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Ray, Seward too much for shorthanded Episcopal Academy

Episcopal Academy's Colin Chambers reacts after missing the last of three free throws late in the fourth quarter against Haverford School Friday afternoon. The Fords went on to a 48-46 victory. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

NEWTOWN SQUARE – The sight of Alex Capitano, out of his Episcopal Academy white jersey and in a walking boot, could’ve inspired a moment of complacency in the Haverford School huddle Friday. Without EA’s second-leading scorer, surely the Fords would already be a sizable portion on the way to a 15th straight victory, no?

Any such delusion was dispelled in a first quarter where EA led by as many as 10 points, the fervor of the schools’ rivalry again usurping the underlying basketball logic.

The shorthanded Churchmen checked most of the boxes on their Capitano absence to-do list. But even so, the combination of Christian Ray and Tyler Seward proved to be too much.

Haverford School’s Christian Ray throws down a dunk in the fourth quarter against Episcopal Academy Friday. The Fords rallied for a 48-46 victory over the Churchmen. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Ray scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Seward added 16 points as the Fords rallied and then hung on for a 48-46 Inter-Ac win.

Capitano’s absence was palpable for the Churchmen (8-9, 1-2 Inter-Ac). He sprained an ankle in Tuesday’s loss to Penn Charter, in which senior Matt Dade scored 35 points. Those two provide 65.7 percent of EA’s scoring, necessitating a big adjustment for the two weeks Capitano is expected to miss.

But from the perspective of the Fords, who have played all but one game without Saint Joseph’s commit Jameer Nelson Jr. and only just welcomed back Gavin Burke from his second ankle-related absence of the year, that was no reason for underestimation.

“It’s something that we noticed and we had to get used to,” Ray said. “We had one of our scorers missing, too. So we know they’re missing a link, we’re missing a link, it’s going to be a dogfight. It’s a big rivalry, so at the beginning of the game, we had to get over that. Once we start playing, once the ball goes up, I think we were fine.”

“We needed a lot of guys to step up,” Episcopal guard Colin Chambers said. “Haverford’s obviously a really good team. We needed everyone to step up in their role, everyone do a little above and beyond what they usually do, and we just came up a little short.”

Chambers was the most likely figure to fill Capitano’s void, and he delivered with four 3-pointers and a career-high 19 points. He hit a pair of triples in the first quarter as part of the 13-3 EA start, then when Haverford used a 6-0 spurt to overturn a 22-20 halftime deficit, Chambers supplied the answer via an individual 6-0 run to put EA up 30-28, the first volleys in a back-and-forth second half.

Chambers wasn’t the only one to come to Dade’s aid. Dade scored 14 points, though made only one basket after halftime. In an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter, Jack O’Reilly provided three points (or just below his season average of 3.1 points per game). Will Delaney hit a corner 3-pointer, his fifth basket of the season, and Malcolm Folk drove to the basket for two, his 13th hoop of the year.

“It’s good to see the young guys step up, and when Alex gets back, we’ll all be ready,” Chambers said. “So I think it’ll just help us more and more as we go on.”

Those efforts were required to briefly peg back Haverford’s dominance on the glass. Ray and Seward keyed a 35-20 rebounding edge, which was the most effective attack the Fords (15-0, 3-0) found to beat EA’s slow-it-down zone defense. Seward and Ray each scored six points in the third quarter, Seward attacking the short corner of the zone on the baseline.

On a day where Haverford shot just 31 percent from the field (13-for-42) and well below 50 percent on looks within five feet, the rebounding offered a chance at easy offense.

Haverford School’s Tyler Seward, left, drives past Episcopal Academy’s Jack O’Reilly Friday afternoon. The Fords rallied for a 48-46 victory over the Churchmen. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“We just came out more aggressive and we attacked the basket more,” Seward said. “We were more assertive on offense instead of just laying back and letting things just happen.”

Even when EA charged ahead by six in the fourth, Ray wouldn’t let his team panic. Seward hit baskets on consecutive trips, the latter a second-chance point after an Asim Richards board, then Burke hit a 3-pointer to get Haverford within one at 40-39. Seward nudged Haverford ahead after Ray cleaned up a miss and dished to the sophomore, but two Dade free throws put EA ahead again before Ray converted two at the line in the day’s final lead change with just over a minute to play.

Ray fouled Chambers on a 3-pointer with 47.7 seconds left and EA trailing by three. Chambers hit the first two, but after a Haverford timeout and student sections chants of “Cody Parkey,” missed the third. Ray made two free throws, going 11-for-12 at the stripe, and MJ Atkins blocked a long-range heave from Chambers.

There was still a few free throws on either side and a Delaney prayer at the buzzer, but the Atkins block symbolized both teams’ seasons. Though a strong outing, EA’s support players couldn’t prevent the Churchmen from falling to their eighth loss by four points or fewer.

“I really don’t know,” Chambers said. “We seem like we’re always there and just keep coming up short, and that’s on everyone. When it’s winning time, we’ve got to step up more.”

Atkins, on the other hand, rose from the depths of the bench to provide a key stop at the key moment.

“I think that play kind of describes our year,” Ray said. “We’ve been up and down, we’ve had a lot of injuries, a lot of people go down. But it’s always been that next guy up. And MJ, he’s been doing a great job all year long, making plays when we need it and that was a huge play.”

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