One hundred and seven days. Countless upsets. One division champion, one league champion – which doubled as a district champion – but no state champion from Delaware County for the first time since 2010. Archbishop Carroll and Chester both took their swings, but ultimately came up short. Both will undoubtedly be among the state’s top teams again next year, particularly in the Patriots’ case. There’s a ton of talent in the 2015 class that will serve as Carroll’s foundation for what it hopes will be a state title.
In terms of top teams next year, it’s hard not to pencil in the Patriots as No. 1 in the first Super 7 of the year. Yup, a lot will change from today until then, but no team in Delco has a more proven nucleus of players returning next year. Derrick Jones was a beast all year who turned things up a couple notches in the postseason. It’s been said before, but Jones’ potential has no ceiling. How good he is is directly a byproduct of how good he wants to be. He’s a 6-6, 180-pounder who can knock down the 3-ball, rebound, block shots and dominate the paint. Some time in the weight room will do wonders for him with the frame he has and he’s already been rated a top-40 prospect in the class of 2015 by Rivals.com.
There’s little doubt that the All-Delco will have his pick of collegiate suitors. He’s already got a few offers and will add more this summer on the AAU circuit. But he’ll have help for the Patriots next year. You’d be hard-pressed to find a player whose game developed more this year than Ernest Aflakpui, so Carroll will have twin towers in the middle. Add to that Nick Jones, who will take over two-time All-Delco Yosef Yacob‘s point guard duties, and Joe Mostardi, who blossomed into one of the county’s top 3-ball marksmen, and the talent is there to make another run to Hershey.
Is it really a given that Chester will be back?
Well, yeah, probably. The Clippers have a tendency to stock up on talent pretty darn quickly, regardless of who graduated. But this is big. It’s not easy to lose double-digit seniors, including two-time Daily Times Player of the Year Rondae Jefferson, All-Delco Richard Granberry and 3-point specialist Darius Robinson, whose absence was definitely felt in the state title game. But Conrad Chambers will be back with a full year of being a Clipper under his belt and coach Larry Yarbray seems confident about the young talent flowing through the Chester pipeline. With the Clippers’ track record, it would be hard to disagree with Yarbray. Several people in the Chester camp are bullish on Marquis Collins‘ talents, while Keyonte Watkins, who was on the postseason roster, is another one to watch.
Keep an eye on the Clippers’ rival Penn Wood, though. Gone are All-Delco Tyree Bynum and Secean Johnson, catalysts behind a young team overachieving, but Clyde Jones will bring back some talent. Long-range gunner Gemil Holbrook (50 treys) will need to carry the Patriots, but Jeff Padilioni and Addison Scott made positive strides toward the end of the year. Will they be behind a championship-caliber Penn Wood team?
Central League waves hello to the haters, laughs, wins a state title
If you paid attention to the Central League this year, you probably noticed that the league’s perception was pretty bad around the district. It was thought to be a one-team league with little in terms of substance. While the amount of elite individual talent might have been down, the league made a big statement come playoff time by posting some key wins. All it did was place three teams in the state tournament with Lower Merion winning the league title and Upper Darby and Ridley FAR outperforming preseason expectations.
Speaking of the Royals, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better coaching job this year than the one Bob Miller put forth with Upper Darby. The Royals were a preseason afterthought around the league and the district. All Miller did was guide that team to a No. 9 seed in districts, a spot in the state tournament and a first-round state tournament win on the road. That’s pretty freakin’ good. That’s especially good considering the fact that the Royals didn’t have a bonafide star. Instead, Miller tailored his plans to suit his team’s strengths, strengths that included James Fisher and Kuity Slanger combining for 111 3-pointers. They’re gone, but big men Quadir Rice and Beni Toure will be back.
Ridley gets hit a little bit harder by graduation with Jon McGill, Ken Bartow, Mike Smoluk and Zain Shaw among the departed, but this was another team few expected to make a run like this. McGill slowed down a bit in the scoring department down the stretch, but he was still a viable No. 1 option who gave defenses fits with his sweet shooting stroke. Smoluk’s improvement was top-notch and Bartow established himself as a threat at both ends of the floor. Who will step up next year, though? Maybe lightning-quick Brett Foster, who had a strong postseason.
Teams that made the postseason: Lower Merion, Upper Darby, Ridley, Penncrest, Strath Haven, Harriton and Conestoga. All but one won at least one game in the playoffs and the one that did it, Conestoga, lost to…Lower Merion in the first round. Not a bad showing at all from the league.
A team to look out for next year? Try Garnet Valley. The Jaguars bring back a lot of youth that played this year, including Steve Palis, Aaron Parenti and Joey Sweeney. Mike Brown did an incredible job of injecting life into a moribund program, posting nine wins and narrowly missing out on districts. That might not sound like much to some, but that is an ENORMOUS step forward for the Jaguars.
It ain’t just a lacrosse league, folks. The Inter-Ac can play some basketball, too.
We learned that as Germantown Academy put together a season that put it in the mix as one of the better teams in the area, but The Haverford School and Episcopal Academy also enjoyed strong years. All-Delco and co-Inter-Ac MVP Shawn Alston had a breakout year in his first year running the show for THS. Next year, he’ll be joined all season by Sean Lloyd, who averaged 13.7 points per game, and Eric Anderson should blossom with another year under his belt. Expect the Fords, who won 17 games this year, to contend for the league title and the PAISAA title next year.
But the rival Churchmen weren’t so shabby, either, as they went 17-10 (16-9 if you excise a forfeit win and a forfeit loss in the PAISAA tournament) and junior Chris McNeal was a big reason for it. He averaged 14.2 points per game and was an all-Inter-Ac selection, and also nailed 50 3-pointers. McNeal and point guard Mike Jolaoso make for a wonderful foundation for coach Craig Conlin in the 2013-14 season. Don’t underestimate the impact that beating the rival Fords in the second game between the two had, either. Winning rivalry games always boost a program’s morale.
I’ll be uploading the season stats to the individual team pages in the coming weeks. Some are already posted. If they’re off, please send me an email at email@example.com. If you want to read a story from this year, click here. Thanks for following along this year, thanks for all of the readership and thanks for stopping by.
– MATT CHANDIK