It’s only been three days and about 40-some games, but there are some early conclusions we can draw from a busy opening weekend of hoops. Some results reinforced what we suspected in the preseason, and a few raised some eyebrows. Here’s a few of the takeaways.
Haverford School has some work to do. I’ll give the Fords the benefit of the doubt, playing 18 hours after a grueling battle with Imhotep before being blown out by Calvert Hall. It’s likely that the win over Imhotep and the two-point loss to Roman Catholic Sunday are more representative of the Fords’ potential. I’m assuming what I saw Saturday is Haverford at close to its worst. But the flaws are obvious. There’s a huge drop-off in talent after Shawn Alston, Lamar Stevens and Cameron Reddish. When I saw him, I don’t think Micah Sims recorded a stat that wasn’t a turnover or foul (the boxscore tells me he had one assist and one rebound). Derek Mountain air-balled his first two 3-point attempts. And there’s no one on the bench really pushing for minutes. But let’s let the numbers speak: In five games, the Big 3 have accounted for 267 of the Fords’ 328 points. That’s 81.4 percent. Starters have supplied 91.5 percent of the team’s points (300), despite ample garbage time in three blowouts (two wins, one loss). As long as those starters stay healthy and out of foul trouble, the Fords are good. But one hiccup and the level drops precipitously.
If Josh Sharkey keeps playing like this… Well, let’s just say Archbishop Carroll will be difficult to beat in Pennsylvania. All Sharkey did in his first two games against top talent at the Marshall County (Kentucky) Hoopsfest was go off for 24 points against Callaway (Mississippi), then 14 and nine assists in a loss to Ohio’s Villa Angela St. Joseph. He may not do that every game, but the potent threat he and others in that lineup present is enough to keep opponents honest against Derrick Jones and Ernest Aflakpui.
Marple Newtown can score. Moyer Academy and Marianna Bracetti isn’t exactly a murderers’ row of an opening weekend. But it takes a lot to score 152 points over two games. The vital trait, as much as the dynamic scoring tandem of Nick Giordano and Jake McGee, is the desire to play quickly. The Central League is full of deliberate, slow-you-down teams: Ridley, Haverford, Penncrest, Radnor, Upper Darby has played two games in the 40s. Marple’s get-up-and-go attack will win games this season solely based on their tempo making opponents rushed and uncomfortable.
Nick Alikakos is one heck of a weapon. Let’s recap the EA sophomore’s weekend: 27 points and eight rebounds against Abington Friends, then 34 points against Roxborough. Granted it’s not the best of competition, but it’s still staggering that Alikakos scored 61 points on a weekend where EA gave up 64. Seeing him battle Stevens in the post will be something to behold in the EA-Haverford rivalry showdown.
The “what’s that line for?” club. Much to my chagrin Saturday, both Penncrest’s Nolan Carroll (who made 3!) and EA’s Matt Woods hit 2-point field goals. Coming a day after seeing Carroll let fly 16 3-pt attempts and all of 0 2-pt attempts, I pondered just how far they could go without hitting a shot inside the arc. Last year 11 of Woods’ 12 made baskets were triples, while Carroll hit 54 of his 73 buckets from beyond the arc. Sadly, it appears neither will challenge Ben Parker of Haverford, who last year had all 28 of his made baskets come from 3-point land.
For whatever its struggles are, Penn Wood still has Malik Jackson. When you score 34 points in a game your team wins 65-59 as the Patriots did Sunday over Harrisburg, that’s a fairly large contribution. Jackson hoisted up 33 shots Sunday. 33! Penn Wood, no matter its other shortcomings, will win plenty of games by the sheer will and unstoppability of the 6-3 Jackson.
The Del Val is going to be very interesting. Academy Park has two wins over Central League opposition and a high-energy pressing style that will give many teams fits (even getting the best of a Penncrest team with three veteran ball handlers). Chichester was a minute from beating Penncrest and has the makings of a stellar one-two punch with Eric Montanez and Derrick Welles. Glen Mills, a team with no continuity last year, has a win. Regardless of whether Penn Wood and Chester are as good as last year, I think the rest of the league is greatly improved.
Springfield starting strong. Going to the Unionville Tournament and coming back with two wins is an impressive accomplishment. The way the Cougars accumulated those wins is even better, leading more or less throughout. Jordan Collins’ 32 points Friday is the standout number, and Kevin McCormick providing 29 points over two games is exactly the kind of dependability you’d expect from him.
A pair of debut wins. Bonner-Prendergast topped Springside Chestnut Hill, 51-41, Saturday night for Jack Concannon’s first win in his second stint with the Friars. Sun Valley topped Girard College, 57-31, Friday night for Steve Maloney’s first career win.