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Delco Madness: Line indicates some close games, potential upsets in boys Sweet 16

Chester's 1983 PIAA championship squad, its first in eight trips to the PIAA final. (DFM File)

Breaking down matchups, setting mythical lines for the first-round of the Delco Madness Sweet 16:

• No. 1 Chester (2012) vs. No. 16 TCA (1992)

It’s vital to realize that, unlike a typically imbalanced NCAA Tournament first-round 1-16 matchup, the Delco Madness is already well past the 64-team traffic jam. So any team having made it this far is substantially more than a presumed one-and-done mid-major. And that makes the Crusaders dangerous.

TCA will ride a 26-game winning streak into the tournament, including the championship in the National Association of Christian Athletes Tournament. Coached by John Waller, one of the most legendary sports figures in Delco history, the Kevin Sareyka-led Crusaders know how to win. Their problem is that they will run into future NBA player Rondae Jefferson and Chester, a blue-blood program with a 32-0 record and the big-school PIAA championship.

One of the streaks must end.

Line: Chester by 14.5

• No. 2 Darby-Colwyn (1963) vs. No. 15 Monsignor Bonner (1983)

The 25-0 Rams are on a 50-game winning streak and coached by Hal Blitman, who has coached major-league basketball with the ABA’s Miami Floridians.

All five starters were on the 10-man All-Delco team as D-C won the Class B PIAA championship.

Even with its decades of basketball success, Bonner has placed just one team in the field, and it is a potent one. The Ed Stefanski-coached 27-7 Friars won the Catholic League behind Rodney Blake, among the greatest players in Delco history.

Line: D-C by 6.5.

• No. 3 Chester (2008) vs. No. 14 Darby Township (1967)

Leroy Eldridge, part of the 1967 Darby Township team, goes up for a shot. (DFM File)

Coached by former Harlem Globetrotter Charley Walker, the Eagles frolicked to a 27-1 record.

The Clippers, though, are hardly the Washington Generals. Rather, with Karon Burton, Nasir Robinson and Russell Johnson, 33-1 Chester was as deep in talent, and maybe deeper, as any in the program’s storied history.

The experts are warning that Darby Township was vastly under-seeded. The oddsmakers seem to agree as they are hinting at a big first-round shock.

Line: Chester by 2.5

• No. 4 Chester (1989) vs. No. 13 Yeadon (1953)

In a game that will help prove whether a team from the 1950s could hold up in a more modern game, the Eagles of Jack Naegeli will stroll in with three big-time players, Jack Boyd (Duke), Jack Weissman (Villanova) and Fred Cohen (Temple).

Chester, which routed Brashear by 17 in the state final, is loaded with five college-level players, including West Virginia-bound Zain Shaw and All-Delco Player of the Year Keith Wood.

Line: Chester by 19.

• No. 5 Chester (2005) vs. No. 12 Darby-Colwyn 1972

Amateur bracketologists questioned the two D-C bids. But the Rams, behind Arnold Coleman and Jim Childs, rolled to a 28-1 record and the PIAA Class B championship.

While D-C lost just once and Chester was 27-6, coach Fred Pickett challenged his Clippers against a national schedule and it paid off late in the season. With a victory over Lower Merion for the Class 4A PIAA championship, the Clippers won 23 of their last 24 games.

Line: Chester by 14.

• No. 6 Penn Wood (2009) vs. No. 11 Haverford (1958)

The seedings were barely public before the uproar began that the Patriots were vastly under-recognized. At 28-4, Clyde Jones’ team drilled York for the PIAA Class AAAA championship behind multiple talents, including Aaron Brown, who would become one of the most recruited players in the nation.

The Fords were 25-3 and avenged two in-season losses to Chester with a victory over the Clippers in the district playoffs. Steve Juenger’s team is hot, a little under the radar, and ready.

Line: Penn Wood by 12.5.

• No. 7 Chester (1983) vs. No. 10 Haverford School (2019)

Call this the most intriguing matchup on the board. At 28-0 against the regular high-level private-school competition of the earlier 21st century, the Fords have legitimate designs on winning the entire tournament … much as they did in the postseason PAISAA event.

At 32-5, the first PIAA championship team in Chester’s glorious history was deep in talent and confidence, but it must not take its Inter-Ac opponent lightly. Indeed, the lower-seeded Fords are the morning-line favorites.

Line: Haverford School by 2.

• No. 8. Carroll (2009) vs. No. 9 Chester (1967)

In a tribute to the seeding committee, the ever-rugged 8-9 matchup appears too close to call.

Carroll drew the slightly higher seed for its victory in the PIAA championship game, while the 27-1 Clippers were caught in the PIAA final

Another test of the strength of two eras, Paul Romanczuk’s 27-3 Patriots were the first Catholic League team to win a state championship, something that should catch the attention of the Clippers and their fans.

Line: Pick ’em.

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