Boys Basketball: Watkins shrugs off the cold, pushes Chester past Penn Wood

CHESTER — It isn’t often that a player can miss seven straight shots in the middle of a game and still end up with 30 points.

Then again, Karell Watkins isn’t the kind of player you find very often. By the time the Chester senior and reigning Daily Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year had ground down Penn Wood’s attempt at low-post defense Thursday night, those mid-game misses were long in the past.

Watkins finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds as the Clippers cruised to a 74-56 Del Val League victory.

Chester’s Fareed Burton, right, fires a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer. He missed but drew a foul from Penn Wood’s Boimah Okai. The Clippers went on to a 74-56 victory. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“Just knowing me, I know me, if I miss a couple of buckets, I don’t dwell on it,” Watkins said. “I put it in the past and I just keep pushing. That’s just the mindset I have.”

Early on, it wasn’t all about Watkins, who was relatively quiet through the first half, though with 10 points and five rebounds at the break. But with Penn Wood throwing all manner of zone defenses at Chester to limit the Clippers’ drives to the basket, Watkins wasn’t able to assert himself on the offensive end.

That came in the second half, sparked by his defense and indefatigable work on the boards. Despite missing his first three attempts from the field to start the second half, Watkins scored seven points in the third as the Clippers opened up the lead, then added five baskets in the fourth, to go with a 7-for-9 performance at the line.

“He can go off anytime,” Fareed Burton said of Watkins. “It’s not like he always needs the ball in his hands. He can get it off the glass or he’s helping out a lot, so that helps.”

Burton played his role in Chester overcoming a slow start. Penn Wood got out to an early lead and was up 18-11 when Sayo Kenneth found Evan Borward for a layup in transition with five seconds left in the opening frame.

But Burton nailed a 30-footer at the buzzer to get Chester within four points. That sparked a 17-0 run, after which Chester was rarely challenged. Burton supplied the first seven points on the spurt. Watkins had the next five, including an energizing and-1. And a 3-pointer by Jameel Burton punctuated it.

“We came out a little light-footed at first,” Fareed Burton said, “but after that buzzer-beater, I think that’s what got us rolling.”

That run coincided with a 6-minute, 12-second outage by the Penn Wood offense, something that Matt Lindeman’s young squad has been plagued by this season. Once they awakened, the Patriots were down 11 at the half, this time Burton fouled in the act of shooting a 3-pointer as the horn sounded and converting two of the free throws.

Penn Wood clawed within four in the second half, at 37-33. But a triple by Qadir Lowrie capped the third quarter on a 9-0 Chester run, ending any intrigue.

Fareed Burton had 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Jameel Burton, formerly of Cardinal O’Hara, added 11 points. Shaquan Horsey had eight points and five rebounds.

Even without turning up the pressure, Chester pocketed 16 steals and forced 20 Penn Wood turnovers. Between that and a 39-32 disparity on the boards that Watkins made seem even more monumental than the numbers, Chester attempted almost twice as many field goals as the Patriots (68-39).

It’s also indicative of Penn Wood’s ongoing challenge of solidifying roles, primarily with who is running the point.

Penn Wood’s Abdullah Dublin rises for a basket in the third quarter of a 74-56 loss to Chester Thursday night. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“It’s a work in progress,” guard Abdullah Dublin said. “It’s a struggle, but we’re still trying to push through. … It’s hard, but we just push through it. Even when we’re down by 20, we’ve got to stay positive.”

Dublin led the way with 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Borward added 11 points and eight rebounds. Kenneth (nine points, seven rebounds, five assists) had an all-around solid game in a point-forward role. He and Naeem Purnell (eight points) hit two 3-pointers apiece, and Boimah Okai added nine points and six boards.

For Chester, the challenges of this unusual season are something Watkins readily puts into perspective. It’s not too different from the way he regards an in-game struggle or two, either.

“Everything is a minor setback for a major comeback,” Watkins said. “What we’re doing now, we’re just going to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

In the Del Val League:

Chichester 78, Interboro 37 >> Josh Hankins scored 21 points and Ramir McDowell added 13 as the Eagles eased past Interboro.

Sophomore Abu Kamara scored a career-high 32 points for the Bucs.

In other games:

Haverford 55, Conestoga 43 >> John Seidman led the way with 19 points while Googie Seidman added 11 as the Fords used a strong third quarter to pad a lead and held on from there. Nick Colucci scored 10 for Haverford while Jerry Miller led the Pioneers with 14 points.

Penncrest 48, Radnor 36 >> Saahir Lee scored 21 points, grabbed five rebound and dished out six assists to lead the Lions past Radnor.

Denzel Atkinson-Boyer added 11 points and six rebounds for the Lions, while Lew Robinson led Radnor with 18 points.

Garnet Valley 55, Ridley 48 >> Justin Langan canned four second-half 3-pointers to tally 20 points and lead the Jaguars to a victory. Carl Schaller added 16 points, and Gannon McKee and Max Koehler had eight points each.

Tahir Mills scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter as Ridley made it interesting.

Lower Merion 61, Upper Darby 48 >> Demietrius Brown scored 26 points and guard Sam Brown added 11 to lead the Aces.

For the Royals, AJ Tucker led the way with 16 points while Damont Hanton and Shareef Jones scored 11 points each.

In nonleague action:

Christian Academy 55, Coventry Christian 53 >> Pete Cavacini scored 15 points and Evan Sareyka added 10 as the Crusaders prevailed in overtime. Malachi Lyons paired nine points with 11 rebounds for TCA.

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