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Chichester edges closer to Del-Val title, with one major roadblock left

02/01/2023, 12:30am EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Chichester’s boys took a big step towards reversing a long drought on Tuesday night. To finish off the job, they’re going to have to end one more.

The Eagles haven’t won a Delaware Valley League title — solo or shared — since 1993, the program typically an afterthought in the small league of Delco public schools, which has traditionally been dominated by Chester, with Penn Wood nosing in there on occasion. 

Now it’s Chichester in the drivers’ seat with two games to play, courtesy of a 62-51 win over Penn Wood on Tuesday night at Chichester, but it’s far from a done deal. 

Mazen Sayed (above) and Chichester are two wins away from a solo Del-Val League title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We’re loving it, but the job’s not finished yet,” senior point guard Mazen Sayed said. 

Chichester’s fourth win in a row and 15th in its last 16 games lifted the Eagles to 16-3 on the season and 5-1 in the Del-Val, leapfrogging Penn Wood (12-5, 5-2) with two games left to play in the five-team league, which only plays a round-robin regular season and doesn’t have a postseason.

Beat Academy Park at home on Thursday and Chester on the road next Tuesday, and the league is Chichester’s, and nobody else’s, for the first time in three decades.
That would mean ending another long drought: Chichester hasn’t beaten Chester in nearly 40 years.

“We haven’t beat them in 38, 39 years, something like that,” Sayed said. “So it’s definitely a motivation right there.”

The Eagles aren’t overlooking Academy Park, which hung tough in a 77-67 Chi win at AP on Jan. 17. But the Knights are 4-15 (2-4 Del-Val), and it would be a stunning upset on Chi’s home court. So it seems all but certain to come down to that game with the Clippers — and if you’re going to win the Del-Val, there’s no other program to go through.

“That’s absolutely the way it should always be,” said Chichester coach Clyde Jones, who has plenty of Del-Val experience between stints at Harriton, Penn Wood and now Chichester. “Like if they really want to say they won the Del-Val, it has to come with [beating Chester], because the Del-Val runs through Chester all the time, it’s been Chester’s league for a long time.”

If Chichester beats Academy Park and loses to Chester, the worst it could do is tie for the league title; considering that Penn Wood also closes with AP, it’s plausible that a Chester win in the season finale could lead to a three-way tie. 

That’s far from the Eagles’ preferred outcome.

“We want to win the Del Val by ourselves, we don’t want no tie,” Sayed said. “We’ve got AP and Chester, we’re not going to underrate anybody. We’re good.”

Sayed was at his best in Tuesday night’s win, the 6-foot-1 senior point guard nearly putting up a quadruple double: 18 points, nine rebounds, nine steals and seven assists.

Akhir Keys (2) matched Sayed with 18 points in Chichester's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

He was excellent on both ends, at no time moreso than one stretch in the fourth quarter where he came up with three consecutive steals, feeding classmate Akhir Keys for a layup on the first and third and finishing the second on his own, part of an 8-0 burst that turned a two-point lead into a 52-42 edge with 4:36 left.

“Some guy on the sideline was talking a lot, said I was soft, so I was like alright, I’ve got to prove something to him,” Sayed said.

“He’s been trending up, we’ve been waiting for a game where he was totally in complete control of what he needed to do and what we asked him to do,” Jones said. “I need more games like this.”

Keys added 18 points of his own, including a pair of 3-pointers, the beneficiary of a number of Sayed’s steals and assists. Vince Wildrick, yet another senior in a starting lineup full of them, added 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers and all six of his foul shots in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles trailed 30-29 at the half, but pulled ahead with a 14-7 third quarter, shutting down Penn Wood star senior Nasir Washington after the break; Washington only scored two of his 14 points in the second half, on a pair of fourth-quarter foul shots.

No other Patriot player finished in double figures, though senior forward Mekhi Shillingsford was a force around the basket, with 16 rebounds and five blocks to complement eight points.

But the shots didn’t fall for Penn Wood, which was 16-of-57 (28.1%) from the floor, and 6-of-23 from 3-point range, Chichester forcing 20 turnovers on top of it. 

“We gave (Washington) a couple freebies early, and just really paying close attention to him and keeping them off the o-boards, and I think we did a pretty good job of both of those,” Jones said. “If someone else was going to kill us [by] taking shots, we would have to live with it.”

And so it was the Eagles celebrating on their home floor, in front of yet another large student section, just a few games from finishing a regular season that’s almost certainly one of the best in school history; Jones said he didn’t know if the program had ever been 16-3 before. 

Currently No. 4 in the District 1 5A rankings, Chichester’s going to be in good shape to get a bit to the state tournament, with six teams coming from the district into the state bracket. There might only been three games left in the regular season, but Jones is planning on coaching his successful senior class for quite a few more games.

One thing at a time.

“They put themselves in position to do something they haven’t done in a while, it’s one of our goals, but it’s not there until you do it,” Jones said. “So I don’t want them thinking about until they go out, it’s never anything given to you in the Del-Val. You’ve always got to earn it. And for them, the good thing is, they know they have to earn it.”

By Quarter
Chichester:   14  |  15  |  14  |  19  ||  62
Penn Wood: 12  |  18  |   7   |  14  ||  51

Chichester: 21-67 FG (5-21 3PT), 15-16 FT
Penn Wood: 16-57 FG (6-23 3PT), 13-18 FT

Chichester: Mazen Sayed 18, Akhir Keys 18, Vince Wildrick 14, DJ Anderson 4, Kaiyin Keys 3, Carlton Gordy 3, Hamza Clay 2

Penn Wood: Nasir Washington 14, Sadiq Fountain 8, Mekhi Shillingsford 8, Kivale Clark 7, Prestin Washington 5, Donald Hariston 5, Chris Taylor 2, Jadyen Thompson 2

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