Coatesvilles freshman DaPree Bryant (above) came up with two crucial steals to help the Raiders beat Downingtown East. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
EXTON, Pa. -- With under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of a Ches-Mont showdown at undefeated Downingtown East, Coatesville head coach Chuck Moore gathered his team during a timeout.
The Raiders had battled the home squad Cougars for the first 29-plus minutes in the battle for first place in the Ches-Mont National, with both teams holding leads for various stretches over the opening three quarters.
Now, it was anybody’s game, the score dead even. And Moore implied a still-young squad to play it one step at a time.
“Just stay within themselves, value the possession at that time,” he said. “Just understanding the moment.”
His players certainly understood well enough.
The Raiders turned up the defensive intensity at that point, coming up with four straight steals to close out the game with nine straight points, taking control of the Ches-Mont National with a 45-36 win.
Freshman guard DaPree Bryant came up with two of those steals, both straight-up strips in a one-on-one situation. His first, with two minutes to play, resulted in a solitary foul shot and a one-point advantage. On Downingtown East’s next possession, he was able to come up with another strip-steal, taking this one all the way in for a layup.
It’s exactly what the muscular 5-10 guard had in mind.
“I’ve got to get a stop, get down and score a bucket,” he said. “I come off the bench, so I’ve got to bring a lot of energy.”
“That’s his gift, he comes off the bench, provides some spark defensively for us,” Moore said. “He’s a great on-the-ball defender, he’s a great off-the-ball defender. He just provides that extra umph that we need in certain games, especially tonight.”
Bryant has Coatesville basketball in his blood. His dad, Maurice Bryant, was a starter on the 2001 Coatesville squad that won the PIAA Class AAAA state championship.
For as long as he remembers, he’s been attending Red Raiders basketball games. And now he’s wearing the uniform, getting to contribute on the varsity level already after starting the season solely playing JV.
“It feels great, I grew up watching the team,” he said. “Feels good to contribute to seniors.”
Bryant is a two-sport star for Coatesville, having started at slot receiver as a freshman on the school's football team, which lost to North Penn in the opening round of the state tournament.
He’s not the only youngster making a big impact for the basketball squad.
Another freshman, Jhamir Brickus, made it a five-point game with 1:09 to play, following up on a steal by junior Avery Young after Young couldn’t quite finish off the layup. Brickus sealed the win with four foul shots over the final 60 seconds, giving the 5-9 guard a team-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds and three steals.
Brickus’ cousin, senior guard Kamau Brickus (11 points), had another steal during that stretch.
“We capitalized on playing gritty and grimey basketball,” Moore said, “and made some key free throws and layups down the stretch to solidify the win.”
Coatesville (9-3, 5-0) outscored Downingtown East 17-7 in the fourth quarter.
That came after Downingtown East (10-1, 3-1) got a big shot from a talented freshman of its own. Andrew King, a 6-6 forward, rattled in a 3-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer, sending the Cougars into the fourth with a 29-28 lead and a loud home crowd reaching its apex.
“When King hit that three, I’m like here we go, down one, going into the fourth in their environment,” Moore said. “I think the key word for us was perseverance. They fought through all the adversity and came out with the win.”
Downingtown East was led by senior forward Ryan Cahill’s 12 points. Malik Slay, a 6-1 junior guard, added nine points and five assists, while King also had nine points. The Cougars, ranked No. 10 in Class 6A in Michael Bullock's latest state rankings, will have to bounce back from their first loss of the season against Avon Grove on Thursday.
The teams will meet once more, at Coatesville on Feb. 2, though not before each plays quite a few other league games along the way.
But as it’s been plenty of times before, the Ches-Mont looks like it’s running through Coatesville yet again.
“I think we’re the outright leaders right now, I’ll take it,” Moore said. “A long season though, with a lot of good teams left to play, but I’ll take the early lead.”