With a league that allows as many nonleague games as the Inter-Ac and sets up their opening day with a ceremonial tripleheader, there’s a fair amount of anticipation for a game like Haverford School and Episcopal Academy, even before accounting for the rivalry factor. Saturday’s tilt didn’t disappoint, and while the Fords’ 57-46 victory didn’t include the most thrilling of endings, it featured plenty of clean, competitive basketball showcasing the talented players. Here are a few extra points from today’s game.
– In terms of watchability, this game was one of the better examples of high school basketball you’ll see. It had runs back and forth, periods of fast-paced but under-control basketball and plenty of the missed opportunities that make a game exciting. The combination of low turnover counts (17 total, just six for EA) and low foul tallies (the teams combined for six in the first half, then neither was near the bonus until under two minutes left in the fourth) meant everyone stayed on the floor as long as their stamina held out. There were no ‘what ifs’ when it came to the result.
– Part of the completeness of Saturday’s affair was the return of Derek Mountain, the Fords starting guard/forward who had missed the last five games with a stress fracture in his foot. In befitting the tricky nature of the ailment, Haverford School coach Henry Fairfax said that he received official clearance for Mountain via his doctor when the pregame clock showed 22 seconds to tip off. Mountain said Tuesday after the Fords’ loss to Archbishop Carroll that he’d been cleared to resume shooting but that no timetable was in place. Mountain missed all three of his looks from the field, dished one assist and picked up one rebound in playing a good portion of the game.
– In the first Inter-Ac game of this season, Fairfax drew upon a lesson from the juncture last season where the wheels came off the Fords. Haverford School led Penn Charter by as many as 18 in their second meeting last year before the Quakers stormed back. (That loss, the Fords’ second in the league, made a win over Germantown Academy academic and took the steam out of them in a loss to Episcopal in the league finale.) Against Penn Charter, Fairfax recalled a moment in the third quarter where he sensed his team was starting to drop its level. So Saturday, Fairfax resolved to be proactive. Midway through the first, third and fourth quarters (at 4:31, 4:16 and 4:36, respectively), Fairfax signaled for timeouts after made baskets by his team to reinforce points of emphasis. Fairfax said afterward that he’s getting more attuned to the ebb and flow of league games, and he wanted to prepare his team for the runs with which EA would – and inevitably did – respond.
– Lamar Stevens’ 24 points and 17 rebounds jump off the page. There’s no denying that he got the better of Nick Alikakos down low. It was close to even at half – Stevens had 12 points and eight rebounds; Alikakos had six and five. Both attempted five field goals in the second half, only Stevens didn’t miss.
– Perhaps the most damning stat about Alikakos’ day – as EA coach Craig Conlin remarked to his assistants on the bench – was that he picked up his first foul with 45 seconds left in the game. There’s a fine line between smartly meting out aggressiveness in the post and not being aggressive. Given the drop off from Stevens to the Fords’ secondary post players like Jack Marshall (who didn’t play Saturday for the first time all season) and Noah Lejman, I’d think the best way to defend Stevens is to attack him and either put him on the bench or force his foul count to determine his aggression. A 64.2 percent free throw shooter, sending him to the line once in a while isn’t a bad plan either.
– It was clear against Carroll Tuesday that the difference between the teams was the lack of depth for the Fords as compared to the Patriots’ supporting cast (see the eight second-quarter points by Samir Taylor or the 10 second-half points by John Rigsby as evidence). But Saturday, the Fords got quality minutes from senior Logan Atkins in the first half as Mountain sat trying to get up to speed. Micah Sims, who has just 11 points all season (including 0 free throw attempts) and is basically an offensive nonentity, provided two steals and good defense on Mike Jolaoso. The big three of Stevens, Shawn Alston and Cameron Reddish scored all the points, but they were by no means the only contributors.
– Another stat that stands out: Jolaoso shot 3-for-16 from the field. Many of those were in the lane, and a few times he just flat out got stuffed by the rim. Credit goes to the Fords’ defense, with Sims shadowing him and Stevens altering shots (and Alston blocking two shots). But there’s no doubt that Jolaoso is capable of playing much better.
– With Jolaoso and Alikakos at less than peak effectiveness, EA’s supporting cast was able to step up. Mike Hinckley was EA’s best player in the third quarter, willing them back into contact. Conner Delaney was the offensive star of the fourth with eight points. For the Churchmen to stick with a team like Haverford School, though, they need more from Matt Woods than 1-for-4 from 3-point land, but the secondary scorers weren’t the problem Saturday.
– A bit of perspective: Haverford School beat Episcopal, 61-48, in their first meeting last year. That meant little when the teams met at EA later in the season and a spunky Churchmen squad claimed a 70-64 win that didn’t seem that close to put the final nail in the Fords’ coffin. I have a feeling the journey for both teams this Inter-Ac season will be similarly meandering.