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District 1 Class 5A boys basketball: In blink of an eye, Qadir Lowrie finds right focus for Chester

CHESTER — Qadir Lowrie knew the time, the situation, the stakes, the history and the responsibility midway through the third quarter of Chester High’s PIAA District 1 Class 5A playoff game against visiting Marple Newtown Wednesday.

That’s when the senior point guard did what so many other veteran Clippers backcourt stars have done in an ever-growing history: He took the game over.

“You have to have confidence going into the latter part of the game,” Lowrie said after Chester had rung up a 59-50 win over the Tigers. “And I had that confidence.”

Soon after Chester fell behind, 24-23, on a Matt Cantwell drive with 4:10 left in the third quarter, Lowrie would make sure the Clippers would avoid  their first postseason home defeat to a Delaware County opponent since a loss to Springfield in 1980.

Within one blast of excellence, Lowrie completed an old-fashioned three-pointer, made a steal, deposited two free throws and delivered an assist to Isaiah Freeman to give the Clippers a 35-30 lead. That control seized, Lowrie would swish all eight of his free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, while mixing in an assist to Breilynd White with 1:35 left for a 51-43 lead, essentially tipping 16-3 Chester into the Saturday semifinals.

“He is a great point guard,” said Clippers forward Larenzo Jerkins. “I just like how he facilitates on the floor. He sees things that I don’t see.”

For the final three quarters, Lowrie seemed to see everything. But if he had some blurred vision in the first eight minutes, it was because he was playing with one contact lens. According to coach Keith Taylor, Lowrie’s mother hustled home to retrieve a spare, and by the second quarter, all Lowrie was seeing was the obligation to help Chester complete its 50th trip, all-time, to a district Final Four. The No. 2-seeded Clippers will host No. 6 Bishop Shanahan Saturday afternoon at 3.

“He’s a tough little guard, man,” Taylor said. “Plenty of heart. He’s doing a much better job for us this year. Last year, he was just looking for his own shot. Now, he is looking for other folks, looking for his teammates and running the club.

“I can’t ask him to do any more.”

Lowrie matched Clipper Kevin Rucker’s game-high 18 points as Chester battled through 25 Marple Newtown fouls, a handful of the late-game, stop-the-clock variety.

Justin DiBona and Jordan Bochanski scored 12 apiece, and Matt Gardler added 11 for the seventh-seeded Tigers (14-10), who will twirl into the playback bracket.

“The environment was good, good high school basketball,” said Marple Newtown coach Sean Spratt. “It’s not a tough place to play. We were here last year, so we were prepared for it. A couple of shots didn’t fall, they went on a couple runs, and that’s what it really came down to.”

Though haunted by multiple missed layups – in large part due to the Clippers’ rim protection – the Tigers overcame a slow start to remain within 20-18 at halftime, then took their third-quarter lead. But behind Rucker’s 10 fourth-quarter points, the Clippers disproved the notion that the Fred Pickett Jr. Gymnasium, decorated with eight state championship flags, is anything but a tough environment for a visiting team.

“We’re never down,” Lowrie said. “That’s what I always tell my teammates. Even if we are down on the scoreboard, we are never down. We always come back. It’s a game of runs. And the crowd had the energy. It is always, always amazing.”

Following a first-round bye, the Clippers needed that boost after being a little sluggish in the first half.

“I think it was the excitement for our kids, being in the playoffs,” Taylor said. “They are a bunch of young men in the playoffs and it was new to them. But they have to get used to this atmosphere. They are going to see it for the rest of the way out.”

When they do, they will know where to turn: To their senior point guard.

“Tonight, he wanted the ball in his hands,” Taylor said. “And we wanted the ball in his hands, because he controls everything for us.”

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