Andrew Carr (above) had 22 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks in West Chester East's district championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Mitchell Gladstone (@mpgladstone13)
Before each game, West Chester East assistant coach Rodney Duncan had a routine.
He’d pull out his silver medal from the 2019 district playoffs and throw it on the ground in the Vikings’ locker room.
It was a reminder — not just of what East had failed to accomplish last season, but also what they were chasing this year.
And 365 days later, the Vikings came full circle, turning silver into gold.
Led by another dominant all-around showing from senior Andrew Carr, West Chester East captured its first title in school history, surging past Penn Wood 67-43 at the Liacouras Center Saturday afternoon in the Class 5A final.
Carr, who scored 9 of the Vikings’ 11 second-quarter points en route to a game-high 22, established himself on the defensive end out of the locker room — the Delaware signee logged five blocks in the third quarter and added a dozen rebounds on the game.
“We were so close last year, and I can’t tell you just how much every day it ate at us,” coach Tom Durant said. “It gave us that fuel. One game at a time, you’re locking in because you just want to get back [to the district final].”
It was more than a matter of getting back. For Carr, in his final high-school season, there was an opportunity to cap East’s rise.
As a freshman, the Vikings finished 3-18. The following season, they improved, but only to 9-14.
Then last winter, East racked up 21 wins in 27 games — yet it came up short in the District 1 title game and went quietly in the opening round of states.
With classmate Tym Richardson back in the fold for a final season, the Vikings were on a mission.
“We’re building a program over here,” Carr said. “I always knew that [winning a district title] was possible, but it definitely became more of a reality these past two years. … It’s just as good of a feeling as I imagined. It’s awesome.”
There was no question which team was the favorite this time at Temple. East had been the top dogs in District 1 5A all season long, losing just twice — at home against Coatesville and then in early January against Malvern Prep.
But Penn Wood came to North Philly with the confidence of a team that had knocked off the district’s second- and third-seeded teams in its last two games. The Patriots stunned Holy Ghost Prep in the quarterfinals before edging Penncrest in a semifinal game Wednesday night, setting up their first trip to a district final in a decade.
And they gave the Vikings trouble early. Penn Wood grabbed an 8-5 advantage in the opening minutes before weathering a 10-5 East run to trail just 20-19 at halftime.
Doing most of the damage for the Pats was senior Shamir Baynes, who scored nine points in the opening 16 minutes. He wound up with 15 on the game but needed 16 shots to do so, a credit to Carr’s control of the Vikings’ paint.
“[Baynes] was ridiculous,” Durant said. “Some of his makes, oh my god — maneuvering around Andrew was just incredible. … I always say, ‘Wow me,’ and that kid wowed me.”
Andrew Carr (15) had five of his six blocks during the Vikings' big third quarter. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
But nobody shined more than Carr on this day, and his presence was felt at every moment. Even amidst a quiet third quarter, the 6-foot-10 forward registered his only field goal with a powerful one-handed dunk right in front of the East student section.
Richardson, who’s seen this ride through alongside Carr, knows how important this moment was for both his longtime friend and the Vikings as a whole.
“It’s an everyday conversation,” Richardson said of not winning last year’s district playoffs. “[Andrew and I] talked about it a lot, every practice. … We came out the way we did in the second half and locked up like we needed.”
Still, it wasn’t all about Carr. Junior Mike Dedda added a dozen points, freshman Jack Kushner put together a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds and junior Kieran Hefferan knocked down a pair of huge triples to seize control of the game in the middle of the third quarter.
If East is going to make a deep run in states, though, it’s going to be on the broad shoulders of their senior leader. That road begins Friday with a matchup against District 3’s No. 8 seed, Gettysburg.
“I never really thought I was going to be able to make such an impact on the program,” Carr said. “It’s a surreal feeling.”
WC East: 9 | 11 | 23 | 24 | 67
Penn Wood: 8 | 11 | 9 | 15 | 43
WC East: 26-54 FG, 8-22 3PT, 7-10 FT
Penn Wood: 17-52 FG, 2-13 3PT, 7-11 FT
WC East: Carr 22, Kushner 13, Dedda 12, Hefferan 9, Richardson 5, Clark 3, Kulp 3
Penn Wood: Baynes 15, Dublin 9, Flynn 8, Johnson 6, Massenburg 3, Purnell 2