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Randolph’s big second half helps Chester pull away for win

POTTSTOWN >> Jamar Sudan cracks a smile when the conversation shifts to Brian Randolph.

In his first two seasons with the Clippers, Sudan was the energy player, the gangly wing who could guard 1-through-5, who brought energy on defense and the boards, for whom offense was an occasional bonus.

Now, with the senior Sudan inheriting Chester’s star role, he’s happy to see his former job in such sure hands.

In Thursday night’s PIAA Class 5A second round, Brian Randolph supplied Chester’s spark with 15 points, nine rebounds and stalwart defense as the Clippers finally shook Hershey, 61-51, at Pottstown High School’s Strom Gymnasium.

Randolph scored 13 points after halftime, the lone outlier a put-back bucket at the first-half buzzer to send the teams into the locker room knotted at 22. He was 5-for-6 from the line in the fourth, and contributed to a 12-0 Chester run to start the second half that swung the balance.

“Brian is our undercover guy, but he’s that big spark that we need,” Sudan said. “He’s not on everybody’s scouting report, and that’s what we need from him every game.”

Like many a Chester player, defense is the starting point for Randolph. But his offensive game has progressed, as Thursday’s second half demonstrates.

Chester’s Jaimhy Evans goes up for a bucket in the first half of a PIAA Class 5A second-round game with Hershey Thursday. Evans scored five points in a 61-51 Chester win. (Digital First Media/Anne Neobrak)

At one point in the third, with Chester overly reliant on jump shots from Ahrod Carter and Sudan, Randolph stepped up with two dribbles in from the perimeter on the right wing for a jump-stop hoop.

“It’s playoffs, so I’ve got to start taking shots,” Randolph said. “When I get my shot, I have to take it, because when my teammates see me making shots, it gives them the confidence to make their shots.”

Sudan did most of the offensive work for Chester (22-6), the fifth seed in District 1, which advances to the quarterfinals to take on the winner of Abington Heights and Martin Luther King. That game was postponed to Friday night, with the quarters likely Sunday. The win means Chester, which topped Milton Hershey last Friday, completes the rare Hershey states sweep.

Sudan scored 19 points to go with nine rebounds, repeatedly exploiting the foul-line space in Hershey’s 2-3 zone with turnaround jumpers. He accounted for 12 of the Clippers’ 22 first-half points.

But even that level of productivity couldn’t salvage a harmonious halftime for the Clippers. Hershey (14-14) adjusted well after a first quarter in which they appeared to be getting run off the floor in a 13-3 stanza.

Chase Wallace entered with 10 second-quarter points, and shots began to fall for the Trojans after a 1-for-15 start from the field. A pull-up jumper by Luke Hedrick in the final minute of the first half gave the Trojans, District 3’s 10th seed, their only lead of the night at 22-20.

“We gave up a big lead because we were ready to make them give up,” Sudan said. “But we relaxed on defense, guys hit a couple of shots. Halftime, we talked about defense the whole time, lock up and finish the game.”

The Clippers adjusted out of the break, emphasizing defense and switching matchups against a Hershey team lacking size and regularly deploying four guards. Chester also opted for a full-court press, which created enough discomfort for a few easy buckets. Here again, Randolph shined.

“We press to get turnovers, so we’ve got to execute on that,” Randolph said. “Because when we press, it puts fear on the other team’s eyes.”

About the only one not looking fearful was Hershey’s Jake Wilson, who hit five 3-pointers for a team-high 17 points. But the Trojans were a mere 9-for-26 from 3-point land and settled for jumpers time and again, with no sustained taste for battling Sudan and Jordan Camper (seven points, nine boards, three blocks) near the glass.

Chester’s Ahrod Carter lines up a free throw in the second half Thursday. Carter scored 10 points in the Clippers’ 61-51 win over Hershey in the second round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament. (Digital First Media/Anne Neobrak)

Carter hit a couple of 3-pointers to finish with 10 points on a tepid shooting night for the Clippers. But as Chester’s defense went, so did the Clippers. They forced six first-quarter turnovers in accruing their early edge, then didn’t turn over the Trojans in a second quarter that featured 19 Hershey points.

After the break, seven turnovers and several harried 3-pointers did the trick, though the Trojans stayed within six as late as the final minute.

Whether at the free-throw line or the defensive end, Randolph and company found a way to get it done, no matter how much attention he warranted ahead of time.

“That’s what we have him for, that defensive guy, scrappy,” Sudan said. “That’s my little cousin, so that’s what we practice.”

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