CHESTER >> Coach Larry Yarbray called just one timeout, with a minute to go, his top-seeded Chester High Clippers comfortably ahead of Upper Moreland in the District 1 Class 5A opener Wednesday night.
In essence the Clippers were coming off a 12-day timeout and the rust from it showed early, not late, in the 74-59 victory at the Clip Joint.
“That’s probably the first time ever we had that much time between games,” Yarbray said. “But the guys worked, they kept playing hard and we came away with a win. And this time of year, you take them any way you get them.”
The Clippers (18-5) oppose Upper Merion, a 55-45 winner over Strath Haven, in the second round of the districts this Saturday.
Until then, senior Jamar Sudan, who registered game-highs of 16 points and eight rebounds, will remind teammates how important it is for the Clippers to reestablish their identity. Chester High hasn’t won a state championship since 2012. The mission statement of this group is to rekindle the old spark.
“We don’t have the talent we had from a few years ago,” Sudan said. “Now it’s like a rebuilding time for us. We’re a senior team, a veteran team and now we have a chip on our shoulder. Our identity is definitely still evolving. Right now we’re focused on the districts.”
Sudan played a key role in fighting off the last challenge from the 16th seeded Bears (12-11), who pulled within 62-56 with 2:41 left on their 11th and final three-pointer, a bomb by Brett Brossman.
Sudan responded with a basket off a dribble drive that began at the top of the key. Then he scored on an offensive rebound and center Jordan Camper (10 points) added a basket. Sandwiched around those buckets were two free throws each from point guard Michael Smith and Brian Randolph III, who contributed 12 points. The Clippers, down by five points early in the first quarter, scored 12 of the last 15 points in the game.
Team effort aside, the Clippers wouldn’t have advanced without Sudan, who not only made several big plays, but did a lot of the dirty work.
“He’s our guy and we go to him,” Yarbray said. “He’s got to rebound, he’s got to play defense and he’s got to score. He’s been doing it ever since he was in ninth grade. He has the ultimate ticker. He never gets tired. He always wants to be in the moment. He gives you 120 percent.”
The Bears, by the way, also gave it their all. Coach Matt Heiland was proud of them.
“We tried to keep this game in the 50s and 60s tonight,” Heiland said. “And (the Clippers) shot the heck out of the ball. Eleven threes, give them credit. That’s a very good team. But I firmly believe we aren’t a 16th seed. You can look at our scores. We lost in overtime to P-W. We were down to North Penn with three minutes left in the game. We hung with Cheltenham the first time we played them.
“We aren’t a 16th seed.”
The Clippers, for a chunk of the first half, didn’t play like the top seed. They gave too many open looks to the Bears. They let their opponent hang around and think it could win. The Clippers made it difficult on themselves.
“Our attention to detail was a little off in the first half,” Yarbray said. “But we didn’t let up. We played good defense when we needed to and we scored 74 points. It took us awhile but we normally have around 60-something. Our offense is good. We just have to work on our defense.”
Yarbray praised Upper Moreland and, like his coaching counterpart, says the Bears are much better than their seed.
“They played against good competition, got on a nice little roll and came here with nothing to lose,” Yarbray said. “I tell our guys we’re always going to get everybody’s best game. We were able to withstand it and finish it off.”
Last but not least, Yarbray addressed those nine timeouts he didn’t use.
“The key is to keep the pressure on them” Yarbray said. “They’ve got to play our tempo the whole game. And the way their coach was calling timeouts every three minutes, there wasn’t a need for me to call a timeout. Sometimes you need them, sometimes you don’t.”
The Clippers didn’t need them. Not after the long layoff.