It’s not often that Chester enters the postseason on the heels of two losses in as many weeks. Though the Clippers are in familiar position with their No. 2 seed, their approach to the playoffs is slightly different, as has been the way they’ve viewed this entire “reloading” season.
For one, they enter off a serious wakeup call in a loss to Interboro 10 days ago that cost them a share of the Del Val title. The only consolation in that that loss is out of their system before win-or-go-home season rolls around.
“It reminds us that if we come out and don’t play our style and our game and let the other team make shots, we can be done,” Chester coach Larry Yarbray said.
Though they’ve been tripped up down the stretch – including a 56-55 loss in the final minute to New Jersey’s Lakewood – the Clippers (17-5, 8-2) have been more consistent in their approach of late. While the production of Mahir Johnson (19.0 points per game) has been steady and stellar, the rest of the backcourt has upped its play lately.
Keyonte Watkins, who has averaged 7.2 points per game this season, is averaging 11.7 over the last seven games. Conrad Chambers, after a less-than-convincing offensive start to the campaign, has turned up his production to 11.8 points over the last four games.
Yarbray attributes that spike in scoring to a greater collective understanding among the guards as to what roles they need to play.
“I think everyone understands pretty well what their roles are, and it took some time,” he said. “There are some guys who want to be the one on offense and be the scorers, and that’s not always what we need. They know when to defend and when to pass and let someone else be the guy. They know to play their parts.”
The backcourt success has mediated a dip for forward Tyrell Sturdivant, who is averaging 15.6 ppg but has had two of his four non-double-figures games in the last three outings.
Sturdivant and his frontcourt mates, though, might be in the limelight against No. 31 West Chester Henderson (11-10, 7-4 Ches-Mont).
The most impressive qualities about the Warriors may be the intangibles. The roster has no one over 6-2, though 6-2 junior Colin Costello is one of the main protagonists on offense. They feature backcourt threats like Wes Smith and 3-point marksman Andy Vermeil.
The Warriors’ most notable trait may be their moxie in fighting their way into the postseason. They scored wins over Downingtown West and West Chester East to get over .500 and into the playoffs, and they are 5-0 this season in overtime games.
Chester understands what they’re likely to see from Henderson – the kind of slow-down, halfcourt, 3-point heavy approach that many teams have employed down the years, anything to limit and frustrate Chester’s ability to push the tempo.
That realization is at least nothing new for the Clippers.