James Nelson Stewart: Did you see Jig score 52 against Chester?

By James Nelson Stewart

March 18, 2019

The answer for a lot of people standing outside of Spring-Ford High School in the chilly weather is a RESOUNDING NO!!! Two of the historically great PA High School Boys Basketball programs were playing for a right to represent their school in the PA 6A Final Four. Coatesville and Chester, are two teams with not only great and historical programs, they have two of the most passionate fan bases around. Now I’m not saying that Spring-Ford is a bad place to hold a basketball game, but this school is ill-equipped to hold a game of this magnitude at their gymnasium. A police officer from the Royersford Department said the real story was outside the game. He was standing outside as people, even those that had tickets were asked to leave because the Fire Marshal said no more people were allowed inside the gym. Media credentials didn’t matter either. Even worse than that, there were two Division 1 coaches that were NOT allowed inside to watch Superb Jr. Jhamir “Jig” Brickus (pictured below) put on a show that people will talk about for many years in this rivalry.

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Jhamir Brickus

Another Quarterfinal game was played at the brand new Plymouth Whitemarsh gym, which was poorly constructed for a basketball game of this magnitude. One side of the stands cannot be fully extended because it will extend out onto the court. Now with two programs (Pennridge and Methacton) that are both extending their season longer than ever before in their school’s history. Both teams have communities that have an excitement that was never enjoyed before this year. And over 400 fans were turned away from this gym and missed the excitement of Sean Yoder’s game-winning buzzer beating step back three point shot.

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Pennridge celebrates win over Methacton

So I ask the PIAA officials what can be done to rectify these types of situations and how can we utilize gyms that can hold school communities and their fan bases when they are traveling a good distance and spending their hard earned money to purchase tickets that they could not use. I was also informed that for the FIRST year ever the PIAA did not broadcast the PIAA PA State Wrestling Championships and sold the rights to flowrestling.org, which many people did not have a good viewership to enjoy the wrestling. Wrestling in PA is as big, if not more popular than basketball and again the PIAA has dropped the ball. Instead of celebrating these great events that lasts a lifetime in these student-athlete’s lives and communities that share the triumphs with these young athletes, we are talking about the short coming of the entity that has the most to gain from these successful events.

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Packed crowd for Coatesville/Chester playoff matchup

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE our Philadelphia Area High School Basketball Scene. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE our PA High School Basketball Scene. We are lucky to have seen Billy Owens at Carlisle High School win 4 straight State basketball titles. We were blessed to see Kobe Bryant finally get past Chester High School and win his District and State Title. I can go down the names of great players that made an impact on the High School Scene. So I want the PIAA to successfully fix some of the problems that can be easily remedied. We are the IMPASSIONED Basketball fan that want solutions because this season has BEEN incredible.

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Former Clipper, Moe Nelson watches Coatesville/Chester game

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James Nelson Stewart’s PIAA Elite 8 Preview

By James Nelson Stewart

March 15, 2019

PIAA ELITE 8 Preview

Well we are down to the Elite 8 for all of the classification of the PIAA. There have been some major upsets along the way (Nationally Ranked Abington losing to Pennridge and Lower Moreland beating Lehigh Valley powerhouse Bethlehem Catholic). In saying that, most of the predictions have been right on as I have gotten 15 of the 16 teams correct in the 5A and 6A brackets (save Pennridge). But now the tournament has gotten to where every game will be closely contested and teams that are favored are not favored by much.

Another big storyline is the DOMINANCE of the Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL). The PCL is 15-1 going into the Semifinal round (with Ryan losing a close battle out West to Moon Township). This round will change that narrative as we will have 3 PCL Battles this weekend (6A Roman-LaSalle, 4A Bonner-Carroll, 3A Neumann-McDevitt), so at least 3 less PCL teams will be eliminated from State Title hopes. So let’s go down the brackets and see the who moves on.

