Jameer Nelson Jr. was sick and tired.
Not necessarily just because defending Inter-Ac champion Haverford School trailed by double digits in the second half against host Malvern Prep on Tuesday evening.
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The senior guard was literally sick and tired. After the game, he was also honest.
Nelson Jr.’s late defensive efforts helped the Fords escape the Friars, 69-68, and claim a second consecutive league crown while finishing the season undefeated.
“I felt like I wasn’t giving Coach Rogers enough,” Nelson Jr. said postgame. “And he gives us everything so I felt like I had to do that for him.”
With his team down nine early in the fourth quarter, Nelson Jr., who finished with 15 points, did something he had never done in a high school game.
He thwarted a Friars fast break by stepping into the path of a driving player, taking the first charge of his career.
“I just thought, ‘it’s whatever,’” he said with a smile. “I’ve gotten hurt before ... but it was worth it, because we got the ball back.”
Nelson Jr.’s self-sacrifice didn’t go without an elbow to his face. Later, he also got clubbed in the back of the head while poised to grab a defensive rebound.
Both plays resulted in Malvern fouls.
Not having taken a charge in his four years is less surprising given, as he said, he’s been hurt before.
Nelson Jr. missed about the first 15 games of this season with a knee injury.
In his second game back, his second quarter dunk helped spark the Fords (23-0, 10-0) in overtime against the then-visiting Friars.
His first two seasons were also shortened by injury.
Last week, a respiratory illness forced him to miss the Fords’ 85-64 win against Springside Chestnut Hill.
Late on Tuesday, however, his three-pointer in the right corner capped a 16-1 run in the fourth that yielded a 68-63 lead with 1 minute, 58 seconds remaining.
Senior La Salle University recruit Christian Ray supplied most of the Fords’ offense with a game-high 23 points. He also led everyone with 14 rebounds.
Freshman Jameel Brown (12 points) gave the Fords the lead just before Nelson Jr.’s three-pointer.
Asim Richards, a senior North Carolina recruit in football, added 10 points and 7 rebounds.
Deuce Turner led the Friars with 21 points. Fran Oshell added 19 more and Rahdir Hicks finished with 15.
The Friars (17-7, 7-2) had a chance to tie the game at the foul line with 2.6 seconds left, but the second attempt fell short and was gobbled by Ray.
Just before the second freebie was attempted, the Haverford School student section chanted, “Cody Parkey! Cody Parkey!” The same chant it employed Jan. 18 at home before Malvern missed critical free throws with seconds remaining.
When asked postgame, Christian Ray just smiled.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s a good luck charm.”
Haverford School 17 14 19 19 69
Malvern Prep 16 11 32 9 68
HS: Christian Ray 23, Jameer Nelson 15, Jameel Brown 12, Gavin Burke 6, Asim Richards 10, Tyler Seward 3.