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Donofrio Classic Report: Thurs., April 11, 2024

04/12/2024, 10:30am EDT
By CoBL Staff

By CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

CONSHOHOCKEN — The 2024 Donofrio Classic finished off its quarterfinal round on Thursday night, two lopsided wins setting up the field for Monday's semifinal round. 

CLICK HERE to access our full Donofrio 2024 coverage page; here’s a report from Thursday night’s games:


Jake West goes up for a dunk Thursday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Game One: M-Sport 134, Philly Hoop Group 96

With Philly Hoop Group missing two of its potential stars in Thomas Sorber (Archbishop Ryan) and Ahmad Nowell (UConn), M-Sport had no problem rolling into Monday’s semifinal round, setting up a matchup with Team Awesome at 7 p.m.

Northeastern commit Ryan Williams (2024 | Malvern Prep) followed up Tuesday’s 26-point outing with 31 points, including 22 in the first half as M-Sport jumped out to a 71-40 lead. Jake West (2025 | Penn Charter) had another big night with 23 points, and Miami (Fla.) commit Jalil Bethea (2024 | Archbishop Wood) put on a show at times during a 21-point, nine-assist outing. Zaahir Muhammad-Gray (2026 | Imhotep Charter) had 25 and Kodi Johnson (2025 | Phelps School) had 24 for Philly Hoop Group.

Game Two: Friends of Dave Oldfield 107, Keystone Blazers-Philly Blaze 87

Friends of Dave Oldfield booked its spot in the second semifinal against Positive Image on Monday at 8:30 p.m. with another dominant tournament win. Owen McCabe (2024 | Lower Merion) and Matt Gardler (2025 | Marple Newtown) led the way with 19 points apiece, combining for nine 3-point makes. 

Jaden Murray (2024 | Archbishop Ryan) added another 17 points for Friends of Dave Oldfield with Deacon Baratta (2025 | Phoenixville) chipping in another 14. Gannon commit Rocco Morabito (2024 | Archbishop Ryan) tallied 11 points and seven assists. R.J. Smith (2026 | Imhotep Charter) had 24 points for the Blazers with Mike Green (2025 | Archbishop Wood) adding 15.


Owen McCabe continues hoops journey at Penn State Behrend

What started out as a dream has now become a reality for Owen McCabe.

The Lower Merion senior guard is coming off of a great season. He received first team All-Central League honors and also played a big part in getting the Central League title back to Kobe Bryant gymnasium, along with a District 1 championship.

The 5-10 guard averaged 15.5 points per game this season, most of that coming from catch-and-shoot triples or creative finishes around the rim. He's now readying for a college career at Penn State-Behrend.

Lower Merion senior Owen McCabe recently committed to Penn State-Behrend. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“Playing college basketball is a dream come true, I’ve been playing since a little kid, it’s gonna be fun to play up there (Penn State Behrend) for the next four years," McCabe said. "I’ve been trusting my work, I put work in over the summer with all the coaches, I put work in all throughout the season as well. I just love basketball."

Penn State Behrend is located in Erie, Pa. which is a little more than a six-hour drive to the western side of Pennsylvania compared to a 20 minute drive to Immaculata; the other school McCabe considered to continue his basketball journey at. A big part of the college decision for McCabe was his location but luckily for him he’s got some connections in the Pittsburgh area. 

“My mom’s from Erie so it’s like a 45-minute drive for her. Most of my grandparents live up there so they’ll be at most of the games. With family being there that played a huge part even though Immaculata was closer,” McCabe said. 

McCabe’s relationship with basketball and his teammates continued to grow on Thursday night after a quarterfinal win. McCabe is playing in the Donofrio Classic for the first time, partnering with Lower Merion teammates and former CYO teammates on the Friends of Dave Oldfield squad. 

“It’s been amazing. We just put this group together before the tournament and it’s just fun to see how it’s working out," McCabe said. "Me and (John) Mobley have known each other since first grade, I’ve known Billy (Rayer) and Rocco (Morabito) my whole life, I’ve been playing with Adam (Herrenkohl) all season, it’s a group of guys that I’ve known forever.”

McCabe is a big reason why the chemistry and ball movement have been so on point, the ability to space the floor has been very effective for his semifinal-bound squad. Despite this, McCabe already knew what to expect heading into the single-game elimination tournament. 

“I used to come here all the time, I remember Zay Wong and Bones Hyland, I’d come here and watch them," McCabe said. "It’s just fun playing in it now and getting a feel for it. The environment is different, it’s a small court, it’s hot here, but we're playing against great competition so it’s been fun." — Kevin Gamlin


Jacksons continue to keep Pottstown in the spotlight

Abdul and Sadeeq Jackson (2024 | Pottstown) are keeping the best Pottstown season in recent history alive a little longer. The All-Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division selections are playing in the Donofrio for the first time, getting the chance to share the court with the best players in the area — something not many Trojans have had the chance to do in the last decade or so.

