CHESTER — By the fourth quarter of Monday’s boys basketball game with Faith Christian, the problem that needed solving for Chester Charter Scholars Academy became clear.
The Lions had effectively bunkered in a 1-3-1 zone the entire afternoon. With leading shooter Davon Stovall missing his first seven looks, the chances of shooting out of the zone looked slim. So how could the Sabers, who trailed by as many as five in the fourth quarter, diagram their way out?
The answer involved a heady and mature fourth-quarter performance, the kind increasingly produced by a program growing into itself, on the way to a 44-38 nonleague win for CCSA against the team directly ahead of it in the District 1 Class A standings.
After going down 29-24 on the first possession of the fourth, Chester Charter (6-5) rattled off a 10-0 run. It was punctuated by a Stovall 3-pointer, his second in shaking the slow start. But the key that turned the lock was back-to-back buckets by Jaquan Fisher on the baseline, fed by Zach Martin exploiting the zone’s soft spot at the free-throw line.
“Whenever we face a zone, we know the key is getting the ball to the middle,” Stovall said. “But they tried to cut off the middle a lot, so we had to take our time and swing the ball around into the middle and try not to force it.”
That was the first time that CCSA attacked the weak spot, instead of jump shots or isolated drives in the lane with varying degrees of success. Finding their way to that solution was ultimately decisive, on a day where they shot just 5-for-16 from 3-point range.
It’s further evidence of the program’s growth in its fourth season. Players like Stovall and Sean DeShields (team-highs with 17 points and three assists) are, like the program, in their fourth varsity season. They enjoyed last year’s run to the postponed PIAA Class A quarterfinals, a missed chance that continues to fuel them.
While COVID-19 has reduced practice time and altered the natural timeline of a season, coach Dan Spangler is pleased to see the gains his team is making. “Because I have six seniors,” the second-year coach said, “that leadership is starting to show through now.”
Beyond devising a way through Faith Christian’s zone, CCSA was steady at the line in the fourth quarter at 6-for-8. It also held its nerve as Faith Christian trapped in the half-court late. On a day where CCSA’s swarming defense created 16 turnovers, the daily practice against those active hands proved invaluable in resisting Faith Christian’s pressure. Those late-game adjustments add on to the foundation of hard work on the glass and defensive intensity that defines the team year to year.
“We’ve done this before,” DeShields said. “Last year, we made it far in the playoffs. We all just try to stay composed and keep playing our game and try not to get nervous or panic, because when we start to panic, that’s when we fall apart. It’s having heart and having toughness.”
CCSA outscored Faith Christian (7-7) by an 20-11 margin in the final frame. Fisher had 10 of his 11 points in the second half, hitting his last four field goal attempts to go with nine rebounds and four steals.
Faith Christian worked its mid-range game effectively, led by Dylan Ziccardi, who scored 12 points, including a leaner to open the fourth. Chris Evans added eight points and seven rebounds, stemming the tide of CCSA’s early dominance on the boards. Branco Stanisic added seven points and three blocks.
Ziccardi scored six points in the second quarter, Faith Christian ending the frame on a 10-0 run that extended when Stanisic started the third with an up-and-under. Stovall hit a triple in rhythm from Deshields midway through the third to put CCSA up 22-21, but Faith Christian scored the final six points of that frame to take a lead into the final stanza.
“I could miss a hundred shots and they’re still telling me, ‘shoot, shoot, shoot,’” Stovall said. “I already knew once Sean got the ball, the defense collapsed on him, I called for it, I knew he was going to find me and I knew I was going to knock it down.”
The win doesn’t raise CCSA out of sixth in the District 1 Class A rankings, where it trails both Faith Christian and The Christian Academy, despite its 2-5 record and a loss to CCSA. The Sabers, as an independent team, have courted challenges, including Chichester, Interboro and taking Chester High to overtime.
They have work to do to reach the postseason. But if they get there, like last year, Deshields believes in what his team can do.
“It’s definitely unfinished business,” Deshields said. “All we’ve got to do is make it to playoffs. If we make it to playoffs, we’re going to win a state ‘chip.”
In the Central League:
Lower Merion 73, Garnet Valley 64 >> Sam Brown scored 23 points as Lower Merion thwarted GV’s bid to sweep the season series by outscoring the hosts, 25-14, in the fourth quarter. That included a 12-for-14 performance at the free throw line.
Sam Davison scored 17 points, and Demetrius Lilley added 16 for the Aces.
Carl Schaller led the Jaguars with 20 points, 10 of them in the first quarter and 13 in the first half. Ryan Wooten added 13 points, Gannon McKee supplied 12 and Justin Langan tossed in 10.
In the Bicentennial League:
Delco Christian 66, MaST Charter 44 >> Jordan Mitchell scored 17 points to lead four in double figures as the Knights pulled away.
Earl Greer scored 16 points, Joshua Parks added 14 and Josh Dell’Arciprete provided 11 for DC. (5-3, 5-2).
Alivia Scerba led Garnet Valley with 10 points plus three steals and three assists as the Jags spread around the scoring in a 44-16 win over Upper Darby.
MaryRose Berry and Ava Possenti (five steals, three assists, four rebounds) added nine points each. Jess Brewer paired eight points with seven rebounds.