Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)
After a season where Westtown won its third straight Pennsylvania Independent School (PAISSA) state championship and eighth consecutive Friends League Championship, Westtown lost three key seniors: Dereck Lively (Duke), Jameel Brown (Penn State), and Quin Berger (Saint Joseph's) all played major roles in Westtown’s success last season, carrying on the legacy of those who came before them.
Not only did the trio leave a void that needed to be filled in the starting lineup, but losing their leadership may have been a bigger issue. Without them, Westtown needed players to step up. With a young and inexperienced roster, two seniors took on the leadership roles.
Se'yphon Triplett (above) and Matt Mayock are Westtown's two seniors this year. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Matt Mayock and Se'yphon Triplett were the only two returners from Westtown’s team last season. Mayock, an American University commit, and Triplett, a Stonehill commit both felt it was their responsibility to guide this young roster and help continue the success.
After a slow and sloppy start to Westtown’s Friends League opener against Friends Central, the Seniors’ leadership was needed. The duo led Westtown to a strong third quarter, outscoring Friends’ Central by 11, eventually coming out on top 68-55.
“Last year we had three seniors who cared about nothing other than winning, and they held their teammates accountable,” Westtown head coach Seth Berger said. “Matt and Se’yphon saw that leaders should be telling your teammates what they need to hear, not what they want to hear and that's what Dereck, Jameel and Quin did for us last year.”
“We’re trying to do a lot of leading by example,” Mayock said. “Talking during practice, helping them in games, showing them when they mess up what the right readers…then just encouraging them. Making mistakes is okay, they're young, they'll learn from it.”
Being roommates allows the two to communicate different ways they can bring the team closer together. As seniors, it’s their job to keep the team together and make sure they're performing at the standard that’s required at Westtown.
During practices, if the play is sloppy, the seniors have taken it upon themselves to fix things. They’ve told coaches to leave the gym and that they can handle it on their own. It’s not meant to be disrespectful, it’s to show they can deal with issues by themselves and that they’re mature enough to find solutions. Being on the team with Lively, Brown and Berger taught Triplett and Mayock how to handle these tough situations.
During games the younger players look to Mayock and Triplett to set the tone and provide in-game leadership. If Westtown is struggling, the two know how to raise the level of play.
After a first half where the Moose were out of rhythm and making unforced errors, someone needed to bring a spark. The game was tied at 22 heading into halftime with Westtown making just five field goals. That’s when the two seniors stepped up. The duo raised Westtown’s energy and intensity on both ends of the floor.
Triplett’s focus on defense got Westtown going, guarding hard on every possession and locking down the perimeter. On the other end, Mayock ran the offense, improving Westtown’s efficiency, helping them get easier looks. The two combined for 15 of Westtown’s 21 points in the quarter, helping them build a double digit lead going into the fourth quarter. The point guard finished with a team-high 15 points, while Mayock had 14.
“I know points are gonna come but we have to start on the defensive end,” Triplett said “That really made a big difference and even just being a team player finishing at the rim focusing on like, out sets, getting guys involved and making sure their heads are up.”
Triplett hit Mayock on a backdoor cut, when the defense helped, he dished the ball to Matt Gilhool for an emphatic slam during the quarter. Gilhool is another young talent; the 6-10 junior is one of two juniors on Westtown’s roster, along with Malik Rasul. Cameron Wallace, Jayden Forsythe and Jayden Kelsey are sophomores. Triplett was in their shoes last season, reclassing to the 2023 class and spending his junior season learning what it takes to play at a high level.
“It’s their first year on the big stage, I did this last year so I just want to keep them in the loop,” Triplett said. “I act like a big brother, almost just tell them it's gonna be alright, there's going to be ups and downs in games but it’s important to respond.”
Westtown’s inexperience has plagued them at times this season while playing against tougher competition. Mayock and Triplett’s leadership has helped as the team goes through growing pains. Slow starts have been an issue for the Moose this season, but the younger guys are starting to learn what it takes.
“It’s a natural progression when you have the amount of young guys we do,” Berger said. “They're now stepping up to a completely different level. We've played 11 or 12 of those games, against top competition, so I think they're much better than they were in September all across the board.”
Friends Central put up a fight against Westtown, led by Reid Belcher who had a game-high 16 points. Muhsin Muhammad drove the ball hard, finishing with 13 and Liam Foley provided a presence down low with eight points. The Phoenix were without sharpshooting senior Collin Bowman, who had a stomach virus.
Westtown knows it has a target on its back as eight time reigning Friends League champs. The Moose are aware they’re going to get everyone’s best shot, especially this season when the team is inexperienced. Teams like George School, ANC, Friends Select and Friends Central will all be gunning for Westtown, trying to knock them off their pedestal.
“The question was, were we going to be significantly better in the second half of the season or next year,” Berger said. “We're starting to show with this win and with the win against Bella Vista that we have an opportunity to be a really good team the second half of this year.”
Westtown: 12 | 10 | 21 | 25 || 68
Friends Central: 13 | 9 | 10 | 23 || 55
Westtown: Triplett 15, Mayock 14, Forsythe 13, Gihool 8, Kelsey 8, Wallace 7, Rasul 3
Friends Central: Belcher 16, Muhammad 13, Foley 8, Oshodi 6, Green 6, Moore 4, Pierman 2