James Nelson-Stewart: The “Final” Frontier

By James Nelson Stewart

Philadelphia, PA: Today we will look at one of the longest running Elite AAU programs in the Philadelphia region Team Final, who have had at least numerous NBA players bless the program throughout the years starting with Tyreke Evans. Team Final has long been one of the standard programs in the Philadelphia area due to having pro players and having a plethora of Division 1 College basketball players that have made an impact at that level as well as dominating the Philadelphia High School Basketball Scene. Team Final, led by the Director Rob Brown, is the standard of excellence and this year is no different!!!

Jameel Brown, Team Final

The name Team Final in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware inspires many emotions like other flagship teams such as the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Lakers do across the country. Rarely will you find a person who has a son that plays basketball in the Tri-State area who doesn’t have an opinion on Team Final. Love them or Hate them, you can almost guarantee that Team Final will produce a great product and have players that will become household names.

Team Final participates in the Nike EYBL basketball Circuit, which is arguably the most competitive and most prestigious High School Basketball Circuit in the country. A lot of the players that are seen today on your TV screens playing in the NBA are alums of this Circuit. Yearly the top players of this circuit are seen at the very beginning of the NBA Draft walking across the stage accepting their hats from Commissioner Adam Silver.

The EYBL fields teams from North America as far west as California, as far south as Florida and Texas and as far north as Canada. Teams jockey their position to try to get to the “Crown Jewel” of Nike Basketball in an event called the “Peach Jam”. The “Peach Jam” is an event held every year in the town of North Augusta, SC where this little town gets flooded by every major college coach in America, scouts and now media outlets as games are televised by such entities as ESPN. The 17U “Peach Jam” is the among the most sought-after trophies in Boys High School Basketball PERIOD!!!

Jalen Duren, Team Final

This leads to my title is called the “Final Frontier”. One of the few things that has eluded the grasp of Team Final is hoisting the “Peach Jam” trophy. This year and this group might be the one to lead Rob Brown, Aaron Burt and the other superb coaches of the Illustrious Team Final Program to the goal of lifting that 17U trophy. The 17U Team Final Team is led by Generational Big Man Talent 6-10 Jalen Duren (formerly of Roman Catholic and now with National Champion Monteverde Academy in Florida), the #2 player overall in the current 2022 ESPN rankings (behind only 6-8 G-F Emoni Bates). Duren, the only player in the Philadelphia Catholic League History to be named 1st team All-Catholic as a Freshman and Sophomore, is often mentioned alongside names of the Late Great Roman and NBA Star 6-10 Eddie Griffin and former Legendary Gratz, North Carolina Star and NBA Champion 6-11 Rasheed Wallace as being the best big man from Philly over the last 30 years. No matter where you rank Duren among those comparisons, just being mentioned with those legends tells you all you need to know about this future pro.

Duren alone would pose an imposing figure for teams, so having a second athletic big is downright scary and this Team Final has just the player in Westtown’s 7-1 C Dereck Lively. Lively is another player who has a chance to make some real noise at the next level with his ability to move fluidly at his imposing height and ability to protect the rim. Team Final will have their version of the Twin Towers made famous by Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson first, then David Robinson and Tim Duncan next. If having 1 rim protector is a luxury, then having 2 must be considered an extravagance that Team Final is excited to have. But flanking those Twin Towers, the 17u Team Final team has a backcourt of HM prospect guards in 6-3 G Justice Williams (formerly of Roman Catholic and now with National Champion Monteverde Academy in Florida) and 6-3 G Jameel “Milzy” Brown (The Haverford School), who initially committed to Purdue but now has opened up his recruitment. Both of those guards are smooth scoring guards that also can distribute the rock as well.

Another impressive wing player is 6-5 U Conn Commit Corey Floyd Jr. (Roselle Catholic), who is built like a linebacker but moves like a smaller guard. He and 6-3 Otega Oweh (Blair Academy) will be looked to give this team some balance on the floor. Ibrahima Bayu (Perkiomen School) is an intriguing 6-8 prospect that will add size and athletic ability to this already deep roster of prospects. Guards Jaheim Bethea (MCS) and Jaden Arline (Paul VI) provide great ballhandling and depth to the backcourt while 6-5 F Jack Seidler (Marlboro High NJ) will give this group another creative shot maker with size. The 17U Team Final team is an intriguing mix of size, speed, strength that has the area excited to see if they can bring home the gold.

