Before we delve headlong into the Christmas tournament season, it’s time to see where the field in Delco stands, and the holiday provides a fitting pause for that. Below is the Super 7 that ran in Wednesday’s paper accompanying the first basketball notebook. (Records based on games through Dec. 23)
1. Archbishop Carroll (3-3) Last Week: No. 1
The Patriots are adjusting to life after Ernest Aflakpui’s injury, and a suddenly large team is looking drastically undersized, especially with the prevailing wisdom being to move Derrick Jones further from the post (he’s more of a 3 than a 4 at the next level) rather than closer to it. Having Ryan Daly back from a bout of illness compensates for the scoring and adds extra punch, but low-post defense is suddenly a concern for which there’s no ready-made replacement. The fact that Jones is averaging 13.7 points per game and has yet to score more than 18 in a game is interesting, to say the least. Part of that is due to shooting 43 percent (19-for-44) from the free throw line.
2. Chester (4-1) Last Week: No. 2
Marquis Collins took another step toward the inheritance of the Chester star mantle with his game-winning shot last Saturday against York, an impressive win and a possible states preview. The multi-pronged approach of getting scoring from a variety of outlets continues to work. Also beneficial to the Clippers: A big guy like Maurice Henry who is shooting 76.2 percent from the line.
3. Haverford School (6-4) Last Week: No. 3
Derek Mountain is out indefinitely with a stress fracture, which forces Henry Fairfax to stretch the bench for a team already searching for depth. The good news is that they have options – they can go with small lineups featuring Kharon Randolph in essentially a four-guard look, or they can go big with workmanlike Jack Marshall in the post. Losing Mountain, though, is another shooter and hard worker out of the equation.
4. Penn Wood (4-2) Last Week: No. 4
The two losses are against Bartram sans Malik Jackson and against Martin Luther King, one of the top Class AAAA teams in the state. Neither of those is particularly ugly, and Clyde Jones is always about challenging his team in the nonleague season. With a trip to Baltimore coming up, there will be more of that challenge awaiting.
5. Academy Park (7-0) Last Week: No. 7
Let’s give the Knights their due as the last remaining unbeaten in Delco. They don’t play a national schedule (unlike the four teams ahead of them), sure. But they have three wins over the Central League, including topping Strath Haven and Harriton at their places. They beat O’Hara at O’Hara. Even if you remove the lopsided win against Trinity from Australia, their six other wins have come by an average of 14.6 points. They’ve also pulled off the last two wins with Jawan Collins seriously hampered by foul trouble. Stylistically, their press will give so many teams such problems that if they get games where the refs don’t get paid by the whistle, they can surprise teams. Though, at this point, should it be a surprise?
6. Episcopal Academy (6-4) Last Week: No. 5
I’m exhausted for the Churchmen. They’ve already lost in OT, lost in double-OT and lost on a buzzer-beater. A hard-fought, six-point loss to a very good Phelps School team almost looks like an easy day on this emotional roller coaster. Consider this, though: They’re 6-4 and yet still are outscoring teams by an average of 11.5 points per game (not per win; per GAME). Plus, I’m impressed with their resilience. They rebound from the 2OT loss to Hill School (a quality opponent) by battling out a win over Friends Central. And at Hill’s Mercer Tournament, they stomached the buzzer-beating loss to Kiski School with wins each of the next two days. Their drop this week is much more about Academy Park rising than EA falling.
7. Glen Mills (5-2) Last Week: NR
Anthony Johnson rightfully garners a lot of headlines, but the fact that they were able to handle Upper Darby last week without him having much of an impact speaks volumes as to this team’s strength. The fact that Johnson, Steven Welsh and Tyreek Brickus all played together at the school last year is a major boon that Tony Bacon isn’t accustomed to. That and the superior ball-handling of Khyzeem Brown at the point could pull together a very special group.
Honorable Mention: Ridley (4-2, looks like the Green Raiders are starting to get things together, though contributions from beyond the top six players remain scarce); Penncrest (5-3, the combination of Mike Doyle and Nolan Carroll can’t be limited to just 15 total points in many games like Tuesday if they want to have success); Springfield (4-3, losing to Strath Haven could prove to be a regrettable setback for the Cougars); Chichester (4-3, the Eagles have wins over Marple and Strath Haven, an OT loss to Penncrest and will be in every game this season as long as they have dynamic players like Derrick Welles and Eric Montanez); Marple Newtown (5-3, sounds like the Tigers, behind 34 Nick Giordano points, gave Lower Merion all they could handle Tuesday, a statement few Delco Central League teams will likely be able to say this season); Haverford (3-4, the Fords started the season with four straight losses, but they have a knack for churning out league wins that don’t always feature pretty score lines, including consecutive wins over Ridley and Penncrest).