WEST CHESTER >> What happened to the West Chester Henderson boys’ team squad during a three-day span this week illustrates the reason basketball coaches want their players to learn – and not dwell – on setbacks.
The Warriors dropped their third straight on Thursday at Coatesville, but on Saturday the squad bounced back impressively with a 60-31 triumph over visiting Collegium Charter. It was a non-league clash, and now Henderson (7-5 overall) can return to Ches-Mont action with some confidence and momentum.
“I honestly think (Henderson) came to play more than we did,” said Cougars’ head coach Markel Jones.
“We were a wounded animal with our backs against the wall and the season on the line,” added Warriors’ mentor Jason Ritter. “We need to start playing like this every game.”
Now 7-5 overall, Henderson started the 2022-23 campaign with six wins in its first eight before enduring the losing skid. The Warriors currently rank 20th in the District 1 6A Power Rankings.
“We lost our last two games and we felt like we should have won them,” said silky-smooth junior Nyle Ralph-Beyer. “So this was important. We are trying not to let any negative energy enter our bodies and stay positive.”
Collegium Charter’s two-game winning streak came to an end. And the Cougars (4-7 overall) fall to 0-4 this season against Ches-Mont foes. A year ago, Collegium was 3-0 versus C-M opponents and wound up winning the District 1 4A crown.
“Because we are a smaller school, there might be one of three seasons where we are just as good as some Ches-Mont schools,” Jones said. “This experience, playing against these teams, it will make us better.
“A lot of our guys have been at the top, so getting back to those habits is going to be important. We are obviously upset right now, but we have to keep it positive.”
Ralph-Beyer and the Warriors broke it open early with a 14-0 run midway through the first half, and never looked back. Henderson forced a bunch of turnovers and Ralph-Beyer scored 10 in that stretch to lead the way.
“We had extra energy level at practice (Friday) and we were ready to go,” Ritter said.
“Our guys know it’s not about our opponent, but it’s about us and what we can do. If we continue to defend and share the ball, we can beat anybody in the Ches-Mont.”
At the half, it was 38-14, and the Cougars had more turnovers (16) than points.
“It was definitely one of our better halves,” Ralph-Beyer said. “We came out with energy, we didn’t take (Collegium) lightly, and we played hard and together.”
The Cougars only had three giveaways the rest of the way, but the Warriors never let up defensively. The lead ballooned to 32 through three quarters, and then the reserves took over.
“We defended well,” Ritter said. “The message was defensive energy. It was a Saturday afternoon, not many people in the gym, and we had to bring our own energy. And I liked what I saw.”
Ralph-Beyer led all scorers with 19, and junior guard Connor Fleet chipped in 14 for Henderson. Duce Jackson and Aaron Pitt each scored eight to pace Collegium, who is playing without star guard Dinero Washington.
“He was unable to get cleared to play this season,” Jones explained. “He might be the best player we’ve ever had, so obviously he would have helped.
“We have some guys playing out of position. They are trying their best and we will get better. But turnovers really have been our Achilles heel this season.”
West Chester Henderson 60, Collegium Charter 30
Collegium Charter 6 8 8 9 — 31
W.C. Henderson 18 20 17 5 – 60
COLLEGIUM CHARTER – Jackson 3 2-2 8; Aaron Pitt 3 1-5 8; Mack 3 1-1 7; Kiley 2 1-1 5; Schnitzius 1 0-0 3. Totals 12 5-9 31.
W.C. HENDERSON – Ralph-Beyer 8 0-0 19; K. Smith 3 0-0 6; J. Smith 2 0-0 5; Surowiec 3 2-4 8; DeLucia 1 0-0 2; Nelson 1 1-2 3; McFadden 1 1-2 3; Fleet 4 4-6 14. Totals 23 8-14 60.
Three-pointers: Pitt, Schnitzius, Ralph-Beyer 3, J. Smith, Fleet 2,.