The last of the Delco unbeatens fell in early January, a rarity for this county in recent years it seems. The truth in this ranking is that the distance between the teams in the top four – especially teams two through four – is very slight, and the Central League contingent just behind them is also quite strong, provided they stop beating up on each other. Here go the ranking, plus you can also check out expanded stat leaders.
(Records through Jan. 15; Thursday night’s games are NOT included)
1. Archbishop Carroll (10-2)
That two in the loss column comes courtesy of Roman Catholic, the consensus top Class AAAA team in Pennsylvania, and Oak Hill Academy, a team that is, well, Oak Hill Academy. There’s no shame in either of those defeats.
2. Penn Wood (9-1)
The Patriots passed their first big test by downing Chester on the back of a strong nonleague slate. It needs to mentioned though that there are no off days in the Del Val this year, and this Penn Wood team must learn how to play with the target on its back. (And, I suspect, at some point, it’ll be tasked with winning a game where Malik Jackson isn’t on.)
3. Haverford School (12-3)
The Fords’ big test is Friday, a collision between the two undefeated teams in the Inter-Ac. The Fords have navigated the league slate with success so far, and they have so many scoring options that they are very difficult to stop.
4. Chester (8-2)
It’s not often that the Clippers are this low in the rankings. There’s obviously room for upward mobility, but the Clippers are still figuring themselves out. Mahir Johnson, who was quiet in the loss to Penn Wood, has stepping up more lately, and that’s vital to establish the inside-outside threat with Tyrell Sturdivant.
5. Upper Darby (11-2)
The Royals could be the class of the Central League. They’ve got guards who can shoot, guys who can get to the basket and they can hit the 3 effectively. Consistency through a tough schedule, as for everyone in the league, will be the challenge.
6. Ridley (9-4)
Radnor’s ability to come into Ridley and win is a bit of a red flag. That’s said without any offense to the Raiders’ moxie in getting that win, but it’s recognition that a Ridley team looking to duplicate its success of last season can’t let that happen.
7. Penncrest (11-3)
Something about the Lions’ offensive plan gives me pause. They have the bigs down low in Ben Casanova and Rahmi Halaby that are as good a pair as anyone in the county has. But the contribution of the guards to the offense is so 3-point dependent that I wonder what happens if a team can shut that down.
Also under consideration: Academy Park (8-2; The Knights go down as one of the surprises of the first half of the season. In a Del Val that is no longer dominated by one team, the Knights are picking up wins and could (dare I say?) challenge the 1-2 positioning of Penn Wood and Chester); Glen Mills (6-6; the progress has been start-and-stop for the Battlin’ Bulls, but you know they’re going to get better as the season progresses); Radnor (8-5; I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I am at their win at Ridley. It’s time to see if they can survive the pitfalls of the Central and beat the teams they should); Haverford (9-4; As well as he’s played, it’s got to be more than just Tom Leibig on the offensive end for the Fords); Episcopal Academy (11-5, this is a pretty solid Churchmen team, one that I suspect might have a say in the established 1-2, Haverford School-Germantown Academy order atop the Inter-Ac).