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Downingtown West downs West Chester East in key Ches-Mont clash

01/12/2022, 1:00am EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Downingtown West had so much energy midway through a key Ches-Mont League game against West Chester East, it sprinted off the court at halftime — not once, but twice.

After junior guard Joey Suarez canned a corner 3-pointer just before the second quarter buzzer, the Whippets took off towards the far end of their home court, down the short hallway which leads to their lockers. 

Dylan Blair (above) and Downingtown West secured control of the Ches-Mont National Division by beating WC East. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Then they all had to come back out so the school could honor 2020 grad Will Howard, now the starting quarterback at Kansas State, with his 1,000-point ball. As soon as that ceremony ended, though, the Whippets’ dash was back on, the team almost literally piling into the locker room.

All that momentum came right back out at the start of the third quarter, Downingtown West riding that wave to a 79-61 win over West Chester East to establish its position atop the Ches-Mont National Division.

That was Suarez’s only bucket on the night, but there’s no doubt it was a useful one.

“It definitely gave us a ton of energy,” junior forward Jake Warren said. “When he can just check in like that and give us a big shot, getting the crowd engaged, it’s huge for us.”

Warren and Suarez’s classmate, Dylan Blair, really laid the hammer blow with back-to-back deep 3-pointers early in the third quarter, part of a 12-0 run to open the period that really turned the tide in the hosts’ favor for good.

By the end of the high-scoring (26-18) third quarter, Downingtown West’s lead was 56-44; a 23-point fourth made sure that West Chester East (7-2, 4-1) had no chance at a comeback. Blair kept pouring it on, scoring 20 of his game-high 28 points in the second half; he had three different and-one opportunities, between the third and fourth quarters, and was 3-of-4 from deep in the second half (5-of-8 for the game). 

He was happier afterwards talking about the “huge boost” the team got from some of its role players; junior guard Aidan Primanti hit his first five shots and finished with 15 points, and freshman Donovan Fromhartz popped off the bench for 10 points and six rebounds (five offensive).

“Those types of guys, those gritty guys are really what is behind a team like this,” the son of West Chester University head coach Damien Blair said. “We have big aspirations for ourselves and those gritty-type guys are what we’re going to need as we head into [the] playoffs as well.”

Jake Warren (23) had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Blair and Warren — the Whippets’ lanky junior forward with a St. Joe’s offer — are typically the main draw for West; Warren finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists. Those two are why Whippets coach Stuart Ross challenged his team with the likes of Archbishop Ryan and Archbishop Wood in the non-league, to get them prepared for deep playoff runs.

When they get contributions like they did tonight from the rest of their top 7-8, they’re certainly one of the top teams in District 1 6A. Like the six points and five rebounds they got from Cooper Hardin; the four points, six rebounds and two assists from football star and Penn State-bound Drew Shelton.

“Obviously it helps when you get 12 or 14 from a guy you’re not expecting to,” Warren said, “but it’s the rebounding and the defense, that’s what we talk about every single day in practice, what we pride ourselves on, is rebounding and defending. If you make layups and get stops, you’re going to win games. We preach that and we’re trying to do the best job we can with that.”

Sophomore guard Ryan Price paced West Chester East with 20 points, going 4-of-8 from 3-point range; junior guard Jose Ramos added 14 and freshman guard KJ Cochran 11 for the Vikings, who will have a chance for revenge when the Whippets visit on Feb. 3.

In addition to it being a matchup of the two remaining teams unbeaten in Ches-Mont National play, the game was a key opportunity for Downingtown West in the PIAA’s District 1 6A rankings. 

The Whippets (7-3, 4-0) came into the evening ranked in the high 20s, far lower than a team with district title aspirations wants to be. There’s still plenty of basketball to be played in the last month of the regular season, and they’re aware of that, but also know that the Vikings were a prime opportunity.

By the end of the evening, the score into the District 1 system, the Whippets were already up to No. 13.

“Right now, it’s one game at a time,” Blair said. “Specifically with the league games coming up, our first goal is to win the Ches-Mont and get to the [Ches-Mont] Final Four and then we’ll focus on districts. And where we fall, we fall. Whoever we play, is who we’ve got to beat and to prepare for. That’s where our mindset’s at right now.”

By Quarter
Downingtown West:  14  |  16  |  26  |  23  ||  79

West Chester East:   11  |  15  |  18  |  17  ||  61

Downingtown West: 28-67 FG (9-25 3PT), 14-19 FT

West Chester East: 20-46 FG (7-19 3PT), 14-19 FT

Downingtown West: Dylan Blair 28, Aidan Primanti 15, Jake Warren 11, Donovan Fromhartz 10, Cooper Hardin 6, Drew Shelton 4, Joey Suarez 3, Kelly Bell 2

West Chester East: Ryan Price 20, Jose Ramos 14, KJ Cochran 11, Josh Sherlock 6, Jack Kushner 4, Jack Kelly 3, Jack Gallagher

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