Team Final has also built intriguing groups for their 2023’s and 2024’s groups. The 16U (2023) Team has such intriguing prospects like 6-7 Combo Justin Edwards and 5-10 speedy G Rahmir Burno from the undefeated Imhotep Team and 6-2 G Ruben Rodriguez Jr from PA 6A Champions and National ranked Reading High. But also extended their reach across the state with prospects 6-2 G Brandon Davis (Laurel Highlands) and 6-5 Wing Daemar Kelly (Penn Hills). 6-6 Combo James Johns Jr., son of 17U coach James Johns, and 6-2 2024 G Elijah Duval, brother of former Duke PG Tre Duval, brings some intriguing prospects to this 16U team. 6-8 Wing Christian Kirkland (formerly of Roman, now at Friends Select) is another player who coaches with be looking at with a keen eye.

The 15s will be led by their strong backcourt of 6-0 Deuce Jones (Trenton Catholic), 6-1 Nick Coval (Parkland, who already was Co-MVP of his conference), 5-10 Robert Wright III (Neumann-Goretti, hit a GW shot in his first varsity game) and 6-2 sharpshooter Moses Hipps (Archbishop Carroll, who already owns an offer from Lasalle). 6-4 Elijah Brown (St. Augustine Prep) will add some high flying athleticism to this group and his High School Teammate 6-9 Luke Bevilacqua will add size to this team.

Rosters
15s
Robert Wright 5-10- Neumann
Deuce Jones 6-0-Trenton Catholic
Nick Coval 6-1-Parkland
Moses Hipps 6-2-Carroll
Elijah Brown 6-4-St. Augustine
Amir Williams 6-5-Neumann
Jadon Murray 6-6-Ryan
Thomas Sorber 6-9- Trenton Catholic
Luke Bevilacqua-6-9- St. Augustine
Staff-
Nate Hodge -Head Coach
DJ Irving
Tramayne Hawthorne
Caleb Kupa

16s
Rahmir Burno-5-10-Imhotep
Justin Edwards-6-7- Imhotep
Brandon Davis-6-2-Laurel Highlands
Elijah Duval-6-2-Bonner
Ruben Rodriguez Jr-6-2-Reading
Daemar Kelly-6-5-Penn Hills
James Johns-6-6-TBD
Christian Kirkland-6-8-Friends Select
Carson Howard-6-8-Lacey
Ian Imegwu-6-8-Blair
Caleb Bryant-6-8-Lasalle
Staff-
Tahar Sutton-Head Coach
Aaron Burt
Calvin Gilbert
Khalief Tinsley

17U
Jaheim Bethea 5-10-MCS
Jaden Arline-6-0-Paul VI
Justice Williams-6-3-Montverde
Jameel Brown-6-3-Haverford School
Corey Floyd-6-5-Roselle Catholic
Otega Oweh-6-3-Blair
Ibrahima Bayu-6-8-Perkiomen School
Derick Lively 7-1-Westtown
Jalen Duren 6-10-Montverde
Jack Seidler 6-5-Marlboro

Staff-
James Johns-Head Coach
Chris Roantree
Kyle Finkly
Dwayne “Roc” Jones
Henry Smith

