LANSDOWNE – Forget the bravado and forget the macho “we were never worried” mantra that you might hear from teams when they’re down to their biggest rival on the road.
Reigning Daily Times Player of the Year Rondae Jefferson definitely left no doubt that Chester took notice when it was down to Penn Wood by 10 points at the half before storming back to win, 77-58, Thursday night.
“I’m not going to lie, a couple people on the team were down, that’s a part of basketball,” Jefferson said. “But as a team, we brought each other up. We talked to each other, we tell each other what we’ve got to do to make up and to get back in the game. All in all as a team, we work together.”
For his part, Darius Robinson, who dumped in 19 points and who’s averaged 17.4 points per game in his past seven games, wasn’t quite as worried as others might have been.
“We try not to panic, that’s what our coach (Larry Yarbray) tells us, ‘don’t panic. Play together. Don’t get it back by yourself. You can’t get it back by yourself.”
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It’s not hard to see why Robinson thinks that way. Even against a talented but inexperienced Penn Wood team, the Clippers have the experience in their corner. Against the Patriots, they started seniors in Robinson, Rashan DeJarnette, Jefferson and Richard Granberry, and while Chambers is listed as a junior, he’s the same age as most seniors because he re-classified during his Friends’ Central days. On the other hand, Penn Wood only plays two seniors in Tyree Bynum and Secean Johnson , and while those two have been nothing short of superb for the Patriots, there’s no substitute for experience for the likes of sophomores Gemil Holbrook, Addison Scott and junior Jeff Padilioni, among others.
“We just started (falling) to their press,” Johnson said of the Patriots, who had nine fourth-quarter turnovers.
“They’ve got great length,” Holbrook said. “(The sloppy play) just started in the fourth quarter and we started turning the ball over.”
“For a lot of (the younger guys), it’s their first year playing varsity,” Bynum said. “Chester vs. Penn Wood, it was packed, and the pressure really got to us. It’s a very good learning experience.”
Chester has a habit of handing out free lessons, but this…this was surprising even by the Clippers’ lofty standards. The Patriots were left stunned by a 50-17 run that included a 35-11 fourth quarter. The crazy thing? Here’s the scoring breakdown of that frantic fourth frame.
Chambers: Three points.
Robinson: Seven points.
DeJarnette: Four points.
James Kirksey: Six points.
Jefferson: Eight points.
Granberry: Seven points.
Scary, that depth. But it’s also obvious that for all the depth at the guards spots that Chester has that the Clippers are better when they work their way inside-out. Granberry came up big in the second half as he dumped in 13 of his 15 points in that half and Jefferson had 13 of his game-high 25 points (to go with 12 rebounds, eight steals, six assists and a pair of blocks. He’s OK, I guess) in the second half. It took some not-so-subtle reminding from Yarbray that Chester’s a better team when it works inside-out to get going, but once the Clippers did, Penn Wood had no answer.
“At halftime, (Yarbray) said to feed the post more and that we were going to come out and get me the ball so I can get some touches,” Granberry said. “They didn’t really do it in the first half, but I didn’t really mind. We came out and played hard in the second half and came out with the W. I know that I’m the key to the team, really, because when I play hard, everybody else wants to play hard. You see how we were down, what, 10 at halftime? I came out, played hard, got a couple steals, made some hustle plays and we started coming back.”
With Granberry’s offensive game out of the post evolving – he looked much more fluid and comfortable with the ball in his hands than when I saw him against Imhotep Charter – it’s just another tool for the Clippers to work with.
There’s a lot for the Patriots to be excited for, though. They’re still a good team and a fringe state tournament team if the bounces go the right way, but it’s hard not to cast an eye on the future with Penn Wood. Scott got a little bit overzealous with his ballhandling against Chester at times, but he’s improved every game since taking over the reins of Clyde Jones‘ offense. I also thought another sophomore, Malik Jackson, showed off skills on his way to 10 points, and the fact that the Patriots played Chester so tough with Bynum missing much of the first half with foul trouble and being ineffective the rest of the way, in large part to an ankle injury, is big for confidence. And one thing that hasn’t gone unnoticed is Johnson’s improved play of late. Since moving from small forward to power forward, he’s gone off for 29 points against Chichester, 25 against Del Val Charter, 19 against Chester and 18 against Academy Park. That, plus being a more consistent force on the glass, is sure to open some college scouts’ eyes.
– MATT CHANDIK