By Amauro Austin Sr
We are in crunch time of the 2022-23 HS Hoops Season. This is the time of year where the games matter most, Playoff Season.. Win or Go Home.. And all that other good stuff.. Bottom Line: This is the season that separates the players from the pretenders..
We started the week on Tuesday of last week back at home base for a SOL Girl-Boy Championship doubleheader at Plymouth Whitemarsh with the girls taking on a tough Souderton squad and the boys taking on CB East.. The girls won in OT in a come from behind thriller while the boys romped the highly rated Patriots by nearly 30 points.. The Colonials are playing fantastic basketball going into the districts while the lady Colonials pull out close game after close game because of their Championship pedigree. They’ve already successfully defended both their division & league titles and next up is districts.. Gonna be tough because 6A in district 1 is as jam packed at the top as it’s probably been in some time.. Both boys & girls teams at PW are amongst the favorites though however you slice it..
Wednesday we made our way to an opening round Catholic League playoff game at Carroll. The Father Judge Crusaders made their way to Radnor for what would be a very entertaining contest. Judge was in win or go home mode. Carroll, even in a loss, would still have a shot to make states. Carroll is one of the most fun teams to watch in the area as they chuck up about 20-25👌🏾balls a game on average in a quick, small ball lineup. Judge is known for the treyball in their own right. The Crusaders took the earlier regular season matchup 78-72 so you’d figure this one would be played in the 70s too.. It started out that way but things kinda slowed down in true playoff fashion with Carroll taking control and making less costly mistakes in the half court en route to pulling out a well-deserved 66-61 win. Freshman PG Ian Williams (14pts, 3-3 on 3s, 4assts, 3Stls) earned his big boy stripes tonight.. Soph PG Jake West, who’s normally a marksman in his own right, struggled from the field but dished 7 assists. Sr G Dean Coleman-Newsome (17pts & 7rebs) led the way. Judge got a major contribution from its own young PG in Soph Kevair Kennedy (16pts & 7assts). Kennedy has some very admirable qualities which should lead him to a very bright future. He gave a fight to the end effort. 6-4 sr G-F Earnest Shelton was dangerous all game long going 4 for 8 from three-ball land en route to 14 points. He’s one of the area’s premier 3-point shooters. All in all it’s been a good season for Chris Roantree’s young Crusaders and they’ll be back even better next year returning 4 of their top 7. Carroll, who dropped a decision to Neumann 2 nights later will continue on the 4A state playoffs after some Seeding games next week..
Thursday night led us back to our roots with Public League Quarter-Final doubleheader at Imhotep which a tough Fels squad against the home team in Game 1 and MCS vs Dobbins Tech in Game 2.
I had took a peak at Fels a few days earlier against Olney but had to shake the spot at halftime to get to PW. I liked what I saw. They were big, tough, physical & athletic from what I saw on that day which gave me a glimmer of hope that they could at the very least compete with Tep. Over the years, I’ve purposely avoided going to home games at Tep cause they would likely be blowouts. My hopes were dashed very early as Tep jumped out to an 18-0 lead to begin the game making me remember why they’ve only lost 3 games on their home floor in the last 10 years.. Fels just wasn’t prepared for the onslaught that Tep brought. I tweeted that Tep looked like Houston Cougars circa 1983 aka Phi Slamma Jamma after Tep recorded 13 dunks by 7 different players en route to a 79-17 romp. Sr SF Mr. Justin Edwards (Kentucky), a McDonalds All-American, had 6 rim rattlers by himself followed by his main partner in crime Sr PG Rahmir Barno (FGSU) with 2. And one each from 5 others.. Two quick thoughts about the Nationally Ranked Panthers tonight: I’d put money on Barno is a 94-feet foot race against any other guard in the country. He has SEC Football kinda Speed.. And man is Jr G Ahmad Nowell good. Sure he plays with 2 other stars but always seems to leave his mark in the games one way or another. It’s easy to see why he’s rated as one of the finest guards in America in the class of 2024..
I had game 2 circled on my bracket before the tournament even started.. I had seen both teams twice prior and felt Dobbins should be slightly favored. In my evaluation I saw the MCS has a bit more talent but Dobbins has a more cohesive unit that seems to play for each other and with each other. I’ve still yet to see Constitution, who drew the #2 seed in the Pub playoffs. Outside of Imhotep, Dobbins was the 2nd best team that I’ve seen. I figured MCS aka the “E-Gang” would test the mettle of the Mustangs. They did so indeed with both Braun and force. Dobbins matched their energy and then some winning a highly physical battle for the right to take on Tep in the Semis on Tuesday.. What was great was that the Mustangs didn’t even get its best effort from their top scorer in 6-4 sr wing Kareem Diaz (21ppg). Three juniors picked up the slack in scoring 42 of the 56 Dobbins points in 6-3 SF Zach Campbell (18pts & 15rebs), 6-2 PG Saleem Hudson (14pts, 4 treys & 6assts) & 6-3 Jr wing Samuel Thomas (11pts, 2 threes). Campbell is one of my favorite players in the city. He just plays basketball, no frills. He’ll be a scholarship player this time next year and he has plenty of room for improvement. Hudson is the consistent steadying influence that the Mustangs have to have to be successful. And Thomas, a long lefty with a decent looking stroke with range, came off the bench and gave the Mustangs a much needed boost.. MCS got soldier-like efforts from Senior guards Nayeem Johnson (15pts) & Chauncey Presley both gave strong veteran like efforts.. They’ll be a force like always in the 3A state playoff picture..
