Delco boys basketball Super 7, Feb. 1

Confession time: Last week, around the time I was putting the finishing touches on this profile of Jameer Nelson Jr. as a feature/notebook, I contemplated whether to do a Super 7 to accompany the story. It would’ve looked a little odd on the page, so we decided to delay it, then maybe revisit the rankings for the blog a day or two later.

Had I done a Super 7 that week (which is easy to say), I would’ve elevated Haverford School to the top spot. But I decided, ‘hey, let’s wait and see what happens in the Germantown Academy game,’ and then one thing led to another and it got buried in the week’s responsibilities. Anyway, as the week unfolded, Haverford School proceeded to lose three straight games, a slide that I once thought was only possible with the intervention of Daily Times-inspired hype.

That’s only one aspect of this week’s rankings, but in compiling the edition that accompanied Tuesday’s hoops notebook, I was quite stumped. The resulting rankings are frankly a mess.

To portray the predicament, consider that the last time I compiled a Super 7 was in the paper Jan. 17. In the two weeks since, the seven teams I selected have combined to lose 14 games (not including results from Tuesday, Jan. 31). Where my last Super 7 post Jan. 11 lamented an abundance of teams worthy of the No. 1 ranking, this week, I feel there are virtually none. So let’s make sense of this whole deal. (Again, for continuity with the rankings in Tuesday’s paper, records are based on games reported through Monday’s action, so Tuesday and Wednesday are not included.)

1. Chester (13-4) Last week: No. 3

The Clippers lose to Penn Wood and move up to No. 1? Yeah, I don’t get it either. But someone has to be in this spot and the Clippers are merely falling less, I suppose. The Penn Wood game is an outlier in that Jamar Sudan was saddled with foul trouble. When he’s not on against good teams, the Clippers will struggle. But he’s gained the veteran savvy to avoid the predicament nine times out of the 10.

2. Penn Wood (11-6) Last week: No. 7

Vincent Smalls of Penn Wood, here dribbling past Chester’s Timothy Johnston, scored a game-high 18 points as Penn Wood clipped the Clippers, 58-55, Thursday. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

This is the Penn Wood team I expected at the beginning of the season. Pernell Ghee is doing the dirty work, Kairi Jones and Javon Lindsey-Terrell are hitting 3s to complement Jay Fitzgerald, and Vincent Smalls is the all-purpose facilitator. No one’s lighting it up in terms of scoring average, but there’s a lot of healthy balance. I think they’ve unlocked the recipe to becoming a consistent squad, and I wouldn’t want to see them in the District 1 6A playoffs.

3. Archbishop Carroll (12-6) Last week: No. 1

A three-game slide has dropped Carroll from the ranks of the Catholic League elite; they’re under .500 in league play for the first time in a great while. Consistent scoring balance is lacking, and this is really still a young team trying to put together the pieces.

4. Episcopal Academy (13-9) Last week: NR

The other high riser this week is, obviously, Episcopal Academy, winner of five straight at the time of Monday’s rankings. Nick Alikakos is back, but the fact that they trounced Haverford with the big man accounting for just eight points (and some ill-advised shots) is a testament to how much those around him have improved. Up and down the roster, as I wrote, from Kyle Virbitsky to Jack O’Connell to Matt Dade and the obvious steadiness of Conner Delaney, this team is just a result away from a league title. When they lost all those close games sans Alikakos, I thought his return would nudge them over the top. Instead, it’s vaulted them to a new realm.

5. Haverford School (16-4) Last week: No. 4

I’ve already spilled my confession on the Fords, and though they’re not dead in the Inter-Ac and are an underclassmen-driven group, missing out on ending an 18-year title drought will sting. The future is bright, but fighting the perpetual “wait ‘til next year” feeling is vital for the group to meet its potential.

6. Bonner & Prendergast (13-5) Last week: No. 2

With three wins in seven, the Friars are sliding. The loss to Roman Catholic in the last minute is a tough one to swallow and a chance for Bonner to have entered the league’s upper echelon. Missing Ajiri Johnson may well have cost them the Father Judge game, but it’s been a recent struggle for Bonner.

7. Penncrest (13-5) Last week: No. 5

Speaking of struggles, Penncrest had dropped three in a row (four with Tuesday’s Lower Merion loss) to abruptly end a 13-game winning streak. The loss to Harriton is particularly unusual: They allowed the Rams, a team in the bottom half of the league, to score 69 points on Penncrest’s home floor. That’s the most the Lions have allowed this season by a large margin (since Harriton scored 54 in December). A hallmark of recent teams is controlling tempo into the 40s or 50s. Here’s hoping that’s an outlier.

Dropped out: Strath Haven

Honorable mention: Strath Haven (11-6, despite beating Penncrest handily, turning around and getting trounced at home by Springfield wasn’t the response the Panthers needed); Springfield (11-7, the win over Haven shows the Cougars as a potential sleeper in Class 5A); Ridley (10-8, the Green Raiders have righted the ship, and if they can win two of their final three, they’re all but guaranteed a spot in the District One 6A field); Garnet Valley (12-6, beat Lower Merion on the road, lose to Upper Darby at home. What am I supposed to do with that?); Academy Park (9-8, Nasiem Harley had a string of nine straight double-digit scoring games. That’s the support Nick Simmons needs to make this team go); Glen Mills (10-7, the Bulls have enough balance and grit in the lane to make them a tough postseason out).

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