Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)
BERWYN – Radnor’s continuity has them off to an undefeated start to the season in large part due to their cohesive junior class.
And in Tuesday’s game against Conestoga, one junior, Jackson Hicke, stood out in a matchup atop the Central League standings.
Jackson Hicke (above) had 27 points as Radnor moved to 10-0 on the season. (Photo: Jerome Taylor/CoBL)
Hicke dropped 27 points and had four assists as the 6-foot-5 forward proved too much for the Pioneers, his Raptors closing out a 60-46 win. He was impressive across the board on the offensive end, whether driving and drawing fouls or finding the open man once the defense collapses.
Hicke used an unpredictable couple of years (which included a 4-8 COVID-19 shortened season) to become stronger, and he’s seeing the results this year; he’s averaging 18.8ppg and 6.6rpg according to the team’s stat book.
“I think quarantine actually helped a lot. It was just an opportunity to get bigger, I grew a little bit which always helps,” Hicke said about his jump in production. “I mean mid-range has probably been the weakest part of my game, so I really worked at that and going up off the dribble has added a whole other level to my game, and it opens things up for everyone, not just me.”
And though his behind-the-back dribble pull-up from mid-range might’ve garnered attention early in the first quarter, his standout skill in Tuesday’s win over Conestoga (6-3, 4-2 Central League) was his 3-point shooting.
Hicke got started from deep early in the game, drilling two threes before the Raptors (10-0, 6-0 Central League) went into the locker room with a 26-17 halftime lead. But in the second half, when things got rocky for the Raptors, Hicke made his biggest impact on the game.
Early in the third quarter, the Pioneers made a run largely on the back of the 6-11 senior Michael Walz after the Richmond commit converted an and-one to give the Pioneers a 30-29 lead.
But the very next possession, Hicke came down the court and drilled a three from right inside half-court. And after a stop on the other end, the Raptors found him again from a similar distance, and Hinke provided the same result.
“Jackson has become one of the most confident players I know,” junior Charlie Thornton said. “Just knowing he can knock down those shots, and he’s shooting from deep, and his confidence has brought him to the next level.”
“I took a three, it felt good, so I just kept firing until I missed,” Hicke said. “My teammates did a great job finding me where I needed to be, and it really boosted our momentum, and we didn’t turn around.”
Hinke’s second deep three forced Pioneer coach Mike Troy to call a timeout. The Pioneers' defense started to key on Hinke in the second half, and that’s when his classmates stepped up.
Depending on the situation, Hinke could be sharing the court with three classmates he’s played basketball with since second grade (Thornton, Nick Monty, and Danny Rosenblum), contributing to the team’s camaraderie this year.
“I think we’re really honest with each other, we trust each other,” Thornton said about the closeness of the team. “If we see something that one of us think was wrong or if we think we can do something better we all know it’s coming from a place of love and because we know each other so well there’s no animosity between us.”
“I think one of the most underrated parts of teams is kids wanting to play with one another, and that’s been kind of building with this group over the past few years,” Radnor head coach Jamie Chadwin said. “They trust each other, they can talk to one another the right way, they’re not afraid to express themselves, and that’s great basketball-wise but it speaks to them as young men and the character they have, and then that transfers over to their play.”
Charlie Thornton (above) showed off his improved 3-point abilities with a pair of triples. (Photo: Jerome Taylor/CoBL)
Against Conestoga, Thornton provided the supplemental scoring, with 11 points, including two 3-pointers and a finish along the baseline that came off a Hicke pass to ice the game.
“He hit two big 3’s, you got to respect (his three-point shooting) now; he couldn’t really do that as a freshman,” Hicke said about Thornton’s development. “He really worked at it, so props to him. It totally changes our game because now we have five kids out there who can just nail 3’s.”
More importantly, Thornton was the focal point of the team’s defense on Tuesday, serving as the first line of defense against Walz. Thornton was a pest all night against the Pioneers, making entry passes difficult for them while he fronted the big man who has six inches and at least 65 pounds on him.
Radnor threw double teams from different angles to keep Walz off-balance all night.
“I thought we did an awesome job… Charlie and Nick Monty did a great job fronting him and working their butts off to keep (Walz) contained,” Hicke said.
Walz still impacted the game (10 points, seven rebounds, two blocks), but it wasn’t enough for the Pioneers, who’ll head to Penncrest on Friday as they try to hold on to the fourth position in the Central League.
And now, with a 6-0 conference record, the Raptors have set up a battle for a share of the top spot in the Central League when they take on Haverford High on Friday, who sports a 6-0 conference record of their own.
“I think there’s a fine line between saying ‘we’ve got a great start to the first half of the season’ and then also being in that mode of one-game streaks,’” Chadwin said. “We’re now at a point where it's let’s go through our scout, let’s work on execution and the next goal that’s in front of us, and for us right now that’s Haverford.”
Radnor: 10 | 16 | 14 | 20 || 60
Conestoga: 6 | 11 | 18 | 11 || 46
Radnor: Hicke 27, Thornton 11, Mueller 11, Rosenblum 7, Justice 4
Conestoga: R. Mackey 12, Walz 10, Erickson 8, Carew 6, Dembele 4, Todd 3, Styer 3