We’re less than a day away from the PIAA basketball season opening up.
No, f’real. I’m serious. The Haverford School and Episcopal Academy both got off on the right foot with wins Tuesday, but that’s Inter-Ac, leaving 21 other Delco teams free to open up tomorrow. Most will, some won’t, but either way, it promises to be a dandy, so what better way to kick things off than with a nifty Super 7 to fire up the masses?
1. Archbishop Carroll (0-0)
You knew this was coming. It’s hard not to like the Patriots as the top team in Delco, at least to start, with the amount of firepower that coach Paul Romanczuk has at his disposal. It starts with All-Delco forward Derrick Jones and front court running mate Ernest Aflakpui, but there’s a lethal combination of guards that features transfers Austin Tilghman and Josh Sharkey, plus returning 3-point marksman Joe Mostardi. This is a much deeper team than the one that played for a Class AAA state title.
“It’s different than last year because last year, we didn’t have much depth and this year, we’ve got 10 guys fighting for spots and playing time,” Mostardi said. “We haven’t put in much yet because it’s the beginning and we’re just getting back to the basics with our new guys, but for the couple plays that (Romanczuk) has put in, they’re definitely changed already. It’s definitely cool. I wouldn’t mind if some things stayed the same so I could be a little ahead of everyone else, but I think it’s good that we’re all starting off together.”
Or just ask forward Armand Sorrentino.
“It’s great,” Sorrentino said. “I think this is one of the best teams of guards that I’ve ever played with in my life. They’re all so athletic, smart and unselfish, so it’s great having these young guys with a veteran team, with five seniors, so I really think that this year could be our year.”
2. The Haverford School (1-0)
Yes, the Fords over Chester. A stunner, right? Eh, not quite, at least not to start the year. Henry Fairfax has a boatload of talent at his disposal, especially with All-Delco Shawn Alston running the show. Lamar Stevens had 19 points and eight rebounds in his Haverford debut, while Eric Anderson was extremely efficient on his way to an 11-point effort. Derek Mountain is a multi-sport athlete who provides energy and toughness. This team is the class of the Inter-Ac and looks like a solid bet to bring home the school’s first league title since 1999, but then again, that’s why they play the games.
3. Chester (0-0)
I couldn’t let the Clippers slip too low, right? The odds are good that Chester will be a top team again, but with only one returning player in Conrad Chambers, it’s hard to go with the Clippers right off the bat. Glasgow (Del.) transfers Tyrell Sturdivant and Mahir Johnson will be asked to do a lot, but they can handle it. The Chester camp is high on Marquis Collins’ game and you just know that Larry Yarbray‘s team will be able to wear teams down. They’re going to be good, though. Ask Chambers.
“It’s going to be good,” Chambers said. “… They’re just all great players. Our whole team is great players and we just want to get back to that state championship. That’s all that we’re aiming for.”
4. Ridley (0-0)
The Green Raiders were a strong team last year that played in a state tournament game, but they lost a lot. At the same time, there might not be a quicker team in the Central League. Well, except for maybe that Lower Merion squad. Regardless, Brett Foster showed a lot of potential down the stretch last year and Julian Wing also had his moments. There’s not a lot of experience or size, but speed to burn is always a good thing. Ameer Staggs and Isaiah Lester give coach Mike Snyder some options, too.
5. Upper Darby (0-0)
You might not find a better front court in the Central League than the one Bob Miller has at his disposal. Beni Toure is versatile as can be, Quadir Rice has proven his big-game chops and Isheem Adams is a bull capable of giving the Royals big plays inside. How they replace a whole lot of graduated 3-pointers is yet to be seen, but Meech Timmons will be a problem for teams at guard, as will West Catholic transfer Torey Green.
“I think we should come in as one of the top teams this year,” Rice said. “We’ve got a lot to work with.”
“We’re much faster now,” Timmons added. “We can run on teams and we’ve been playing with each other our whole lives, so we’ve got better chemistry than we had last year.”
6. Penn Wood (0-0)
The Patriots had to replace a lot of scoring that left via graduation and transfer, but Clyde Jones thinks his team can be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an oversize front court with the likes of Naeem East, Jeff Padilioni and Amadou Kaba, but Malik Jackson will run the show for the Patriots. Don’t be overly surprised to see Penn Wood give Chester a run for its money in the Del Val.
7. Penncrest (0-0)
Speaking of big front courts, have you met the Lions’ duo of Rahmi Halaby and Ben Casanova? I thought Halaby was the team’s best big man last year and he’s got a lot of potential, as does Casanova. Mike Doyle, Drew Hanna and Nolan Carroll will assume guard responsibilities. The Lions weren’t as good as I thought they’d be last year, yet that still meant another trip to districts. Can they take a leap this time around?
Also considered in alphabetical order: Academy Park, Episcopal Academy, Garnet Valley, Haverford, Interboro.