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

Haddonfield Knocks off Camden… Again

Got there about 6:10 pm…. My Bro, Gene Lett came through! He made sure I had a ticket for the game… You had to have a plan or a hook up… Couldn’t show up and buy a ticket… Naaah…Not that night…

The South Jersey Group 2 title game between Camden and Haddonfield on Monday night at Cherry Hill East High School was HUGE!

The line to enter the game was a couple hundred deep over an an hour before tip-off… Keep in mind, these were people with tickets in their hand…

There were ABSOLUTELY no tickets available for purchase… Every square inch of the gym was accounted for… Here is a quick pan of the energetic and considerably swollen crowd…

 

 

Literally, this was the hottest ticket in town…

The meager number allotted to the respective schools were swallowed within minutes of release. And then… Shit got a lil’ weird.

At Haddonfield High School, you had to present a driver’s license with a Haddonfield address to purchase a ticket to a basketball game… If you had an acceptable address, you were allowed to purchase exactly one ticket…

RULES… Conceived, drafted and implemented in a day… Intended to advantage some and disadvantage others…

Some complained… strongly… Haddonfield, clearly, wanted to ensure that it’s fans were taken care of… I don’t blame them… With a suitable venue, between the two schools, they could have easily sold in excess of 4,000 tickets for this contest.

The Camden and Haddonfield communities support their basketball programs in a very big way!

Haddonfield also has a Championship team. Now… Here is where you say predictable things about a predominantly white basketball team… Shit like, they are well coached and unselfish… They play a structured, disciplined and patient brand of basketball. They avoid turnovers.

All true… The team possesses those characteristics… and more. They can really fuckin’ play…

They entered the game with a record of 28-1. They defeated Camden last year for South Jersey Group 2 title… Haddonfield ain’t new to this.

As Camden faithful perform the autopsies, various causes of defeat are bandied about… For example, the Xs and Os of first year coach Vic Carstarphen have been openly discussed as the reason for the loss. Some question his decisions to switch defenses at key junctures. Others point to a perceived lack of focus among the high talented core group of players and fault the head coach.

It is worth noting that Lett, Brewer and Woodley never wore purple and gold before this season. Carstarphen had to integrate these players into a lineup featuring established starters Lance Ware and Ethan Tarte. On top of that, the volatile Woodley was unavailable for a couple stretches. Overall, Carstarphen did a solid job of blending disparate parts into a functioning unit over the course of the season. They just ran into a well-prepared and determined Haddonfield squad.

With his rookie campaign under his belt, one would expect to see Carstarphen continue to evolve and improve as a head coach.

Another frequently cited reason was the referees. Objectively speaking, the refs must bear some weight… In my estimation, over the first three quarters, the refs missed a LOT of calls… but they – more or less – missed ‘em on both ends.

As the game wound down to crunch time, they started calling fouls away from the basket…

Huh? What the fuck?

You didn’t see that aggravated assault under the other basket ’bout 7 minutes ago. There’s no denying it… There were some very bad calls. Nakedly so… More significantly, in the latter stage, the whistle was only blowing one way. The refs were a factor in the game… The refs did not determine the outcome.

There were other factors of equal or more significance.

For Camden, Nasir Lett cramped up and Ethan Tarte fouled out.

Subsequently, several Camden players repeatedly made poor decisions with the ball… They were in a hurry… They wanted the game to be over… There was no effort to milk the clock. Camden almost played as if they were down 10 instead of up 10.

Also, missed free throws were very costly. Especially by your best players… your stars.

All of the aforementioned played a role… But, what stood out to me was the fact that these white boys could play.

Haddington’s Mike DePersia ’19 (committed to D1 IUPUI) effectively dealt with relentless full court defensive pressure applied by El-Khana Hidalgo ’19. DePersia was heady and savvy while controlling the offense for Haddonfield. His leadership kept them together and within striking distance.

DePersia kept coming and coming… Behind, but determined.

Haddonfield hung around all night… While it felt like Camden was in control for three quarters, Haddonfield never let them out of their sight. More importantly, Haddonfield was “long” enough, “athletic” enough and competed hard on every play.

Lance Ware ’20, TaQuan Woodley ‘21 and Jerome Brewer ’21 give Camden a formidable Division 1 front court. These guys are skilled, long and very extremely athletic.

Didn’t matter… Haddonfield matched ’em…

So… What happened? How do we explain IT?

Camden was up by 11 with less than two minutes to play and lost the game.

