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After PIAA cancellation, Chester wonders what could have been

Akeem Taylor, dunking on Simon Gratz in the PIAA Class 6A boys basketball second round, played his last game in a Clippers uniform. The PIAA canceled the remainder of the winter sports championships as well as the spring sports season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

Chester senior guard Akeem Taylor Jr. was holding out hope that the PIAA Class 6A boys basketball tournament would resume at some point, even if it meant waiting until May or later.

He won’t have that chance.

The PIAA announced Thursday that it has canceled the remainder of the winter championships as well as the spring sports season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m upset that we couldn’t finish what we started,” Taylor said when reached by phone. “We were ready.”

The boys and girls basketball tournaments, as well as the state Class 2A swimming championships, were suspended on March 12. The basketball tournaments were in the quarterfinals, with the exception of two games in Class 6A.

There was hope that the tournament would resume in early April, but that plan was scrapped when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered schools throughout the Commonwealth closed indefinitely. Any chance of a restart ended when Wolf extended that closure order for the rest of the academic year.

“I knew it was going to come sooner or later,” senior Zahmir Carroll said. “I’m not too happy with it, but you can’t get it back.”

The Clippers (23-4) had just beaten Simon Gratz, 63-62, on Carroll’s 3-pointer as time expired to advance of what would have been a quarterfinal meeting with Reading, the second seed out of District 3.

“That hurts because we really felt we had a chance to make a run at the state championship,” Chester coach Keith Taylor said. “We were coming along. We were playing better. Guys were a little down from what happened, but I believe we would have played better if we continued.”

The win over Gratz was an emotional victory that came one day after a shooting that claimed the lives of Edward Harman Jr., a sophomore forward on the basketball team and Tayvonne Avery, and wounded two others including Jermere Clark, who like Harman was a sophomore forward on the varsity basketball team.

Playing on pure adrenaline the Clippers rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat the Bulldogs.

“I think we had a chance to win it all,” Chester athletic director Andre Moore said. “We had a lot going for us. It was unfortunate with what happened to our team, but they were all buying in at the right time and that’s all it takes in a tournament, to get hot at the right time.”

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