WEST CHESTER >> For the West Chester East boys’ basketball squad, the memory of last season’s meeting against Collegium Charter is vivid and painful.
The host Cougars topped the Vikings by nine points and went on to capture the District 1 4A championship. The rematch, Friday afternoon at the Ches-Mont Classic at Hollinger Field House, failed to live up to the hype, however, as East exacted a measure of revenge by blasting Collegium Charter, 67-38.
“We took it personal last season,” said Vikings’ point guard Jose Ramos. “K.J. (Cochran) didn’t play that game – he had a broken foot. So we put a star on this game.”
With Cochran, Ramos and the rest of the cast back in action, East sure looks like the team to beat once again after capturing the Ches-Mont crown last winter. The Vikings improve to 2-1 overall.
“We have all of the guys who played last season, but we have a couple new guys who are stronger and better,” said East head coach Tom Durant.
“Now we hit the Ches-Mont (slate), and we will have a target on our back, obviously. And the league is tough, especially (the National Division).”
Attempting to break in a new backcourt, Collegium Charter turned it over 22 times against the Vikings, and fall to 0-3.
“I think (East) was more ready for this game than us,” acknowledged Cougars’ head coach Markel Jones. “Revenge was definitely on their minds. When we played them at our place last season, I think we got under their skin.”
With Ramos leading the way, the Vikings quickly took command with a 16-0 rally at the end of the first period and the start of the second. By halftime, East was comfortably ahead 32-19, Ramos had 10 of his game-high 17 points, and Collegium Charter had already turned it over a dozen times.
“We lost a lot of ball handers and it is affecting us,” Jones explained. “Once we started making mistakes, especially live-ball turnovers, that’s what really killed us. We have to do better with the ball.”
When Ramos scored the first seven points of the second half, the rout was on. Midway through the third, at 58-31, both sides emptied the bench. The Cougars had all sorts of trouble dealing with just about any of the many defenses the Vikings threw their way.
“Forcing turnovers and converting them the other way is going to be one of our big pieces all season,” said Ramos, a senior. “We run a lot of defenses, and we can do zones or man-to-man — whatever coach (Durant) asks us to do.”
It may be hard to believe, but East is not just more experienced this season, it looks to be a deeper squad as well. Cochran chipped in 12 points and senior guard Korey Puchalla added 10 points off the bench.
“We were aggressive,” Durant said. “We did a real good job in transition and finished maybe 70 percent of them, with some of the attempted dunks we missed.
“You have to love the effort, but we are still a little sloppy and we still have to tighten up some defensive things. We are always happy with a win, but we are not totally happy with everything.”
Alyjah Warren and Duce Jackson paced Collegium Charter with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Nick Kiley came off the bench to score nine, but nobody else had more than five.
“Unfortunately, you learn more from losses,” Jones said. “This was a bit of a wakeup call, but it’s something that needed to happen to us.
“I think East is going to make a deep run in districts. We need to step up to the challenge. We are the hunted now. We snuck up on some teams last year, but that is not going to happen this year.”
It didn’t help that the Cougars made just a third of their free throws (4-12). The Vikings were 10-13 from the stripe, and Ramos was orchestrating it all, whether it was offensively or defensively.
“Jose is a crafty lefty, and he has some of the things you can’t coach,” Durant said. “He came on strong at the end of last season and we just hope it continues.”
West Chester East 67, Collegium Charter 38
Collegium Charter 9 10 12 7 — 38
W.C. East 16 16 21 13 — 67
COLLEGIUM CHARTER – Jackson 4 2-4 10; Pitt 2 0-2 5; Warren 4 1-2 11; Ronan 0 1-2 1; Mack 1 0-2 2; Kiley 4 0-0 9. Totals 15 4-12 38.
WEST CHESTER EAST – Puchalla 4 1-1 10; Kelly 1 0-0 3; Sherlock 1 0-0 2; Carr 1 0-0 3; Ramos 8 0-0 17; Kushner 0 2-2 2; Cochran 4 3-4 12; Gallagher 2 2-2 7; Williams 1 1-2 3; Bronzell 0 1-2 1; Price 3 0-0 7. Totals 25 10-13 67.
Three pointers: Pitt, Warren 2, Kiley, Puchalla, Kelly, Carr, Ramos, Cochran, Price.