Drew Stover (above) and Upper Dublin won at Haverford High on Saturday to advance in the District 1 6A tournament. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Drew Stover knows the deal: the Upper Dublin senior is going to face every defense’s best shot.
That’s what happens when you’re a 6-foot-7, 245-pound forward who can score inside and out; when you’re committed to play on a basketball scholarship at D-II Millersville. When you’ve topped the 40-point mark in a game, even with all that attention. When there’s no doubt you’re the main reason your team is in the district playoffs to begin with.
So as Haverford High threw everything it could at Stover, trying its best to prevent the Cardinals’ big man from catching the ball with any room to maneuver, Stover knew someone needed to step up. Sophomore guard Colin O’Sullivan knew it, too.
“Coming into the playoffs, I knew they were going to be all over Drew, I knew someone had to step up,” O’Sullivan said. “And after I started hitting a few shots in the first half, I was like ‘yeah, it’s going to have to be me.’”
Behind 24 points from O’Sullivan and 16 from Stover, the Cardinals knocked the host Fords out of the district playoffs, 48-46.
O’Sullivan got rolling in the second quarter, after Haverford held Stover scoreless in a quarter it won 7-6. The 6-foot-tall, 170-pound guard hit all five shots he took in the second stanza, including a pair of right-corner 3-pointers, which drove the Cardinals to a 25-17 halftime lead.
After Haverford (8-6), the No. 13 seed, came back to take a one-point lead going into the fourth, O’Sullivan struck again. Three more fourth-quarter triples helped No. 20 Upper Dublin (12-9) keep pace with Haverford and then finally pull ahead, his last bucket making it 44-41 with 2:20 left. For the game, he was 9-of-11 from the floor, including 5-of-6 from deep.
“I’ve never seen him shoot like that,” Stover said. “It’s great, he came up huge.”
O’Sullivan spent his freshman season at Hatboro-Horsham, where he started all season for a team that won just one game. When his family moved districts in the offseason, he found himself joining a new program and having to integrate himself with new teammates.
He’d had some scoring outings in the high teens, but this was his first high school outing of 20 or more.
“At the end of the first half, I was like alright, I’m doing this, I can score,” he said. “I was off to a slow start scoring and stuff, it hasn’t really been my season, but playoffs, something just clicked and I found a good game to do it.”
“That was his best game as far as timely shot-making, but he’s a phenomenal passer, QB on the football team, leads the team in assists,” UD coach Chris Monahan said. “He makes two or three passes a game where you’re like wow, that was a tough pass.”
Colin O'Sulivan (above) had a career-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
O’Sullivan is one of four sophomores in Upper Dublin’s starting lineup, one of two (along with D.J. Ceresier) who moved districts from Hatboro to UD last year. He also found success on the football field, leading the Cardinals to the District 1 championship as their starting QB.
The Cardinals’ hoops lineup hasn’t always been so young, but injuries have necessitated the movement. Senior starters Anthony Fatiga and Tim Boutilier, as well as junior sixth man Noah Lee, were all watching the game in sweats, different injuries sidelining them at different points in the season.
That left it up to Stover to rally the team, something he had to do as Upper Dublin was fighting just to get into the district playoff field. He did his part, scoring 43 points in a key win over North Penn, one of several big-time scoring performances this season.
“At first, it was pretty tough, we’re obviously really young and sometimes you can tell we don’t have any experience,” Stover said. “But over time, we’ve kind of grown and they’ve gotten the experience they need, and I thought we came out and played a good game.”
Stover’s also grown in his game quite a bit in the last few years. As a freshman at Upper Dublin, he didn’t take basketball seriously enough to try out for the varsity squad and instead played freshman basketball, thinking baseball was going to be his primary sport. But he joined the varsity hoops team the following year and immediately became the Cardinals’ centerpiece, even though he was still only starting to tap his potential.
Playing AAU basketball for the Jersey Shore Warriors (now Philly Pride Gold) going into his junior year proved to be an eye-opening experience.
