I had a long chat with Daily Times sports writer Terry Toohey at the Swarthmore College game last Saturday. His first words were, ‘I thought you’d be at the Chester High game!’
Terry and I go way back to my days working in advertising at the Daily Times where I often found myself sticking around after my shift and sneaking into the sports department room to hang out with the sports writers as they started their shift. I never miss an opportunity to mention I was fired from the Daily Times but it’s no reflection on some of the great people that worked there and Terry is one of them. A couple summers ago, Terry got me more access at a Villanova basketball event then I could get as a Villanova alumni. He’ll be retiring soon and will be missed more than you know.
Terry Toohey covered the Chester v Gratz game last night at O’Hara and witnessed one of the most memorable occasions in Chester High School history. I’ll explain it with several quotes from Terry’s powerful article in today’s paper.
Just one day earlier, Harmon, a sophomore forward on the Chester basketball team, was killed, along with 15-year-old Tayvonne Avery, amid a multiple shooting that also left Jermere Clark, also a sophomore forward on the varsity basketball team, wounded.
That’s right. On Tuesday afternoon, a group of young guys were playing in the middle of the street tossing up a basketball on a portable hoop secured on a sidewalk when someone drove by and opened fire killing two and injuring others. Two of those killed were associated with Chester High School basketball. With only one day to process it all, the Chester High school boys basketball team made the decision to play their playoff game against Gratz in honor of their teammates and their families.
How the Clippers found the strength to play the game, let alone erase a 31-19 halftime deficit to advance to the quarterfinal round is a testament to their resolve. The team could have chosen not to play the game. They could have called it a season and no one would have blamed them.
As fate would have it, it was no ordinary game. Being behind by 12 at half time and struggling to stay close in the closing minutes, Gratz maintained their lead up until the last play of the game when Zahmir Carroll launched an off balanced long range 3-point shot to win the game at the buzzer.
The Clippers weren’t playing just for themselves, they were playing for a pair of fallen teammates, which is what made the post-game celebration so appropriate as players danced around holding up Harmon’s No. 35 shirt.
I’m that guy constantly complaining how fans don’t come to home games throughout the season to support the basketball team. Unless there’s expected to be a lot of fans coming from the opposing school, Chester doesn’t even pull out all the bleachers. But all that changes at playoff time. Folks travel well in the post season to watch the Clippers work their way through the state title payoffs.
That was evident as more than 2,400 showed up for the game, according to O’Hara officials. Most were Chester fans, decked in black and orange, who made the trek north on the Blue Route…
No one was immune from the emotions surrounding the game.
The pain was evident throughout the gym. Head coach Keith Taylor had tears in his eyes as he received well wishes and condolences from friends and strangers alike. Hugs were commonplace, coronavirus be damned.
Getting back to Terry Toohey and I chatting last Saturday. He specifically ask if Zahmir Carroll was the son of former Chester High standout baller Ray Carroll. I wasn’t sure but I only know Ray to have younger children which was confirmed by the lady ear-hustling our conversation at the scorer’s table who said her young daughter plays basketball with Ray’s young son.
Despite the thrilling way the game ended, on a long-distance three-point shot by Zahmir Carroll as time expired, this wasn’t a celebration as much as it was a part of the healing process from a tragedy that no one, especially a group of teenagers, should ever have to go through.
I’m sure when I run into Terry Toohey again he’s going to rib me for not being at the game last night and I’ll come back with how Chester fans feel the Daily Times (with their woefully tiny staff) ignore us during the season and only feature us in a big way at playoff time. We’ll laugh, shake our heads, and find something else to talk about.
I’m sorry I missed the experience but thanks to him I felt like I was there.