PIAA Hoops: High-powered Milton Hershey an sizeable test for Chester

It was a bit of understatement from Larry Yarbray last Friday night, but rang true nonetheless.

“We’ve got to want it more,” was Yarbray’s assessment of Chester’s 48-45 win over Springfield in the District 1 Class 5A fifth-place game.

Whether or not desire is the missing commodity, something is askew recently with the Clippers. And failure to resolve it in Friday night’s states opener with Milton Hershey will bring an end to Chester’s season. Chester travels to Lebanon High School for tipoff at 8.

The Clippers (20-6) have only lost twice in the last six games. But a setback at Academy Park deprived them a share of the Del Val title, while a home loss to Upper Merion ended the top seed’s district title aspirations.

That paints the portrait of a Chester team that isn’t playing its best basketball, still falls prey to its flaws and has authored some very un-Chester-like results. Even the battle-tested metric doesn’t flatter the Clippers: They tote just a 4-4 mark against state qualifiers, dampened by some of their usual schedule stalwarts enduring down seasons.

The Clippers are oddly reliant on the 3-pointer, hitting an average of six triples per game. Ten of the 11 players in Yarbray’s rotation have connected on at least one long ball. But Chester’s abundance of catch-and-shooters leaves a paucity of players capable of creating off the dribble. Jamar Sudan can do it, as can Ahrod Carter, whose added dimensions to his game while leading the team with 58 made triples. Point guard Michael Smith creates in spurts, but with the inconsistency of a sophomore.

That leaves the passel of jump shooters, the workmanlike Brian Randolph who isn’t a huge offensive threat and the unruly length of Jordan Camper, whose offense stems almost exclusively from lobs and putbacks.

So if Sudan, also a dogged defender, lands in foul trouble a long way from home or Carter goes cold, there’s precious little recourse.

That’s bad news against Milton Hershey (20-5), which can score at will, so much so that it withstood a 44-point masterpiece by Michigan-bound Eli Brooks in the District 3 third-place game.

The Spartans have scored 70 points or more in each of their three postseason wins, only falling in the District 3 semis when Mechanicsburg shackled them in a 56-45 decision. Eleven times, Milton Hershey has scored 80 or more points. But the flipside is more illustrative – keep the Spartans below 70 points, and they are a mere 3-4. That’s good news for the Clippers, who have only crossed the 70-point threshold three times in what you would call competitive games, all wins.

Guard DonYae Baylor-Carroll is the big scorer with a big name to match, but you don’t average 78 points per game with just one offensive threat. Forwards Chris Sampson and Jarin Lyons are also among many who can light it up.

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