Kamau Brickus (above) and Coatesville captured their second consecutive Ches-Mont championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
With 21.9 seconds displayed on the clock at Downingtown West and the period marker displaying “5,” indicating overtime, two things were on the line.
One was Coatesville senior guard Kamau Brickus.
The other was the Ches-Mont League championship.
It had been a rough night for the Raiders from the foul line, including a miss with under a second left in regulation, so Brickus took an extra few seconds to compose himself.
“Just make my free throws and get out of here,” he said of his thoughts at the moment.
Then he lined up, and calmly sank both, with a timeout coming in between.
Those foul shots put Coatesville up six on Bishop Shanahan, and when those final seconds finally ticked down a couple of minutes later, it was Brickus who finished things off with a steal-and-layup to deliver a 43-37 victory and back-to-back Ches-Mont titles.
“Feels great -- back-to-back, it’s a wonderful feeling,” the 5-foot-9 senior guard said. “We put so much work in over the summer and the preseason and now it’s paying off.”
It was an ugly, hard-fought contest, a defensive struggle that wasn’t over until Brickus picked off a Shanahan pass with seven seconds remaining, at first looking to dribble the ball to the perimeter in anticipation of a foul; then, after realizing the Eagles weren’t fouling, he took it in for the last of his nine points.
Though it’s the second consecutive year that Raiders head coach Chuck Moore was celebrating with his team at the conclusion of the league championship, it’s a far different group than the one who took it home a season ago.
Hassan Young (game-high 16 points), who hit a decisive 3-pointer with 2:36 left in overtime to break the 33-33 tie and put Coatesville up for good, didn’t see a varsity minute last year. Neither did freshman Jhamir Brickus, who had six points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals; he’s one of several rookies who’ve played key minutes for the Raiders this season.
Kamau Brickus -- Jhamir’s older cousin -- is the only senior in the starting lineup.
“I think it’s good for the community, with a lot of things going on in Coatesville, it’s always good to have a good story,” Moore said. “I’m proud of our fan support that came out, the community, they’re excited.
“For us, that was our second goal,” the former P-W and Vanderbilt standout continued. “First one was to win the conference division, second one was the Ches-Mont. We’re not going to stop here, second goal accomplished and we’re looking forward to competing in the district.”
Coatesville (20-4) is the No. 4 seed in the District 1 6A bracket, where next Tuesday they’ll play the winner of Friday’s Downingtown West/Pennridge matchup.
They’ll certainly need better offensive outings if they want to advance to the district semifinals at Temple or final at Villanova -- same thing for Bishop Shanahan, the No. 4 seed in the 5A bracket.
Coatesville shot 14-of-50 (28 percent) from the floor. Shanahan shot 11-of-44 (25 percent). The Raiders were 3-13 from the 3-point line and 12-of-23 from the foul line; Shanahan was 2-for-16 and 13-for-21, respectively.
Shanahan (17-6) had a 24-18 lead at halftime but made just two of 20 shots in the second half and overtime.
"I wish we played a little better on offense, but they’re so tough defensively, they make you play a little weaker than you usually are,” Eagles coach Ken Doyle said. “We didn’t really run any offense all night, we played into their hands too much and allowed them to do what they wanted to do.”
Junior forward Kevin Dodds led Shanahan with 12 points and six rebounds, including a 3-point play with 15 seconds left in overtime to cut Coatesville’s lead to three. Thomas Ford, a 6-4 junior added five points, six rebounds and three assists.
With three starters back next year -- junior point guard David Angelo is the third -- Shanahan has a new bar set after having previously never reached the Ches-Mont playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys so hopefully we can turn it around again next year,” Doyle said. “This was a good thing to get to the finals, but we wanted to win, we set a goal a few months ago when we started that we really wanted to play for it. It’s tough, but hopefully we learn going forward and we learn that we’ve got to execute better.”
Regulation was an emotional roller-coaster of 32 minutes.
Shanahan jumped out to an early 7-2 lead and had the lead for the vast majority of the first half, getting just enough buckets around the swarming Coatesville defense to take a six-point lead into the break.
The Raiders got it going with two quick buckets out of the break, and went on a 10-0 run that lasted most of the third quarter before the Eagles scored four points on foul shots to leave them tied at 28-28 going into the fourth.
In the final period of regulation, Coatesville took a 33-32 lead on a Jhamir Brickus 3-point play with under three minutes left before Shanahan tied it on a single foul shot with 60 seconds to play.
The Raiders turned it over with 15 seconds left; Shanahan got a shot off with five seconds left which was rebounded by Coatesville, who got fouled with 0.5 seconds on the clock. But the free throw was no good, sending it to overtime.
“Every game from here on out is going to be like this, it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere, it’s going to be a dogfight,” Moore said. “If we don’t maximize ourselves defensively, we’re not going to be in too many games. And obviously it was an emotional halftime speech, but they came out, they executed so I’m proud of them, they earned it.”