Saturday, December 20, 2014

Boys' Basketball: Season in Review

Lower Merion turned the tables on Chester when it counted the most, romping to a 63-47 victory in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game at Hershey's Giant Center.

Boys' Basketball: Season in Review

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Lower Merion turned the tables on Chester when it counted the most, romping to a 63-47 victory in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game at Hershey's Giant Center.

In claiming their first state crown since 2006 and seventh overall, the Aces reversed three consecutive losses to the Clippers. Three weeks earlier, they had lost to Chester, 60-46, in the District 1 final at Villanova.

For its terrific stretch run, including down-to-the-wire wins over District 3's Harrisburg and District 7's New Castle, Lower Merion is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania boys' basketball team of the year.

The Aces, who went 30-3 overall and 17-0 in Central League action, denied Chester a third straight state title and stopped the Clippers' winning streak against Pennsylvania foes at 78 games.

In nonleague play, Gregg Downer's squad defeated St. Frances (Md.), Catholic League runner-up St. Joseph's Prep, and Bishop O'Connell (Va.).

Downer, who gained his third state crown, has compiled a 456-193 record (.703 winning percentage) in 23 seasons.

Here are some other season-ending awards:

Coach of the year. With apologies to Downer, Andre Noble gets the nod for guiding Imhotep Charter to the Public League championship and its fourth state title in five seasons.

This year, after three times reaching the summit at the Class AA level, Noble directed the Panthers to top AAA honors. They fought past District 12 rival Archbishop Carroll, 54-45, in Hershey.

Noble is 215-51 (.808 winning percentage) in nine seasons at 21st and Godfrey.

Freshman of the year. For Friends' Central, De'Andre Hunter, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 11.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.

In a 57-44 win over Dobbins in a holiday tournament, he recorded 18 points, nine blocks, and eight rebounds.

Newcomer of the year. After arriving from Ghana, Ernest Aflakpui, a 6-9 sophomore center, averaged 6.6 points in Carroll's drive to the state final. He posted 13 points and eight boards in a quarterfinal win over Chartiers Valley.

Sixth man of the year. James Kirksey, a 6-4 senior guard, consistently gave Chester a boost off the bench. He averaged 7.1 points.

Best long-range sniper. Friends Select senior guard Ben Holl drilled 97 three-pointers in 23 appearances. Friends' Central senior guard Billy Cassidy was next in line, with 86 triples in 28 games.

Best individual performance. In a 67-66 loss to Imhotep in the Public League final, Robert Vaux's Rysheed Jordan produced 45 points, six boards, and five steals. He shot 21 for 23 from the line in keeping the Cougars close.

Best buzzer-beater. In the first round of the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs, junior guard Alex Shippen's 15-foot jumper with nine-tenths of a second remaining lifted visiting Harriton to a 53-51 triumph over Council Rock North.

Best game. In a Public League semifinal at Southern, Vaux, with 28 points from Jordan, outlasted Martin Luther King, 71-68, in overtime.

Best comeback I. In a holiday tournament at Widener, Chester trailed Imhotep, 40-29, with 4 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Rondae Jefferson and company rallied for a 63-61 win.

Best comeback II. Down by 51-43 to Harrisburg with 5:39 to go, Lower Merion left Reading's Geigle Complex - and kept its bid for a state title alive - with a 63-62 victory.

Biggest upset. On Jan. 7, with a 65-62 decision in Wyndmoor, La Salle ended Neumann-Goretti's Catholic League winning streak at 73 games.

Best slam. In the first half against Imhotep, Jefferson, after being stuck in the air and throwing the ball off the backboard to himself, threw down a one-handed dunk that electrified a packed gym.

 

Rick O'Brien Inquirer Columnist
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About this blog
Rick O’Brien has been at The Inquirer since 1993, primarily covering high school sports in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Reach Rick at robrien@phillynews.com.

Rick O'Brien Inquirer Columnist
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