Inter-Ac Boys’ Basketball Preview – After a composite 73 non-league games during which they all forged winning records and an impressive 48-25 overall mark, the six squads that comprise the Inter-Academic League are about to hitch themselves on a journey that began almost a century ago.
In 1924, Haverford School captured the first-ever league title. The Fords followed suit in 1925. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if this year’s collection emulated their scholastic ancestors by successfully defending a 2017-18 crown highlighted by a 23-6 overall record and perfect 10-0 league slate – the program’s third ever undefeated league season and first since 1937.
“We have a great group of kids who play hard and enjoy playing together,” said Haverford School fourth-year coach Bernie Rogers. “We played a tough non-league schedule to get ready for Inter Ac play.”
The scintillating Fords will bring a 12-0 record into the second game of an Inter-Academic League triple-header (5:30) that takes place on January 4 at Jefferson University. Leading the way will be league Most Valuable Player Christian Ray. The senior swingman averaged 19 points last year and is currently at 22.3.
Balanced scoring includes sophomore guard Tyler Seward’s 11.8, freshman guard Jameel Brown’s 10.0, and senior guard Gavin Burke’s 9.8. The latter two are starters along with Ray, senior center Asim Richards, and senior Jameer Nelson. Seward and junior guard MJ Atkins are the first two off the bench.
The Fords’ first opponent will be Penn Charter. The Quakers’ 32 Inter-Ac titles (combined outright and shared; their last title was in 2004) leads the pack and is followed by Germantown Academy at 24, Haverford School at 16, Malvern Prep and Episcopal Academy both at 15, and Springside Chestnut Hill at seven.
Haverford School senior Christian Ray #24 - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Haverford School junior M.J. Atkins - Mike Nance
The Quakers (17-11, 4-6 last year) are 8-4 behind junior second-team, all-league swingman Ryan Holmes (11.3 ppg. so far this season). Starters include eighth-grade guard Mark Butler, junior guard Aaron Reisman, freshman forward Isaiah Grimes, and senior forward Ryan Maloney.
Senior guard Ryan Topaz, junior forward Anthony Ciarrocchi, and senior forward Brendan Thomas provide first-year coach John Owens with terrific depth.
“Ryan is an all-around player who can score from all three-point levels,” said Owens. “Mark is one of the top eighth graders in the area who has a four-to-two assist ratio and plays at a great pace. Aaron is shooting 40 percent from three. Isaiah is a slasher and finishes very well for his age. He is also an offensive rebounder and he will be a force in this league for the next four years. Ryan is a banger and crashes the glass relentlessly and is a very good defender.”
Owens described Topaz as a “spark off the bench,” Ciarrocchi as a “defensive specialist . . . a glue guy . . . he does what needs to be done,” and Thomas as a “high energy leader.”
At Malvern Prep, which finished second last year at 8-2 and 18-8 overall, first-team junior guard Deuce Turner is on pace to become arguably the best player in school history; he is already the school’s fifth highest scorer. After averaging 20.5 points last winter, Turner is at 25.1 through three games for the 8-5 Friars.
Turner is joined by sophomore Rahdir Hicks (13.8 this year), junior Spencer Cochran (12.5), sophomore Fran Oschell (8.8), and multiple-sport standout senior TyGee Leach in the starting lineup.
Sophomore guard Brock Dudek, junior guard Keith Carra, sophomore guard Cooper Frankenheimer, and 6-foot, 7-inch postman senior Blaise Bekkedam lead the reserves.
Malvern Prep junior guard Deuce Turner - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
“We have good guard play and four three-year starters,” said sixth-year coach John Harmatuk, whose Friars stunned perennial Catholic League juggernaut Neumann-Goretti during the preseason. “Our schedule was tough.”
Malvern will take on Germantown Academy in the final game of the tripleheader (7:00). The 6-4 Patriots are coming off a rare difficult season (2-8, 9-17), but the young players under the tutelage of 30th-year coach Jim Fenerty(208-80 league record and 17 league titles, 12 of them outright) should profit.
Because of sporadic injuries, the Patriots’ starting lineup remains in flux.
Second-team, all-league sophomore guard Jordan Longino posted 18.7 points per game as a frosh and has improved to 23.0. Senior swingman Brian Basile has averaged 11 points.
Fenerty will look to juniors Zach Anderson, Juan Adames, and Hans Lillis for significant minutes, as well as sophomore Mike Rowan, senior Diego Carrasco, and junior Tayshaun Mack.
“After a rough 2017-18 season, we are looking to dramatically improve,” said Fenerty. “The experience that our young players gained as they were forced into varsity competition should reap benefits this season.”
Germantown Academy sophomore guard Jordan Longino - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Episcopal Academy (7-6 this year after going 3-7, 11-15 last season) sports five seniors, three juniors, and two sophomores among their starters and reserves. First-team, all-league senior swingman Matt Dade averaged 19.3 points. He and second-team junior guard Alex Capitano have averaged a combined 37 points so far.
Senior forward Jack O’Reilly and junior guard Colin Chambers return. “Others to watch” include seniors Jalin Meachem (guard), John McElwee (guard), and Luke Lesher (forward); junior Andrew Alikakos (forward), and sophomore guards Malcolm Folk and Will Delaney.
“We are very excited about our upcoming season,” said ninth-year coach Craig Conlin. “Our goals are to play hard, play smart, and play together. If we compete and trust the process of improving everyday, we should have a successful season.”
Episcopal will play in the first game of the tripleheader (4:00) and its opponent will be Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. The Blue Devils (3-7, 7-15 last year) are 7-6 so far. Second-team, all-league junior guard Ke’Shawn Williams is coming off a 15.6 ppg. campaign and is currently at 14.7.
Episcopal Academy senior Matt Dade - PSD Photo by Alexandra Conroy
Williams is joined by junior David Robinson (13.1), senior Jack McDonald (10.5), senior Zyon Grant (10.0), and junior Delonce Hines (8.2) in a potentially formidable starting unit.
The junior quad of Jared Sprague-Lott, Jesse Balcer, Scott Bandura, and Jake Carpenter highlight the bench.
“The program is focusing primarily on being a better unit each day,” said third-year coach Julian McFadden. “The goal is to do things in a way that they can’t be done any better.
“Whether that’s our communication, our preparation, or our mindset, we will move forward looking to be better with each dribble of the basketball. That should put us in position to compete in a strong Inter-Ac schedule.”
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.comor on Twitter @johnknebels.)
Springside Chestnut Hill junior guard Ke’Shawn Williams - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
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