Its Chester vs. Lower Merion (again): Fridays Battle at Nova is a Rematch of Last Years District and State Finals

Its Chester vs. Lower Merion (again): Fridays Battle at Nova is a Rematch of Last Years District and State Finals


If
styles make fights, then Friday’s matchup between No. 1 Chester and No. 2
Lower Merion should be like a bonkers battle of the Klitschko brothers.
Chester, with their fast-paced, get up in your grill, crash the boards,
stuff it down your throat style, take on Lower Merion, with their
fast-paced, get up in your grill, crash the boards, stuff it down your …
wait, what?

Yep,
this year’s Lower Merion squad is different from years past. Sure, they
still take charges, and execute pump fakes, and wear Kobe’s sneaks, and
box out, and dive on the floor, and tuck their warmups in, but Coach
Gregg Downer has his team playing at a feverish pace, pressing full
court, pushing after makes and blitzing their opponents, not unlike
their arch enemy Clippers.

Chester
of course doesn’t care. No matter who they’re playing, be it Lower
Merion, Neumann, Temple, Princeton or Orlando Woolridge’s Denver
Nuggets, Chester is going to play however the freak they want. Watch the
defending state champs strut out in their neon pink, Under Armour high
tops and you’ll understand. Swagger is an understatement. Coach Larry
Yarbray’s Clips ooze confidence, luring opponents into playing at their
pace, and then strangling them like a Black
Pink Mamba. Just ask Abington, their victims Tuesday night in the
District Semis, who stayed within three points of the Clips midway
through the 3rd quarter before Chester went on a 20-1 run and ended up
winning BY THIRTY THREE POINTS. Even if the Aces suited up the Black
Mamba himself, the Clips would still walk into Villanova’s Pavilion
like they owned the place. Because, well, they do.

The History

Since
1994 (Kobe’s sophomore year and Downer’s fourth), Chester has won
ELEVEN district championships and finished runner up three times. Lower
Merion won the tourney in 1996 and finished as runners up three times
(2012, 2006 and 1995), all losses to Chester. In that same span, Chester
has won 5 state championships (2011, 2008, 2005, 2000 and 1994) and
finished runners up twice (2007 and 2003) while Lower Merion has won 2
state crowns (2006 and 1996) and finished second twice (2011, 2005). In
case that was the most confusing paragraph in the history of paragraphs,
here’s the Cliffs Notes version: these two teams are very good at
basketball.  

Since 1995, Chester leads the series between the two teams, 6-4.



The Players

Lower Merion - The Aces are led by silky smooth 6’5” swingman and Syracuse signee, BJ Johnson.
The back-to-back Central League Player of the Year busts it at both
ends of the floor, jumping passing lanes, forcing deflections, all his
master attempt to GET BUCKETS. The son of former La Salle Explorer,
Bobby Johnson, BJ struggled last year against the Clips and will look to
redeem himself under Villanova’s bright lights.

LM also features
another Johnson, junior point guard Jaquan Johnson,
a lightning quick lefty (yep, another lefty) who moved to Ardmore from
Chester before his Freshman year. Jaquan relishes big money matchups and
will undoubtedly be up for playing against his childhood buddies. (He’s
been exchanging tweets with them all week.) He’s also been known to do a
little jawing on the floor WHICH I LOVE. In last year’s state title
game against the Clips, Jaquan seemed to be the only LM player who knew
there was a title on the line.

Up front, the Aces will have the biggest
man on the floor, 6’8” Yohanny Dalembert,
younger half-brother of yup, you guessed it, Slammin’ Sammy. The
younger Dalembert, who moved to Lower Merion after the 2010 earthquake
in his native Haiti, has only been playing hoops for three years, but
seems to improve with every trip down the floor. Division I coaches are
starting to take interest. Not to be forgotten is senior guard, Raheem Hall, maybe the Aces best all-around player. A long, do-it-all slasher with go-go-gadget arms and a quiet mean streak.