“I love playing with (Upper Dublin), they’re some of my best friends, but playing with those AAU guys who are college basketball athletes, it’s crazy,” he said. “After that summer, first AAU ball, running pick-and-roll with a couple of those kids and just getting perfect baskets all the time, I just really fell in love with it that summer. I was working on my game twice a day, three times a day, whatever.”
In the two years since, Stover’s expanded his game out to the 3-point arc, though he didn’t hit any from long range against Haverford. He was held to 4-of-8 shooting from the floor, getting half of his 16 points at the foul line, though he did add in 10 rebounds to complete the double-double.
He also sealed the win with a pair of foul shots with six seconds remaining, though Haverford standout senior John Seidman (22 points) knocked down a long-range 3-pointer with a second left for the final margin.
“He’s a skilled big man, he’s backed his game out to the 3-point line where he’s able to knock that down, he’s able to play pick-and-roll basketball with the ball in his hands, he’s able to go left and right,” Monahan said. “But the thing I love is his leadership, he’s a two-year captain.
“He came to us as a sophomore and he was just kinda one of the guys, he was the best player on the team as a sophomore but he was passive. That’s gone way out the door — he is authoritative on the court, he’s authoritative off the court, he makes my job easy, even if I wasn’t there he would get practice running. Having a senior like that is a lot of fun.”
Millersville got involved with Stover earlier this year, looking for a big man to come in behind All-PSAC selection Caden Najdawi, a 6-8 forward from Virginia who averaged 14.8 ppg and 9.0 rpg last year. Marauders head coach Casey Stitzel offered Stover, who went up to visit the school’s campus just southwest of Lancaster, and committed a few weeks later on Feb. 18.
“A big factor for me was being close to home, I want my friends and family to be able to come,” he said. “I wanted a place where I can play but I didn’t want to go in starting, I wanted to go in and get stronger, learn from someone else and then deserve all my time when I get to that point. And I went up and met all the guys, talked to the coaches again and they just seemed great.”
Next up for Upper Dublin is No. 4 seed Garnet Valley in the second round of the district tournament. In a normal year, a win there would be enough to earn a spot in the state tournament, but this season only the district champions across the state will meet for the PIAA title, with the District 1 6A champion getting a direct bye to the state semifinals.
That Upper Dublin is even in the district playoffs was thanks to a last-minute scheduled game against Chester Charter, played on the final day of eligibility, which got the Cardinals into the district bracket at Great Valley’s expense. Stover’s just happy to get whatever he can out of his final season of high school ball.
“I want to go as far as we can,” he said. “I don’t care about getting to the championship, I just want to focus on every game and compete with whoever we compete with.”
Upper Dublin: 6 | 19 | 5 | 18 || 48
Haverford: 7 | 10 | 14 | 15 || 46
Upper Dublin: 16-33 FG (5-11 3PT), 11-15 FT
Haverford: 19-44 FG (5-14 3PT), 3-8 FT
Upper Dublin: O’Sullivan 24, Stover 16, Ceresier 6, Kukla 2
Haverford: J. Seidman 22, Newman 7, Higson 6, G. Seidman 5, Colucci 4, Kraiza 2
District 1 6A First Round
20) Upper Dublin 48, 13) Haverford HS 46
14) Abington 39, 19) Kennett 36
15) North Penn 68, 18) Strath Haven 62
16) Methacton 46, 17) Central Bucks South 38
District 1 6A Second Round
All games Tues., March 9 @ 7 PM; higher seed hosting
1) Cheltenham vs. 16) Methacton
8) Downingtown West vs. 9) Lower Merion
4) Garnet Valley vs. 20) Upper Dublin
5) Perkiomen Valley vs. 12) Pennridge
2) Conestoga vs. 18) North Penn
7) Central Bucks East vs. 10) Boyertown
3) Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. 14) Abington
6) West Chester East vs. 11) Neshaminy