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Methacton’s Jeff Woodward & Dave Duda

6A
25-4 Pennridge vs 22-7 Methacton @Plymouth Whitemarsh 1PM Saturday 3/16
After 3 losses to Abington, Pennridge shocked the Nationally Ranked Abington Ghosts 55-51 on Wednesday. Sean Yoder and Company won this hard fought game by just out-willing their opponent. Now they face the well balanced Warriors of Methacton. Methacton has a great inside/out combination with Woodward (6-9 Jr) inside and David Duda (6-3 Sr) and Eric Timko (6-4 Jr) providing the outside punch. This should be another war. This is the farthest both teams have EVER gone in the State Tournament and neither seem ready to go home. Plus these are AAU teammates going Head to Head in Yoder and Duda (East Coast Power). This one goes down to the wire but I think Pennridge prevails 67-65.

24-4 Roman Catholic vs 25-3 LaSalle @Archbishop Ryan 2PM Saturday 3/16
It’s hard to beat a great team 3 times, but that’s what Roman is trying to accomplish in this game to move to the Final 4. The names haven’t changed (Hart, Lundy, Duren, Wild, Williams, Powell, Crisler, Kriska, Timby, Freyre, Beard) except Lynn Greer III is not playing in this contest. 2 of the best teams in the state with Division 1 talent all over the floor but this game may be decided by guys with the lower profile. Louie Wild will play a big part of this game for the Cahillites and sharp shooter Jake Timby will provide a clutch presence for the Explorers. But Hakim Hart has been arguably the best player in the City this year and seems to be on a mission. Roman 70-63

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Jhamir Brickus and Coatesville

28-2 Coatesville vs 22-6 Chester @Spring-Ford 1PM Saturday 3/16
Historically Great teams matchup again in this round. Chester just beat another great program in Harrisburg in the last round and Coatesville beat Highly-Recruited Ethan Morton and Butler their last time out. No need to hype this up. 2 teams with very passionate fan bases!!! This matchup is FIRE!!! Man-Man vs Jig WOW!!! But the difference maker is Dupree Bryant, arguably the most athletic young man in the state. As he says, Heart over Height!!! I’m taking Coatesville 78-75

24-3 Kennedy Catholic vs 24-3 Mt. Lebanon @Aliquippa 1:30PM Saturday 3/16
Key players: 6-10 Sr Oscar Tshiebwe (Kennedy Catholic) 6-6 Sr Maceo Austin (Kennedy Catholic) 5-11 Sr Michael Palmer (Mt. Lebanon) 6-3 Sr Sean Loughlin (Mt Lebanon)
Too much size as Kennedy Catholic moves on 68-58

5A
21-7 Sun Valley vs 26-2 Abington Heights @Liberty HS 6:00PM 3/15
The District 1 Champs are facing the Defending State Champs. The Senior Laden Sun Valley team led by Vinny DiAngelo and Marvin Freeman are going up against Binghamton signee 6-6 George Tinsley and Coach Ken Bianchi. The experience will play a factor in this game. Abington Heights 68-60

Archbishop Wood vs. Meadville PIAA Class 5A Championship

Julius Phillips, Archbishop Wood

18-8 Archbishop Wood vs 25-3 Pottsville @Geigle Complex 7:30PM 3/15
2 teams that have very good underclassmen (Pottsville Jr. 6-6 Kevin Schenk and Jr. 6-1 Mason Barnes and Wood’s So trio of 6-1 Rahsool Diggins, 5-10 Jaylen Stinson and 6-5 Super Athlete Daeshon Shepherd) that are leading these teams. But the difference here is 6-5 Sr Julius Ju-Ju Phillips and Championship Coach John Mosco. Those 2 have been under the bright lights before and shined very bright. Wood 62-53

Lower Dauphin 25-3 vs Moon 25-2
Key players: 5-10 Sr Luke Hedrick (Lower Dauphin) 6-7 Jr Donovan Johnson (Moon)
Moon 50-47

Mars 27-1 vs Meadville 20-6
Key players: 5-10 Sr Andrew Reechia (Mars) 6-7 Jr Michael Carmody (Mars) 6-8 Sr Lashon Lindsey (Meadville) 6-3 G Davyon Butler (Meadville)
Mars 62-60

