By Terry Thomas
The 2020-2021 basketball season was definitely one for the history books. To begin, the start of the season was delayed until January 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions were finalized and implemented. All the Del Val League teams did not participate. Academy Park elected not to field a team thus shortening the League schedule to six games instead of eight. Travel restrictions caused the cancellation of games resulting in Chester’s ten game regular season schedule.
This season also marked several firsts: 1) Chester High played Chester Charter Scholars Academy for the first “City Championship” game since St. James High School back in 1986-87; St. James Catholic High School closed in 1993. 2) The District Tournament was limited to the Top 10 teams based on their Power Rating and all games were play on the home court of the higher seed including the Championship game. 3) The State Tournament consisted of only the District Champions with games played at the home court of the higher seed with the exception of the Championship game.
The Clippers opened the season winning their first four games before losing a close one to Imhotep Charter. The loss snapped the Clippers 7-game win streak and their 21-game win streak at the Clip Joint. They bounced back and won their remaining five regular season games. Along the way capturing the Del Val Championship, their fourth consecutive undefeated Championship. Goal #1 – Accomplished.
Next up – the District Championship. The Clippers entered the Tournament as the #2 Seed. Chester won their Quarter-finals contest easily and when #1 Seeded Upper Moreland was upset it meant the Clippers would host the Championship game. Chester took advantage of the limited fans at the Clip Joint and sailed to the school’s 24th District Championship. Winning the Championship on the Fred Pickett Gym floor made that much special. Goal #2 – Accomplished.
Chester entered their record setting 49th State Tournament as the #1 seed and thoughts of two wins at the Clip Joint and it’s on to Hershey. It took an extra 4-minutes of play for the Clippers to put away a determined District-2 Champion Crestwood Comets team. Unfortunately for the Clippers, a bad shooting night coupled with a hot District-12 Champion Archbishop Ryan Raiders team brought the Clippers season to a close. Goal #3 – Not Met.
Congratulations to Coach Taylor, his players and staff for a successful season especially under the circumstances (playing in masks, temperature checks and quarantine) they faced. A 4th undefeated Del Val Championship, winning the school’s 24th District Championship and reaching the school’s 29th State Final-Four appearance. Both the District and State fetes are the first since the 2014 season; that’s a long drought by Chester’s standards.
Next season, the Clip Joint will have a different feel without the likes of #1 Fareed “Skip” Burton Jr and #30 Karell “Wopo” Watkins.
Fareed was a 3-year Varsity player who finished with 506 career points, 170 rebounds, 148 assists and 112 steals. He currently sits at #20 on the Assist List between Randy “Bam” Maultsby and Nasir Robinson. Please be aware, this is NOT an All-Time List; these statistics begin with the 1992-1993 season.
Karell was a 4-year Varsity Play who stepped in as a freshman off the JV season and made his presence felt from day-one. Karell was a double-double waiting to happen. He completed his career with 1,424 points; #11 on the All-Time List sandwiched between the legendary Emerson Baynard (Class of 1961) and Raymond Carroll (Class of 1995). In the State Semi-finals, his final rebound of the night gave him a career total of 781 which places him at #1 surpassing Rondae Jefferson’s total of 780 in 2013. Karell’s career average of 10.28 rebounds per game marks just the 2nd Clipper since the 1992-93 season to have a career average over 10 rebounds. Tyrell Sturdivant average 10.29 rebounds in his only season as a Clipper in 2013-14. Watkins also managed 123 steals and 103 assists. During his senior season Karell became just the 3rd Clipper since the 1992-93 season to average more than 20 points per game. He averaged 22.4 ppg placing him #1 on the list ahead of Chester Hall-of-Famers Jameer Nelson’s 21.0 ppg in 2000 and Raymond Carroll’s 20.5 ppg in 1995.
We say farewell and a big “Thank You” to all our seniors Fareed Burton Jr, Jameel Burton Jr, Nasir Madison, Naeem Scott Jr, Keenan Warren and Karell Watkins. Your work at practice was an integral part of the team’s success on game day and did not go unnoticed. You left your mark at the Clip Joint and provided the fans moments that will be remembered for a life time. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic your senior season was played sort of in a bubble. Good Luck and God bless you as you move forward in your collegiate careers.