WEST GOSHEN – The West Chester East boys took another step forward in the effort to fill in the circles from some postseason disappointments a year ago.
Last week, the Vikings captured the program’s first Ches-Mont league basketball crown. And on Tuesday East opened the District 1 Class 5A Tournament by pulling away late for a 42-29 triumph over Sun Valley, avenging a bitter setback to the Vanguards in the 2019 District Final.
“We obviously remember what happened last year, but we tried to approach this like we would any other game,” said Vikings’ star Andrew Carr.
“After you win something like we just did, and you have a week to prepare, you’re thinking about a lot of things,” added East head coach Tom Durant. “The most important thing is that we’ve made it over this hurdle.”
Now 22-2 overall, the top-seeded Vikings will play the (8) Radnor-(9) Upper Moreland winner on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Sun Valley’s season ends with a 9-14 record.
“To our credit, coming in as a 16th seed against a team that was out to avenge a district title, I can’t say how proud I am of the kids we had out there,” said Vanguards’ head coach Steve Maloney. “They gave it everything they had.”
Like most opponents this winter, however, Sun Valley had all kinds of trouble containing Carr, who poured in a game-high 22 points and grabbed nine boards. His outing was even more important when you consider that his talented teammate, Tym Richardson, was held to a single point.
“(Carr) is a tough matchup,” Maloney said. “He’s going to Delaware for a reason. Our game plan was to slow him and (Richardson) down. We were able to get half of that done.”
Despite trailing the entire way, and failing to make a single free throw all evening, the Vanguards were hanging around we’ll into the second half, thanks to the scoring of senior guard Billy Fisher. Sun Valley cut the lead to 30-25 early in the final period, but a huge defensive play by Carr ended the rally.
“That was a momentum swing. The crowd wasn’t really that involved until that play,” Maloney said. “We knew that if it got to the fourth quarter and it was close, the pressure was on them, not us.”
Carr raced down the court and blocked the fast-breaking Fisher at the rim. The 6-foot-10 Carr then helped wrap-up the win by hitting a bunch of late free throws. Carr also got some help from junior Kieran Hefferan, who buried two 3-pointers down the stretch.
“I give (Sun Valley) a lot of credit,” Durant said. “They had a great game plan. They got Tym Richardson out of his game and the others had to step up.
“Kieran made some big threes, and that took a little pressure off of Andrew, and he didn’t have to do as much in the second half as he did in the first.”
On Tuesday, Carr did it all. In crunch time, he even brought the ball up-court and handled the ball a lot more than you’d expect from a near 7-footer.
“Tym and I have that type of relationship where if one of us is having an off day the other is there to pick him up,” Carr pointed out. “That’s how we roll and that’s how it should be.
“We know every team we play is going to try to us very hard and make everyone else make plays. But we know as a team what we have, and that we just have to stay confident and make shots.”
Carr scored 11 of his team’s first dozen points, and poured in 15 by the half to lead the Vikings to a 19-12 lead at the intermission.
Fisher paced the Vanguards with 16 points, but nobody else managed more than five.
“I thought our 1-3-1 zone defense was effective,” Durant said.
“A couple shots fall for us here or there, it could have been a different ballgame,” Maloney added.
West Chester East 42, Sun Valley 29
Sun Valley 5 7 11 6 — 29
West Chester East 9 10 11 12 — 42
SUN VALLEY – Fisher 7 0-0 16; Valenti 2 0-0 5; Lazer 1 0-0 2; Gianakopoulos 2 0-1 4; Harper 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 0-1 29.
W.C. EAST – McCray 1 0-0 3; Dedda 1 0-0 3; Kushner 0 2-4 2; Carr 5 11-13 22; Richardson 0 1-2 1; Hefferan 3 0-0 9; Porter 0 2-2 2. Totals 10 16-21 42.
Three-point goals: Fisher 2, Valenti, McCray, Dedda, Carr, Hefferan 3.