4A
Bonner 20-5 vs Archbishop Carroll 17-10
Key Players 6-3 Sr Miami Signee Isaiah Wong (Bonner) 6-8 Sr Tariq Ingraham (Bonner) 6-5 Sr Luke House (Carroll) 6-7 Jr Tairi Ketner (Carroll)
Bonner 58-54

Lower Moreland 24-3 vs 24-3 Scranton Prep
Key Players: 6-3 Sr Forrest Keys (Lower Moreland) 5-10 SR Shane Cohen (Lower Moreland) 6-8 Lafayette Commit Leo O’Boyle (Scranton Prep) 6-8 JR Rhys Merritt (Scranton Prep)
Scranton Prep 62-56

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Donta Scott, Imhotep

Imhotep 23-6 vs Bishop McDevitt 24-3
Key Players: 6-7 Sr Maryland Commit Donta Scott (Imhotep) 6-4 Sr Xavier Commit Dhamir Bishop (Imhotep) 6-6 Sr Chereef Knox (Imhotep) 6-0 Sr Alin Jones (Bishop McDevitt) 6-3 Jr John Kelly (Bishop McDevitt)
Imhotep 65-40

New Castle 23-4 vs Hickory 26-1
Hickory 73-69

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Hakim Byrd, Neumann-Goretti

3A
Neumann Goretti 21-7 vs Bishop McDevitt 20-7
3rd matchup between the 2 teams, each team winning 1. This is the tiebreaker. This is the battle of guards NG is led Athletic Sr. 6-2 PG Rider Commit Chris Ings, 5-10 Jr Hakim Byrd and 6-6 Jr Jordan Hall. McDevitt is led by 6-0 Jr Robert “Man Man” Smith, 6-1 Jr Amir Harris and 6-4 Jr Jamil Manigo. Even better is the battle of wits between 7 time Champion and recent 500 game winner Carl Arrigale and Reigning Catholic Coach of the Year McDevitt’s Will Chavis. Expect a game where every possession is a war and every move is countered by an opposing move. It’s had to defeat a champion and that’s why I give the edge to Neumann 58-55

Eric Dixon on Robeson Star Walter Hester!

By Eric Dixon

PHILADELPHIA, PennsylvaniaWalter Hester of Paul Robeson High School (Philadelphia, Pa.) is a “bucket”. The 5-11 combo guard can “flat out score the ball” as was evidenced in a recent win over Eastern University Academy where he scored an impressive 47 points to help get his team into tonight’s Class A championship game against Sankofa Academy.

Hester has started all but a handful of games in a four year varsity career that has seen him amass more than 1500 points from all three levels. The senior is averaging 27 ppg game, which represents a 8 point improvement over his junior season scoring average. He attributes the increase to a number of factors, including his ability to improve his pull up jump shot and “be more aggressive going to the rim” to draw fouls at a higher rate than in previous years.

It didn’t take long for the staff at Robeson to see Hester was special. He began his freshman year on the bench the first 3 or 4 games before one of the starters was slowed by an injury. “We tried it in practice it in practice and then they just kept it like that,” according to Hester.

His ascent to neighborhood folk and family hero began in middle school, says Joslyn Hester-Parham. “I wasn’t too into at first. I mean knew he played ball, but I didn’t know he play play.” She went on to say how it was around his eighth grade year when people from their southwest Philadelphia community would come up to her and tell “your brother play ball real nice.”

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Joslyn Hester-Parham and Walter Hester

Unfortunately, it’s taken college scouts a little longer to recognize his worth as his recruitment has been “slower than you might expect for a guy with his numbers,” says Robeson’s head coach, Robert Powlen. He insists if given the opportunity “Walt”, as he is affectionately known by family and friends, would be a great addition to a college program.

“On the next level, he can play either guard position and will continue to get stronger and will adjust to the college game. I truly expect him to have a great college career. His character, talent and will to win will never let him down” says Powlen.

