Delco Boys Basketball Super 7, Dec. 31

There’s some good news and bad news as the calendar flips to 2017. The good news is that season is halfway over. The bad news is, well, the same. Depending on your perspective, the two-day lull for New Year’s is a time to take stock as a basketball team, to either reflect on preliminary goals achieved or lament the increasingly grating and desperate sound of sand grains flowing through the hourglass. Not to get too philosophical, but the season is either half-gone or half-remaining.

So what does that mean for the hierarchy this week? Plenty of changes, including a new No. 1 and the ascent of a second Central League team of its rotating case of contenders into the mix. (Records based on games through Dec. 30; look for a new batch of stat leaders later today.)

1. Archbishop Carroll (8-1) Previous: No. 2

Don’t get me started on the inanity that is Archbishop Carroll and Germantown Academy traveling to Richmond, Va., to play in the Benedictine Capital City Classic when the schools are separated by around 12 miles. But there’s no disputing the beating that the Radnor Patriots put on the incumbent Inter-Ac champs in a 60-34 decision. A.J. Hoggard was named tournament MVP while scoring 28 points in three games, an indication of what the point guard brings to the table. Carroll has won six in a row and hits the Catholic League ground running with Neumann-Goretti Tuesday (hint, hint as to where I might be).

2. Bonner & Prendergast (8-0) Previous: No. 3

The Friars have impressively resisted slip-ups, and they get to see home court for the first time Tuesday against Conwell-Egan. There are so many positives to tout, including the continued progression of Ajiri Johnson in the post. One notable development: Dylan Higgins, a rebounding menace, hit four 3-pointers in the Marple Newtown Holiday Tournament title-game win over the hosts. If they’ve adapted the inside-out game so adroitly that Higgins is free to knock down shots, that’s scary.

Chester Brian Randolph, right, goes to the basket under pressure from Abington’s Joseph O’Brien Wednesday night at Widener University. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

3. Chester (5-2) Previous: No. 1

Friday’s win over Pennsbury arrests a two-game slide, though losing to Math, Civics and Sciences and Abington isn’t much to be ashamed of. Chester is still a work in progress in many ways, and you see positive signs from night’s like the massive win over Reading where Michael Smith stepped up. Most telling is that Jamar Sudan and Jordan Camper have combined for 14 man-games this season; 13 have been in double-figures, Sudan the lone one missing. Big guys looming large with college eyes on them.

4. Haverford School (9-1) Previous: No. 5

Another team on the steady climb, the Fords’ only setback is a six-point decision to Roman Catholic. Most tellingly, they are 5-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer. Granted, C.B. East and C.B. South aren’t exactly a murderers’ row of nonleague opposition, but the Fords are getting it done with three double-figures scorers. They’ll be difficult to stop in the Inter-Ac, which they head into next week with a lot of momentum.

5. Penncrest (7-2) Previous: NR

The Lions have won seven straight, several by Tyler Norwood’s sheer force of will. I have a sneaking suspicion that if Penncrest got another chance against Phoenixville or Academy Park, the teams it lost to on opening weekend, the result might be different. They face a tough start to the New Year with a trip to Springfield and hosting Garnet Valley, two games that seem sure to contradict the best laid Super 7s of mice and beatwriters. But with Norwood running the ship (and Justin Ross and Mike Mallon hovering around eight points per game on average), the Lions are rolling.

6. Strath Haven (6-2) Previous: NR

I spun a wheel and it told me that this week was Strath Haven’s turn to be in the Super 7. OK, not really, though the cast has rotated heavily. But this one is due to the resilience of Dave McFadden’s group. The manhandling by Penncrest, with five minutes notice of Cooper Driscoll’s injury, seems the outlier, since Haven has survived trips to Springfield and Garnet Valley (incidentally making this pick easy). John Harrar has been a stalwart, averaging 21 points per game. But the emergence of support scorers – Jeff Conner for 17 points against Springfield, Chris Rosini for six 3-points against GV, Ryan Morris for four triples in the OT loss to Downingtown West – has mitigated the absence of Driscoll and Pat O’Kane.

7. Episcopal Academy (7-7) Previous: No. 4

These are lean times sans Nick Alikakos, the two-time All-Delco who is out for an extended period with a high ankle sprain. The United States Naval Academy commit had a legitimate chance to jump to third on EA’s all-time scoring list; instead, he’s a spectator as the Churchmen have lost six of seven. Few teams would cope well with such a drastic subtraction. (Imagine Haven sans Harrar or Penncrest without Norwood.) The fact that their most lopsided loss in this stretch has been by just 10 points exacerbates the sting; with Alikakos, who averaged 18.1 points in the seven games he completed, oh what could’ve been.

Dropped out: Penn Wood, Springfield

Honorable mention: Springfield (5-2; in all the talk of tempo this season, I neglected to give the Cougars their due; they’ve scored more than 65 points in four of seven games, including 80 against Wilkes-Barre GAR, aided by 24 from Mike Webb); Garnet Valley (6-3; The Jags’ fortunes remains tied to the productivity of Brandon Starr and Austin Laughlin. The emergence of a third option on a consistent basis will go a long way in smoothing out the results); Academy Park (3-2, The Knights lost by three to Haven, beat Penncrest, and gave Bonner & Prendie a game for three quarters. This isn’t last year’s PIAA vintage, but don’t count them out. Especially promising is the development of sophomore big Shermik Lofton, and any night they make shots could be a tough one for an opponent); Penn Wood (2-3, like the Knights – and Glen Mills, too – the Patriots face a busy January thanks to light December scheduling); Ridley (5-3; losing at home to Southern should not happen. The Green Raiders are getting 34.8 percent of their points from 3-pointers. That’s a precarious proposition that’s proving unsustainable night-to-night, and Friday’s win over Upper Merion with just three 3-pointers in 44 points is more balanced).

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