Was it Carstarphen’s coaching? Was it the refs? Was it Tarte fouling out?

I watched every minute of the game… Here’s what I saw… This is what I will remember going forward…

Haddonfield’s Dan Fleming “bussed dey ass!”

Straight up… His fifth 3-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation forced the overtime. Fleming scored 16 of Haddonfield’s final 20 points.

Please… Take a moment and view some the highlights of Fleming’s magnificent  performance…

 

That said… Camden still had multiple opportunities to win the game. Good clean shot attempts to win and or tie the ball game. They just wouldn’t fall.

Here you can watch the final minute of the game. It was a memorable and intense high school game.

 

I heard a lot of the chatter about Vic’s coaching… I’ve also heard how the refs “stole” the game from the Panthers.

Truth be told, if anyone asks me what happened… I’m gonna say Dan Fleming bussed dey ass…

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Haddonfield Senior, Mike DePersia

 

 

James Nelson Stewart Interviews Pennridge Coach Dean Behrens!

By James Nelson Stewart

Q. How long have you been at Pennridge Coach Behrens?
A. 21 years

Q. What would you like people to know about Pennridge Basketball?
A. Since 2015, Pennridge Basketball has qualified for the states 3 times and the players from the past are very excited about the current team and the 1st Final Four appearance in school’s history. One the program past stars, Tim Abruzzo, who is serving our country in Libya after a college career at the Naval Academy, sent me an email congratulating our guys accomplishment and very excited about how the program is performing. Another member of the Pennridge Family, who is a pilot serving our country in Kuwait, sent his well wishes to the Pennridge team.

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Coach Dean Behrens observe his team on offense

Q. Let’s talk about the recent history of the Pennridge Rams
A. Since 2011, Pennridge has won 5 Division Titles. Since 2012 Pennridge has had 4 1,000 point scorers in Tim Abruzzo, Zach Muredda, Danny Long and Newly All-time Leading Scorer Sean Yoder. A 5th Player went over 1,000 (Max Wagner-Kutztown) but he started playing at another school before coming home to Pennridge. The 2015 Pennridge team knocked Reading (led by Lonnie Walker-Spurs) out of the state playoffs. 2018 Pennridge lost by 2 points to the eventually champions Roman Catholic in the 1st round of states. We have been on a nice run over the past few years.

Q. To what would you attribute to the success that Pennridge has had over the last decade?
A. Just trying to make it a program and not just a team. We are constantly at it, whether it open gyms, Spring Camps, Summer Leagues. We take very little time off. We take time off time off in August and a little bit of time after the season. We had success with Multi-Sport athletes where we haven’t in the past. Guys like Danny Long (Baseball) and one of my current players Jonathan Post (Football) help the program so much and we need those multi-sport guys to compete at the top levels. Kids like that just “LOVE TO COMPETE”.

Q. A lot of people have already heard of Sean Yoder (Navy Commit) and Jonathan Post, tell me about some of the other players that will play tonight
A. Jon Dominic (Senior Guard)-great story of a kid who just “Wanted It So Much”. Played JV last year and started this year coming off our bench. But by the 8th game of the season, he was a starter and now I can’t take him off the floor. Has been averaging close to 12 points a game since inserting him in the lineup and had an incredible 37 point game against North Penn this year. Trent Fisher (Junior Big Man)-Also a JV Player last year, grew about 3 inches this year to get to 6-6. Probably still growing. He has long arms and a soft touch. Worked hard especially with the help of Jonathan Post and is a great team player. Luke Yoder (Sophomore Guard)-Younger brother of Sean, and he is super athletic, sometimes too much so. He can jump out of the gym. He is a great offensive rebounder. Great Future!!!

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Navy Commit, Pennridge’s Sean Yoder splits the defense

 

Q. What should people expect against Abington, even though they have beaten you twice this year?
A. We are confident, we know what to expect from Abington. They have the best player we played this year in Eric Dixon and another special player in Lucas Monroe. Their “Role” players have definitely stepped up to the plate and they are coached very well. Abington also played in a very tough league with teams like Cheltenham, PW and others. But we are coming to compete and play hard every minute of the game and see where that takes us. We are very excited to be here and we know that Abington has been here before being the 2 time defending District Champs. So the experience may make a difference. But let’s see how the 1st 4 minutes play out and we will take it from there.

Q. Thank you for your time Coach Behrens, Good Luck Tonight
A. Thank you Black Cager for reaching out about Pennridge Basketball.