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Coach Powlen and Walter Hester

Hester, a Philadelphia All public performer who is the 6th of 9 siblings, credits his brothers Khalil, Tyrefe, Nigel and Julius with helping him hone his game at the playground at 51st and Kingsessing. Hester is not being very tall in scholastic basketball terms but for pick up games he grew up having a to “play down low” and guard bigger players. The experience has helped him develop confidence in playing against taller players. Other influences are his mentor and trainer Rafiq Strand.

The Achieve More AAU basketball program allowed Hester to do just that by taking him to out of state tournaments and giving him free rein to explore and develop his creative shot making abilities against unfamiliar competition. “It was a good experience, they gave me more freedom. I didn’t do any thinking, I just played my game.”

Tonight against Sankofa, Hester will look to continue to do just that. He’s going to give it all he’s got, as he always does. “We are going to take what they give us. We are going to be scrappy and get the 50-50 balls and just go after it.” Sounds like something he’s used to doing.

Check Rock… Dad

Andre Brown has a playoff game today… He leads his John Bartram Braves into battle with everything on the line… It’s do or die…

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James Brown (far left) and Andre Brown (2nd from left)

His opponent… His Pops…

James Brown’s Science Leadership Academy at Beeber Rockets come in with a gaudy 18-4 record. To build upon his outstanding regular season, Coach Brown will have to knock off his son. The same son he introduced to the game.

Great Matchup

John Bartram HS

3:15 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pops Martelli, My Ol’ Head

I’ve been blessed with some wonderful Ol’ Heads throughout my 5 plus decades on this planet. Yesterday… I learned that one of them is no longer with us…

Immediately, I thought of a day maybe 2 or 3 years ago… I got to Hagan Arena early for an evening St. Joseph’s game… Grabbed a pretzel and a coke and headed for the “friends and family” section directly behind the St. Joe’s bench… Figured I’d just chill for a while, maybe make a few calls…

Sitting there, as usual, was Pops Martelli… This was at least an hour or so before the game… He was there by himself. I always enjoyed talking St. Joe’s hoops with Pops, so I  sat down right beside him…he smiled and held out his hand…

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Pops Martelli

“What up Pops?”

Usually, our discussions centered on the current St. Joe’s team… Unabashed SJU homers, we frequently bounced thoughts and ideas off one another… What could this kid do to improve? What do the next few games look like? Can we win tonight?

This time, however, I mentioned to Pops that I was working on a Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame project. His eyes lit up… For the next hour or so, he talked in depth about almost EVERY great player that came through Philadelphia’s scholastic and collegiate ranks… Ernie Beck, Tom Gola, John Chaney, Guy Rodgers, Ray Scott, Tee Parham, Hal Lear, Cliff Anderson and scores of others.

My Ol’ Head was very well-versed in Philly Hoops…

Pops shared how he used to go to the Palestra and “figure out” a way to gain entrance. Pops said he HAD to see the greats play. He saw Cousy, he saw Oscar, he saw Jerry, he saw Russell, he saw Wilt hundreds of times. He saw them all. Pops watched the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and the 10’s.

For the last thirty years his view was right over the shoulder of his son… Pops watched Mark Bass chase an NIT in the Garden… He was right there when Rashid Bey led SJU into a Sweet 16 battle with Kentucky… Pops saw Jameer and Delonte beat EVERYONE… Highest of the highs and lowest of the lows…

Pops Marteli was there…

My Ol’ Head saw EVERY one of the greats. A TRUE Philly hoop head in the purest sense. Our basketball community is worse off today.

Gonna miss watching and talking Hoops with Pops…

The Hawk Will Never Die

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were…

“Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were!”

Dennis Green, Cardinals Head Coach 2006

With 43 points and 14 rebounds in the Gonzaga DC Championship Game Abington’s Senior Superstar, Eric Dixon (WeRone Hoops), officially put the PIAA on notice! Playing against a tough, deep and talented St. Frances Academy squad that is perennially ranked in the top 25 nationally, Dixon put on a performance for the ages. He scored in every way imaginable… jump hooks, fade aways, up and unders, turn around jumpers, face up 3s, etc. Eric was really digging deep into his bag… The DC crowd was in awe of his skill level. He was named tournament MVP despite losing to the Panthers in the title game. Dixon (Villanova commit) is now the all-time leading scorer in the history of Abington HS basketball with over 1700 points. He will likely end up in the 2400-2500 range when it’s all said and done.

