Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)
CHESTER — It hasn’t taken Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui long to adjust to his new surroundings. The strong junior guard transferred from Sankofa Freedom this summer, and has wasted no time becoming a key part of West Catholic’s rotation early on in the season.
“I’ve adjusted fast, it hasn’t been hard at all,” Wilbanks-Acqui said.
Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui (above) has fit into a deep West Catholic rotation early in the season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
A big part of his adjustment in the new setting was his familiarity with some of the players on West Catholic. Wilbanks played his travel ball this summer with the Adidas-backed K-Low Elite program, which counts West Catholic’s Kareem and Kaseem Watson (Cal-State Bakersfield) as well as Zion Stanford on its rosters.
Wilbanks spent the summer traveling around the country with K-Low playing in big AAU events, so he already had a strong connection with his now-high school teammates when he began playing with them in events over the summer and into the fall.
“We all just click,” Wilbanks said. “We all go hard at practice and push each other, so it clicks easy.”
Wilbanks-Acqui started on Thursday against Plymouth Whitemarsh in the final of four games at Widener University, but that isn’t always the case. Coming off the bench doesn’t prevent him from having a big impact, and his attitude above all else is what’s stood out to his coach so far this year.
“If he doesn’t have the character he has, then he probably has an issue with him, maybe not starting, but that’s not the case,” Burrs head coach Miguel Bocachica said. “He’s very selfless, and I’m glad to have him.”
The junior took advantage of being in the starting five against PW, scoring 13 points, only missing one of his seven shots from the field. A 6-foot-3 off-guard, Wilbanks likes to get downhill and knows how to finish through contact, giving defenders a different look since he’s left handed.
“I like bullying guards that are smaller than me,” he said.
Playing in the Public League, Wilbanks-Acqui is used to playing at a faster, more frenetic pace and he knows that he can use his physicality to his advantage. West Catholic is a team that likes to get up and down the court quickly, attacking teams in transition to get easy buckets, so it’s not a surprise Wilbanks doesn’t look rushed with his new team.
“You get the ball in his hands and he pushes it up the court and he makes things happen,” Bocachica said. “It’s not like he’s taking shots he can’t take or making plays he can’t make: he sees an open teammate, he makes the pass; he sees the rim, he makes a layup.”
Wilbanks along with teammate M.J Branker, who also comes off the bench, give West Catholic good depth that Bocachica feels a lot of other teams don’t have the luxury of having.
“I feel like we have seven starters,” Bocachica said, “On any given day those guys can start for a program in our league, but they’re selfless, they wait their turn and when their number’s called, they’re ready to go.”
Depth is important in such a tough league like the PCL where the Burrs are expected to have a big season. West went 6-4 in the Catholic League last season, but they return a lot of their key contributors from last season. They’re off to a strong start this season going 5-0, thanks to strong play from Wilbanks, the Watson twins and Zion Stanford, who had 16 points against P-W.
West Catholic made things difficult for the Colonials who struggled to get anything going on offense. Sophomore point guard Jaden Colzie finished with 11 points for P-W, hitting three triples, while Quadir Bennett also had 11. The Colonials struggled to hit shots and turned the ball over a lot which helped give West Catholic easy looks in transition.
WC: 14 I 15 I 25 I 10 II 64
PW: 12 I 7 I 10 I 8 II 37
W.C: Stanford 18, Wilbanks-Acqui 13, Branker 9, Ks. Watson 8, Clark 6, Cole 5, Griffin 4, Kr. Watson 3
P.W: Colzie 11, Bennett 11, Sayles 6, Baker 5, Z. Hubbard 2, Flynn 2
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
In other action Thursday…
Mandon Seapoe (above) and Bonner-Prendergast beat Salesianum in the opener. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Bonner-Prendergast 54, Salesianum (Del.) 40
The Friars started the day off on the right foot for the Catholic League, jumping out to a nine-point lead after one quarter and holding off the Sallies the rest of the way in their 14-point victory.
Salesianum (1-6) was without one of its top players, senior Justin Molen, out for the next week or so with a lower-body injury. Without the versatile 6-7 forward on the floor, Bonner (3-2) was able to get to the rim at will, especially in transition — where they got often, thanks to a dozen steals.
