Randolph, Bamba spark Westtown to PAISAA semifinal triumph

MALVERN >> There were times when it felt like the Showtime Lakers showed up at Malvern Prep for the semifinals of the Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association (PAISAA) Tournament. But the Westtown boys’ basketball team is getting used to the over-the-top attention, all of the oohs and aahs from oversized crowds and the bull’s eye on their collective backs.

And on Friday evening, nothing was going to get in the way of Westtown making its third straight appearance in the state championship game. Certainly not a game but overmatched Germantown Academy squad, who stayed within striking distance until explosive guard Brandon Randolph took total command late, guiding the Moose to a 71-53 triumph.

Westtown’s Brandon Randolph throws down a dunk in the first half against Germantown Academy in the PAISAA semifinals Friday. (Austin Hertzog – PAPL)

“Everybody knows who we are and everybody is coming after us. We know we have to come out with abandoned and everything will handle itself,” said Randolph, a 6-foot-6 senior who is headed to the University of Arizona.

“Our guys should know that when we walk into a gym, everyone is there to watch them, and probably most of them want to see us lose,” added Westtown head coach Seth Berger. “And they should appreciate that.”

Now 31-2 overall, Westtown will get a chance to defend its 2016 state crown in today’s final against the winner of the other semifinal between Episcopal Academy and The Hill School. Tip-off is set for 6:45 p.m. at Malvern Prep.

“We definitely want to win two in a row, especially all of the seniors,” said Randolph, who poured in 34 points and put on quite an inside-outside show. “We want to go out with a bang. We want to be known as the best team at Westtown history.”

It was standing-room (and sitting-room) only as people shoe-horned into every crevasse of the gym. Then a half hour before the scheduled tipoff, they had to close the doors because the place was so packed. And the anticipation built as an earlier girls’ clash went into double overtime.

It was so packed that 6-foot-11 superstar center Mo Bamba turned his left ankle in the second half when he stepped on some spectators sitting under one of the baskets. He didn’t miss any time, however, and is expected to play today.

“Our kids are used to the crowds,” Berger said. “But Mo sprained the ankle from all the people sitting near the court. I can’t believe they let the crowd get that close.”

The Moose never trailed, but the Patriots (22-7 overall) used some excellent 3-point shooting to briefly slice the deficit to six early in the final period. That’s when Randolph – a native of Yonkers, N.Y. – proceeded to score 11 straight points for Westtown. He had an old fashioned 3-point play, followed by a 3-pointer, an in-traffic dunk and another 3-pointer that was from serious distance.

“We always have an energy guy each game, and it’s not always me. But today I just felt like I needed to step up,” Randolph said.

“Brandon is a great player and nothing he does on the basketball court really surprises me,” Berger added. “He’s been amazing for us all year long.

“There was no hesitation when he pulled up for that deep 3-pointer. He makes play, he makes shots and his defense was great.”

It’s difficult to do, but Randolph’s scoring explosion overshadowed a remarkably efficient outing for Bamba, who is the second-ranked senior recruit in the nation and still has yet to announce his college choice. The center scored 18 points on a wide array of dunks, put backs and even a fade away bank shot. He also added 12 rebounds and seven blocks.

“With (Germantown Academy) banking in a couple 3’s, this game got close,” Berger said. “They shoot from NBA 3-point range, so we tried to make this a game of 2’s and led Mo protect the paint. Eventually, they missed some shots.

“I told our guys to savor this win. It was tough, gritty one that we could have lost.”

Westtown’s Mohamed Bomba puts up a shot against Germantown Academy in the PAISAA semifinals Friday. (Austin Hertzog – PAPL)

The Moose scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points, but hit a lull in the second quarter and turned to Bamba. He scored 10 points in the period, blocked three shots and even drew an offensive foul as Westtown extended the lead to 33-22 at the half.

“We were having a hard time scoring and we went to him three plays in a row and he converted three buckets,” Berger said. “The thing that Mo does that separates him from other great bigs is that he uses his brain so well. He anticipates, he alters shots and he is thinking about the outlet pass before he gets the rebounds.”

One of the nation’s top junior recruits, point guard Cam Reddish chipped in 13 for the Moose. Evan-Eric Longino knocked down four 3-pointers and led Germantown Academy with 26 points, while teammate Kyle McCloskey added 13.

“My guys played hard but (Westtown) is really good and Seth (Berger) does a great job with them,” Fenerty said. “They just don’t have a weak link. We were trying to find one, but we couldn’t do it.

“Our guys have nothing to be sad about. They played as hard as they could. We played Westtown last year in the final, so we knew what they had. It was just a matter of could we find a way to stop them, and we couldn’t.”

Westtown 71, Germantown Academy 53

GERMANTOWN – Towne 1 0-0 3; McCloskey 5 0-0 13; Longino 9 4-4 26; Basile 2 0-0 5; Traina 1 0-0 2; Keys 1 0-0 2; Brownstein 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 4-4 53.

WESTTOWN – Forrester 3 0-1 6; Randolph 12 6-7 34; Bamba 8 2-2 18; Redish 6 0-1 13. Totals 29 8-11 71.

Germantown           8 14 13 18 – 53

Westtown    17 16 17 21 – 71

Three-pointers: Towne, McCloskey 3, Longino 4, Basile,  Randolph 4, Reddish.

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