Chester’s run ends on late Coatesville basket

CHESTER — The story of Chester’s 2014-15 season can be summed up in the final 20 seconds.

Moments before Coatesville’s Keenan Coleman sank a go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds remaining, Chester’s Keyonte Watkins almost had a game-clinching steal. He tried tightwalking the sideline and unfortunately stepped out of bounds with 19 seconds left, which gave Coatesville another offensive opportunity trailing by a point.

When Watkins’ 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim, 11th-seeded Chester’s season was finished with a 57-55 defeat to 14th-seeded Coatesville in a PIAA Class AAAA District One consolation round contest at the Clip Joint Friday night.

As Coatesville players and fans exploded onto the floor in celebration, several impressive streaks came to a stunning end. Among them, the Clippers’ 70-game, 35-year homecourt playoff winning streak. Chester’s last home playoff loss was a 52-48 defeat to Dion Irons and Springfield in 1980. The Clippers had defeated 37 different District One opponents during their streak.

In addition, Chester will be a spectator when the Class AAAA state playoffs begin in three weeks for the first time since 1992. Furthermore, this was Coatesville’s first victory over Chester since a 63-45 triumph in the 2001 PIAA Eastern Final.

“It was a pretty rough season,’ Chester head coach Larry Yarbray said. “We were really inconsistent throughout the season and it showed in our play at times. Even to the very end tonight. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game. They made their shot at the end of the game, a costly 3-pointer.’

Chester was led by 6-5 sophomore Jamar Sudan’s 18 points and 10 rebounds. With one senior on their roster, the Clippers are poised for bigger things going forward.

Sudan was a man on fire in the action-packed fourth quarter that featured eight lead changes. Sudan scored eight points down the stretch to help Chester erase a 45-39 deficit 62 seconds into the quarter.

Marquis Collins scored nine points for Chester. Watkins, Jahmi Bailey and Maurice Henry added eight points each. Bailey also grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots for the Clippers.

Coatesville placed three players in double figures, led by Justus Martinez’ 13 points. Kevin Crutchfield and Dondre Pittman added 11 points each for the Red Raiders, who visit Ches-Mont playmate Downingtown West Tuesday night for a berth in the PIAA Tournament.

While these weren’t the vintage Chester-Coatesville squads of the early 2000s with Jameer Nelson and John Allen leading the way and playing to standing-room-only crowds, the Red Raiders and Clippers did put on a fourth quarter show for the fans in which every big basket was seemingly answered by the other team.

Once again, the Clippers dropped another tight decision in which they had nobody to blame but themselves. Chester missed a handful of layups, foul shots and a few defensive assignments. Chester was 12-for-20 from the foul line. Trailing 28-23 at intermission, Chester fell into its biggest hole of the game, 39-31, with 2:21 remaining.

Fueled by Sudan, Chester exploded on a 16-7 run that bridged the final two quarters and gave the Clippers their first lead, 47-46, since the second quarter with 5:31 left. That set the stage for the tight finish.

As Chester players tossed their sweaty white game uniforms into a green bin on the floor and hugged each other, Yarbray glanced around the silent locker room and already started focusing on 2015-16.

“We had a young team,’ Yarbray said. “I am looking forward to next year. I lost my point guard (Khaleeq Campbell) early in the season and lost a lot of games by three points or less. Hey, we have to grow from this experience and come back hungrier next year. This is the year that everybody is getting us back. It’s been a roller coaster year for us. We’ve had some ups and downs. It’s part of the business. We’ve been on the other side. Now this is the first year we didn’t qualify for states. It’s a really tough feeling, sad to say.’

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