by Terrence Thomas
Chester (20-3) advances to the State Quarter-Finals for the fifth time under Coach Taylor with a come from behind 53-48 victory over Philadelphia Catholic League and District-12’s #2 seed Archbishop Ryan Raiders. The game was a rematch of last year’s semifinal between the schools except this time the game was played before a packed Cardinal O’Hara High School gymnasium. With the win Chester will face Shippengsburg, District-3’s #2 seed, on Tuesday, March 15 at a site and time to be determined.
The Clippers last played in this venue on March 11, 2020 in the Second Round of the 2020 State Tournament when they defeated the Simon Gratz Bulldogs on a last-minute three-point shot by Zahmir Carroll which propelled them to the Quarters. The seniors on this year’s team remember that game as it was played the day after two of their teammates, Edward “Lil Ricky” Harmon and Jermere Clark, were victims of street violence. Lil Ricky passed due to the gun shots while Jermere who is confined to a wheel chair sat behind the team bench during tonight’s game. Both players were included in the Senior Day celebration during the last regular season game at Chester High School. Those two young men will forever remain in the thoughts and prayers of the Chester High Basketball Community.
Archbishop Ryan entered the game with newly acquired 6’9″ sophomore Thomas Sorber who holds offers from Drexel and LaSalle giving them an inside advantage over Chester’s 6’5″ sophomore Larenzo Jerkins. However, Larenzo received the support from his teammates, 6’4″ sophomore Kevin Rucker and 6’3″ Isaiah Freeman to offset the big man. He was constantly fronted and provided with weak-side help. The Clippers “Big-Three” combined for 31 points, 16 rebounds, 13 steals, 2 blocked shots and 4 assists. The defense supplied coupled with the outstanding man to man coverage of the guard by Qadir Lowrie, Breilynd White, Kyree Womack and Olayinka Itabiyi limited the Raiders to just one made trey in the game. The predominately Chester supporters stood to their feet numerous times applauding the defensive efforts displayed by the Clippers during the contest.
The lead changed hands a couple times in the first quarter but Chester was on the short end 9-12 with the period ended. The Raiders took advantage of the Clippers second quarter miscues putting them in a deeper deficit, 18-26, at the intermission.
While the Clippers were finding their stroke to begin the third quarter, the Raiders responded behind a 5-point quarter from Sorber and their only trey of the game giving them their biggest lead, 36-24, with about 2:30 to play. Qadir Lowrie was fouled shooting a trey at the 2:22 mark. He made all three free throws which ignited a 10-1 run by the Clippers. Two possessions later, Rucker completed an old-fashioned three-point play, 30-36. Chester stole the ball on Ryan’s next three possessions but was only able to convert on one, Jerkins scored with 50 seconds left bringing the score to 32-36. After a Ryan free throw Jerkins scored again to pull within three, 34-37, at the end of the quarter.
Chester scored on their first two possessions, a basket by Rucker and two free throws from sophomore Womack of the fourth quarter to regain the lead 38-37. A couple made foul shots later and Chester was enjoying a 40-37 advantage. Time: 4:58. The Raiders scored on their next two possessions from the foul line and recaptured the lead 41-40 with 4:31 to play. The teams traded baskets and the lead. On Chester’s next possession, Womack banked in a trey with 2:10 to go and the go ahead lead of 45-43 starting a Chester 8-0 run and a 50-43 lead with 1:23 to play. The decimal level in the O’Hara gym was deafening and the Chester faithful could taste the victory. However, the Clippers once again became careless with the ball with three consecutive turnovers and the gym became quiet as their lead dwindle to just two points, 50-48 with 35 seconds on the clock.
Womack was fouled on Chester’s next possession where he made 1 of 2 stretching the lead to three, 51-48, with 32.2 seconds on the clock. Chester forced a turnover and this time Freeman was fouled. He calmly stepped to the line and converted both shots with 12.6 second to go sealing the win. The Clippers had the ball and with less than 2 seconds remaining threw the ball in the air and the celebration was on as the fans rushed the floor.
Chester Stat Lines:
Womack – 13 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Rucker – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
Jerkins – 11 points, 5 steals, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist
Freeman – 9 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists
Lowrie – 9 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds
White – 2 steals, 2 rebounds, 1 assist