Senior guard Shakur Smith led the way with 21 points for Bonner, including 11 in the final quarter to help Bonner maintain its double-digit advantage. His classmate, Mandon Seapoe, added eight points, six rebounds and six assists, while sophomore wing forward Deuce Ketner finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
Bonner: 13 | 12 | 12 | 17 || 54
Sallies: 4 | 10 | 10 | 16 || 40
Bonner: 24-37 FG (2-9 3PT), 4-11 FT
Sallies: 15-54 FG (1-17 3PT), 9-11 FT
Bonner: Smith 21, Ketner 11, Seapoe 8, Saunders 7, Lee 5, Egan 2
Sallies: Thomas 9, Walsh 8, Hynson 6, B. O’Hara 6, Williams 6, Q. O’Hara 3, Harmon 2
Jaron McKie (above) led all scorers in the event with a 27-point showing against Lincoln. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
St. Joseph’s Prep 67, Lincoln 66
A wild, back-and-forth affair, this one had a fitting ending that likely had both coaching staffs gaining a few more gray hairs.
Prep led by five within the final minute, but that advantage was just a point with under five seconds left with the Hawks at the line. Those didn’t drop, and Lincoln got the rebound, throwing a half-court pass to try and set up a heave — but the Railsplitters were fouled at midcourt with 0.4 seconds on the clock.
Given one final opportunity to steal a win or force overtime, Lincoln couldn’t connect on the first shot, and committed a lane violation on the second, and St. Joe’s Prep escaped.
The Hawks (4-1) got a terrific offensive showing from freshman guard Jaron McKie, who was 8-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the foul line for a 27-point outing. The 6-2 guard and son of Temple head coach Aaron McKie was 4-of-5 from deep and didn’t force the action, coming up with a big tip-back of one of his few missed shots to make it a 67-62 game with 58 seconds to play.
Sophomore Jalen Harper picked up a double-double for St. Joe’s Prep with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore forward Tristan Guillouette had nine points and 11 rebounds with two blocks.
Lincoln (2-3) got four players in double figures: sophomore guard NaSeem Wright had 16 points and four rebounds; junior point guard Rashan Locke-Hicks had 13 points, five steals and four assists; senior Tamir Powell had 12 points, six assists and four steals; senior forward Aymere Thomas had 12 points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
SJ Prep: 20 | 15 | 14 | 18 || 67
Lincoln: 11 | 13 | 15 | 27 || 66
SJ Prep: 19-44 FG (6-10 3PT), 23-35 FT
Lincoln: 20-60 FG (6-18 3PT), 20-29 FT
SJ Prep: McKie 27, Harper 14, Vargas 7, Brown 4, Gaffney 4, Chamberlain 2
Lincoln: Wright 16, Locke-Hicks 13, Thomas 12, Powell 12, Trout 4, Martin 3, Montgomery 2, Davis 2
Aamir Hurst (above) and Neumann-Goretti held off Collegium Charter, 54-40. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Neumann-Goretti 54, Collegium Charter 40
By all measures, this one should have been a runaway for Neumann-Goretti, one of the Catholic League favorites, who boasts no fewer than six Division I prospects in their top eight, even with senior Masud Stewart not available for this one.
So credit to Collegium Charter for not just hanging around but putting a legitimate scare into the Saints, who led by only six going into the fourth quarter before getting just enough shots to fall to create some distance in the closing minutes.
Sophomore Robert Wright III finished with 18 points for Neumann-Goretti (4-1), the talented lead guard recovering from a rough third quarter (0-7) to score six points in the fourth, while his classmate Amir Williams (8 points) contributed a key corner 3-pointer. Senior Aamir Hurst, starting in Stewart’s stead, was 8-for-8 from the foul line to help him to 15 points.
Collegium Charter (2-1) was paced by a 12-point outing from junior guard Dinero Washington and 11 from freshman guard Amon Fowlkes, who hit three 3-pointers.
Neumann: 14 | 21 | 6 | 13 || 54
Collegium: 12 | 11 | 12 | 5 || 40
Neumann: 19-50 FG (4-15 3PT), 12-19 FT
Collegium: 16-52 FG (4-17 3PT), 4-6 FT
Neumann: Wright III 18, Hurst 15, Williams 8, Adewale 5, Bevilacqua 4, Smith 2, Myers 2
Collegium: Washington 12, Fowlkes 11, Warren 7, Jackson 6, Smith 2, Mack 2