Boys Basketball: Christmas Eve Thoughts

Apologies for the delay in posting are in order, but those were already covered in the Super 7. Anyway, a lot went down this week. Chester lost not one but two (!!!) games, which means that the Mayans, although they missed their target date, might be on to something here. Interboro star Christian Irons suffered an injury and will miss a couple of weeks. His loss was felt immediately in a 65-43 loss at the hands of Cardinal O’Hara. Lower Merion proved that it’s undoubtedly the best team in the Central League, Archbishop Carroll has a sophomore blossoming into a star quicker than expected and a look at other things. Away we go…

Chester drops two at City of Palms

Convincingly, too. The Clippers lost by 23 to Lone Peak (Utah), which fell in the championship game, and then Chester had to settle for fifth place after losing to Whitney Young (Ill.), 67-56. Luckily for the Clippers, they’ll get a chance at some revenge Jan. 12 against Lone Peak at the Brandon Jennings Invitational in Milwaukee (Wis.) and against Whitney Young in the HoopHall Classic at Springfield (Mass.) College. While it’s surprising that the Clippers dropped two games – and two double-digit losses at that – they’re still the team to beat in the state of Pennsylvania. Chester hasn’t lost to an in-state foe since Mar. 14, 2010, when it dropped a 42-41 decision to La Salle in the first round of the PIAA tournament. Since then, it’s been 55 up and 55 down for the Clippers, but that mark will be significantly tested by the likes of defending PIAA AA champion Imhotep, AAA champion Neumann-Goretti and Del Val rival Penn Wood.

Interboro needs to Irons out its depth

Because initial results on Christian Irons’ injury weren’t good. The Bucs got smacked around by an improved Cardinal O’Hara team. Mike Louden‘s third 20-point game of the year certainly had an impact, but no Interboro player scored in double-digits. Chris Simmons did post the county’s best shot-blocking game of the year with 10 swats, but the question remains where the offense will come from while Irons is on the shelf.

“I have a stress fracture in my left foot,” Irons said. “I think I’ll probably be out two to three weeks. I was playing on it for a while and it hurt, so I went to the doctor for an MRI and it turned out I had a stress fracture.”

Irons is averaging 16.8 points per game this year and his assist numbers had been going up. That’s not to mention the fact that he’s a legitimate double-double threat every night and, well, yeah, it’s a big blow.

“It’s tough,” Interboro coach Jeff Webb said. “Christian’s done a lot, but we’ll need our other guys to step up.”

Tyler Moralis will be one of those players. He’s second on the team at 7.2 points per game and he, Simmons, Austin Kane and baseball All-Delco Bob Barnett all average between 5.3 and 7.2 ppg, so they’ll need that production to increase.

How good is Lower Merion?

Pretty darn good and definitely worthy of being mentioned among the top teams in the state. The Aces pressed Penncrest early and often in a 70-42 blowout win and that press is a big reason why LM will win the league again. Simply put, there isn’t a team in the Central League that can match up with the Aces athletically. They’re too big, too fast, too long and too quick. The Lions actually pose a size mismatch for most teams in the league with forwards Rahmi Halaby and Kalvin Simpson and point guard Eddie Baxter is a smart, savvy player. But when LM can throw 6-foot-7 Syracuse commit B.J. Johnson out there to neutralize Baxter or have Raheem Hall pressure the guards, it’s tough to handle.

“When I was at St. Joe’s, we used to talk about Temple with Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones and John Chaney’s zone, how you can’t simulate the length and the speed, and we just couldn’t simulate the length and the speed of (the Aces),” Penncrest coach Mike Doyle said. “In practice, we had seven guys pressing and our seven guys was nothing like their five guys. It’s just the quickness and the length and the speed that was unbelievable.”

Baxter concurred.

“They’re so long and fast,” Baxter said. “You can’t simulate that in practice. They’re too long and too fast.”

Doyle knew that the Aces were the team to beat – he admitted as such in the season preview – but he also was disappointed with how his team competed against LM.

“I think the most disappointing thing for us was that (we) didn’t compete,” Doyle said. “Those guys kind of packed it in and said, ‘OK.’ That’s really disappointing from my standpoint that we didn’t compete once the chips started going down a little bit.”

Doyle had to have liked what he saw against Conestoga with how the Lions kept competing en route to a double-overtime win. Halaby and Ben Casanova (ed: fixed from original name of Kalvin Simpson) both pulled down double-doubles in that game and it’s that size that will help the Lions win a lot of games. Make no mistake about it. Penncrest is a good team that had a bad night against the Aces. The Lions will provide matchup problems for a lot of teams. Simpson gets a lot of hype because he’s so athletic and savvy around the net, but he’s got a good running mate in Halaby. The latter has a knack for getting to rebounds and his progression should be fun to watch.

Derrick Jones…Freak

The Archbishop Carroll sophomore put on a show in Saturday night’s 72-55 thumping of Plymouth Whitemarsh. He scored 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting, tied the county season-best with 17 rebounds and also swatted away seven shots. He’s 6-5 with a ton of room to fill out and has developed at a rate that has even surprised coach Paul Romanczuk. Jones looks comfortable from anywhere on the court and has added more of a perimeter game.

The other Jones that showed out, though, was fellow sophomore Nick Jones. Romanczuk has the luxury of having an All-Delco point guard in Yosef Yacob, but Jones is going to be a good one if he keeps progressing. Against the Colonials, he showed exceptional poise and confidence, traits that Yacob said are recent additions.

“Just AAU and just keep playing and just got better for my confidence,” Jones said about his improved confidence. “(Yacob) tells me everything what to do. “

Red-hot O’Hara

Carroll isn’t the only Catholic League team doing big things. How about the Lions? They’ve claimed three straight since dropping a 63-59 decision in their opener to Pope John Paul II, and Mike Louden is a big reason why. Louden averaged a hair better than 11 points per game last year, a number that has skyrocketed to 19 in the early going. He’s got three 20-point games, good enough to be tied for second in the county in that category with Glen Mills’ Jay’re Jackson. If Louden keeps shooting like that, the Lions will be a tough out.

That’s all for today. If you made it all the way to the end, that’s better than I would have done. From all of us at the Daily Times, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

– MATT CHANDIK 

(@MattChandik)

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