The headline went to Malik Jackson, and the night unquestionably belonged to Penn Wood. But in the Patriots’ tilt with Chester Thursday – a game Penn Wood won 65-56 – there was much more to be said than a game or boxscore could capture. A few extra points …
– Let’s start with Jackson: Kid can shoot. He was 6-for-10 from 3-point range, but just 3-for-8 from the line. Chester coach Larry Yarbray said afterward that he had a variety of guys try to get a hand in his face – many with a noted height advantage over the 6-foot Jackson. But the issue was that for many of his triples, there wasn’t a Chester hand in his face. Jackson does a great job of finding the soft spot in the defense and camping out Plus he hit a runner in the lane early in the fourth quarter that put the Patriots up 58-46 and was for all intents and purposes the dagger.
– There was one great exchange in the second quarter where Jackson, after the Penn Wood offense failed to generate from its sets, pulled up for a 26-footer that he swished. No to be outdone, Conrad Chambers of Chester answered with a pull-up 27-footer at the other end on the next trip down. I would’ve thought we’d see more that kind of end-to-end type of game, but there were too many turnovers – I counted 12 for Chester, 20 for Penn Wood, and those are certainly low estimates – disrupting the flow.
– Not enough credit can go to Penn Wood forward Naeem East in this one. Amadou Kaba and Jeff Padilioni each sat for long stretches of the first half, allowing Tyrell Sturdivant to accumulate 12 first-half points. East helped slow the Stony Brook commit and nullify his contributions with 10 first-half points of his own. East finished with 10 rebounds – and I can recall several other instances where he did the blocking out for a teammate to get the board – plus altered a number of shots at the rim beyond his two credited blocks.
– In addition to six rebounds and two blocks, I had Sturdivant for seven steals. He is sneaky quick flashing from the post to the perimeter passing lanes and using his length and great hands to create turnovers.
– I wasn’t terribly impressed by the play of the Chester guards Thursday. They didn’t shoot particularly well – Chambers and Mahir Johnson were a combined 6-for-24 from the field, though Chambers was 3-for-5 from 3-point range. And they didn’t get to the basket with regularity, especially given the foul trouble of Kaba and Padilioni. There were flashes from Jahmi Bailey and Kahleeq Campbell, but each were shutout save for five-point spurts in two-minute stretches of the third and fourth quarters, respectively. I think the 1-2 balance between Chambers and Johnson is a work in progress, and neither showed the step-up-and-dominate potential they possess.
– Thursday revealed the key conundrum of Chester’s season: They’ve got plenty of seniors on the roster, but they’re not really a veteran team because they pieces are all playing together for the first time, creating something in between. “We’re trying to mesh, and a lot of times they don’t understand what you’re telling them,” Yarbray said. “Even if you tell them to run this play, there’s no movement. They stand around and watch each other. It’s almost like they’re trying to figure out where to go next, but you run through this stuff in practice every day, but when they get a different defense on them, it’s different.” There’s obviously a high level of continuity in place already, given some of their early season success. But the difference between this team and the ones of the last two years isn’t so much the lack of a step-up player like Rondae Jefferson, but the lack of familiarity, that trust teams in years past had where they could close their eyes and know instinctively where everyone else was supposed to be on the court. That is the challenge for Yarbray and staff to develop in the coming few weeks.