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PIAA Class 6A Basketball: Carroll’s miracle finish helps ease Chester’s pain

Chester's Zahmir Carroll, center, is all smiles as teammates and fans rush the court after he hit the winning basket as time expired to defeat Simon Gratz in PIAA playoffs at Cardinal O'Hara High School Wednesday night. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

MARPLE — The Chester High football team had its “Miracle on Lamonkin Street” last fall when a fumble bounced right into the hands of a Clippers player, who ran for the game-winning touchdown as home-standing Chester kept Academy Park from clinching first place in the Del Val League.

Now it’s time for the Clippers fans to talk about the “Miracle on Sproul Road” after Zahmir Carroll fired a shot from beyond NBA 3-point range that swished through the nets as the final buzzer sounded and gave Chester a 63-62 decision over Simon Gratz in a PIAA Class 6A second-round game at Cardinal O’Hara High Wednesday night.

The game was played despite the shooting death a day earlier of Clippers player Edward Harmon Jr.

“We talked about everything, including whether to play the game or not,” Chester junior Karell Watkins said. “We remembered how Eddie was always smiling and into everything he did. And we knew that if Eddie was here, he would have told us to play the game.”’

Watkins, who was 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter and finished with 24 points (18 in the second half) and 10 rebounds.was involved in the game-ending play. It came mere seconds after Gratz’s Edward Harris missed the second of two free throws with the clock reading 4.5 seconds.

Chester’s Zahmir Carroll hits the winning basket as time expires as Simon Gratz’s Edward Harris defends. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“I got the ball to (Carroll), he shot it, and when I saw the smile on his face I knew it went in,” Watkins said. “Then everyone just started rushing on to the court and I knew it was good.

“When we were down at halftime, we just talked about it being zero to zero to start the second half. We knew we just had to play hard and make things happen. I could tell by the look on his face that the last shot was going to go in.”

Carroll’s numbers included nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. The 3-pointer he attempted as time expired was his only shot from the floor in the last period.

The drama going on inside the gym wasn’t the only thing in his thoughts, however. Remarking over the trauma of the previous day, Carroll said the shooting, “…was 100 percent in our thoughts. You saw how all the people came here to support us. When (Watkins) got the ball to me, I was looking to pass. But I knew I had to shoot it.”

Chester (23-4), which trailed by 12 points at halftime, got back in the game with a strong effort in the third quarter, outscoring Gratz, 24-10

Fareed Burton Jr. came up with 10 of his 14 points after halftime and also contributed four assists, three rebounds and one steal. Akeem Taylor chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and a blocked shot as Chester’s starters accounted for all of the Clippers’ points.

Rahmee Gilbert, who had all of his six points in the second half, hit a big bucket and Burton Jr. scored on a sensational drive in the closing minute.

Things looked bleak for the Clippers when Carroll was called for a charge with 5.4 seconds left. Harris hit only one of two at the line, leaving Gratz up by a pair as the final play unfolded.

“We’ve worked hard all year to win basketball games and be a champion,” Chester head coach Keith Taylor said. “Each one of them just dug down deep and did this.

Chester’s Karell Watkins is the strongman after hitting a basket in the third quarter against Simon Gratz in a PIAA Classa 6A second-round playoff game Wednesday night at Cardinal O’Hara High School. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“It wasn’t just for Chester High School. This was for the whole city of Chester. Everyone needed something to happen. They’re all still hanging around (in the gym). It’s good that they can have something to take their minds off of the other things for a little while. It’s something they all wanted and needed.”



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