Chester - Ohhhh, Rondae -- Rondae Jefferson
-- McDonald’s All American, 16th ranked prospect in the country,
Arizona signee, the area’s premier talent, ANOTHER LEFTY, and a walking
triple dubb. Last year in this game, playing primarily as a point guard,
Rondae pulled down 24 rebounds in the Clippers’ win. This year, he’s
added a low post game to his arsenal, punishing smaller opponents around
the bucket AND I LOVE IT. But Jefferson (younger brother of Temple’s
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson) is at his best in the open court, pushing the
rock, finding teammates, or finishing himself. Lower Merion will have no
individual answer for Rondae. No one does.

Running alongside Jefferson
is Darius Robinson,
a shooting guard / bowling ball who plays the game like my Uncle Ivan
gets out of bed, niiiiiice and eeeeasy. Robinson is the essence of cool,
wapping threes, drawing fouls, rarely showing emotion, always putting
up numbers. There’s also tenacious rebounder, 6’7” Richard Granberry,
who seems to gobble up missed free throws and stick in put backs
whenever the Clips need him to. Oh, and Chester also has around 6 other
players who can fill it up. THEY ALSO WEAR PINK SNEAKERS.

source: aceshoops.com

The Fans

Lower Merion - If
you can’t stand the Cameron Crazies, then you will LOATHE the Dawg
Pound. A pack of 500 rabid teenagers, barking the entire game, taunting
their opponents, bee-bopping around, wearing ridiculous outfits, and
making you laugh maybe 17% of the time.

Chester - Old
heads, young heads, every kind of heads, Chester-lifers who have
forgotten more big games than you’ve ever been to. The Clipper cheering
section is filled with neighborhood legends, friends, family members,
each one decked out in Clipper orange -- often wearing custom made
t-shirts and sweatshirts that say things like, “Clipper Club since
1955.” How someone has not yet done a documentary on Clipper Mania is
beyond me. 


The Cheerleaders

No disrespect to the
Lower Merion squad, I'm sure they're a very nice group of young women,
but Chester's Cheerleaders ARE INCREDIBLE ... and will probably be way
more entertaining than any alley-oop rams or three-point bombs or
slop-filled nachos that you'll get at the game.


The Season

Lower Merion - The
Aces went undefeated in the Central League en route to what seems like
their bazillionth title in a row (it’s actually only their second).
Along the way, they defeated two nationally ranked teams (St. Frances of
MD and Bishop O’Connell of VA) as well as St. Joe’s Prep and St.
Raymond’s of NY. Their two losses were to Philly powers Neumann Goretti
and Imhotep Charter (who play each other in the District 12 AAA final).

Chester - The
Clippers (23-3) are ranked 24th in the NATION and have knocked off a
bucket-load of top teams including Lincoln (NY), Reading, Penn Wood and
Gonzaga (DC), but the Clips dropped three games during national
tournaments. Imhotep also came within two points of the big bad Clips.  

The Game

Friday night, 9pm, at Villanova’s Pavillion.

Lower
Merion (although at their best when they’re pressing full court) will
look to calm the game down, spread the floor and value every possession.
Chester will pressure the Aces, pound the glass and look to blow the
game wide open. I will sweat my butt off in Villanova’s rafters,
complain about lower back pain, and love every minute of it.

Prediction:
Chester 66, Lower Merion 59, number of scouts in attendance: 487.  

The Sneaks





Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

There hasn't been much Eagles talk recently. The last few weeks have been pretty dead. 

That's about to change soon enough. Next week, the football world will take over Indianapolis for the combine and just after that, free agency will begin on March 9. After that, the draft isn't too far away. 

So let's jump into your mailbag questions: 

Yeah, I think there's a real chance Bennie Logan isn't an Eagle next year. Howie Roseman has been pretty consistent in saying he wants Logan to return, but it's fair to wonder about the price. Logan has now proven that he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, so there will be plenty of teams interested. 

If the Eagles lose Logan, their defense will take a big hit. There's not really a way around that. He's a good player and has been an important part of the line. But with a ton of money devoted to the defensive line over the next few years -- even assuming Connor Barwin isn't back -- will the Eagles pay another? I'm not so sure. 

