By Terry Thomas
Chester (3-2) kept their win streak alive at three games with an exciting 77-72 victory over the visiting Reading Red Knights (3-2) in the nightcap of the 3rd Annual Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Classic. The Clip Joint was electric as these rivals and their crowds were very vocal before the contest even began. The game gave off the aura of a playoff atmosphere and it was only game five for both teams.
The game was a see-saw affair through the first 4:24. A steal and a bucket by sophomore Karell Watkins off the dime from junior Akeem Taylor and the Knights called for a timeout at 3:36 trailing 14-12. The Clippers finished the quarter with a 11-5 run for a 25-17 advantage. The Clippers starting five accounted for all their points led by Watkins with 8, senior Michael Smith (7), Taylor (6) and junior Rahmee Gilbert and senior Rahmaad DeJarnette contributing a bucket apiece.
The Red Knights made a run to start the 2nd quarter and the Clippers relinquished the lead 32-33 at about the 3:00 mark. After rebounding a missed three point attempt by DeJarnette Chester called for a timeout at 2:43 and the score the same. Out of the timeout the Clippers missed the front end of a one-and-one. They forced a Reading turnover and DeJarnette walked to the line for his 1-and-1 and connected on both to regain the lead 34-33 with 2:21 remaining. There were two lead changes before the Red Knights called timeout after a Watkins free-throw tied the score at 37 with 39.6 seconds remaining in the half. Chester converted a Reading turnover into an assist from Gilbert to DeJarnette and the Clippers went to intermission with a slight 39-27 lead.
The Clippers gave the Clip Joint a look at the patented Chester press and Reading had no answer. The only way the Red Knights could stop the assault was with their 3rd timeout of the game. The results was a 10-0 run giving the Clippers a 49-37 lead at the 4:56 mark. The Clippers defense held Reading to just 9 points in the period while exploding for 21 of their own. Watkins led the way 9 of his team/co-game high 27 points and Taylor added 6 which helped him match his season high of 14 points. This resulted in a 60-46 Chester lead at the end of the 3rd quarter.
After starting the 4th quarter with 3 consecutive turnover Chester saw their lead dip to 60-51 before Watkins rebounded a missed Reading shot and scored at the other end to push the lead back to double digits 62-51 at the 6:23 mark. Two more DeJarnette free throws and the lead was 64-51 at 5:46. The Red Knights capitalized on the Clippers turnovers and missed free throw and was with six (66-60) with 3:25 showing on the clock. Watkins rebounded the Reading next shot attempt and Smith converted two free throws. After a steal by Smith, DeJarnette knocked down a free throw to push the lead 69-60 at 2:49. Chester did not score on their next three possessions enabling Reading to produce a 8-0 run before Taylor's layup stopped the madness at 1:05. Chester - 71, Reading - 68. After Watkins assisted bucket from Taylor gave the Clippers the 73-70 lead with 45 seconds remaining; Smith went 4 of 4 from the line to seal the win.
Watkins finished with his fourth double double of the season by hauling in 15 rebounds to go along with his 27 points and career high 5 assists. Michael Smith finished with a season high 21 points and Rahmaad DeJarnette joined the double digit party with 13 points. While matching his season high of 14 points, Akeem Taylor Jr. filled the stat sheet with a season highs of 6 assists. Junior Rahmee Gilbert contributed season highs of 4 assists and 5 steals to go along with his lone 1st quarter bucket. The Clippers finished with 20 assists on 30 made baskets.
The Clippers will get a nice break during the holiday season before returning to action on Thursday, December 27th when they travel to Lower Merion to take on the Aces in the Kobe Bryant Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.