SCH’s Ke’Shawn Williams rises for a layup last Tuesday. Williams, a 6-foot junior guard, led the team with 25. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

by Jonathan Vander Lugt

The Springside Chestnut Hill Blue Devils lost twice last week, each to teams that would have handily beaten them in seasons past.

Their 65-60 overtime loss to Shipley Tuesday was a heartbreaker, considering SCH led by nine heading into the fourth quarter. Against La Salle College High School Friday night, the Blue Devils fell by just six (58-52).

La Salle has a pair of Division-I players in Konrad Kiszka and Zach Crisler, each taller than any player the Blue Devils roster, and another (Allen Robinson) who should compete for a spot on the All-Catholic League roster. Shipley has a Division-I talent of its own in Ray Somerville, the 6-foot-10 center committed to UC-Bakersfield.

In the past two or three seasons, facing that sort of competition would have caused the Blue Devils to wilt. The fact that they were in the contests does show real growth on the part of Julian McFadden’s team, but he realizes now that he’s in his third season and has a team full of juniors and seniors, it’s time to start earning victories in these types of games.

“We’re still a team that, while talented, doesn’t know how to win just yet,” McFadden said on Tuesday after the loss to Shipley. “We had a lot of turnovers, missed layups and misread where players are going to be based on what offense we’re running.”

In the third quarter against the Gators, SCH looked great. Heading out of halftime up by three, Ke’Shawn Williams added 12 more while fellow guard Delonce Hines scored six, including a gym-rattling dunk late in the quarter. The Blue Devils closed the frame up 49-40, and looked to be headed toward an important early season win.

“Once we got out of the third, we wanted to channel our momentum but we really struggled to score,” McFadden said. “I wanted [Williams and Hines] to take control down the stretch. I think they did in moments, but they have to get to the point where they don’t have to look at me for what to do.”

SCH sputtered to just six points in the fourth frame, and allowed Shipley to claw all the way back. Regulation ended in a 55-all tie, and Shipley came out of the gate firing with five quick points in overtime. The Blue Devils battled, and eventually found themselves with the ball down 62-60 with less than a minute to go.

Nonetheless, “We were pretty out of sorts,” McFadden said.

Jared Sprague-Lott took the ball up the right side of the court and struggled to find any offensive headway.

“We couldn’t really get the ball where we wanted it, and the play was broken at that point,” McFadden said.

Blue Devil junior Delonce Hines cuts through the Shipley defense for a layup. Hines’ offensive game is predicated on quickness and cuts to the basket, which he leveraged for 11 points against the Gators. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

So, like any coach in that situation would, McFadden called a timeout, just as Sprague-Lott dished it left to Jessie Balcer along the three-point line. Balcer immediately heaved a three-point attempt.

As soon as the ball left his hands, the referee whistle blew. As fate would have it, swish, the ball flushed through the net. Because of the timeout, the basket didn’t count, and SCH didn’t have the 63-62 lead it would have.

“Every coach has a play like that at some point,” McFadden said. “Mine happened to be tonight.”

The usual intentional-foul-and-free-throw dance in the game’s final seconds brought the margin to 65-60.

The loss, along with the one to La Salle, brings SCH’s record to 1-3 on the young season. Coming up, the Blue Devils have a busy week with four games including their annual SCH Holiday Classic on Friday and Saturday.

“The students want to be here and watch the games, and we have some pretty talented players,” McFadden said. “We can make some noise.”

“The excitement is back but we’ve got to take advantage of it.” McFadden said. “We had [Shipley] dead to rights and and didn’t put them away. We’re still learning how to do that.”

Whether or not SCH figures it out will largely have to do with Williams’ play. Against Shipley, he led the team with 25 and added 13 more against the Explorers Friday. Delonce Hines, a fellow junior, figures to play a big role in McFadden’s plans as well.

“He’s electrifying,” McFadden said about Williams. “That kid is very special. You really can’t take anything from him – if he wants it, he’s going to go get it.”

He, in fact, beat Somerville for a handful of rebounds. Williams is listed at 6-foot even – 10 inches shorter than Somerville.

“That’s what he does,” McFadden said. “That’s his game. As a coach, I love him for that.”

Hines, like Williams, has scored in double figures twice so far. He scored 11 against Shipley and notched 14 in the game prior against the Perkiomen School.

Elsewhere, newcomer David Robinson will add height to McFadden’s guard-heavy team, while Zyon Grant figures to provide additional scoring help on the wing. Rounding out the lineup are Jack McDonald and Jared Sprague-Lott, both glue guys who can contribute without scoring.

This is plainly the best team that SCH has fielded in at least a half-decade, and McFadden knows it.

“I feel a bit inclined to coach a little harder,” McFadden said, now that he has his team’s trust. “I need to make sure they understand situations – like [the game against Shipley] – and make sure we’re doing things the right way.”

“I feel like I need to step up and meet my kids where they need me,” he said.

SCH – 13 18 18 6 5: 60
Shipley – 12 16 12 15 10: 65

SCH: Ke’Shawn Williams 10 5-7 25; Delonce Hines 4 3-4 11; David Robinson 4 0-0 8; Zyon Grant 2 2-2 8; Jack McDonald 2 1-2 5; Jesse Balcer 1 0-0 3.

Shipley: Khalil Farmer 5 3-6 13; Joey Gruzinski 3 4-4 13; Khai Champion 3 5-7 11; Chaz Owens 3 5-7 11; Ray Somerville 2 5-7 9; Eli Smith 2 4-8 8.

Around the Area:

The win over SCH was La Salle’s first game of the season, while Penn Charter and Germantown Academy each split their weeks. Germantown Friends rebounded to scratch out its first wins over both William W. Bodine High School and Paul Robeson High School.

Against the Blue Devils, La Salle only needed scoring from five players: the aforementioned Kiszka and Crisler, along with Allen Powell, Titus Beard and Jake Timby. Powell led with 17, while Crisler, Kiszka and Beard each chipped in with doubles figures by scoring 14, 11 and 10, respectively. La Salle hosts Education Charter School this Wednesday before heading to Constitution High School Friday.

Penn Charter won Friday against King Christian School (Cherry Hill, N.J.) 63-44, before losing Saturday to Archbishop Ryan 62-60 after a furious fourth-quarter comeback. In the win over King Christian, Ryan Holmes led with 21. Facing the Raiders a day later, PC went into the fourth quarter down 52-34, but outscored Ryan 26-10 in the frame to draw the game within a basket by its close. Mark Butler led that one with 19. The Quakers will participate in Germantown Academy’s Make-a-Wish Tournament this weekend.

Germantown Academy started its weekend at the Jim Church Classic in Souderton with a 60-50 loss to Council Rock North on Friday, but bounced back to beat the home school on Saturday 63-43. Everyone struggled against CR North – only Brian Basile finished in double figures (10 point) – but Jordan Longino scored 33 to power GA over Souderton the following day. This week, the Patriots will play St. Joe’s Prep at Jefferson University East Falls on Wednesday before hosting its aforementioned Make-a-Wish Tournament.

Germantown Friends had the best week of the area schools, winning its annual Germantown Community Tournament with wins over Bodine and Robeson. Freshman Matt Johnson led the Tigers with 17 in their 54-46 win over Bodine, while Tyson Maddox and Ben Istvan chipped in with 12 and 11, respectively. In the 42-41 nail-biter over Robeson, Maddox (who was named MVP of the tournament) scored 13 more while Nolan Grady led the team with 14. GFS will open its conference season Tuesday with a home game against Friends Central before hosting Community Academy of Philadelphia and Dobbins Technical High School over the weekend.

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