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By Keith Pompey

Inquirer Staff Writer
This game wasn’t played in front of big crowds like last season’s matchups at Villanova and Penn State, and a PIAA Class AAAA state championship title wasn’t on the line.

But Chester vs. Norristown is still one of the biggest tickets in Pennsylvania. And in case you’re wondering, the Clippers still have the Eagles’ number.

Chester defeated Norristown, 58-47, in last night’s Pete Nelson Classic at Widener University.

It was the Clippers’ third victory in as many meetings with the Eagles dating back to last season. Chester (5-1) defeated Norristown in last season’s District 1 Class AAAA final at Villanova. The Clippers then prevailed in the state championship game at Penn State.

Guard Maurice Nelson, a junior transfer from Valley Forge Military Academy, paced the Clippers.

Nelson scored a team-high 16 points for The Inquirer’s fifth-ranked team in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Kareem Robinson added 8.

Senior guard Khalif Wyatt led the area’s 10th-ranked Norristown Eagles (5-2) with a team-high 16 points.

The Eagles had early 5-0 and 8-4 cushions over the inexperienced Clippers. But Rahlir Jefferson’s three-point play gave Chester a commanding 37-23 lead midway through the third quarter.

Norristown refused to give up, though, and pulled to within six points, 39-33, late in the quarter. But that was as close as the Eagles got.

Norristown 12 7 14 14 – 47

Chester 12 9 21 16 – 58

N: Sheldon Mayer 3, Khalif Wyatt 16, Lorenzo Christmas 9, Jarrell Gardner 5, James Ramsey 4, Tevin Bush 2, Tom Smith 8.

C: Kareem Robinson 8, Laquan Robinson 6, Maurice Nelson 16, Alvin Tinch 3, Dymore Crews 6, Keyon Staples 2, Rahlir Jefferson 12, Learon Pray 5.

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DAVID SWANSON)

"They are looking at me for leadership. So I am trying to bring it here for them," says Imhotep's Parrish Grant. (Photo Credit: DAVID SWANSON)

Parrish Grant is a champion.These days, Grant is a senior point guard for the Imhotep Charter boys’ basketball team. But around Southeastern Pennsylvania, the 18-year-old is recognized for his exploits at Prep Charter.

Grant was a member of Huskies’ back-to-back Class AA state championship teams during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Prep Charter also won the Philadelphia Public League title during his sophomore campaign.

After transferring to Imhotep, the North Philly native hopes to help the Panthers win a state title.

The District 1 prospect took time to chat about the possibility of winning another state title with a different team.

Question: How has the adjustment been for you on a new team?

Answer: It’s been great. My teammates are showing me a lot of love. It’s just like it was at Prep Charter.

Q: What is your role on this team?

A: The guys on the team look at me as a leader, because as a sophomore I won the state and Public League titles. So they are looking at me for leadership. So I am trying to bring it here for them.

Q: Does this team possess the same hunger and desire of those championship-winning Prep Charter squads?

A: Yes. . . . We try to come out and outwork our opponents every game.

Q: What separates the Panthers from this season’s other state-championship hopefuls?

A: Ball pressure in the game. And we work hard every day. Read the rest of this entry »

By Keith Pompey

Inquirer Staff Writer
Call it what you want – the Black and Blue Division or Competition Conference.

You still may not come close to describing the high level of play in the Public League C Division.

“We got Communications Tech and Prep Charter in our division,” Imhotep Charter coach Andre Noble said of the Pub’s 15-team Class AA division. “They are the last two Public League champions. It’s not like you can discount anybody.”

Sure can’t.

In addition to winning the Public title in 2007, Prep Charter won back-to-back PIAA Class AA state championships in 2006 and 2007. Two other division squads – Strawberry Mansion and Freire Charter – reached state championship games in their respective classifications last season.

The Knights finished second in Class AA, while the Dragons were the Class A runner-up. Freire Charter moved up a class this season. Former Class AAA Communications Tech and Ben Franklin both dropped to that classification.

Only three of the league’s teams will qualify for the state playoffs.

“Franklin is a tough team that is not going to be easy to beat,” said Noble, whose squad is coming off back-to-back Class AA state semifinal losses. “And Del-Val Charter is going to be a sleeper. You also have Hope. You will have eight solid games.

“AA is crazy. It should be a real good season.”

Prep Charter coach Dan Brinkley doesn’t have a problem with the league’s competitiveness.

“I think that’s a good thing,” he said, “because whoever comes out of that division will be battle-tested. And you also know that you will have to play your best in every quarter of every division game.”

Even in the most competitive leagues, there’s often one team that separates itself from the pack. Imhotep Charter has that distinction.

The guard-heavy Panthers are favored to win this season’s Class AA state title. The team is also ranked sixth in The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania preseason rankings.

“To say that this team does not have high expectations and should not have high expectations is false. We do,” Noble said. “We are not running away from it. We are going to try to make sure we get it done.”

In the process, Imhotep should be fun to watch.

The Panthers will start four guards and a post-player for its up-tempo style. Six-foot-8 sophomore Eric Copes will start down low.

Nobles wouldn’t name his four starting guards, saying that he considers seniors Parrish Grant, Will Adams, Sam Prescott, Kenny Battles and Ivory Wells all to be starters.

Grant, a 6-2 point guard, transferred from Prep Charter. He is attracting Division I interest.

