Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2022-23 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed thus far can be found here.)
It’s been a decade since Chester has been to the PIAA state finals. And the Clippers know it. It’s been over a decade since Chester last won a state championship. And the Clippers know that, too. It’s a highly respected program, the Pennsylvania high school boys’ basketball equivalent to the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Montreal Canadiens.
No other team has won more Pennsylvania state boys’ basketball championships than Chester (eight).
Keith Taylor (above) is entering his sixth year as the Clippers' head coach. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Keith Taylor Sr. will be entering his sixth year as head coach of the Clippers and has been associated with the program for over 25 years. He’s going to be the head coach when the Clippers win their 2,000th game in program history this season. Chester is seven games shy of that iconic mark. Reading is the only other boys’ high school basketball program in Pennsylvania with more than 2,000 school victories and Chester would be the 10th nationally to achieve such status.
Above all the numbers and milestones are winning this year, getting back to Hershey and a state title. The Clippers finished 21-4 overall last season, after winning the PIAA District 1 Class 5A title a second-straight time, before losing to eventual 5A state champion and local powerhouse Imhotep Charter in the state semifinals. Chester will move to Class 6A this season.
The Clippers return a strong nucleus that includes three starters: 5-8 senior guard Breilynd White, 5-10 junior guard Kyree Womack and 6-foot senior guard Terrence Cobb. They’ll be joined by a potential hidden gem, 6-6 junior Dominic Toy, a Division I football player who’s received offers from Rutgers and Boston College, though could also be a Division I basketball player with his athletic ability, 6-5 junior forward Jerry Young, 6-4 junior forward Vince Coleman and 5-9 junior guard Donte Atkinson-Payne.
The Clippers are one of the most poached programs in the area. That continued this season, when they lost a pair of 6-5 junior forwards, Larenzo Jerkins, who transferred to Neumann-Goretti, and Kevin Rucker Jr., who transferred to Bonner-Prendie.
Chester hauls history everywhere it goes. The Clippers last went to the PIAA finals in 2013, when the PIAA still went under the 4A classification, finishing a three-year stretch when Chester reached the state championship. The 2012 Clippers is arguably one of the best high school boys’ basketball teams that ever played in Southeastern Pennsylvania, finishing a perfect 32-0 and winning the state crown led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, highlighting a three-year period in which Chester went 91–5 and won two state titles.
Kyree Womack (above) is entering his third year as a varsity contributor. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
These Clippers are the bearers of some history themselves. They’ve won the Del-Val League five-straight years and carry a 43-game league winning streak into this season, along with an 11-year home winning streak against Del-Val opponents, last losing at home to rival Penn Wood on February 4, 2010.
“What I like most about this team is how young we are,” Taylor said. “These guys know the system and they’re hungry. Everyone knows about Kyree Womack. When Kyree was in ninth grade, he came in and knocked down three-straight foul shots for us in the state playoffs. Kyree wants the ball in his hands in big moments. He made the big shot against Radnor in the District 1 championship against Radnor last year that put the game into overtime. But people don’t know about Terrence Cobb, who was hurt early last year and missed the season.
“Toy could be a Division I athlete in both football and basketball. He took off last year as a sophomore, so not many know about him. He played with us this summer and he’s aggressive, strong, and does everyone we ask him to do. He could play Division I basketball, but he really, really loves football. Dominic still has some football in him, but he’ll get his basketball conditioning up to speed and we’re counting on him being a big contributor. We’re going to count on him to defend inside and rebound, but Dominic has some offensive skills, too. He can score and we’ll feed him the ball inside looking to score.
“I’m expecting the guys we have will do well. The goal is the same every year, winning the state championship. These guys have a chip on their shoulders. They have something to prove to themselves that they can win, and they have something to prove that they can win without the guys that left. There is an attitude with this team that the beat keeps going.”
Senior guard Terrence Cobb will step into a larger role thanks to graduation and transfers. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Chester is noted for its press and suffocating defense. That won’t change. The offense will undoubtedly run through Womack.
He’s ready for that responsibility.
“I expect us to do the same things we did last year,” Womack said. “Dominic Toy and Terrence Cobb come in and will really add to what we do. Offensively, we have to move without the ball and be aggressive. Standing around on offense was an issue last year. We had too many people watching our guards move the ball and not be active. Guys need to realize if they move without the ball and get more involved, and if we do that, we’re going to be hard to guard.
“Personally, I have to play more downhill and be more of a leader. We know Chester history. We know it’s been a long time. If we stick together, we can go very far. We’re good enough to reach the state Final Four. Dominic Toy is going to be factor, a secret weapon, and we have strong senior leaders in Breilynd White and TC (Terrence Cobb). They’re going to keep everyone involved. We’re dogs and we’re going to stay dogs. We’ll create offense off defense, pressuring the ball and getting turnovers.”
Toy feels Chester is being underestimated.
“We know what we have and I’m ready to do whatever needs to be done for us to win,” said Toy, who’s 6-6, 220 pounds and is being projected to be a tight end. “I’m ready to be counted on. I didn’t play last year to focus on getting my body in shape for football. I think my future is in football, but I love playing basketball. I’ve been working on shooting better and I would like to average 15 points a game. I played my freshman year, and I played some varsity time. But I’m looking forward to it. We have the talent to be really good. It’s real important for all of us to get back and win a state title for Chester.”
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 .