There are no more undefeated teams in Delco – Lower Merion made sure of that last week against Penncrest. Bonner & Prendergast added to the loss column of the defending PIAA Class 5A champion in spectacular fashion, and the jockeying in the middle ranks of the Central League and atop the Del Val continued unabated. Amazing what can happen when you have a week of games uninterrupted by winter weather, huh?
I try to make sense of it all with a Super 7 (since last week’s notebook Super 7 was a print-only element). This accompanies a new batch of stat leaders that are up online now. (Records based on games through Jan. 14; Monday’s results not included).
- Bonner & Prendergast (11-2) Last week: No. 1
Ajiri Johnson and the Friars rocking the rims of St. Joseph’s Prep and Archbishop Wood last week sent a shudder through the District 12 Class 5A hierarchy. Bonner, Carroll and Wood are arguably the three best teams in the state in their class, yet one will not even qualify for the state tournament, as outrage is sure to ensue. So not only is the race for a Catholic League title exciting – with Roman Catholic and Neumann-Goretti in the mid, along with St. Joseph’s Prep – but the race for states in Class 5A also promises to be heated.
- Archbishop Carroll (8-4) Last week: No. 2
Carroll’s game against Wood last week was postponed, and the Patriots face a tough stretch with a trip to St. Joseph’s Prep Jan. 22 before Roman comes calling. The Feb. 9 showdown with Bonner & Prendergast could be decisive, as it was last season. With the recent surge by Luke House, Carroll is the only team in Delco with four players averaging in double-figures scoring (House, Keyon Butler, Justin Anderson, AJ Hoggard). Only three clubs – Bonner & Prendergast, Haverford School and Garnet Valley – even have three such players.
- Haverford School (11-4) Last week: No. 3
Were it not for Carroll’s win at La Salle, the Fords could’ve risen on the back of their domination of Episcopal Academy last Friday. When Christian Ray plays the way he did in the first half against EA, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the Inter-Ac stopping them. Add in Kharon Randolph’s touch from beyond the arc and the in-out balance is there. Jameer Nelson’s leg injury against EA is a concern, as is the drop in production from Gavin Burke (5.4 ppg in his last eight), but the Fords have a two-win cushion in the league (despite the historical struggles with that).
- Penncrest (12-1) Last week: No. 4
The Lions weren’t going unbeaten, so a setback at Lower Merion isn’t a big shock. A positive is the recent play of Malcolm Williams, who is averaging 10 points in his last five games, augmenting the secondary scoring of Matt Arbogast and allowing Chris Mills to focus more on defense and rebounding.
- Garnet Valley (9-3) Last week: No. 7
The Jaguars are winners of seven straight, and my elevation of them is a sure kiss of death with a trip to Strath Haven and a visit from Penncrest this week (sorry). Going into the season, you would’ve anticipated Austin Laughlin’s centrality in the offense. But would you have expected that Connor O’Brien – not Laughlin – would’ve been in double-figures in each game? Or that Greg Vlassopoulos (11 double-figure games) would have just one fewer such game than Laughlin? A one-man show, this is not.
- Upper Darby (10-3) Last week: NR
The Royals have yo-yoed in the Super 7. But they’re back thanks to wins in seven of eight. More impressively, UD is 8-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer. In the Jan. 9 win over Marple Newtown, Upper Darby had five players in double-figures. It had three in Saturday’s one-point win over Spring-Ford, and a fourth (Diby Keita) provided the game-winning 3-pointer late. That’s impressive balance, and the kind of win that makes you entertain states dreams.
- Chichester (7-4) Last week: NR
I’m in a permanent shrug with the Del Val until we get more info. Chi loses to Glen Mills, then beats Penn Wood, while Glen Mills loses to AP, who lost to Chester. The Clippers are 2-0 in the league, but I still give Chi the edge here. We’ll know much more by next Tuesday.
Dropped out: Episcopal Academy, Penn Wood
Honorable mention: Chester (5-5, the Clippers are on a five-game winning streak. Michael Smith and Brian Randolph have raised their games and the other figures are filling in nicely, though the schedule will get more difficult); Penn Wood (5-4, with Chichester’s loss to Glen Mills, you figured – I figured – that maybe the Patriots would step up into the favorite’s role in the league, but Chichester’s win over Penn Wood changed that. Is the Del Val champion going to have three losses this year?); Strath Haven (7-5, the Panthers have won six of seven. Cooper Driscoll has been huge, and while Ryan Morris has been hot or cold – high game of 29 points, low game of 3 – others have stepped up to fill the void, whether it’s 11 points for Chris Rosini to down Ridley or 19 from Jordan Graves to take down Olney Charter. Also Morris did have that huge shot against Lower Merion); Episcopal Academy (8-9, the Churchmen have two straight losses to start the Inter-Ac, and a trip to Malvern Tuesday doesn’t make it much easier. For a youthful group, on days when Matt Dade and Alex Capitano aren’t firing on all cylinders, it’s tough for the Churchmen to win); Sun Valley (7-4, so let’s talk about the Vanguards. They’ve won five straight games, albeit as the Ches-Mont schedule has eased. But the four losses are by a total of 13 points, two away from home in the league and one in overtime at Chi. For the season, the Vanguards are plus-104 on point differential, which is more than Carroll, Garnet Valley or Upper Darby. I can imagine Sun Valley being on a revenge mission on its second run through the Ches-Mont schedule).
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