a great piece on the level of trust Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones has in Johnson. I handled the game story duties, and photographer Julia Wilkinson grabbed pictures and some video footage.

(Photo of Tyree Johnson by the Philadelphia Daily News)


Marple Newtown's Soutiri Sapnas needed 13 points Tuesday to break the 1,000-point plateau for his career. He scored that much in the first quarter.

Sapnas, on the fast track to becoming the school's all-time leading scorer, became the third player in Delaware County this season to crack 1,000 points. The others were Sun Valley's Tom Brennan and Strath Haven's Calvin Newell.


From the night's crazy-upset file, Harriton (6-13, 3-11) knocked off Penncrest (15-4, 10-4), 47-43. The loss to Harriton, a Class AAA team, does serious damage to Penncrest's hopes of attaining a top-10 seed in the District One Class AAAA bracket, which is announced Feb. 8.

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Monday, January 19, 2009


Strath Haven's Calvin Newell went off for 39 points against Haverford last Thursday. Not only was the point total a county-best for the year (Newell previously had scored 38 points three times), the senior guard breached the 1,000 point plateau for his career.
Newell, who has scored 470 points this year for a 31.3 points-per-game average, needed 38 to reach the milestone. Above is a photo of Newell receiving an honorary basketball from Haven coach Steve Lewis. Thank you to Wallingford resident Bob Quinn, who snapped the shot and submitted it to the Daily Times.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


Last week, we debuted on here a weekly post called 'No Excuses', in which I'll give my take on a couple of the night's games. Here's the second installment of this new feature:
1. With 26 points from Rahlir Jefferson, Chester defeated Erie Cathedral Prep, the host of the McDonald's Classic where the Clippers had gone 1-5 in three previous appearances, but ... appear on the fast track toward winning this one. Today they play Archbishop Carroll (Md.), a 7-6 team, for the title.
2. Roman Catholic and Villanova commit Maalik Wayns (pictured) almost doubled up Monsignor Bonner Friday night, 83-42. The Cahillites are unbeaten in league play, but ... they still have North Catholic (8-5) and Archbishop Ryan (5-7), the league runners-up last year.
3. Penncrest has followed three consecutive losses with back-to-back wins, against Ridley and Garnet Valley, but ... could use a lengthy run to bolster their District One ranking. Marvin Holman-Little and Rodney Duncan, who are having mid- to high-double figures, have been playing great of late.
In Spain Park, Ala., last week, a player rebounded a missed free throw with less than two seconds remaining in his high school game. The player - Jake Lee - turned around and fired an 82-foot shot that banked off the glass and in to win the game.
Curiosity got the best of the opposing team's coach, who brought out the tape measure just to be certain how long the shot was. "I measured it at 82 feet," said Clay-Chalkville (Ala.) coach Marty Smith. "I had to know. I had to measure it."
See the shot for yourself here.
If you didn't, you missed three full pages of Delco boys basketball coverage ... including:
  • A feature story on seniors Dan Clapp and Malik Carter, who have led a mini-renaissance at Chichester
  • The weekly notebook, which leads with the powerful 1-2 punch of Strath Haven's Calvin Newell and Jack Roberts
  • A Central League game story. I picked the game of the week, in which Springfield stunned Upper Darby behind 15 points from Zack DeVito

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Friday, January 16, 2009


It would have been easy for Springfield to float Upper Darby a win Thursday night. Hey, the Cougars hadn't exactly been tearing it up of late. So when the Royals pieced together a late charge, the Cougars had their opening.

They did not take it.

Instead, they played old-school basketball (they hit their free throws, they made crisp passes and they read up on the rule book) to overtake the Royals, 46-45.

By far the best play of the night came in the final 15 seconds. Springfield junior center Wally Rutecki was prepared to inbound the ball out of a timeout, with his team ahead. Rutecki turned on the baseline and passed to sophomore guard Zack DeVito, who inbounded the ball to Rutecki.The furious passing confused the heck out of the Royals, and killed a couple important ticks off the clock. According to DeVito, it was a play the Cougars had used in a game against Ridley earlier this season.

"Our coach (Kevin McCormick) knew about that rule and we practice it sometimes," DeVito said.

"It's a good way to get the ball in at the end of the game," Rutecki said. "When they're in a man-to-man press like that, they have no one guarding the ball."


... to Strath Haven's Calvin Newell, who became the county's second player to breach the career 1,000-point plateau this season. He needed 38 against Haverford, which would have matched the county's 2008-09 highwater mark that he established three times. Instead, Newell got 39 -- one more for good measure.

"I wasn't really shooting that good but I just let the game go to see what would happen," he said.

### Radnor's Corey Dunson, who scored 10 points. He took a backseat offensively in the Red Raiders' 52-50 overtime win over Ridley, but limited Marc Dziadon to five points. Dziadon had averaged 14.5 points in his last five outings.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008


The Media Bowl. I attended the football version this past fall, but the boys basketball game between neighborhood rivals Penncrest and Strath Haven was intense.

As if the game - which the Lions won, 41-37 - wasn't good enough, we have video of it too. Daily Times photographer Bob Gurecki was on hand to snap still photos and video for the Web site. The game story is available, as well.

Marvin Holman-Little was the catalyst for the Lions, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. For Haven, Calvin Newell scored 27 points and Jack Roberts swatted 12 shots in the loss.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008


The basketball season kicked off Friday night with a flourish. There were high scorers abound, some upsets and some high expectations that were given foundations for the rest of the season.

For starters, Chichester upended host Ridley, 50-39, behind 12 points and nine rebounds from Dan Clapp and 11 from Malik Carter (pictured).

The Eagles, who have just two wins in their last six openers, desperately needed to get off to a good start. In the always-competitive Del Val, their toughest tests are ahead of them.

Marple Newtown's Soutiri Sapnas scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter of a win at Harry S Truman.

Strath Haven's Calvin Newell dropped 28 on Carlisle, the hosts of a tipoff tournament and losers to the Panthers.

Glen Mills' Aaric Murray lived up to all the hype, tossing in 32 points.

And Archbishop Carroll escaped a three-overtime thriller over La Salle, 86-84, behind 21 from D.J. Irving and 19 from Juan'Ya Green.


Daily Times reporters are scattered about the East Coast today, covering some bigtime games. I'm taking a day off from the high school beat to visit Lincoln Financial Field and the 109th Army-Navy Game. A lifelong Philadelphian, it's hard to believe that I've never covered one of these games. In fact, I've never even attended one. Today should be a treat.

Terry Toohey is in Harrisonburg, Va., for Villanova's second-round FCS playoff game against top-seeded James Madison. And Anthony SanFilippo is down in Carolina for a Flyers-Hurricanes game.

It's a big day for sports, certainly, so pick up Sunday's Daily Times for all the latest.

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