Heath’s 17 points help Abington hang on to top Chester

CHESTER >> Robbie Heath and Rob Young knew it was coming.

They knew because their coach, Charles Grasty, told them it was coming. They knew because it always comes when the opponent is Chester. It certainly did come Thursday night at Widener, that patented late Clippers run that the program has done so many times.

Abington knew it was coming and they outlasted it, not by much, but enough to claim a 53-50 win over the Clippers in the nightcap of the first day of the Pete and Jameer Nelson Play-by-Play Classic.

“We were rushing a little bit,” Heath said. “Coach was telling us to slow it down and limit our mistakes. He told us they were going to make a run, and that was their run but we still came out with the W.”

Abington (7-2, 3-0 SOL National) led by 14 after three quarters, 47-33 and for the most part, was playing a really good offensive game. Just before halftime, the Clippers’ pressure defense had started to get to the Ghosts, speeding them up and getting them to take quick shots out of their offense.

In the fourth quarter, the Clippers did it again and once again, it started to get to the Ghosts. Abington was scoreless in the final frame until a foul shot by Joe O’Brien with 2:09 left in the game. By then, Chester had sliced the lead in half behind inspired play from starting forward Jamar Sudan and reserve guards Rahmaad Dejarnette and Jahmeir Springfield.

A dunk by Jordan Camper and another hoop by Sudan cut the lead down to three before Heath sank two foul shots with 32.8 left to get Abington back in front by five. Abington committed seven turnovers in the fourth and did not make a field goal, getting all six of its points at the foul line.

“Their guards did a good job pressuring our guys,” Grasty said. “They made us uncomfortable and we couldn’t run our stuff so we wanted to spread the floor. We wanted to spread the floor and get it to our bigs, but when guards are that good, they make it tough to do that.”

Heath, who scored a game-high 17 points, sank two more free throws with 3.4 left on the clock to give Abington the final 53-50 margin. Prior to that, it was a tense couple of possessions for the Ghosts. Camper came down and dunked after Heath’s first set of freebies, then Abington threw the ball away on a bad pass.

Fortunately for the Ghosts, Springfield wasn’t able to convert a jumper and Young corralled the rebound and was instantly fouled. The guard hit one of two, but enough to keep the Ghosts up after Chester’s Ahrod Carter drilled a 3-pointer with 9.7 left.

While Chester had Abington out of sorts in some aspects, the Ghosts were able to run off some significant time on two occasions, seconds that added up on those last couple of plays.

“If we kept taking quick shots, they would have started making more runs and hitting more shots,” Young said. “That’s how they were able to get the lead down when we made mistakes.”

With Thursday’s result, Heath and Young can say something very few other players can say in that they’ve beaten Chester twice. Both guards played on the 2014-15 Ghosts team that topped Chester in the District 1 tournament, so it wasn’t surprising that Chester’s press defense didn’t break them.

Certainly, the Clippers’ rotation of guards, which includes Michael Smith, Carter and Jaimy Evans, got to the Abington ballhandlers, whether it was Heath, Young or Lucas Monroe more than a few times but Abington’s guys didn’t panic when a Chester player got in their space.

“It didn’t really faze us, we’ve played teams like that before that are going to be up on you like that,” Heath said. “We got past them, took our time and came out with a win.”

For Young, it’s just something he’s used to from his upbringing in the city’s rec leagues at Finley and Mallery Playgrounds.

“I grew up playing basketball in the city of Philadelphia so all that rough stuff, I’m used to it,” Young said.

Abington was in position to withstand Chester’s run because of its excellent start on offense. The Ghosts had a 20-9 lead after one with Heath and big man Eric Dixon combining for 13 of those points. Dixon and senior Joe O’Brien gave Abington the size to match up with Chester inside and the two big guys did their part in the first three quarters.

They didn’t touch the ball as much in the fourth, a product of Chester’s defense more than Abington’s guards looking away from them. Dixon finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds while O’Brien chipped in seven points, seven boards and four blocks. Young has been a big beneficiary of the post players thanks to his improved and confident outside shooting, the senior hitting a pair of 3-pointers on Thursday.

“It starts in practice,” Young said. “It’s just us playing together and I think as the season goes on, we’ll get better and better and making plays.”

Even after Heath’s last set of foul shots, Chester put one last scare into the game when Springfield’s quarter-court shot skimmed over the rim at the buzzer before boucing away and giving Abington the win.

Both teams are back at Widener Friday, with the Clippers taking on Pennsbury and Abington matching up with PCL and state power Neumann-Goretti. The Saints, tabbed by many as the favorite for the 3A state title, are the latest challenge in Abington’s grueling nonleague slate and will require the best the Ghosts have in them.

“We have to match their intensity,” Grasty said. “We have to play smart, we can’t let them get going. We have to play our game, make them guard us and try to minimize our mistakes and limit their second chance opportunities.”

Abington 53, Chester 50
Abignton 20 11 16 6 – 53
Chester 9 12 12 17 – 50
Abington (53): Robbie Heath 6 5-6 17, Eric Dixon 3 3-6 10, Lucas Monroe 4 0-1 9, Joe O’Brien 3 1-2 7, Rob Young 2 1-2 7, Eric Dougherty 1 0-0 3. Nonscoring: Brandon Coffman. Totals: 19 10-17 53.
Chester (50): Jamar Sudan 7 1-2 15, Jordan Camper 6 0-0 12, Ahrod Carter 3 3-4 11, Brian Randolph 2 3-4 8, Rahmaad Darjanette 1 0-0 2, Jahmeir Springfield 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Michael Smith, Jaimhy Evans. Totals: 20 7-10 50.
3-pointers: A – Young 2, Monroe, Dixon, Dougherty; C – Carter 2, Randolph.

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