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Eric Dixon, named MVP after scoring 43 points and pulling down 14 rebounds

Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Senior All-American candidate, Naheem McLeod (PYO Hoops) kicked in the door for his senior season. Before a full house in a new gymnasium McLeod exploded for 41 points and 14 rebounds to lead P-W to close win over Norristown. The 7’3″ McLeod (Florida State commit) displayed a wide range of skills in this contest. He advanced the ball in transition, he pulled up and made jumpshots beyond 3 point range, there were a few no look passes and of course about a gazillion dunks! As a senior, McLeod clearly understands that this year’s team will only go as far as he can carry them. He appears more than ready to carry the load.

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McLeod in action against Norristown. (Photo Credit: Raw Sports)

Cheltenham’s Division 1 prospect, Zahree Harrison ’20, jump started the Cheltenham campaign with two outstanding performances. Harrison was named the MVP of the Tip Off Classic after filling the stat sheet with12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the first contest and piling up 23 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the second game. He continues to garner interest from mid-major programs along the eastern seaboard.

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Harrison (center, holding MVP trophy) after title game

Constitution’s “Big 2” Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds and Jabari Merritt scored 21 and 17 points, respectively, as the Generals defeated Miguel Boc’s young and fiesty West Catholic Prep squad. Looking for extremely big things from Hammonds and Merritt this season. Both are being closely monitored by several mid-major programs.

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Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds, Division 1 combo guard prospect

La Salle’s Senior point guard Allen Powell is off to great start. He had 17 points and 7 assists in the first game of the season. The next game he put up 19 points and again dished 7 assists while earning the MVP in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Tip Off Classic! Led by Powell, La Salle is a real threat to make it to the Palestra this year. Several low to mid-major programs have been inquiring about this sharpshooting point guard.

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Allen Powell, La Salle Senior Point Guard

Neumann-Goretti sophomore Chris Evans, came out letting it fly! Lil’ Money connected on 6 out of 7 three point field goal attempts and earned an MVP award in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Tip Off Classic. His range and the green light Carl Arrigale and the Saints have given him will pose problems for opponents all season.

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Jeremy Treatman and Chris Evans, Neumann-Goretti sophomore

Yes… It’s early…

But, they are who we thought they were!

This week, Overbrook, led by the dynamic Division 1 PG prospect, Naim Walker ’21 and the prolific scorer Khalif Washington ’19, travels to O’Hara where they will face first year coach Ryan Nemetz’s squad. They will also host arch rival West Philadelphia on Thursday.

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Khalif Washington, center

Donta Scott (Maryland commit), Dahmir Bishop (Xavier commit), Chereef Knox (Undecided), Jamil Riggins (Binghamton commit) and Fatayn Wesley (undecided) lead nationally ranked Imhotep as they host Hammonds, Merritt and Constitution on Tuesday. On Saturday, Imhotep faces Delaware powerhouse Samford in the Diane Mosco Tournament at Archbishop Wood.

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Donta Scott, Imhotep Senior

Then on Sunday…

Roman Catholic attempts to hand Imhotep it’s first loss in Philly in three years. Scott, Bishop, Knox, Riggins and Wesley were freshmen the last time they tasted defeat in a local matchup. Seth Lundy (Penn State commit), Hakim Hart (St. Joseph’s commit), Louis Wild (undecided), Lynn Greer (ESPN top 100), Jalen Duren (ESPN top 5) and Justice Williams (ESPN top 100), more than any other local team in recent memory, possess the talent and athleticism to matchup with mighty Imhotep. The game could very well come down to a chess match between the Imhotep Head Coach and Roman’s Matt Griffin.

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Roman Catholic Star, Seth Lundy