District One has released its rankings, and both the Del Val and Inter-Ac have completed their first turns through the schedule. It’s the dog days of January, where teams are being made and broken, and there’s unsurprisingly plenty of motion in the rankings this week. Here’s where we stand. (Records through Jan. 20)
1. Archbishop Carroll (11-4) Last Week: No. 1
There are no off nights in the Catholic League, which makes the next sentence seems like a gross oversimplification. But the door to the Catholic League was thrown open by La Salle beating Roman Catholic last week. That leaves five (5!) teams with one loss each in the league, including St. Joseph’s Prep, whose only loss is Carroll. The Patriots (whose loss was to Roman) could nudge ahead by beating Neumann-Goretti (whose loss was to Roman) Friday night, turning their showdown with La Salle into the de facto regular-season title game.
2. Chester (11-4) Last Week: No. 3
Through the first turn of the league schedule, the Clippers appear to be the class of the Del Val, though that will be tested by Thursday’s trip to Penn Wood. They lost to Imhotep last week (a team that Haverford School beat, it should be noted), but more impressive was grinding out a 55-52 win over Glen Mills. If the Clippers can get through the second half of the Del Val unscathed, that would be some accomplishment.
3. Haverford School (12-9) Last Week: No. 2
The Fords have lost two straight league games, including Tuesday’s heartbreaking home setback to a plucky Episcopal Academy team. If there’s one thing that stands out to Henry Fairfax above all else, it’s their resilience of his team – like last Saturday, when they responded to the defeat to Germantown Academy 24 hours earlier by beating a quality Friends’ Central team in overtime, rallying back from down five in the final minute. They’ll need to marshal that perseverance at the direst of hours in their season. Next week’s trip to Malvern Prep could be challenging, plus there’s little they can do on the title front beyond hope that GA knocks off EA, then beat the Patriots Feb. 3 at home.
4. Episcopal Academy (14-5) Last Week: No. 4
Apologies if this is a sentiment I’ve voiced before, but I watch this Churchmen team and wonder in just how many seasons they would’ve been head-and-shoulders the class of the Inter-Ac. They’ve got great role players, as Conner Delaney proved Tuesday. They’ve got a tremendous point guard and a post power. And now they control their destiny in the title race, with GA coming to their place next Tuesday.
5. Glen Mills (11-4) Last Week: No. 7
In last week’s rankings, I ended up with the Battlin’ Bulls behind Penn Wood despite beating them, reasoning the Patriots’ greater overall capacity to win games. But what led Glen Mills over Penn Wood (and subsequently over Academy Park and to within three points of Chester) is precisely what makes them so dangerous: Their post presence. Forget Anthony Johnson’s nearly automatic double-double of points and rebounds; he’s been so valuable defensively providing blocks and hindrance to shots, plus Imhotep Davis has turned up his offensive game lately. This team, if they are able to keep everyone healthy and in the program, could challenge for a District One Class AAA title.
6. Penn Wood (11-5) Last Week: No. 6
The m.o. with the Patriots is fairly clear: They struggle against tall teams. Anthony Johnson posted a triple-double against them, and Chester was able to alter so many shots in the lane and turn so many possessions into one-and-dones that the Patriots were unable to sustain an offensive rhythm. When it’s a perimeter game – like against Academy Park – the Patriots are more in their comfort zone. That leaves a big onus on favorable districts matchups for Penn Wood to find its way into states.
7. Academy Park (12-4) Last Week: No. 5
The Knights’ momentum has hit some bumps in the Del Val, with losses to Chester, Penn Wood and Glen Mills dropping them to fourth in a very, very strong field. The fact that the Del Val holds three of the top 14 places in the first District One Class AAAA power rankings (plus has Glen Mills second in Class AAA) is indicative of the league’s quality. A home playoff game, which AP is in position for, would be a major accomplishment for a program on a steady upward trajectory under Allen Brydges’ stewardship.
Honorable Mention: Ridley (12-3, the Green Raiders were very close to jumping up into the seventh spot this week. This team features five players who can score in double-figures any given night, impressive given that they only surrender an average of 45.6 ppg.); Penncrest (11-5, the loss to Ridley is somewhat indicative of the gap between them. Having AJ Taylor back is a boon, since without him, this team only has one player (Mike Doyle) capable of creating his own shot and providing an offensive spark when the system breaks down); Springfield (8-7, yeah, beating Lower Merion at their place will get you back into the conversation. But that win really magnifies the frustration around Kevin McCormick’s team: They’re capable of playing at that level on both sides of the ball every night, yet they still have a 20-point loss to Marple and setbacks to Cardinal O’Hara and Strath Haven on the ledger); Haverford (7-9, despite being under .500, the Fords boast a 6-4 Central League mark, including wins over the three teams ahead of them in this ranking. I’m sure there are plenty of coaches in District One hoping the pesky Fords don’t find their way into the playoffs); Upper Darby (9-7, after alternating wins and losses over their first 10, the Royals have won four of five, with Kahleel Henry and Quadir Turner really stepping up); Bonner-Prendergast (10-6, the Catholic League was always going to be tough sledding, but the Friars have three PCL wins, two in overtime).