Local teams saving a seat for those who sacrificed

Jack Concannon simply put two and two together last year.

The Bonner & Prendergast coach was scouting a game at St. Joe’s Prep when he saw his neighbor Patrick Hughes on the court for pregame. That night, the Hawks dedicated a memorial chair to commemorate the sacrifice made by thousands of lost soldiers either taken as prisoners of war or missing in action.

By the time Concannon approached his neighbor, a 1964 Bonner grad, a light bulb went off.

Marine Lt. Cpl. Patrick Concannon; Vietnam Veteran Dennis J. Murphy; and Marine Sgt. Matt Sondermann present a memorial chair recognizing POW/MIA at Bonner last Friday. (Special to the Times/Anne Neborak)
Marine Lt. Cpl. Patrick Concannon; Vietnam Veteran Dennis J. Murphy; and Marine Sgt. Matt Sondermann present a memorial chair recognizing POW/MIA at Bonner & Prendergast last Friday. (Special to the Times/Anne Neborak)

“It was very moving,” Concannon said. “… (Hughes) said we’re trying to do this in every gym in the city and eventually the country, and I knew I’d love to have it at Bonner next year.”

In last Friday’s game against Cardinal O’Hara, the Friars did their part in a new tradition rippling across the city. Before tipoff, the school held a 20-minute ceremony featuring active military personnel, Veterans of Foreign Wars and offering prayers and a special color guard in dedicating a POW/MIA chair at the school.

Their opponent that night did the same two weeks prior, with head coach Steve Cloran doing the honors.
The tradition has spread nationally, as is the aspiration of Hughes and others involved with the initiative. In Philadelphia, Drexel and Saint Joseph’s have hosted dedications. The Indianapolis Colts have a “Chair of Honor” at Lucas Oil Stadium. Numerous other teams across the nation, from college programs to pro teams, have held similar ceremonies.

For the local coaches, the urge to recognize POW/MIA’s hits close to home. Concannon invited his nephew, Patrick, a Marine, to the service. Also present was a former player from his first stint at Bonner, Tom Mulholland, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy.

Those connections drive Concannon to show appreciation of service to the country in his players.

“My father was a marine, my nephew is a marine,” Concannon said. “It’s important in our family. And just in general, it’s good for our kids to see that these people put their lives on the line for us and for our freedom. For them, I think it’s a good learning opportunity to see and appreciate what these guys have done.”

• • •

Chris Monahan has little choice but to turn to humor.

“I’ve never seen so many boots in my life,” the Radnor coach said Saturday night when the topic of the Raiders’ injury situation was broached.

Monahan is staring down the barrel of any coach’s worst nightmare: Not fielding a full-strength lineup all season.

Take Saturday’s 64-48 loss to Garnet Valley: Forward Jake Bodenger led the way with 16 points in Radnor’s fifth straight setback. It was Bodenger’s first game after three weeks on the shelf with a broken bone in his foot.

His first game out marked the first significant minutes for shooting guard Alex Hino, who had a stress reaction in his leg that cost him the season’s first three weeks. Bodenger’s first game back was the first absence for forwards Mason Ressler, sporting a walking boot, and Vernon Harper, decked out in crutches and a knee brace.

The length of absence for the latter two isn’t yet known, but the Raiders’ frustration at the hand they’ve been dealt is.

“It’s a shame because we haven’t been able to play with like a starting five,” Bodenger said. “… It’s tough, but we have to play through adversity.”

Radnor started 8-3, but stands at .500 with few quality non-conference wins to fall back on.

For a group of seniors that endured a rebuilding six-win campaign last year geared toward fulfilling playoff hopes this season, injuries can’t be a crutch — in the metaphorical sense, at least.

“It’s definitely not an excuse. It can’t be,” Bodenger said. “We’re still trying to win games. Moving forward, I think we’ve just still got to stick to the game plan, which is to play tough.”

• • •

The Raiders aren’t the only ones whose playoff chances are impacted by injuries.

Much of Strath Haven’s success this season has been rooted in its low-post hydra, but that takes a hit with the absence of Kyree Fuller with a knee injury that could cost him the rest of the season, per coach Dave McFadden.
Fuller averaged 8.9 points per game over 10 games, but he reinjured the knee Dec. 29 against Harrison.

Fuller had been the Panthers’ starting power forward, a role that’s been ably filled by the larger and more post-oriented Josh Singleton with reserve forward Cooper Driscoll taking a bigger role. Fuller’s contributions as a stretch-four, especially on the defensive end, are harder to directly compensate for, hence a team-centric approach.

“We’ve just kept talking about, the next player has to step up,” said McFadden, whose team has rattled off seven straight wins. “It’s altering roles to fill roles we lost when Kyree went down knowing we can still win.”

Part of that includes auditions for guys on the bench, like sophomore JV call-up Ryan Morris, who scored eight big points in Saturday’s 56-51 win over Marple Newtown.

• • •

Strath Haven’s opponent Wednesday is another squad dealing with injury-related uncertainty. Penncrest center A.J. Taylor left Saturday’s 30-27 loss with Ridley with a scary-looking ring finger injury. His status will be determined Wednesday, according to coach Mike Doyle.

Taylor is averaging 14.3 points per game, second on the Lions behind Tyler Norwood (14.5). That duo combines for well over half of the Lions’ points per game (49.3), and losing Taylor for any stretch will negatively affect the 8-8 Lions’ quest for a districts bid.

• • •

It was mentioned in the roundup Saturday night, but this is worth another mention: Academy Park hit 18 3-pointers in a 90-63 win over Phoenixville. Eighteen, led by eight from Jawan Collins.

For a little perspective, Glen Mills has hit 28 3-pointers all season, as a team, through 14 games. Academy Park leads the county with 135 triples made this season. Through Saturday’s games, only Garnet Valley (106) had also eclipsed the century-mark.

Even more remarkable is the coincidence of AP’s hot shooting and their thin rotation. Academy Park almost has more 3-pointers than man-games played (136). Basically, everyone who checks in hits a 3, or so the numbers say.

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