Girls: Springfield battles, but can’t overcome Cardinal O’Hara in PIAA semifinal

O'Hara vs. Springfield

Cardinal O’Hara’s Siobhan Boylan, right, hits a basket over the defense of Springfield’s Lexi Aaron in the first half of the PIAA Class 5A semifinals Tuesday night. Boylan had a team-high 12 points as O’Hara advanced to the state final, 40-28. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group

By Matt Smith

Cardinal O’Hara players threw Hershey’s Kisses to their fans in the Springfield gymnasium after clinching a berth to the PIAA Class 5A championship game Saturday. The Lions were in full celebration mode following a 40-28 victory.

O’Hara will playing reigning Class 5A champion Chartiers Valley at the GIANT Center.

For the District 12 champion Lions, who are the No. 1 team in Delaware County and arguably one of the top five teams in eastern Pennsylvania regardless of PIAA classification, Tuesday’s Class 5A semifinal against the District 1 and Central League champion was supposed to go their way. Anyone who follows high school basketball in Delco would’ve told you that Catholic League teams are just bigger, stronger, faster and better.

Springfield (21-1) didn’t buy into the talk.

The Lions emerged victorious, but they had to fight every second to earn it.

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Girls: Friendship runs deep between uncommon Comets opponents

O'Hara vs Springfield

Cardinal O’Hara’s Maggie Doogan dives ahead of Springfield’s Alexa Abbonizio, right, in the second half of a PIAA Tournament semifinal Tuesday evening. O’Hara was victorious and moves on the state final in Hershey Saturday night. PETE BANNAN – MEDIANEWS GROUP

By Terry Toohey

A month from now, when the AAU season starts, Springfield High’s Alexa Abbonizio and Cardinal O’Hara’s Amaris Baker, Siobhan Boylan and Maggie Doogan will be wearing the same uniform.

They’re all teammates on the Comets Under Armour team that will kick off its season at the Finley Sports Center in Hoover, Ala. They’ve already been practicing together for nearly a month.

On Tuesday night, though, they were opponents, trying to bring the other’s season to a close as the Cougars and Lions battled at Springfield for a berth in Saturday’s PIAA Class 5A championship game.

“It was really weird playing against them,” Boylan said. “Alexa Abbonizio is my teammate this year and Rachel Conran was my teammate sophomore year, so I’m used to playing with them, not against them. So it was strange going against them.”

O’Hara won that fight, 40-28, to end Springfield’s undefeated season and earn the Lions a third trip to the state final Saturday night. They will take on defending state champion Chartiers Valley, a 50-33 winner over District 3 champ Spring Grove.

“I know all of us have been waiting to get there since we came here,” Boylan said. “We want to be the first team to win a state championship for O’Hara.”

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Lower Merion loses cliffhanger to undefeated Wood in PIAA 6A state semifinal

By Bruce Adams

Just four days after capturing its first District 1 title since the days of Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion came within an eyelash of defeating Archbishop Wood, the ninth-ranked boys’ basketball team in the United States, in the PIAA 6A state semifinals Tuesday evening.

The Aces gave Archbishop Wood (19-0) an admirable battle at the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, jumping out to an early 15-4 lead, and leading for much of the game. But in the end, the Vikings squeezed out a razor-thin 72-68 win.

Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer said, “We try to say we don’t play for close losses, but I think it was a heck of a high school game, the [Pennsylvania] Eastern final that was really a two-point game, lots of back-and-forth. We played with a lot of grit and a lot of determination. I’m not into close losses but I’m very proud of these kids. There’s a lot of emotion in the air right now.”

Downer and the other Lower Merion coaches spoke to the team at length after the game.

“We [coaches] told the players that we were very proud of them; we didn’t think we would get much of a season in the pandemic, but we played 18 games and won the school’s first district title in 25 years,” said Downer. “We were a couple of minutes away from going to Hershey. It’s an emotional time right now with the end of the season, but this was a really fun group to coach. I think these players really believed in themselves; they really thought they could do it.”

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Lemon-Warren, Tomasco just too much as Ryan eliminates Chester

Ryan vs. Chester

Chester’s Karell Watkins, center, has his shot blocked by Archbishop Ryan’s Christian Tomasco, left, among the myriad company in the lane. Watkins and Chester never got going in an 84-63 setback in the PIAA Class 5A semifinal. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group

By Matt Smith

Chester senior Fareed Burton Jr. can admit when he’s been bested on the basketball court.

There’s no shame in giving props to the other guys.

For the Clippers, they faced a harsh reality Monday night. The District 1 champions lost in the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals, falling hard to District 12 champ Archbishop Ryan, 84-63. The lopsided defeat snapped Chester’s 21-game winning streak at the Clip Joint.

And so ended another season without a state title for one of the most storied boys basketball programs in Pennsylvania. Chester fell a win shy of making their first PIAA final since 2013.

“Tonight, they were the better team. They played better than us. It’s simple as that,” said Burton Jr., who did his job trying to keep the Clippers afloat, producing a team-high 27 points.

“Congratulations to them because they’re a really good team.”

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Togetherness makes end more painful for Chester

Ryan vs. Chester

Chester seniors Karell Watkins, left, and Isaiah Freeman walk off court during a fourth-quarter timeout Monday. They’d walk off the court for the final time as Clippers in an 84-63 loss to Archbishop Ryan in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group

By Bob Grotz

The group text messaging leading up to the game was full of optimism, the Chester High Clippers just one victory from playing for a state title for the first time since the 2013 season.

Coach Keith Taylor encourages his players to earn their status in the storied tradition of Chester basketball through sacrifice, solidarity, teamwork and purpose. In the gym and out of it, senior guard Jameel Burton added Monday night. That is how it works.

“It was all about family,” Jameel Burton said. “He was really close to us. Everybody was close. Even off the court we were close, and I appreciate that a lot. I enjoyed that. Ninety percent of the team was in the group chat together. We see each other almost every day outside school, that’s how close we were. Some teams only see each other on the court. That’s not the case with us. Even after this season we’re going to be together almost every day.”

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Taylor hoping for a little less stress as Clippers face Ryan


By Bob Grotz

Drained from one of the biggest tests of this coronavirus-abbreviated basketball season, Keith Taylor took a big gulp of air.

Chester High needed five quarters, including the overtime to oust Crestwood, 58-52, in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 5A playoffs Friday at Ninth and Barclay.

The Clippers’ coach poured every last drop of himself into the state quarterfinal victory over the District 2 champion, a game in which his team rallied from an almost insurmountable six-point deficit with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra session.

Great game?

“Definitely, to watch,” Taylor said. “But coaching that, man, that’s definitely heart attack material. They gave us everything they had.”

The only team standing between the Clippers (14-1) and the school’s 19th trip to a state final is District 12 rep Archbishop Ryan, a 68-50 winner over Bangor in the other quarterfinal game in the East.

The Raiders (10-5) have momentum after losses earlier this season to Archbishop Carroll (70-58), Roman Catholic (70-58), and twice versus Archbishop Wood (71-66, 77-47).

Taylor didn’t need the scouting report in hand to state the obvious about the state semifinal showdown Monday night at the Clip Joint (7 p.m.).