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Ches-Mont Playoffs: Henderson, Coatesville set up big-time rematch with semifinal wins

02/10/2024, 11:00pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Unionville rolled into West Chester’s Hollinger Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon with a starting five as tight as any around, with just two losses all season long, then came out as hot as could be in its semifinal against West Chester Henderson.

Henderson head coach Jason Ritter had something else, though — the best player in the gym.

Nyle Ralph-Beyer (above) scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“There were a couple moments that I saw this year where I said ‘we have Nyle and the other team doesn’t,’” Ritter said, “‘and that’s enough.’”

Nyle Ralph-Beyer, the Warriors’ 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard, is one of the best players in all of District 1 for his ability to score at a high clip no matter what. He showed Unionville exactly what he’s capable of with an outstanding second half, powering Henderson to a comeback, 61-58 win in overtime in the Ches-Mont semifinals.

Ralph-Beyer finished with a game-high 30 points, three off his season high, getting 23 of those after intermission. He was a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor in the third and fourth quarters, including hitting the game-tying 3-pointer with 17 seconds left. 

The Sacred Heart commit finished 11-of-15 from the floor and 6-of-9 from 3-point range, plus a couple free throws, adding in four assists in a memorable performance. 

“Had a little bit of a slow start the first half but we just had to keep fighting, and come out strong in the second half,” he said. “They’re a tough team, they’re well-coached, so we just had to come into this game focused and be ready to play, and we did.”

Unionville laid the first hammer blow, a 23-0 run after Henderson opened the scoring with a Ralph-Beyer triple, all five Longhorns contributing during six minutes of dominance. But after going 3-of-4 from deep in the opening quarter, Unionville was 3-of-21 the rest of the way, going 6-of-17 from the foul line, opening the door for a comeback.

Ralph-Beyer answered the call. By the time he got going in the third quarter, Nelson Lamizana (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Connor Fleet (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) had helped Henderson pull within 32-23 at the break. He scored all 13 of Henderson’s points in the third quarter, though it was still a nine-point gap entering the fourth. He added 10 more in the fourth, including the game-tying triple, his final points of the evening.

“Division I players don’t grow on trees,” Ritter said. “Sometimes I just let him [pick], like, what do you want? You tell me how you want to shoot the ball, where you want to shoot the ball on the court.

“I have so much trust in him, [...]  big-time players make big-time shots in big-time games, and that’s what Nyle is.”

In overtime, with Fleet having fouled out, it was junior guard Dylan DeLucia who hit the game’s biggest shot, a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 58-54 with 2:10 to play. Lamizana tacked on two foul shots  before fouling out, and senior Jesse Smith (3 points) added one more with 31 seconds remaining for the game’s final point.

Unionville had one final chance, inbounding the ball from half court with 3.3 seconds left, but a contested 3-point attempt was off at the buzzer.

In the championship game, as Henderson chases its first title since 2007, it gets a familiar face in Coatesville. The two division rivals have split their two meetings this year, and both teams will expect a raucous environment back at West Chester on Tuesday night. 

“Defensively they’re a very tough team,” Ralph-Beyer said, “and we just need to stay composed and stay ready.”

By Quarter
Unionville:   23  |   9   |  13  |   9   |   4   ||  58
Henderson:  9   |  14  |  13  |  18  |   7   ||  61

Unionville: 23-59 FG (6-28 3PT), 6-17 FT
Henderson: 21-46 FG (9-19 3PT), 10-12 FT

Unionville: Nick Diehl 15, James Anderson 14, Ryan Brown 11, James Brenner 11, Charlie Kammeier 7

Henderson: Nyle Ralph-Beyer 30, Nelson Lamizana 14, Connor Fleet 11, Jesse Smith 3, Dylan DeLucia 3


Coatesville clamps down on Sun Valley to get back to final

John Allen was determined not to let Sun Valley sneak up on his Coatesville squad.

The Vanguards had punched their ticket into the Ches-Mont semifinals by virtue of an impressive comeback over Downingtown West in the opening round, part of a strong second half of the season. Allen’s been around the block enough to know that anything can happen, especially in the playoffs, especially against a team playing with house money.

Marquis Peoples (above) hit four 3-pointers in Coatesville's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We know what they can do, we watched the video, we’d seen them come back,” he said. “They're better than what people think, what their record is. We had to match their energy.”

Then Sun Valley came out and scored the first four points. Timeout, Coatesville, one minutes in. 

“We’ve just got to match their energy,” Allen told his team. “They have the momentum, they're coming in from last game with momentum, their fans expect what happened last game to happen this game and we just had to match that, and we weren’t in the beginning.”

Coatesville responded with a 7-0 run, and picked up momentum as the game continued. The score was 25-12 by halftime, 39-22 after three quarters. Sun Valley only scored in double figures in one quarter, the third, and it still lost that quarter by four points. 

The Raiders took advantage of transition opportunities whenever possible but also played patiently against Sun Valley’s 1-3-1 zone, only committing six turnovers all game while they collected 12 assists on 22 buckets. 

Dior Kennedy led the way with 17 points, the senior guard adding four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Sophomore forward Larry Brown added 14 points, three rebounds and two steals, hitting a number of pull-up mid-range jumpers. Senior guard Marquis Peoples added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from downtown.

Allen was pleased with the way his team played as it chases its first Ches-Mont title in seven years, as it makes its first appearance since 2020.

“It’s February, March, it’s championship time and we haven’t been in this position in a long time and these guys are hungry for it,” he said. “We want to be in this position, we want the pressure of being in this position. I thought all of our guys were great tonight.”

Allen was hesitant to give away much in terms of strategic preparations for his team’s third matchup with Henderson. It’s no secret that slowing the Warriors down starts with their big three of Nyle Ralph-Beyer, Nelson Lamizana and Connor Fleet, who combined for 55 of Henderson’s 61 points in their semifinal win. 

“They have three all-league, maybe all-state guys and you know it starts with them, we know it starts with them,” Allen said. “We’ve got to be ready to play against not only them but their intensity.

“They’re going to come out with a lot of energy, we’ve already played them twice, we know each other so well, I’m friends with their coach. We know it’s going to be high-intensity, a high-level game with a big atmosphere.”

By Quarter
Coatesville:  12  |  13  |  14  |  15  ||  54
Sun Valley:    7   |   5   |  10  |   6   ||  28

Coatesville: 22-46 FG (5-14 3PT), 5-12 FT
Sun Valley: 8-30 FG (3-9 3PT), 9-12 FT

Coatesville: Dior Kennedy 17, Larry Brown 14, Marquis Peoples 12, Will Fowlkes 4, Armon Shockley 3, Amon Fowlkes 2, Zuri Harris 2

Sun Valley: Noah Griffin 12, Blaize Eldridge 7, Dino Dimideo 5, Neal Scott 3, Justin Hickman 1

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