James Nelson-Stewart: My Final 5 Thoughts on the Scholastic Season

State Champions, Reading High School

One

READING!!! What can you say about this team that has not already been said? The Underdogs from Berks County shocked the nation by beating the 7th ranked Archbishop Wood 58-57 in the 6A finals. For most fans, observers, scouts and writers (including yours truly) thought that this game was going to be a coronation of one of the great teams of the recent Philadelphia HS basketball era in the 7th ranked undefeated Archbishop Wood Vikings, who normally started 4 players that have scored over 1,000 points and signed Division 1 basketball scholarships. But somebody forgot to tell the Red Knights of Reading and Coach Rick Perez of this coronation party. Let me say the group of players and parents of Reading High were confident and excited for the opportunity to prove the masses wrong and did they ever. For Reading High to even be in this position to play for a State Championship was an incredible journey. From having Coach Perez suspended before the beginning of this season to now having the 25th ranked team in the United States in America shows you what the power of perseverance can overcome. The community rallied behind this team from the very start and had the look of possibly having a special season. But best believe it was not going to come without challenges and their one main challenge was Wilson West Lawn HS, led by their special generational player Stevie Mitchell. Reading, who finished with a record of 27-2, played Wilson four times this year and they split those games. But Reading won the most important game of the four and represented District 3 in the State Playoffs. With the restrictions brought on by COVID, only one team would represent a District in the State Playoffs. Each game brought a “Win-or-Go Home” mentality that Reading thrived in. By defeating the only team that beat them this year to get the playoffs, Reading was confident of their ability to win the title. But to achieve that feat, they had to overcome a team that had not lost all year and played in the undisputed best league in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Catholic League). But again, after conquering first their own school board and then Stevie Mitchell and Wilson, they had no fear of vanquishing the formidable Wood team, led by future HOF Coach John Mosco. Incredible season for this group led by Coach Rick Perez and Sr. 6-6 F Moro Osumanu (West Chester), who had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Title Game. But here is the scary part for the rest of the state, Reading High only had 2 Seniors on their roster (Osumanu and Rene Rodriguez), the rest are underclassmen led by 6-4 Jr Wing Daniel Alcantara, 6-0 Jr G Joey Chapman (who had the game sealing steal), 6-1 Jr G Xavier Davis, 6-1 So Amier Burdine (Starting Varsity QB) and 6-1 Star So Ruben Rodriguez Jr. Reading may be around for a while!!!

Philadelphia Catholic League Champions, Archbishop Wood

Two

Can’t talk about Reading without talking about the team that they beat Archbishop Wood and the season they had. While the disappointment over the last game with linger with some, you can’t take away the run the Vikings had in this 2021 Season. Wood, led by 2 Time Back-to-Back PCL MVP & MaxPreps’s PA POY Rahsool Diggins, had a season that most programs would dream of. From being as high as #7 in the nation, to running through the PCL undefeated (14-0), to winning the PCL and District 12 Titles, this team was nearly perfect. This team had 4 1,000-point scorers and 1st Team All- Catholic in All Time Leader Diggins, Daeshon Shepherd, Jaylen Stinson and Marcus Randolph. They boasted a 2nd Team All Catholic 6-6 Sr F Muneer Newton, who could have been the most indispensable player on the team and other players like 6-4 Jr F Mike Knouse, 6-6 Sr C Rob Jackson and 6-2 Jr G Tyson Allen, who stepped up as injuries bit the Vikings late in the season. This group had a very successful 4 year run as they were the 2021 PCL Champions, 2-time PCL Regular Season Champs, 3 Time District 12 Champs and 2 Time State Finalist with a 3rd one probably stymied by COVID in 2020. Salute to those young men and Future HOF Coach John Mosco for an incredible season.

State Champions, Allentown Central Catholic

Three

District 11 has ended its streak of 36 years without a State Title with its incredible win on a last second layup by Jr PG 6-0 Tyson Thomas that lifted Allentown Central Catholic to the 4A State Championship. Led by Coach Dennis Csenstis, Allentown Central Catholic made their historic run to their state title by beating District 1’s PJP, who had a great run itself and District 12’s Archbishop Carroll, out of the PCL. This team is also primed for a run in 2022 with their best players being Guard Tyson Thomas and Jr G-F 6-6 Liam Joyce and some up-and-comers such as Fr F 6-6 David Fridia. This one is very personal as last year I was part of the Team Final Red Organization from Allentown and these 3 players are also part of that organization. Thomas, son of Team Final Red co-founder Marlon Thomas, was also named Co-MVP of his conference this year.

Destiny McPhaul, West Catholic

Four

District 12, while still the most powerful District in the State of Pennsylvania, left the Boys Basketball season with ZERO state titles but did leave the Girls Basketball Season with 3 state titles. The Boys went 0-3 in title games with losses by Constitution, Ryan and Wood. The Girls did just the opposite by going 3-0 in title games with wins by West Catholic, led by Destiny McPhaul, Cardinal O’Hara and Wood led by Ryanne Allen. With the State Tournament held in this format, teams like 6A Roman Catholic, were not able to participate. But it also shows that parity is growing throughout the state on the Boys side.

