In addition to his goal of leading Westtown to a Friends Schools League championship, Jared Nickens is preparing for his future career at Maryland.
"I want to become stronger, find more ways to create my own shot, get better at coming off screens, and get to the foul line more," the 6-foot-6, 180-pound senior wing said.
With Nickens making all eight of his free-throw attempts en route to 16 points, the visiting Moose nipped Academy of the New Church, 42-40, in overtime in an FSL showdown Tuesday in Bryn Athyn.
"We struggled with our energy level at times," he said. "There weren't a lot of fans in the gym. That may have affected us somewhat."
Nickens, a native of South Brunswick, N.J., came to Westtown, a boarding school in Chester County, in 2012 after spending three years at perennial power St. Patrick in Elizabeth, N.J. He was reclassified as a junior last season.
"It's a lot different from being in Central Jersey, but it's been good for me," he said. "I was a little homesick at first, but I adjusted. This experience will help me with the transition to college."
Against ANC, Nickens, who grabbed four rebounds, hit two freebies to give the Moose (9-5 overall, 3-0 FSL) a 41-40 advantage with 1 minute, 52 seconds left in OT. Habib N'Garmin's steal with 9 seconds to go (Jair Bolden added a free throw at 0:07) clinched the taut win.
Westtown committed only one turnover in the final 12 minutes. "That's because of the tough December schedule we played," Moose coach Seth Berger said.
Bolden, a sophomore point guard, totaled 11 points, seven boards (five on offense), three steals, and two assists. "When he has the ball in his hands, I trust him to do something positive," Nickens said.
Georgios Papagiannis, a 7-1 junior center from Greece who was first eyed by NBA scouts when he was 14, posted 10 points, eight boards (two on offense), and four blocks.
Said Berger: "George is really improving his footwork without the ball, he's becoming a better rim protector, and he's playing consistently harder every day."
Edvinas Rupkus, a junior guard from Lithuania, chipped in five points and five assists vs. ANC. The Lions (8-6, 2-1) were fueled by junior forward Carnel Harley's 22 points and seven caroms.
Nickens, who grabbed four rebounds, plans to major in business management at Maryland.
New in charge. First-year coach John Timms has guided Cheltenham to a 6-1 mark and second place in the Suburban One League American Conference.
Timms was an assistant at Friends' Central for six seasons before taking last year off. "I was waiting for the right opportunity," the 41-year-old said.
Boosted by their defensive pressure, the host Panthers handled American Conference rival Norristown, 58-42, Tuesday. Junior guard Faatir Al-Ahad netted 11 of his team-high 16 points in the final stanza.
Cheltenham's guard-oriented lineup also includes Aaron Burton (15.7 ppg.), Tavis Frank, twins Jeremiah and Joshua Coleman, and Khalil White.
"I'm a throwback John Chaney guy," said Timms, who starred (he was then named John J. Turman) at William Penn (Class of 1990), Keystone College, and Wilkes. "I want us to be real disciplined on both ends."
Scuffle. Due to an on-court fracas, Tuesday's Bicentennial Athletic League clash between Holy Ghost Prep and host Bristol was stopped with 1:49 to play. It followed a tie-up of a Holy Ghost player after an inbounds pass.
"Emotions ran high and there was some shoving, but it was by no means a brawl," longtime Holy Ghost coach Tony Chapman said. "The referees met with both coaches afterward and said, 'We don't feel comfortable continuing the game.' "
Chapman said Holy Ghost, which was ahead by 28-10 at the break before Bristol rallied, was credited with a 53-43 victory.
"I don't think there's any bad blood between the teams," Chapman said. "I don't expect anything to carry over to our next game [Feb. 6 at Holy Ghost]."