For a fourth straight year, the Chester Clippers are the District One Class AAAA boys basketball champions. The road there wasn’t easy Friday night, and it took a stirring individual performance in the low blocks and a furious fourth quarter to book a come-from-behind 52-49 win over Pennsbury. A few extra points from that contest:
– I looked back through my play-by-play last night somewhat perplexed. The log I kept reiterated what I had found the first time – that Tyrell Sturdivant had 18 rebounds, five blocks and four steals. But even those seem criminally low for the impact he had on the game. Some guys get 12 rebounds and you go, ‘oh, I didn’t think he had that many.’ With Sturdivant, his 18 boards felt like 30. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: He’s the best I’ve ever seen at running out of the low block and getting into perimeter passing lanes for steals. If you could get credited with a block for simply intimidating a shooter into a miss, he’d have had a triple-double. And he did it all without fouling. Simply astounding.
– In the interest of full disclosure, I thought beforehand that Pennsbury could not just give the Clippers a game but even stand a chance at beating them. The logical basis for that wasn’t about the matchup problem presented by the lanky 6-8 Derrick Woods but rather the backcourt. If Pennsbury’s backcourt could present players (emphasis on the plural) capable of attacking Chester in the halfcourt and transition, there could be an upset. The reality Friday was that the Falcons’ backcourt was too much of a one-man show. Mekhi Bryant took himself out of the equation thanks to foul trouble, finishing 2-for-6 from the field and five ghostly points. Steve Ciotti was overmatched and, frankly, tentative to go to the basket in the face of Chester’s length. He finished 2-for-12 from the field, and while he had five assists, four in the second half, that’s not enough. And Cameron Jones was stellar in the first half and just average in the second. One so-so guard and two non-factors do not a Chester-upsetting team make.
– You know why Chester got to lift that trophy last night? Because when they had an off night from their best player, they survived. Jones did a great job containing Mahir Johnson in the first half, a favor Johnson reciprocated after halftime. Johnson was 4-for-11 from the field, 0-for-4 from 3-point land and had just 10 points. But he didn’t force matters and was able to defer to his teammates when necessary. Part of that is having faith then when you’re not firing on all cylinders, the guys around you can step up. And they did.
– Keyonte Watkins gets a lot of the glory for his game-winning 3-pointer, as well he should. But there were other key plays in that run. Most of them were from Sturdivant, like him sacrificing the body to dive on the floor for a rebound and astutely call timeout late in the game. Brewster Ward also had two huge free throws and a key block late.
– Conrad Chambers takes some occasional heat for the job he does running the point. And I’ll be the first to admit that too much of Chambers pounding the rock at the top of the key is not conducive to crisp halfcourt sets and productive offense. But give him his due: He set up a bunch of big plays in the second half with four assists. He also swished in a 3-pointer from the right wing early in the third quarter that brought the Clippers to within six. And when the Clippers offense sputtered through the first half, he was 6-for-6 from the line.