Contrary to what the rankings this season may indicate, there is not a bylaw stating that the boys basketball Super 7 must change every week. There’s no requirement to give everyone a chance at every position in the ranking like a game of musical chairs. But the reality this season is that while the No. 1 spot has been occupied steadfastly by Archbishop Carroll, the other six spots have been ever-changing thanks to the natural ebb and flow of seasons for a handful of quality teams. Here’s where they shake out this week as the end of the regular season looms, the ramifications of which are outlined in my notebook. (Records through Feb. 3, as are the updates on the blog.)
1. Archbishop Carroll (14-5) Last Week: No. 1
The Patriots have had plenty of impressive wins this season, the latest installments being the handling of La Salle when the Explorers were ranked No. 1 in the state for Class AAAA and the besting of St. Joseph’s Prep, also among the AAAA elite. But Wednesday’s win over Father Judge (not figured into their record above) may be most impressive. They got just three points from Derrick Jones, against a quality team that is getting state-wide recognition in Class AAAA. Dave Beatty and Josh Sharkey proved they are more than just a supporting cast, and if/when Jones starts really asserting himself on games consistently and creating offense of the non-dunking variety, this can be a very, very dangerous team.
2. Episcopal Academy (17-5) Last Week: No. 2
The Churchmen have it all to play for Friday when they host Germantown Academy with an Inter-Ac title on the line. EA bested GA, 52-48, on the road Jan. 9; they’ve won eight straight games and 13 of 14. There’s some uncertainty as to whether EA will have senior point guard Mike Jolaoso available Friday. He’s missed the last three games for undisclosed reasons, and the answers from the EA camp have been evasive and cryptic as to the reasoning. In his absence, Mike Hinckley and Conner Delaney has stepped up their backcourt duties, while Matt Woods has been on fire from 3, draining 20 triples over the last four games and 13 in the last two to become that secondary scoring option needed sans Jolaoso.
3. Penn Wood (16-5) Last Week: No. 5
It’s six straight wins for Penn Wood; a seventh Thursday would guarantee them a share of their second straight Del Val title. A handful of coaches I’ve talked to peg the Patriots at District One title contenders, and with players like Addison Scott and Malik Jackson that can bend games to their will, it’s hard to argue. They have a noted weakness in terms of verticality, but how many teams are in a position to exploit that in the postseason? And are any of them going to do it better than Glen Mills’ tall duo that the Patriots overcame last week?
4. Chester (13-7) Last Week: No. 4
The Clippers have started to sort things out, but wins over Chichester and Interboro (holding the latter to 20 points) aren’t the best of measuring sticks. If they get over the hump Thursday against Glen Mills, then we can talk about them steadying the ship. Jamar Sudan and Marquis Collins have reasserted themselves, and while there’s still no unquestioned No. 1 scoring option, having more players step up is beneficial.
5. Haverford School (14-10) Last Week: No. 3
The Fords battled Tuesday, yes. They were unlucky on a few calls, including Lamar Stevens picking up five fouls in a game that featured very few whistles for the first three quarters and change. But the Fords cannot blow a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left if they want to be of championship caliber. They cannot. And the final two minutes of that game exemplified my reservations about that Fords all season: When push came to shove and Stevens was on the bench, there was only one option on offense, and everyone knew it was Shawn Alston. The Temple signee is a great player and the guy I’d wanted with the ball in his hands just about every time. But when it became 1-on-3 on drives to the hoop, not even Alston could turn that disadvantage in his favor.
6. Ridley (16-4) Last Week: No. 7
The Green Raiders close the season with six games in nine days, seven in 11 if they make the Central League semifinals as they should (provided they take care of Garnet Valley Thursday). Among the games in that stretch are wins over Haverford, Upper Darby, Glen Mills and Lower Merion, the last three coming without leading scorer Ameer Staggs. (Per coach Mike Snyder, Staggs (concussion) will be evaluated against Saturday and could be available for the semifinal if all goes well.) If the Green Raiders beat GV, then win the semi, they could be in line for a seed around seven to nine, with could give them two games at home to play into states.
7. Glen Mills (14-6) Last Week: No. 6
Losses in two of three have slowed the Battlin’ Bulls’ momentum, but the ranking is easy this week given that they lost to Ridley last Saturday before beating Academy Park. One concern for the Bulls is that Stephen Welsh (11 points total in last four games) has seen his offense drop off. Khyzeem Brown has taken a larger offensive role, and Imhotep Davis will be a difference-maker in the postseason as smaller teams have to flock to Anthony Johnson’s post presence, but Welsh could use to do more.
Honorable mention: Academy Park (16-5, the Knights seeding will suffer because of their league record, but they are 11-1 outside the Del Val. That’s nothing to sneeze at. If they fall into the 14-to-18 range, teams like Methacton and Pennridge will not want to see them down the road in the second round); Springfield (13-8, a ton of credit goes to Kevin McCormick for getting this team to play up to its potential, winning five straight. A big part of that is secondary scoring – Dan Wasson is averaging 7.3 ppg over the last three games, while Quideer Wimes has 19 points over the last two games); Penncrest (13-8, the win over Radnor arrested a three-game slide and likely guaranteed the Lions will make districts for a seventh straight season, but Thursday’s game with Springfield will be a good barometer of if they can accomplish anything in the postseason); Marple Newtown (12-9, the Tigers have Harriton Thursday and need a win to give them a shot for the postseason. That would be a sixth straight win and seventh in eight, which is really all Brian Shane could’ve asked from his team when they were mired at 6-8 midseason); Haverford (10-11, Haverford has to beat Conestoga Thursday, plain and simple. The Fords are coming off their best offensive performance of the season, 59 points against Garnet Valley Tuesday); Upper Darby (10-11, if the Royals miss the postseason, that 10-point lead they squandered against Conestoga Tuesday to represent a third straight loss will be the prime culprit).