By Terry Thomas
The Clippers (24-4) recovered from a twelve-point halftime deficit to defeat the Simon Gratz Bulldogs (24-6), 63-62, on a three pointer from senior Zahmir Carroll at Cardinal O'Hara High School. Simon Gratz entered the tournament as the District-12 (Philadelphia) champions. The win advances Chester into the PIAA 6A Quarterfinals against the Reading Red Knights on Saturday, March 14th at a site to be determined. Chester now holds a 6-2 edge against District-12 (Philadelphia) and 2-0 record against Gratz in the State Tournament.
Playing in front of a standing room only crowd, Chester opened the game with a 7-2 run capped by a steal and dunk by Akeem Taylor Jr at the 3:10 mark. However, the Bulldogs responded by closing the quarter with a 10-2 burst. Chester - 9, Simon Gratz - 12. In the 2nd quarter, Chester became careless with the ball and Gratz took advantage of the opportunities outscoring the Clippers 19-10 putting the Clippers in a 19-31 deficit at the intermission.
Simon Gratz opened the third quarter with a trey, but the Clippers stormed back with a with a 17-2 run. Zahmir Carroll's bucket tied the score at 36 with 2:42 left in the quarter. The teams exchanged baskets with the score being tied on 3 occasions before junior Karell Watkins scored as time expired giving Chester a 43-41 lead. Chester outscored Gratz 24-10 in the quarter. Watkins led the way with 9 of his game high 22 points followed by Fareed Burton Jr's 6 points including hitting on 4 of 4 free throws. Seniors Rahmee Gilbert and Akeem Taylor Jr added 4 and 3 points respectively. Taylor connected on 3 of 4 free throws.
After missing a shot to open the 4th quarter, Watkins came up with a steal and was assisted by Burton for a bucket for a 45-41 Chester lead. with a Watkins steals. Gratz fought back and recaptured the lead, 49-48, after a trey from Yasir Rowell at the 5:40 mark. Watkins scored after an offensive rebound putting the Clippers in front 50-49 and a Chester timeout at 5:05. Chester failed to score on their next three possessions and now trailed 50-51 at 3:41. The Clippers scored on 3 of the next 4 possessions but the Bulldogs scored all four times and now led 56-59 with 1:10 left. Carroll grabbed a defensive rebound and Burton drove the lane for a finger-roll getting the Clippers with one, 58-59, and a Chester time-out with 34.3 second remaining in the contest. Carroll answered the Bulldogs two scoring off an offensive rebound to stay within one, 60-61, with 11.8 seconds on the clock. Yes, another Chester timeout.
Out of the timeout, although they were in the double bonus Chester was forced to foul putting Gratz on the line for two free throws. Watkins rebounded the second missed shot and heaved a pass to Taylor. Unfortunately, Taylor was called for an offensive foul with 0:05.3 on the clock. This time it was Gratz calling the timeout. Out of the timeout once again the Clippers were forced to foul and with 4.3 seconds the Bulldogs connected on the first free throw; Chester - 60, Gratz - 62. The second free throw rimmed out, Watkins jumped up, snatched it and before touching ground outlet the ball to Carroll streaming down the right side of the court. Carroll was just outside the three-point line when he let the ball go and it hit nothing but bottom just before the buzzer sounded. Chester - 63, Simon Gratz - 62.
The players and fans stormed the floor releasing 24-hours of emotions.
R.I.P. - Edward Harmon and Get Well Soon - Jermere Clark
The Chester players and coaches played this game with heavy hearts due to the recent tragedy that has fallen upon them. On Tuesday (3/10/2020) afternoon, these two members of this year's team were playing basketball in front of Ed's house when an unknown individual decided to open fire and shoot these two young men. Their families along with a strong representation of the student body were in attendance at tonight's game. Their families and the team lined up at mid-court as they were greeted by the Simon Gratz and Mastery Charter North (Girls) teams in an emotional display of respect and unity. Much respect to them as well as the Cardinal O'Hara game administrators for allowing that moment as well as the "Moment of Silence".