CONSHOHOCKEN >> During the high school basketball season, Norristown and Upper Merion have one of the biggest rivalries in the area. When the two schools, separated by less than six miles, aren’t competing for Pioneer Athletic Conference control, they get along pretty well.
That was on display in the second round of the 60th Annual Albert C. Donofrio Classic. With a 10-player lineup featuring six Norristown players and Upper Merion’s Ty Jones, M-Sport handled Great American Pub, 108-90, Thursday night at the Fellowship House of Conshohocken.
“We’re all close,” Jones said. “I grew up with all of them. I’m from Norristown. I played with them since I was I was four up until like seventh grade. I’m close with all these guys. It was normal playing with them. I play AAU with some of them.”
Righteous Mitchell led the Norristown contingent in scoring with 10 points while Myon Kirlew added nine, John Dinolfi and Chris Dinolfi eight, DJ Johnson six and Zaki Gomez four. Jones represented the Vikings with 13 points.
The game was never really in doubt in the second half. After M-Sport hit a buzzer-beater to go into halftime with a 52-46 advantage, they blew the game wide open in the first 7:40 of the second half. They used a 30-14 run to build an 80-60 lead and never let the advantage drop below 12 points over the final 12:20.
“We’re not the biggest team but our intensity is always going to be really high, especially defensively,” John Dinolfi said. (We have) an elite defensive guard combo.”
Jones, who was Upper Merion’s point guard this year, played more of a combo-guard role Thursday. He hit three three-pointers in the win and added a couple crafty layups for his 13 points.
“I was playing a lot of off-ball tonight,” Jones, who grabbed three rebounds, said. “Just catching and shooting. When I was trying to attack, everybody was playing gaps so I was getting my guys involved. They looked out for me and hit me when I was open.”
John Dinolfi was a freshman in 2018 when Norristown went to Plymouth Whitemarsh and lost the season opener, 66-61. It was the first game in the Colonials brand new gym.
Since Norristown left the Suburban One League after the 2016 season, the Eagles and Colonials don’t have guaranteed matchups every year. The longtime rivals haven’t played since the beginning of the 2018-19 season.
While Thursday night’s game wasn’t a full Norristown roster with high school head coach Binky Johnson against a full PW roster with high school head coach Jim Donofrio, it was six Norristown players against four Plymouth Whitemarsh players.
“We didn’t get a chance to play them,” John Dinolfi said. “We wanted to play them really bad ever since they beat us when they had their opening night at PW. I was on that JV team and we lost. We’ve been waiting to play them. We were hoping we could maybe see them in district or states this year but it didn’t happen.”
Long time coming
Every spring the best high school boys basketball players in the Greater Philadelphia Area travel to Conshohocken for the Donofrio Classic. NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving played in the tournament. More recently, NBA lottery picks Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter showcased their talents at the Fel.
Conshohocken native Qudire Bennett has been waiting for his chance to take the floor. The tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, so this was the first chance the Plymouth Whitemarsh junior had to participate.
“Growing up in Conshy,” Bennett, who scored 18 points for Great American Pub, said, “and being little and watching all these players from years ago go far in their life now — I was like, ‘Man, I want to play in this jawn one day when I get older and go to high school.'”
M-Sport also recognizes the history behind the Donofrio Classic.
“(Norristown native) Khalif (Wyatt’s) team won (the tournament) and he won MVP,” John Dinolfi said. “For him to coach us, he’s just giving us the backstory and how much this means to the area and the city. We know how much it means to everyone.”
Coleman-Newsome does it all
Archbishop Carroll junior Dean Coleman-Newsome was one of the last players to take the floor before Thursday night’s game between the Yellow Jackets and Primetime, but that didn’t stop the Yellow Jackets wing from dominating from start to finish.
Coleman-Newsome scored a game-high 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Yellow Jackets 122-119 overtime loss to Primetime.
He scored 21 points and hit five of his eight threes in the first half.
The Yellow Jackets built a 16-point lead, 100-84, after the game was tied at 71. Primetime battled back and, with less than six minutes remaining, erased the entire deficit and took a 110-109 lead with 55 seconds left in the game.
Coleman-Newsome hit a three to extend a 104-100 lead to 107-100 with 2:30 left, but Primetime kept coming.
The Yellow Jackets went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line in the final 45 seconds to tie the game at 110.
In the extra session, the Yellow Jackets took a 117-111 lead with a 7-0 run, but Primetime closed with an 11-2 burst to advance to the quarterfinals next week.
The Yellow Jackets also featured Souderton’s Jayson Bonnet. The senior hit three three-pointers in the game and finished with 11 points and five rebounds.