Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Jackson Hicke needed a cut man with swabs behind the ears Friday night. The lithe 6-foot-5 Radnor junior is a walking weather vane that looks like he may not stand up to a strong wind. They see him, they skin and bones. Don’t make that mistake. It’s easy to belie the grit underneath by his cool demeanor and choir boy appearance.
Jackson Hicke (above) and Radnor handed Haverford High its first league loss on Friday night. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
It was right there in crimson speckles that dotted his white Radnor uniform, all over his arms and even behind his left leg. You couldn’t miss the blood that spouted from his left nostril that forced him to sit during a portion of Radnor’s Central League showdown against visiting Haverford High School.
When he had to bear down, Hicke did. With a wad of gauze up his nose looking like he just went 10 rounds, Hicke calmly nailed four free throws in the closing minute to secure Radnor’s 43-40 victory over Haverford.
The game was an instant classic, with nonstop ebbs and flows. And may pay dividends for both teams being a part of an up-tempo pressure cooker, which literally forced every basket to count.
The victory improved Radnor to 7-0 in the Central League and 11-0 overall, while Haverford lost its first league contest, falling to 6-1 and 8-2.
As far as anyone on the Radnor side knew, this is the longest Radnor has gone undefeated in a season in at least 20 years.
On Friday night, it was Hicke who played a huge role, scoring six of 13 points in the fourth quarter, in support of teammate Charlie Thornton’s team-high 14. Haverford’s Googie Seidman led all scorers with 19, and at times was unstoppable.
Haverford High junior Googie Seidman (above) had 19 points
to lead all scorers. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
It was the closest game Radnor played this season, overcoming a horrid start, turning the ball over eight times in the first quarter and trailing 5-0 at the outset, and down by as much as 18-7 in the second quarter.
Hicke was not much of a factor in the opening half—and he knew it.
“I was frustrated in the first half, and I felt I couldn’t get the ball and I wasn’t where I should be,” Hicke said. “Halftime was a great chance to reset. My teammates kept encouraging me and I got to my spots. Everyone else chipped in and we won.
“This was the closest game we played this year. It came down to knowing whether or not we were ready to play in a tough game like this. I never had a game like this.”
Like a gushing bloody nose with 5:52 left to play and Radnor trailing, 35-32, when every point coming at a premium.
“There was blood everywhere, but there was no way I was coming out,” Hicke said. “I may not be the most intimidating person, but there is a toughness about this team. We have the mindset to fight through it. I had to fight through it in the second half.”
The game was like a great back-and-forth brawl. Haverford would score, Radnor would counter, and they would parry back and forth, diving for loose balls, elevated scrums under the basket, jostling for rebound positioning.
Radnor coach Jamie Chadwin (above, right) and junior wing Charlie Thornton confer during a timeout. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Radnor head coach Jamie Chadwin looked like he could run a marathon after the game.
“We really hadn’t had this kind of adversity until tonight, and we responded,” Chadwin said. “Haverford is an excellent team, and Keith Heinerichs is an excellent coach. We needed to relax and find our rhythm, because they put offensive pressure on us.
“And we have Jackson. We know how tough he is. When Jackson walks into a gym, people may not see him as someone imposing, but Jackson is incredibly intelligent, and he knows how to compose himself. This group feeds off each other and respect one another.
“That’s where Jackson gets his toughness. This team is tough.”
Trailing 37-34 with 3:54 left, a pair of Thornton buckets changed that. A Thornton trey with 2:45 left tied it, followed by a driving layup with 1:48 remaining gave the Raptors a 39-37 edge.
That’s when Hicke emerged from central casting to nail the game-sealing free throws.
“You have to do the little things, and we didn’t do the little things the whole game,” Heinerichs said. “I want a lot of plays back. In the fourth quarter, we had some layups that had to go down. As coaches, as players, we all have to get better.”
Radnor certainly gained more than just a victory.
“We needed to face this adversity,” Thornton said. “This means so much for us, to start slow and came back together as a team shows what we can do. We knew at halftime we had to dig down and make defensive stops. It showed what we can do under that pressure. This was a fight.”
Jackson Hicke wore the blood to prove it.
“My mom will wash it,” Hicke said. “I just hope the blood comes out.”
Haverford: 13 | 9 | 9 | 9 || 40
Radnor: 5 | 14 | 13 | 11 || 43
Haverford: Googie Seidman 19, Nick Colucci 8, Tommy Wright 5, Colin Reynolds 5, J.R. Newman 3
Radnor: Charlie Thornton 14, Jackson Hicke 13, Cooper Mueller 11, Pierce Justice 5
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.