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Taylor, Clippers take inside route to win over Harrisburg

Chester's Akeem Taylor makes a basket over Harrisburg's Davon Lee in the fourth quarter of the Clippers PIAA Class 6A playoff victory at Reading High School Wednesday evening. Chester won, 76-65. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

READING — A dunk, not a three-point shot, was the turning point Wednesday in Chester’s frenetic 76-65 triumph over Harrisburg in the second round of the PIAA Class 6A boys playoffs at the Geigle Complex.

No one would have thought that possible after viewing the second quarter.

Fortunately for Chester, Akeem Taylor’s emphatic slam with 1:17 to go snuffed out the last bit of hope for three-point happy Harrisburg, advancing the Clippers to the quarterfinals, where they oppose Coatesville Saturday.

Chester Zahmir Carroll, right, drives to the basket over Harrisburg’s Davon Lee in the second quarter Wednesday night at Geigle. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

The Clippers had to win the game twice after taking a double-digit lead into the second quarter because the Cougars went all Steph Curry on them, draining five three-pointers.

The Clippers were outscored, 30-19, in the frame. With each Harrisburg three-point shot, the crowd was on its feet.

The dunk quieted the sizable Harrisburg following for good. It gave the Clippers a nine-point lead and sent several spectators toward the exits.

“That felt good,” said Taylor, who matched a career-high with 19 points. “There was a lot of their fans here.”

The Clippers not only survived but thrived in yet another game without Karell Watkins, who led them in scoring and rebounding. He’s no longer on the roster this year, having broken team regulations.

The Clippers showed they could win with balanced scoring from Taylor, Michael Smith (12 points), Zahmir Carroll (12) and Javan Graham (11).

And without making a three-point shot.

Seventy-six points without a trey is a testament to the hustle and heart of the Clippers, who hit the boards, changed the tempo with their vaunted press and closed out a talented Cougars squad.

“We had a little letdown in the second quarter where we weren’t getting out to the guys shooting threes,” Chester coach Keith Taylor said. “We were losing sight of our man. We missed a ton of layups in the third quarter but we banged the boards, we got steals, we got some easy layups. We got the things we wanted. Our guys just stepped up. Zahmir Carroll stepped up, Javan Graham, Akeem Taylor and Rahmaad DeJarnette. Really they all stepped up.”

The Clippers controlled the first quarter, working the ball inside and pounding the boards to grab a 22-11 lead.

Akeem Taylor led the way then with six points.

Chester’s Akeem Taylor celebrates late in the game Wednesday night as Chester starts to pull away, en route to a victory over Harrisburg in a PIAA Class 6A second-round game at Geigle Complex in Reading. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

The Cougars had their feeding frenzy in the second quarter, making five of eight three-point attempts, including three by Ali Anthony to knot the game at 41 at the intermission.

Left-handed shooter Davon Lee did his Curry imitation with one of his two treys. At that point the crowd was hanging on the in-and-out misses.

Anthony’s last three swished right before the buzzer.

The Clippers would trail just once in the contest, that on – what else – a three-pointer by John McNeil to open the scoring. McNeil had two 3-pointers and 13 points.

After getting gashed in the second quarter, the Clippers allowed just six points in the third quarter as they shifted into their attack-the-basket, pound-the-boards mode. It wore Harrisburg down.

Chester led by eight entering the final frame. By then, almost everyone who made the trip had contributed.

“We’ve got a full roster, 11 guys, and all of us know we have to step up,” Akeem Taylor said. “We’ve got guys who can come off the bench and help. We let the lead get away. They were trying to speed the game up. In the second half we knew we had to come out and slow them down. We weren’t panicking when they brought the traps and the press.”

The Cougars inched within 66-63 with three minutes and change remaining but were outscored, 10-2, the rest of the way. Rahmee Gilbert scored four of his nine points in the run, and Taylor Jr. had the jam.

It was the sixth time the Clippers have defeated Harrisburg in the state playoffs. The last time they got together in states was in 2008, and as Clippers basketball historian Dave Burman noted, it also was in the second round at Geigle.

The Clippers, you may recall, won their third and final state championship under the late Fred Pickett.

“It’s a big win for the kids, for the program,” said Keith Taylor, who was on Pickett’s coaching staff. “The kids get one step closer to what they want to accomplish. But it just takes us to the next game. We’re not trying to look ahead.”



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