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In storybook fashion, Henderson denies Whippets’ bid for unblemished league record

WEST CHESTER >> There are storybook endings that stretch all sense of credulity. And make no mistake, that was precisely the case on Thursday at West Chester Henderson.

On the evening that the host Warriors and visiting Downingtown West joined forces to raise money in memory of former Whippet player and Henderson basketball coach Rob Grim, his son Dylan wound up shooting and making the game winner in the final second.

It propelled the Warriors to a shocking 58-56 overtime triumph over a West team that long ago secured the regular season Ches-Mont National crown and was looking to end the regular season with an unblemished league record.

“It couldn’t have ended any better,” said Henderson head coach Rob Frattura. “Before the game I told our guys we are playing six-on-five tonight, because I knew Rob was with us.”

The ending unfolded like a Hollywood movie, only this script would probably be tossed because the premise was so outlandish. And yet, it happened.

“It was a crazy ending,” Dylan Grim acknowledged. “I never even thought something like that could happen.”

A former all-league player for Downingtown High School in the early 1980s, Rob Grim spent three seasons as a volunteer assistant coach to Frattura. But in January of 2021, he lost his battle with colon cancer.

“I am just floored,” Frattura said, trying to choke back tears. “All day today, I just kept thinking of Rob.”

Thursday was the third fundraiser for the Rob Grim Memorial Athletic Foundation, which focuses on supporting youths in need by providing resources to participate in athletics, as well as raising awareness of the importance of early screening for colon cancer.

With the score deadlocked and time running out in the OT, Henderson’s Ryan Bell drove to the basket. His shot was off the mark, but Dylan Grim corralled the offensive rebound and converted the put-back with 1.3 seconds on the clock.

“I saw Ryan (Bell) driving, so I went to the other side of the rim in case he wanted to drop it off to me,” Grim recounted. “He took the shot and I just went and got the rebound and put it back up. It rolled around on the rim for a while – I saw it bounce on one side of the rim and then the other — and then it fell.”

After a timeout, the Whippets’ Joe Suarez got off a potential game-winner at the buzzer from near midcourt, but it did not fall.

“For Dylan to hit the game-winner is just amazing,”Frattura said. “If you don’t believe that there is somebody looking down, all you have to do is look to tonight.”

Now winners of six straight, the Warriors (8-4, 15-7 overall) may have done enough to grab one of the top-24 spots in the District 1 6A Playoffs. Henderson was 27th heading into Thursday.  

“If this doesn’t push us in, I will be really ticked off at the system,” Frattura said. “We played all 22 games and a lot of teams did not due to COVID.”

The big win wasn’t enough, however, to get the Warriors into the four-team Ches-Mont Playoffs. Henderson and West Chester East had identical records in the division, but the Vikings won the tiebreaker thanks to two regular season wins against the Warriors. East will play C-M American champion Great Valley at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at West Chester’s Hollinger Field House in one semifinal.

Downingtown West finishes the regular season at 11-1 (16-5 overall) and will play Sun Valley at 8 p.m. in the other semifinal. The Whippets entered the day as the district’s fourth seed.

“It’s always hard to go undefeated in the Ches-Mont, especially on the road,” said West head coach Stu Ross. “But at the end of the day, this game is not the most important one on our schedule.

“Our goal was to be top-eight in the district so we can get a first round bye, so we should be in good shape.”

A senior forward, Grim not only hit the game-winner, he also scored Henderson’s final two buckets in regulation – including one with just over 40 seconds remaining — to knot the score at 54-all and eventually send the game into overtime.

He finished with 10 points, and teammate Connor Fleet, a sophomore point guard, led all scorers with 17 points.

“We showed a lot of heart,” Frattura said. “We have senior leaders who are amazing, and we have sophomores who are going to be great. They make mistakes at times, but we let them play through them because that’s the only way they are going to get any better.”

It looked like West was going to take control after reeling off 10 straight points midway through the third period to make it 42-30. But soon after the Whippets’ 6-foot-11 junior Jake Warren was whistled for his fourth foul, the Warriors ended the quarter with a 12-0 run, including nine by Fleet, to make it 42-42.

“This was an emotional game and I started having some trouble trying to focus on the task at hand,” Grim admitted.

“We might not be as talented and D-West, but we have a lot of heart and we bring it every second of the game.”

Sophomore Danny Surowiec came off the bench to score 10 points for Henderson.

Warren paced West with 15 point and 10 boards. Senior Cooper Hardin and freshman Donovan Fromhartz each added 14 for the Whippets, but star point guard Dylan Blair was held to six.

“We just need to let this game go,” Ross said. “It’s over with. Our eyes are firmly on the target of the league championship. And this game might reignite our fire a little bit so we can get back to the focus we need to have.”

West Chester Henderson 58, Downingtown West 56 (OT)

Downingtown West                                   15 17 10 12 2 — 56

W.C. Henderson                                         10 17 15 12 4 — 58

DOWNINGTOWN WEST – Cooper 5 0-0 14; Blair 2 1-2 6; Bell 1 1-1 3; Warren 7 0-0 15; Fromhartz 6 1-2 14; Shelton 1 2-2 4. Totals 22 5-7 56.

W.C. HENDERSON – Sirchid 1 0-0 2; Ralph-Bayer 4 0-0 9; Fleet 6 2-2 17; Grim 5 0-0 10; Surowiec 4 1-1 10; Jarden 1 0-0 2; Bell 2 2-4 8. Totals 23 5-7 58.

Three pointers: Hardin 4, Blair, Warren, Fromhartz, Ralph-Bayer, Fleet 3, Surowiec, Bell 2.


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