I’ll admit it. I didn’t think every Delco team would win in the first round. Law of averages and all of that. But here we are with Chester, Upper Darby, Penn Wood, Ridley, Penncrest and Strath Haven still hanging out with all but the Clippers needing a nailbiter to make it to round 2. Here’s a quick look at how things shape up for Tuesday night’s second round. All games are at 7 p.m.
No. 16 Strath Haven at No. 1 Chester
The all-Delco affair is a nice storyline, but this is really a David vs. Goliath tale, and Goliath is really, really good. The Panthers managed to upend West Chester Henderson, 47-45, in OT, despite only getting one point from leading scorer John Fender, who suffered an ankle injury but returned to gut it out. Fender made an impact on the game-tying play where he made like his football teammate Kevin Mohollen and fired a picture-perfect pass to Eric Trowery for the game-tying shot.
Trowery has experience playing against the Clippers from his days at Coatesville, so he knows what Haven is up against when it travels to the Clip Joint. No one can remember the last time Chester lost in district play at home. It’s a tough place to play any time. But in the playoffs? Good luck.
“We know how they play,” Trowery said. “We know that they’re good, but as a team, we’re ready for them.”
Tevon Howie concurred with Trowery.
“It’s definitely a privilege to go down to that joint and play at the Clip Joint,” Howie said. “We’re definitely going to play our hardest and see what happens.
Mike Fisher wouldn’t make any promises that the Panthers would upset the Clippers, but he feels that his team is ready for the challenge.
“It’s going to be really hard to beat them, but I want to prove to them that we’re a good team, too,” said Fisher, who dumped in 13 points coming off the bench against the Warriors. “We’re not just going to roll over for them. We played Lower Merion twice already, so I’m kind of ready for (Chester).”
The pick: Chester.
No. 25 Harriton at No. 9 Upper Darby
I wish I could predict anything at all when it comes to Upper Darby. The Royals can be as good or as bad as they want, or better yet, as good or as bad as their shots are. Upper Darby took the lone meeting between the two this year, 44-40, thanks to a 17-point night from Kuity Slanger, 10 from Isheem Adams and nine from Beni Toure. Adams won’t suit up this time around, but Slanger and Toure definitely will. Slanger made the game-winning 3-ball in a 45-44 triumph over No. 24 North Penn in round one. Toure’s health – he battled an ankle injury throughout the second half of the season – is a big key. If he and Quadir Rice can control the paint, the Royals should win another close one.
On the other hand, Harriton’s Matt Sherman can score almost at will sometimes. The 1,000-point scorer will get his and the Rams are coming off a 53-51 upset of No. 8 seed Council Rock North, so they’re probably not afraid of anyone at this point. Two top-10 upsets, though, might be a tall task. Don’t be surprised if Harriton wins, but I’m rolling the dice with Upper Darby.
The pick: Upper Darby.
No. 12 Penn Wood at No. 5 Abington
Tall task for the Patriots as they have to take on the Ghosts, who beat Oxford, 64-53. But it’s not impossible. Far from it. Clyde Jones has an inexperienced team, for the most part, but he’s got some guys who have been in the big games before, namely Tyree Bynum. The Texas Southern signee has been on fire of late, averaging 28 points per game in his last three games and burying the game-winning 3 in a 69-66 overtime win over Pac-10 champion Perkiomen Valley.
Just going off of Abington’s schedule, it seems like the Ghosts can be had. There are some nice wins interspersed in there, but they had a bad loss at the hands of Council Rock South and they recently escaped from an OK Bensalem team. However, there’s also a rout of Spring-Ford, which gave Penncrest everything it could handle, and a solid 11-point win over Oxford in the first round.
Bynum and Secean Johnson are going to get theirs. They always do. But the Patriots’ chances will fall on the shoulders of their secondary scorers. If Gemil Holbrook can hit a couple of threes, if Jeff Padilioni can continue his recent hot streak and if Addison Scott can limit the turnovers, Penn Wood could make some magic happen.
The pick: Penn Wood
No. 13 Ridley at No. 4 Norristown
The Green Raiders needed two overtimes to knock off Cheltenham, but it’s not about style points. It’s about getting the win and getting the heck out of Dodge. What that win means, though, is that Ridley gets a traditional District One power in the Eagles. Norristown has an odd loss to Wissahickon to its name, but the other two losses have come to Abington and defending Class A state champion Math Civics and Sciences. (Languages and Arts weren’t available, I guess).
Ridley has seen more consistent secondary scoring of late, especially with teams paying so much attention to sharpshooters Jon McGill and Ken Bartow. Mike Smoluk is a smart point guard who doesn’t try to do too much and he has proved that not much rattles him. Once again for Ridley, big man Zain Shaw is the key. In his past four games, he’s scored three, 16, nine and 16 points, so getting him involved early is big. Which Shaw will show up for the Green Raiders?
The pick: Norristown.
No. 15 Penncrest at No. 2 Lower Merion
These two teams met earlier this year and it wasn’t pretty for the Lions. The problem for Penncrest is that while it’s bigger than most Central League teams, it struggles to match up with the Aces. A lot of teams do, actually. Penncrest is coming off a 49-47 thriller over Spring-Ford, but Lower Merion’s just a bit different. There’s hope for the Lions, though, since Conestoga gave the Aces all they could handle in the first round before Lower Merion pulled away.
Last time, the Lions struggled to establish themselves early and often and they turned the ball over at an alarming rate. With experience, though, some of those problems should be ironed out. Penncrest’s best bet is to slow the game to a crawl and hope Lower Merion misses some shots early to set the momentum right. Going after Yohanny Dalembert with the three-headed monster of Ben Casanova, Kalvin Simpson and Rahmi Halaby might be a start. Dalembert’s good, but can he handle all three? Someone will have to slow down Syracuse commit B.J. Johnson, too. He’s the best player in the Central League by a healthy margin, but at times, he’s struggled in big games. Can the Lions rattle him a little bit?
The pick: Lower Merion.
– MATT CHANDIK