Jones’ return to Penn Wood produces a classic Chichester win

LANSDOWNE >> Clyde Jones speaks like a coach very much focused on the present. But when he returned to Penn Wood Tuesday night for his first game against the Patriots, the Chichester boss carved out a little time for the past, for the 10 years he spent at Penn Wood.

And to snap a picture or two of some old friends, like the banner that reads “PIAA Boys Basketball Champions — 2009.”

Chichester’s Da’quan Granberry soars toward the basket in the second quarter Tuesday at Penn Wood. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“When I walk into this gym,” the Chichester boss said, “I feel like I’m home.”

The touches of home extended to the game, a quintessentially chaotic Del Val affair. In the end, Jones’ team, occupying the comfortable side of the court that he once knew as home, did what the coach has done hundreds of times in the Shoebox: It came out with the higher number on the scoreboard.

Amiri Stewart’s up-and-under lay-in with 11 seconds left was the final say in a 60-59 Chichester win, a back-and-forth collision featuring 11 leads changes and far more subplots than just Jones’ homecoming.

His part of the tale is tough to overstate. Jones turned Penn Wood into one of the state’s premier programs, culminating with the 2009 Class 4A state title and the 2010 state final.

“Penn Wood still is extremely special to me,” Jones said. “There are just a number of kids and staff around here that I really have great relationships with, that I care about. … It always feels like home when I’m here. This place is special. It’s one of a kind: The gym, everything around here. It’s different being an opponent, but I still feel like I’m home. So as I’m coaching the game, I’m not even thinking about the fact that I’m here coaching a visiting team.

“I’m just coaching a game.”

“It’s a weird experience,” said Penn Wood coach Matt Lindeman, an assistant under Jones for seven seasons. “We try not to think about it. But it’s a game. He’s got those kids playing well, playing with confidence. He’s doing a great job.”

Jones left after the 2015-16 season for one season at Girard College, which ended in the PIAA Class A championship game. But he stepped down and landed at Chichester when that job came open. He has the Eagles (12-6, 5-2) in position for their first District 1 berth in years. And when Tuesday’s game hit crunch time, the youthful Chi group had a steady hand at the tiller.

The Eagles looked depleted in the fourth, going scoreless for the first 2:31 of the frame as Penn Wood (10-5, 4-2) built a 53-46 lead. But reserve guard Jamese Lundy-Byrd sparked an 8-0 run to take the lead, the quick-handed guard grabbing a steal and hitting two at the line to start it, then pogo-sticking for a third-chance bucket to put Chi up.

Penn Wood answered, with Vatangoe Donzo finishing off the backboard off an Isaac Williams bounce pass, and a Julian Holloway jumper extended the Penn Wood edge to 57-54.

But Chi wasn’t done. DaQuan Granberry, who led all scorers with 28 points, stole and slammed to get within one, quickly answered by Shad Kyem. A D’Nadre Morgan jumper got Chichester within 59-58 with a minute to play, then Lundy-Byrd pocketed a steal.

Jones called timeout with 58.8 seconds left, and the Eagles held the ball for the better part of the final minute. With Granberry face-guarded out of the play and several false starts at triggering offense, Stewart took control. Already with a game-tying 3 at the buzzer over Sun Valley under his belt, the sophomore attacked the lane, jump-stopped and went under a defender to scoop in a layup.

Penn Wood’s Vatangoe Donzo, left, shoots over Chichester in the first quarter. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“We started scattering,” Stewart said. “… Coach said, go, so I tried to take it to my right side and get the layup in.”
Granberry scored 11 of his 28 points in the third to keep Chi in touch. He grabbed eight rebounds, five steals and three assists. Stewart was the next highest scorer with nine points, plus four assists.

Donzo was a force for Penn Wood, with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks. Chris Nash added 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and five assists. Kyem finished with 10. Penn Wood’s undoing, though, was 18 turnovers, only marginally worse than the 16 times Chichester coughed up the ball. But seven of Penn Wood’s turnovers came in the fourth quarter to zero for the Eagles.

“I think our turnovers kind of got them back in the game, unfortunately for us,” Lindeman said. “And their kids made plays at the end. But we have to do a better job with the ball. It’s too late in the year to be making those same mistakes.”

For the unfamiliarity of wearing visiting colors in the Shoebox, leaving with a win felt familiar to Jones. Adding another warm memory to the plethora he’s made at Penn Wood is another bonus.

“As coaches, you don’t often get opportunities to coach great kids and great talent,” Jones said. “And when you have both of those things, you’ve got to go and win. And we put a lot of work and time in here through the administration with their help, with Rap Curry and the principals, those guys really allowed me to build and guide this program. Once we got the talent and the character, we knew we had to go win it. So those banners are representative of the work, the building and finally getting the product and the results.”

Also in the Del Val League:

Academy Park 55, Glen Mills 50 >> Jalen Cassidy hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter in scoring 18 points to lead the Knights to victory. Shermik Lofton added 13 points for the Knights (6-12, 3-3), and Tyriq Marrero and Billy Martin tossed in eight apiece. AP lead, 16-7, after one quarter.

Tarik Bey scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half as Glen Mills hung tough. Nique Simons added 10 points for the Battlin’ Bulls (4-12, 2-5).

Chester 80, Interboro 37 >> Michael Smith scored 19 points, and JV callup Karell Watkins paired 13 points with six rebounds in his first varsity action. Brian Randolph added 11 points for Chester (13-5, 7-0), which won its 12th straight.

Carley Jones scored 16 points for Interboro (1-18, 0-7).

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