Five

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention how much different it could have been if 4A Neumann-Goretti or 5A Undefeated Imhotep were able to participate this year. This is not to take anything away from the Champions of those 2 classes because those schools still had to play very good teams and would have had a chance to beat either team. But for these teams not to have the chance to compete is just not fair. I’m not going into why they were not able to play but they both deserved better.

O’Hara Basketball… The Best Delco has to offer?

Delaware County has a strong basketball tradition… Growing up in Delaware County in the 70’s, and 80’s hoopheads were always focused on mighty programs in Chester, Darby-Colwyn and Darby Township. Occasionally, Penncrest, Yeadon, Bonner, Archbishop Carroll and Springfield would also field strong teams. Almost never was Cardinal O’Hara in the conversation…

Yeah… Yeah… they had the great Tom Ingelsby

Ingelsby played for the Lions from 1965 to 1969. In his junior season he helped the team win the Philadelphia Catholic League championship, knocking off Father Judge High School in the finals. Ingelsby’s O’Hara team fell short in the City Championship, losing to the West Philadelphia High School Speedboys. But beyond that… not much to the O’Hara hoops pedigree.

Times… They are a changin’…

A few years ago, O’Hara made the decision to, once again, get serious about their hoops program. They hired Jason Harrigan away from troubled Delaware Valley Charter High School to lead the basketball program and the Lions began to stick their heads outside the cage. After Delaware Valley Charter closed in June 2017, Harrigan brought the magnificent Antwaun “Booty” Butler (Austin Peay University) to O’Hara. With Butler manning the point guard position, O’Hara immediately became a factor in the Catholic League. No longer were the Lions thought of as “sweet.”

After going 6-16 in 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 5-17 in 2016-17, Harrigan and Butler led O’Hara to a respectable 11-12 record in 2017-18. Things were looking up in Springfield.

But Harrigan decided to move on and the Lions were once again looking for a coach that could keep the momentum moving forward.

Enter Ryan Nemetz

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Ryan Nemetz, O’Hara Head Coach

 

Nemetz is an intensely-focused and razor sharp lifelong hoophead. He was previously an Assistant Coach at Eastern University where he worked closely with the players in all areas of the program including recruiting, player development, academic progress and scouting. Eventually, Nemetz’s primary focus became serving as the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator.

Nemetz played collegiately at Kutztown University from 2007-2009 and then transferred to Temple University where he served as a walk-on and student assistant from 2010-2012 under Big 5 Hall of Fame Coach Fran Dunphy. One should note that all five years that Coach Nemetz participated in college basketball, his teams made the NCAA tournament.

Before joining the staff at Eastern University, Nemetz served as the Director of Player Development at the House of Sports (Westchester, NY), Senior Staff Coach at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) and Assistant Director of Team Nelson (Chester, PA) where he has coached numerous college and professional basketball players.

Nemetz has a keen understanding of the Delco and Philadelphia basketball landscape. He has been charged with the responsibility of managing the Jameer Nelson Point Guard Camp. In this capacity, he was able identify 20-30 of best guards in the Greater Philadelphia area and place them in a highly competitive setting on the campus of Girard College for 3 days under the tutelage of a 15 year NBA professional point guard.

Nemetz saw Isaiah Wong, Jhamir Brickus, Zahree Harrison, Naim Walker, Donta Scott, Seth Lundy and many other great high school players up close. He saw their work ethics… He saw their skill levels… He was able to effectively gauge the type of player and the level of effort that would be required to compete in the Philadelphia Catholic League.

Smart guy…

With O’Hara lacking a strong basketball tradition, Nemetz realized he had to be creative to lure smart, talented and athletic players to Springfield, Delaware County. Toward that end, Nemetz and O’Hara hosted the Black Cager Middle School Classic last February and March. This competitive circuit brought some of the best 7th graders in the region into O’Hara’s gym on two weekends to play against stiff competition from Virginia and Maryland.

