By Terry Thomas
The 6th seeded Chester Clippers (18-5) missed their shot at a 24th District Title with a 59-67 setback at the hands of the 3rd seeded Lower Merion Aces (23-2). The game was played before a standing room only (signs on the outside doors read "Game Sold Out") and no one left before the final buzzer sounded.
The game was a back and forth affair with the final margin matching the largest lead of the game. The Clippers trailed by one after the first quarter, 18-19, and by two at the half, 37-39. The Aces pushed their lead to five and the Clippers were facing a 46-51 deficit at the end of the third quarter.
Michael Smith scored on Chester's second possession cutting the margin to three, 48-51. On their next possession the Clippers had the opportunity to close within one but junior Rahmee Gilbert went 0 for 2 from the line. After the Aces scored their first bucket of the quarter at the 5:55 mark, Chester's attempt at an old-fashioned three point play fell short when senior Javan Graham failed to connect on the free throw. The Clippers still trailed by three, 50-53, with 5:42 on the clock. The Aces scored on their next two possessions to push their lead to eight, 50-58. Sophomore Karell Watkins would score off an assist from Smith but the Aces would march to the free throw line and knock down two to keep the margin at eight, 52-60.
Senior Rahmaad DeJarnette responded with a trey bring the score to 55-60 with 4:25 remaining. The Clippers held strong defensively holding the Aces scoreless on their next three possession but were unable to cash in; including missing the front end of a 1-and-1. Karell Watkins stole an Aces pass on their ensuing possession and would score off an assist from Smith to cut the lead to 57-60 at 2:45. The duo connected on the next possession after Watkins rebounded the missed Aces shot and the deficit was now one, 59-60 with Chester calling time-out at 2:05.
On the Aces next possession Smith raced from behind the Aces for a steal but gave the ball up in his hast to score at the other end. The Aces connected once again from the free throw line for a 59-62 advantage with 1:07 remaining. The Clippers went scoreless, 0 for 4 from the field, on their final four possessions of the game.
Three Clippers scored in double figures lead by sophomore Karell Watkin with 17, senior Rahmaad DeJarnette knocked down 16, and fellow senior Michael Smith added 10. Junior Akeem Taylor supplied 7 points, all in the first half. Senior Javan Grahahm (4), junior Rahmee Gilbert (3) and Junior Zahmir Carroll completed the scoring with 2 points.Watkins returned to the double column with 10 rebounds. Smith also added 6 rebounds and 3 steals, and Taylor contributed 6 boards and 3 assists.
The Clippers will continue in the District-1 Tournament for seeding going forward to the State Tournament. They will host 7th seeded Methacton on Tuesday, February 22nd. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 at the Clip Joint.