By Terry Thomas
The Clippers (21-3) earned a date with Methacton in the District-1 6A Semi-finals after defeating the Lower Merion Aces, 54-46, at the Clip Joint. The win increases their win streak to 10 games and breaks the Aces four game hold dating back to the 2012-13 State Championship game. It marks Coach Taylor's first win over the Aces. Chester now trails them 10-12 overall. However, the win also gives Chester a 7-6 edge over Lower Merion in District Tournament games.
The game started with the Clippers scoring from the perimeter while the Aces focused on scoring in the paint. With the Aces big man protecting the paint the Clippers turned to jump shot for a 15-10 1st quarter lead. Seniors Rahmee Gilbert and Akeem Taylor Jr led the way with 5 points apiece. The 2nd quarter was more of the same except this time it was senior Faheem Berry posting 5 of his 7 points which allowed the Clippers to stretch their lead to six points at the intermission. For the Aces, their 6'8" sophomore, Demetrius Lilly, scored led them with 13 of his team high 18 points. Chester - 25, Lower Merion - 19.
The Clippers strategy changed in the 3rd quarter focusing more on the strength and quickness of their junior and a leading candidate for Delaware County Player of the Year, Karell Watkins. The Clippers slowed the pace and allowed Watkins to work inside. His six third quarter points enabled them to take a slim 33-32 lead into the final 8 minutes of play. After holding their opponents to no 3-point field goals in the first half, a few missed assignments gave the Aces the open looks they needed to knock down shots. They made three 3-pointers out of their 5 third quarter field goals.
The atmosphere was electric in the Clip Joint as both fan bases were excited for the 4th quarter to being. Watkins scored on Chester's first possess and Lower Merion followed with a trey to tie the game at 35. Gilbert was fouled on Chester's next possession and gave the Clippers the lead 36-35 at the 6:45 mark. Berry intercepted a pass and scored to give his team a 38-35 cushion. After exchanging baskets, the Clippers would produce a 7-0 run capped by a Watkins old fashioned 3-point play. Chester - 47, Lower Merion - 40 with 2:38 on the clock. It was his 11th point in the quarter and the fifth foul for the Aces big man who exited with just 5 second half points. Lower Merion connected on one foul shot before Watkins missed the front end of a 1 and 1 but rebounded his missed shot and scored to push the lead to 49-41. The remaining 60 seconds was a parade to the foul line for the Clippers where they hit on 5 of 7 attempts to secure the victory. Watkins finished with a game high 23 points, 19 coming in the second half. I forgot to mention, yes, he collected another double-double by hauling in 12 rebounds.
Gilbert and Taylor each just missed double figures with 9 points apiece. Taylor filled his stat sheet with 4 assist, 5 block, 7 rebounds and 1 steal. His 5 blocks give him a season total of 47 moving him ahead of Rondae Jefferson (Arizona University/Toronto Raptors) and Maurice "Mo' Henry (Delaware State). With his 12 rebounds, Watkins has a season total of 295 moving him ahead of Rahlir Jefferson (Temple University) and Russell Johnson (Robert Morris University). His career total of 585 moves him in front of Nasir Robinson (University of Pittsburgh).
Zahmir Carroll and Fareed Burton Jr completed the team's scoring with 3 points apiece. Tonight's game was Burton's return to action after missing the last 3 game due to an injury suffered in the team's win against Paterson-Kennedy in Atlantic City back on February 2nd.
The Clippers will return to action on Tuesday, February 25 in the nightcap of the double-header at Temple's Liacouras Center. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.