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Maryland Freshman Starting Forward, Donta Scott, working Middle School Classic at O’Hara

 

Indeed, last night… four kids that played for Jarett Kearse’s WER1/Blue Magic club listed O’Hara as one of their final High School options alongside schools like Episcopal Academy, Friends’ Central and Shipley. These kids can play. They were dominant throughout the regular season on Black Cager Middle School Circuit. O’Hara and Nemetz made them and their families feel welcome when they played at O’Hara. Indeed, O’Hara was effectively Blue Magic’s home court last winter. One shouldn’t be surprised to hear “I wanna go to O’Hara” when these kids are asked where they want to play High School basketball.

These kids know O’Hara has a large, modern, well-lit gymnasium with stadium style seating on all sides. They know it’s one of the nicest facilities in the region.

These kids know Ryan Nemetz…

Last night, the nationally ranked Archbishop Wood Vikings traveled from Warminster to test the Lions… Exactly how far has O’Hara come? Clearly, they are good… But how good?

The kids watched an exciting and intensely competitive game. While O’Hara came into the game undefeated with wins over Catholic League contenders Archbishop Ryan and Bishop McDevitt… This would be THE test…

Well over 1,000 energetic spectators filled the gym. The enthusiastic O’Hara student-body was ready… Stephen Stewart from Delaware State, Boo Farmer from the Boo Farmer Podcast, Superscout Norm Eavenson and Nemetz’s mentor Fran Dunphy, the recently retired winningest coach in Big 5 history were there to see the highly anticipated matchup.

They were not disappointed…

O’Hara is a very good basketball team…Let me repeat… O’Hara is a very good basketball team…

However, John Mosco’s Archbishop Wood club is better and more experienced.

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Rahsool Diggins, Rivals Top 100 Point Guard

 

One immediately notices that Nemetz’s Lions have a Jason Vorhees-like quality to them… You simply cannot kill these guys. After the 1st quarter they were down 2 and Wood, relying on the incredible athleticism of Daeshon Shepard and Muneer Newton, extended the lead to double digits rather quickly.

Then the Friday the 13th music starts to play in your head… O’Hara crawls out of the swamp… kicking, snatching, clinging and refusing to die. They go in at halftime down 2.

 

 

The second half starts and you are reminded why Wood is nationally ranked and one of the favorites to win the Catholic League title. Everywhere you look, they have Division 1 basketball prospects. Their point guard, Rahsool Diggins, is the smoothest guard in the mid-Atlantic region. His game is like Häagen-Dazs… creamy goodness… He lulls you to sleep and then he attacks… Never in a hurry… He gives you the in and out and lets it play out… You can see the defender thinking he has adjusted and has the situation under control and BAM… there’s a cross over leaving the defender flat footed as Sool has entered the lane… The help defender is on his way but he’s too late… The floater has been released… Splash!

The Vikings are setting their defense…

Less than four minutes into the third quarter, the 2 point lead has ballooned to 13… It’s starting to seem like it’s just too much… Jaylen Stinson is sniping and then he’s in your jersey with you playing a type of man to man on ball defense not often seen around these parts… Marcus Randolph is slashing, pulling up and relentlessly looking to attack… Muneer is rebounding and rebounding and rebounding… And…

Oh shit… Watch yo head!

Shepard is hanging on the rim again after catching and cleanly finishing the perfectly placed alley oop from Sool.

It’s just too much… So you think…

Here comes that Friday the 13th music in your head… They just won’t die… O’Hara, once again crawls out of the swamp… kicking, snatching and clinging… They cut the lead all the way back down to 2.

Watching the O’Hara backcourt (Anthony Purnell, Adrian Irving, Jr and Tre Dinkins) compete you just keep saying to yourself… “these guys are good.”

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Adrian Irving, Jr., Cardinal O’Hara Guard

 

In the end, however, Wood was better…

Nonetheless, Ryan Nemetz just may have assembled the best team in Delaware County. The matchups with Bonner-Prendie and Archbishop Carroll will feature very high level scholastic basketball. Perhaps, the best that Delaware County has to offer.

O’Hara is in the mix… Yup O’Hara… Can you believe this shit?

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.

Brickus

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

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.