The week concluded with a split site doubleheader Friday. First a trip downtown to Friends Select for PASIAA 1st round game between Springside Chestnut Hill Academy & FSS and then a trip to the great Northeast to see West Catholic take on Archbishop Ryan..
I hadn’t made the trip to Center City’s Friends Select to watch a game in at-least a decade. Coach Percell Coles (Simon Gratz/Cleveland State) is a friend of mine and I must say he’s doing a nice job changing the perception of basketball at the school. Coles played for legendary basketball coaches in Bill Ellerbee at Gratz & Rollie Massimino at Cleveland State and from the looks of things he has a solid coaching philosophy.. The Falcons came up a little short here but this will be a nice experience to build on going forward. The battle between the bigs was a good one here as FSS 6-8 Sr F Christian Kirkland went against Marquette-bound 6-9 sr F Alassane Amadou of SCHA.. And a battle it was with both having their moments.. Amadou had a few more especially on the defensive end where he is known Nationally as one of the most versatile defensive forces in America. He can do everything guard point guards in space on switches to close out from long distances on 3-point shooters while either altering or even blocking their shots. “Big Al” is a special talent on the defensive end and it showed here today.. His offense was going today too which was much needed in the hostile Friends Select gym.. Jr G Camden Burns & Sr F Jaren Morton also had big offensive nights in victory.. Kirkland played like a senior playing in his last game. He spilled his bucket and has nothing to be ashamed of. The Big lefty had a great Senior season and will be choosing a college really soon..
The Cap to the week was a goodie, West Catholic at Archbishop Ryan in a Catholic League quarterfinal for the right to go to the Palestra. Beforehand I’d been asked multiple times who I was picking and I kept saying Ryan had to be a slight favorite at home. I’d seen West thrice earlier in the season, all in losses albeit never at Full strength. On Friday night though I was wrong…. BIG wrong as the Burrs led the way from wire to wire pulling away late to make it a romp on the road to punch their ticket to a walking distance trip to the Palestra if they so choose. West played their best game of the season at the right time beating a Ryan squad on their home floor that had been in the Semis perennially as of late.. The senior trio of PG Budd Clark (Coppin State), SF Zion Stanford (Temple) & G Shemar Wilbanks–Acqui were all sensational in playing flawless basketball in combining for 60 of the 71 points scored and also evenly split 15 assists 3 ways.. The role guys were just as great in doing their job. Clark was the best player on the court with a magical stat line: 23pts (9-13 3-4 3s), 8rebs, 5assts & 6stls. His only flaw was a 2-7 performance from the free throw line which is a no-no for point guards but it had bearing on things today because his overall impact otherwise was off the charts.. Talk about being in total command of the show.. This was some of the best PG play I’ve seen in a while.. Wilbanks-Acqui was both aggressive and efficient en route to 21 points. The slick lefty showed a pure jump shooting stroke from both deep (2-4 on treys) and mid range. I’m almost certain that fellow Burr brother and current head coach of D2 powerhouse Jefferson University, Jimmy Reilly was in the house specifically tracking him.. As we’ve said before, schools in D2 like Jefferson play higher level basketball than many of the schools in Low Major D1 land.. And that’s a FACT Jack!!! Stanford scored 16 points but his defensive impact (3 of both steals & blocks) was amazing.. Ryan had a tough shooting night on top of West playing extra attention to powerful 6-10 Jr Thomas Sorber, the premier big man in the region. The Burrs strategy was to make it hard for him to catch the ball in his favorite spots and when he did to make sure he had multiple bodies around him forcing others to take and make shots. Sorber earned every bit of his 13pts while also pulling down 12 boards & swatting away 6.. Jr combo guard Darren Williams had plenty of open looks but had a tough shooting night going 7 for 21 (5-17 on 3s) for 20 points the hard way. The sweet-shooting lefty may never again miss that many clean ones.. Ryan’s next assignment will be in next weekend’s District 12/5A City Title game against Imhotep.. While West goes into a West-South Philly collision with Neumann-Goretti in Game 2 on Wednesday at the Palestra..
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