And I agree that Logan was really good against the run last year. But I think his real value is in being great against the run while also being able to generate some pass rush. I think Beau Allen can be a decent run-stuffer, but he's clearly not the same player as Logan. 

I can't give a real answer here. Sorry. While I don't wholeheartedly agree with the best player available notion, the Eagles also can't prioritize one need over the other in this scenario. There will be either 13 or 14 picks before the Eagles are on the board. 

Really, it's going to depend on which players are left. Are Mike Williams and Corey Davis on the board? How about the top corners? There's a lot of them. If the player the Eagles really want at one of those positions is off the board, they could look elsewhere. And it's not automatic they'll take a receiver or a cornerback. What if they opt for an edge rusher? 

But getting back to corner vs. receiver, there are a couple thoughts: 

1. They'll pick a corner because receivers are far from a sure thing. Roseman made it a point to talk about how the 2014 draft changed expectations for rookie receivers. And the Eagles haven't had much luck recently drafting receivers in the first round. And Roseman has also said that while it might make sense to grab a first-round corner in the second round because of depth, there's often a run at positions where a draft is strong. It would be better to just get the best one. 

2. On the flip side of that, maybe they'll pick a receiver with the idea that at least one really good corner will be on the board in the second round. That would maximize value, especially if they get the receiver they want in the first round. 

That's a long way to say: I don't think it'll be about position as much as it will be about the specific player at 14 or 15. 

This is a tough one. I really think the margin separating these two is so close that the combine could flip them for me. But for now, I'm going with Mike Williams. 

Clemson listed him at 6-3, 225 and I think he's going to come close to that at the combine. And he might not have Corey Davis' speed or quick twitch, but he makes up for it. I really want to see how he performs at the combine; I expect it to confirm my belief that he's the top receiver in the draft. Davis will reportedly not run at the combine because of an ankle injury. 

It's possible a team like the Eagles could fall in love with Davis' deep threat ability. That's clearly what they value right now. But ultimately, I think Williams is the top guy. 

I don't think Ryan Mathews will be back next season. He's 29, coming off a serious neck injury and is way too expensive. The Eagles can save $4 million by cutting him. I expect that to happen and for the Eagles to try to find some younger, healthier talent. 

Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy! Let's get the band back together! 

I understand why the Maclin questions are rolling in. An ESPN column recently suggested that the Chiefs could cut the former Eagle. Maclin is familiar with the Eagles' offense and Doug Pederson, which means the move would make some sense. 

But from a football standpoint, Jackson would give the Eagles what they need more than Maclin. Over the last couple years, Maclin has really been utilized in the slot, which happens to be where the Eagles' only decent receiver plays. Sure, Pederson will move around his receivers, but there are probably better fits out there for the Eagles than Maclin. If he does become a free agent, though, it's at least worth inquiring. 

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

About a year ago, while in Indianapolis for the combine, the Eagles cut veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans. 

Ryans has finally found his next job ... as a coach. 

The 32-year-old former linebacker has been named a defensive quality control coach on Kyle Shanahan's staff in San Francisco. Shanahan was on the Texans' staff for the first four years of Ryans' pro career. Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was also on that Houston staff. 

After the Eagles cut him last Feb. 24, Ryans was out of the league in 2016 after 10 NFL seasons. He played the first six years of his career in Houston, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler, before joining the Eagles through a trade in 2012. 

While the Eagles cut Ryans after the 2015 season to save $3.5 million in cap space, they made a point to go out of their way to praise him on his way out. He was very well-thought of in the locker room and throughout the building. 

While Ryans played one season under Andy Reid, he quickly became a favorite of Chip Kelly, who frequently called Ryans the "Mufasa" of the Eagles' defense. 

Kelly didn't forget about Ryans when he went to San Francisco to coach the 49ers for the 2016 season. In fact, in Kelly's questionnaire in the NFL's 2016 information guide, Kelly listed Ryans as a player who'd make a great head coach.