By Terry Thomas
The Clippers (23-4) moves on to the 2nd Round of the State 6A Tournament with a 76-63 victory over the William Allen Canaries (23-6) at Oxford Area High School. Chester entered the tournament as the 3rd seed out of District-1 with William Allen the 3rd seed out of District-11. With the victory, the Clippers stretched their State Tournament win streak over District-11 to 14 games and now hold a 22-2 overall tournament record against District-11; including 3-0 vs. the Canaries.
The first quarter was a fast-paced see-saw affair. The Clippers opened with a 6-0 start followed by a 7-0 run by the Canaries. After trailing 6-7, there were three lead changes that followed with Chester regaining the lead 12-11 with a Karell Watkins put-back of a missed free throw with 1:47 left. The Canaries closed the quarter with another 7-0 run; Chester trailed 12-18.
Looking to open the floor, Chester started senior Faheem Berry and he responded opening the 2nd quarter with a trey; Chester trailed 15-18. The teams exchanged basket over the next five possession and then Berry connected on another trey to deadlock the score at 25 with 5:10 showing on the clock. Over the next 1:45 there were 3 lead changes before junior Shaquan Horsey took a feed from Watkins to tie the score for the 4th time in the quarter at 31 with 3:25 left. It was the Clippers turn to end a quarter with a run and they responded with a 9-2 burst to take a 40-33 lead into intermission. Chester held a 28-15 scoring edge in the 2nd quarter led by Watkins with 9, Fareed Burton Jr with 7, Berry's 6, Rahmee Gilbert contribution of 4 and Horsey's 2 points.
The Clippers held a slight 15-14 scoring advantage in the third quarter to open their lead to 8 points, 55-47, going into the final quarter. Burton, Watkins and Akeem Taylor Jr each contributed four points with Gilbert knocking down a trey.
The rhythm of the game stayed true to form with the Canaries opening the final period with a 7-2 run to get within three at 57-54 with 6:00 left in the contest. Yes, Chester countered with a 7-0 run of their own recapturing control of the game. With 3:40 on the clock, the score read: Chester - 64, William Allen - 54. The team once again exchanged baskets senior Zahmir made his presence felt scoring with 2 minutes to go for 70-59 lead. He scored on the next possession, 72-59, and Gilbert scored on the next two possessions to push the lead to 76-59 with about 1 minute left in the game.
The Clippers used a balanced attached with four of their starters in double figures led by Watkins with a game high of 22 points. He was joined by Fareed Burton Jr with 15, Rahmee Gilbert with 14 and Zahmir Carroll's 10 points. Akeem Taylor Jr the remaining starter finished with 7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 blocked shot and 1 steal.
Rahmee Gilbert dished 3 assists on the night bring his career total to 200. In doing so he becomes just the 11th Clipper since 1992 to join that club. He also collected 2 steals bringing his career total to 175 moving him ahead of Naeem Scott and tying him with Eric "Pooh" Evans.
Watkins meanwhile hauled in 5 rebounds bring his season total to 261 and his career total to 606. With 261 he moves ahead of Richard "Big Dog" Granberry and he comes just the 8th Clippers since 1992 with over 600 rebounds. He surpassed Nasir Robinson on that list.