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District 1 5A: No. 3 Unionville outlasts No. 2 Chichester to make district final

02/25/2023, 5:30pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

BOOTHWYN — As Unionville’s Chris Cowles watched Robbie Logan spot up from the far corner of Chichester’s gym for the second time in less than a minute, a thought crossed his mind.

“I was like, is this kid going to do it again?” the Longhorns coach wondered. “As he made the second one, I was like ‘Wow — this is so great for him, and for us.”

Robbie Logan (above) had 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as Unionville beat Chichester in the District 1 5A semifinals. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Logan’s two corner triples were part of a 13-point fourth quarter for the Unionville senior guard, every one of them absolutely crucial as the Longhorns advanced to the District 1 5A championship game, beating the Longhorns 75-72 in a thoroughly entertaining semifinal at Chichester on Saturday afternoon.

Unionville will face undefeated top seed Radnor in the district championship, next Saturday (March 4) at 2 PM, part of a quadruple-header that will see the District 1 5A and 6A girls and boys titles all decided at Temple University’s 10,000-seat Liacouras Center.

“I’m excited,” Logan said. “I’ve never played in a stadium like that, arena like that.”

Logan certainly earned his opportunity, his two fourth-quarter triples coming in succession from the same spot in the corner directly across from the Unionville bench in a game that was as tight as could be down the stretch, in front of a packed and rowdy Chi gym that’s been earnestly supporting its Eagles all season. 

Unionville, which had led by as many as 11 in the third quarter before a 13-0 Chichester lead put the home team up front, responded with a strong close to the third to make it a 55-48 lead going into the fourth. Chichester, forcing six second-half turnovers, battled back to get within a point before Logan’s third and fourth 3-pointers of the day made all the difference.

The first, off a feed from James Anderson with a little more than 90 seconds left, put Unionville up 68-64, though Chichester’s Zaiyin Keys immediately responded with one of his own to get the lead back to one. The next time down the court, Logan found the same spot in Chichester’s zone, caught the pass from Ryan Brown and buried it.

“I prefer the top of the key or the wings, but the corner was the spot tonight,” he said. “They were playing 1-3-1, that’s the sweet spot, it’s wide open. Just [have to] hit it.”

Unionville still had to hang on until the very end. The Longhorns had a four-point edge and the ball with 21.2 seconds remaining but missed a pair from the line, Keys getting fouled on a three and making all of them to get it back to a one-point game with 11.3 seconds left.

Logan, fittingly, knocked down his final two free throws of the evening to put Unionville back up three with under 10 seconds left. Chichester got two 3-pointers off in the final seconds, but both were contested, and the second — from well beyond NBA range — fell short.

“We just said we’ve got to embrace it, the environment and ultimately we needed to stay in the moment and do our job,” Cowles said. “We always emphasize staying in the moment and doing our job and the results will work out, and that’s more or less what happened tonight.”

As evidenced by the final score, Logan wasn’t the only one to have a strong offensive day, on either side. Matching him with 21 points was Brown, the 6-3 junior guard hitting three 3-pointers of his own on a day where Unionville shot 13-of-32 (40.6%) from beyond the arc, 23-of-51 (45%) overall. Anderson, another 6-3 junior, had eight points (two 3s), eight rebounds and seven assists; their classmate, Charlie Kammeier, had 10 points with three 3s of his own.

Chichester (20-4), which won the Del-Val League title for the first time in 30 years and is enjoying one of its best seasons in school history, got 20 points and six rebounds from senior point guard Mazen Sayed before he fouled out in the last two minutes. Keys and his twin brother Akhir Keys each scored 16, Akhir scoring 12 of his in the first three quarters and Zaiyin adding 11 of his in the final frame. Senior forward Eyan Thomas added 10 points and completed a double-double with 12 rebounds, six offensive, as the fourth member of the Eagles in double digits.

The Eagles will face Rustin in a seeding game for the PIAA Class 5A playoffs. Win, and they face the third seed from District 12 in the first round; lose, and they face the second seed from District 3. 

Nick Diehl (above) popped off the bench for 12 points and eight rebounds. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Unionville also benefited from a 12-point, eight-rebound effort from junior forward Nick Diehl, who came off the bench for a pair of and-ones and a put-back layup all in the second quarter, which helped Chichester break an 18-18 tie and take a 41-32 lead into the break. His final bucket, with under a minute to play, put Unionville up 73-69.

“I was just trying to keep doing my job and it led to a few points and some energy for us,” Diehl said, “and we took it from there.

“It feels awesome, this is my first time on a playoff team for basketball, there’s going to be a lot of energy next weekend, it’s going to be super-exciting,” the 6-5 Tulane baseball commit added.

Logan is only in his second year at Unionville, having moved districts from Oxford before his junior season started, taking most of last season to get acclimated to a new program, new teammates, new system, new school.

“It was very much like ‘what can we do with Robbie in the game?,” Cowles said, “because he had to get caught up so quickly.”

“Everyone was just welcoming, just open arms and they just let [me] play free and let me shoot,” Brown said. “They told me to keep shooting, and that’s what I did.”

He’s taken a big step forward this year, helped along by a growth spurt that took him from 5-foot-9 last summer to his current height. Logan’s been serving as Unionville’s sixth man all season, but he’s often on the floor as the clock winds down, one of just two seniors in the Longhorns’ top seven.

His presence has been a big reason Unionville now stands at 22-4 on the season, a win away from capturing a district championship for the first time under Cowles, the former Rustin standout now in his sixth year with the Longhorns, and for the first time since 1981. And colleges have noticed -- Logan said he's been talking to Delaware Valley and Misericordia, but won't make a college decision until after the season.

“He’s been honestly ideal, and he’s taken every opportunity to get better,” Cowles said. “Always in the gym, always getting better, he’s been shooting before school, he’s been in there a lot so I think it’s like — he’s a great kid and [...] we always talk about karma for our team, basketball karma, but I think it’s real to an extent in life, he deserves everything that he’s gotten.”

Unionville will have its work cut out for it in the district championship. Radnor (26-0), which survived a scare from No. 12 West Chester Rustin in its semifinal before pulling away for a 66-52 win, has generally been dominant this season behind its senior core of Jackson Hicke (Princeton), Charlie Thornton, Danny Rosenblum (Rochester) and Cooper Mueller, who led the program to its first Central League title in at least 50 years.

“They haven’t been on our schedule, so we’ll take a look at ‘em,” Cowles said. “We approach each game the same from a preparation standpoint, so we’ll look at Radnor once we get home [...] I know they’re a great team, and we’ll play them next Saturday.”

By Quarter
Unionville:   18  |  23  |  14  |  20  ||  75
Chichester: 18  |  14  |  16  |  24  ||  72

Unionville: 23-51 FG (13-32 3PT), 16-24 FT
Chichester: 24-60 FG (7-20 3PT), 17-22 FT

Unionville: Robbie Logan 21, Ryan Brown 21, Nick Diehl 12, Charlie Kammeier 10, James Anderson 8, George Napolitano 3

Chichester: Mazen Sayed 20, Akhir Keys 16, Zaiyin Keys 16, Eyan Thomas 10, Vince Wildrick 5, DJ Anderson 3, Carlton Gordy 2

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