Austin Petolillo (@AustinPSports)
James Lewis’ day started off just like any other weekday, as he and his wife dropped off their son, Arion Lewis, at 30th Street Station so Arion could get to school at Valley Forge Military Academy.
One hint that it might not have been like any other weekday: it was Sunday.
No, this wasn’t a typical weekday at all, as James Lewis’ Del-Val squad was getting ready to play Arion Lewis’ Trojans in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals.
And while the son put on a pretty impressive performance, scoring 16 points and grabbing three rebounds, it was his father who got the last laugh on Sunday as Del-Val beat Valley Forge 61-46 and ended his son’s season.
“It was weird for all of us, especially my brother Shawn, who is my assistant coach and Arion’s uncle,” said James Lewis, in his first year at head coach at Del-Val Charter. “My coaching staff had known my son since he was seven years old...it’s so weird, I have all my family members here and they’re rooting for both teams.”
“It was a crazy experience,” Arion Lewis said. “We used to joke about this like us playing against each other and for this to finally come true, it’s crazy.”
It’s not a matchup they ever hoped to see: the two schools are not in the same conference -- Valley Forge is in the Bicentennial, Del-Val in the Public League -- and they’re not even in the same district, with Valley Forge in District 1 and Del-Val in District 12.
The only hope for a meeting between the two would have been in the state playoffs. And it happened.
It was a crazy experience indeed for the Lewis family -- especially for the rest of the clan, who were in a pickle as to what team to root for.
“My wife stays neutral,” James Lewis said. “She cheers for both teams, she had a Valley Forge shirt on with a Del-Val charter jacket over it. She’s a real supporter of Valley Forge, real supporter of what I do so she kind of stayed neutral.”
When Arion had to be dropped off at 30th Street Station in the morning, he had to endure the car ride with his father and soon-to-be-enemy.
“Yeah, he talked a little bit of smack in the car,” Arion Lewis said. “He said ‘we’re gonna beat y’all, but not by that much because you’re my son,’ but I was quiet and I’ll get my revenge next year.”
As for the game itself, Del-Val got out to a scorching start, going on a 10-0 run to start the game thanks to senior guard Mahki Morris hitting the first two Del-Val shots, both being 3-pointers.
“We came out aggressively, that’s how we’ve been playing the last four weeks,” James Lewis said.
Antwuan Butler (above) led Del-Val Charter with 21 points in the win. (Photo: Tommy Smith/CoBL)
By the end of the third quarter, it looked as if Valley Forge was going to make a comeback as they cut the Del-Val lead from as much as 19 to as little as nine points but the duo of senior forward Dion Harris and junior guard Antwuan Butler made sure that a comeback was not going to happen.
Harris notched a double-double, scoring 15 points, hauling in 13 rebounds and was also four blocks away from a triple-double while Butler had a game-high 21 points for Del-Val and also grabbed six rebounds.
Valley Forge was led by Lewis and senior guard Devin Hill who also scored 16 points and had eight rebounds as well.
To say that James Lewis was prepared for Valley Forge’s gameplan would be a total understatement.
“I’ve been to 21 of their games, I was at their practices, I was around with Valley Forge this summer before I got the Del-Val job,” he said.
“So familiarity actually helped because I knew not just my son’s, but all the kids strengths and weaknesses, I knew what they liked to run but it was a great experience.”
Up next for Del-Val is Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA Class 3A semi-finals on Tuesday at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University; the time will be announced on Monday.
As soon as James Lewis dropped his son off at 30th St., they became enemies. Once the game ended and it was time to go home, both James and Arion drove home in the same car and in that very moment, they became father and son once again.