Adams, a 6-4 wing, has orally committed to play at Towson University. Prescott, a 6-3 wing, is headed to Marist. Guards Wells (6-4) and Battles (6-2) are receiving Division II interest.

The Panthers will display a five-guard lineup during key stretches. Even though he’s confident, Noble says he won’t look past any division opponent.

“To me,” he said, “it is by far the best division in our league. This year, you better be ready every time you step in the gym.”

Looking to return. The Prep Charter boys’ basketball team could have received keys to City Hall 12 months ago.

Today, the Huskies will be hard-pressed to get even a handshake. Once the crown jewel of the city, Prep Charter is trying to shake the label of underachiever.

It wasn’t too long ago when the Huskies celebrated back-to-back PIAA Class AA state titles in 2006 and 2007. Back then, they were praised for winning the Public League’s and District 12’s first, second and only state titles.

But then came last season.

The whispers started after Prep Charter failed to reach the state playoffs. The whispers turned to screams after standout guards Parrish Grant (now at Imhotep Charter) and Jesse Morgan (Olney) left the school.

When the duo left, so did the bandwagon.

That’s why the Huskies have chips on their shoulders.

“The year the enthusiasm will be the difference,” said Prep Charter coach Dan Brinkley, whose squad is ranked eighth in The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania preseason rankings.

The Huskies are out to prove that they are still one of the state’s premier Class AA programs.

One glimpse at Prep Charter’s frontcourt may make you a believer.

Junior center Shaquille Duncan stands 6-foot-9. Senior power forward Tyree “Chuck” Harris is 6-8, while senior swingman Ferg Myrick is 6-6.

“We have the biggest front line in the city,” Brinkley said.

Those are not the only positions at which the Huskies could cause matchup problem.

Sophomore point guard Ameen Tanksley is 6-5. Freshman Akir Frazier, Tanksley’s backup, stands 6-3.

“We collectively as group fell short of our goal,” Brinkley said of not reaching the state championship last season.

This season, they are determined to make it back. And who know? Folks just might get back on the Huskies bandwagon.

Worth the price of admission. That’s what being said about Bartram point guard Tyrone Garland. The junior averaged 17.8 points last season while driving past opponents.

Unfortunately for his Public League opponents, the Division I prospect is said to be even better this season.

Two to keep an eye on. Garland won’t be the only guard fans should keep an eye on.

Franklin Learning Center’s Denzel Yard and Fels’ Shannon Givens are two other headliners.

Givens, who signed with Drexel, transferred to Fels from the Academy of the New Church last month. The senior combo guard was an all-Friends Schools League selection last season. He was also a major reason the Lions finished the year with a 26-2 record and ranked 22d nationally by USA Today.

Despite being undersize, Yard is often the best player on the court. The 6-foot, 170-pounder averaged 15.8 points last season. The senior will play at Siena next season.

Pioneers have talent. After losing all-Pub swingman Malik Tinsley to graduation, some assumed Frankford would struggle this season.

Pioneer coach Ben Dubin is not one of them.

“I think we have some talent,” said Dubin, whose squad was last season’s Public League runner-up.

The coach points to Frankford’s three key returning contributors: junior guards Harold Hicks and Jerline Harris and junior forward Dehaven Brown.

Savon Goodman (front) and Malcolm Gilbert, underclassmen at the Academy of New Church, are on the radar of recruiters. Photo by Charles Fox

Savon Goodman (front) and Malcolm Gilbert, underclassmen at the Academy of New Church, are on the radar of recruiters. Photo by Charles Fox

A league deep and strong
Friends Schools offer top talent.
By Keith Pompey

Inquirer Staff Writer

When it comes to Friends Schools League basketball, the words talent and parity now apply.
“The perception when I came in was that the league was very weak,” said Kevin Givens, a 14-year coach at the Academy of the New Church.

Another perception was that Abington Friends or Friends Central always ran away with the title.

But this season, the Academy of the New Church and Westtown both have legitimate shots to win the title. And those schools, along with Shipley and George School, are also starting to become hotbeds for young talent.

“It’s not the Philadelphia Catholic League,” Westtown coach Seth Berger said, “but it’s not what it used to be.”

Givens went a step further in giving a comparison to other leagues.

“Back in the day, it was always the Public League, Catholic League and the Inter-Ac,” said Givens, who played at Academy of the New Church in 1980. “I think we can compete with the Inter-Ac with our teams this year.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Roman Catholic's Maalik Wayns drives on Neumann-Goretti's Tony Chennault.

Roman Catholic's Maalik Wayns drives on Neumann-Goretti's Tony Chennault. Photo by Ron Cortes

By Keith Pompey
Inquirer Columnist

Admit it.
Take a moment and tell people how you really feel. You’re overjoyed that today is Dec. 5. You’re overjoyed, because this is the first day that PIAA teams can play their openers.

Admit it.

The No. 1 high school sport in Southeastern Pennsylvania is basketball. Now that it’s upon us, other sports often take a backseat.

Come on, you know it’s true.

How else can you explain the sellouts at the Palestra and Villanova during postseason games?

Why else wound a grown man wait 20 minutes outside a locker room just for an up-close glimpse of Roman Catholic senior point guard Maalik Wayns?

Admit it.
Read the rest of this entry »

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