Ryan Ems wasn’t feeling his best.
“I’ve been sick,” said Ems, Eastern’s sturdy senior forward. “I took DayQuil before the game. I was really tired the whole game.
“All I want to do it go home and go to sleep.”
Ems earned a rest. The 6-foot-6 left-hander set a career-high with 41 points and added 17 rebounds as Eastern beat Cherry Hill East, 61-51, Tuesday in an Olympic Conference American Division clash of Top 25 teams.
Ems, who has committed to play at the University of Scranton, dominated the game with a series of short bank shots and post moves for Eastern (11-3 overall, 4-1 in the division), the No. 11 team in the Inquirer Top 25.
“He was the best player on the floor and there were a lot of good players on the floor,” Eastern coach Kevin Crawford said of Ems. “He’s a big, strong kid with a live body and he’s into basketball.”
Ems’ teammates worked the basketball inside to him against Cherry Hill East’s man-to-man defense.
“He just dominated,” Eastern senior guard Andrew Heck said.
Added Eastern senior guard Jack Winsett: “We knew he was going to be the X factor. They are a smaller team and we knew they couldn’t stop him.”
Senior guard Carl Gibson made four three-pointers and scored 24 points for No. 22 Cherry Hill East (8-6, 1-4).
For most of the third quarter, Ems and Gibson played a version of one-on-one. With a minute to play in the period, they were the only players who had scored in the frame as Ems had 14 points and Gibson 12.
“He’s very skilled and he uses his body well,” Cherry Hill East coach Dave Allen said of Ems. “They do a very good job of getting him the ball in areas where he can score.”
Ems specializes in short bank shots, power layups and offensive rebounds. Against a Cherry Hill East team that lacks a physical post defender, Ems was all but unstoppable.
“Our game plan was to try to limit all the other guys,” Allen said. “We didn’t want their other guys to hit a bunch of threes.
“We thought he would score in the 30s. We were hoping to hold him to 20.”
Ems scored 16 in the first half and 16 more in the third quarter.
“Really, I just wanted to win the game,” Ems said. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but that’s what I was thinking.”
Ems has been a three-year starter for the Vikings and a consistent post presence. He was limited for much of last season by a hamstring injury, an ailment that influenced his college decision.
Ems has opted to attend Scranton, an NCAA Division III program, although he has drawn recruiting interest from Division II programs.
“I loved it there,” Ems said of Scranton. “I’m going to enroll in their physical therapy program. I saw what the physical therapists did for me when I was injured and I want to be able to do that for other people.”
Ems’ previous career high was 26 points, set earlier this season against Woodrow Wilson. He never imagined he would put 41 on the board.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” Ems said. “I want to go home and go to sleep. Maybe when I wake up it will sink in to me.”
Eastern 12 15 18 16 – 61
Cherry Hill East 10 15 14 12 – 51
E: Andrew Heck 4, Noah Klinewski 5, Jack Winsett 6, Ryan Ems 41, Kevin Lynch 2, Colin Prendergast 3.