“It’s good to put on, us two, for Pottstown, keeping the Town alive after the season that we had,” Sadeeq said. “It’s good to come out here and represent the Town well.”

Pottstown senior Abdul Jackson, above, and his brother Sadeeq are keeping alive a terrific season for the Trojans. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Jackson brothers were the stars the last two seasons for Pottstown. They helped the Trojans win a PAC playoff game for the second year in a row this winter before winning a district playoff game and reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2008.

It was a return to tradition for a program that has accomplished plenty in its history. The hope is that continues to trickle down to the next generation of Pottstown players, including their younger brother Jahmir, who was there to watch on Thursday night. 

“If they put in the work and get in the gym, they can be better,” Abdul said. “They just gotta grind and continue to play.”

The two older Jackson brothers have played together throughout their lives — a trend they aren’t sure will continue or not next season. Both are hoping to go to college and play. Sadeeq would be excited to team up again, while Abdul is thinking about doing his own thing.

Getting an opportunity to play college hoops would add onto their accomplishments for the Pottstown boys basketball program.

“It’s definitely good to let people in Pottstown know it’s possible, giving the young people hope that it’s definitely possible to do the things we do,” Sadeeq said. “Just put in the hard work, and we’re setting good examples being leaders for the younger group.”


Wood’s defensive stopper Howell getting attention

Tahir Howell waited three years for his turn, unable to crack the varsity rotation at Archbishop Wood as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

“It was a little disappointing, but I looked at it in the best way,” Howell said. “I got to see how this really is. Luckily I got three years to prepare for it, and once my time came I took full advantage of it.”

His time finally came this winter, finding his own way onto the floor in another star-studded lineup for the Vikings.

The 6-foot-4 guard wasn’t the star scorer or a sharpshooter this winter, mostly an afterthought on the offensive end behind weapons like Jalil Bethea, Josh Reed, Deuce Maxey, Milan Dean and Mike Green. 

Archbishop Wood senior Tahir Howell has multiple options for the next level. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Instead he found his niche as the defensive stopper to earn a spot in the starting five, matching up against the likes of Imhotep’s Ahmad Nowell and Archbishop Ryan’s Darren Williams on a nightly basis.

“I loved it,” Howell said. “I love to be one of the few people who don’t do the normal things on my team. Just the fact that I was able to play and contribute on defense, that means a lot to me.”

While Howell averaged 3.7 ppg, his abilities didn’t go unnoticed with coaches at the next level recognizing his ability to help their program. Immaculata, Penn State-Abington, Penn State-Brandywine and Neumann are the schools currently interested. 

They like the fact that he’s comfortable in his role.

“They say I bring a defensive presence,” Howell said. “That’s gonna come naturally, and then my offense is gonna develop. When I come in wherever I go, all I want to do is bring my defense, get with my teammates and my offense will come.”

Quick Hits

Nelson Lamizana (2024 | West Chester Henderson) had plans of a prep year heading into his senior campaign and is sticking with that route. 

The 6-foot-8 forward visited SPIRE Academy and Phelps School and is working on a visit to the Perkiomen School next week.

“Just getting overall better, and then get acclimated to being in college already because it’s going to be the same,” Lamizana said of his goal for the prep year. “There’s gonna be a dorm there, working out with the team at 6 a.m. and all that. … Getting ready for college basically.”

Lamizana started his career at Henderson then spent his junior season at Bonner before returning to the Warriors this season and averaging 14.6 ppg, 8 rpg and 1.5 bpg for the Ches-Mont runner-ups.

He and classmates Nyle Ralph-Beyer (Sacred Heart) and Connor Fleet (who said he is deciding between Eastern and Widener) followed through on the promise they showed as middle schoolers with one of the best seasons in the program’s history.

Along with getting ready for college, his goal will be to keep winning at the next level.

“I’m just focused on winning,” Lamizana said. “The more you win, the more everybody eats and I guess I’ll get recognized for the stuff I’m already doing and overall just getting better.”

He will play with Philly Pride again this summer before his next stop.

Haverford senior Billy Rayer is enjoying his team's Donofrio run. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Billy Rayer (2024 | Haverford School) got to the second round of Donofrio last year with Flocco’s, but he’s savoring a deeper run this time around with Friends of Dave Oldfield. The 5-9 sharpshooting guard knocked down a pair as part of a 10-point outing on Thursday night, and suddenly he and his teammates are two wins from an improbable title. 

“This event’s awesome,” he said. “I grew up coming to this, my dad brought me to this, saw some great games, great players here. It just means a lot to be in the final four of this, making a run.”

Rayer had his best high school season yet as a senior, playing a starting role on a Fords squad that despite a pair of key injuries was in the Inter-Ac title race right until the end, finishing in a tie for second. He’s planning on continuing his hoops career in college, though what that looks like is still unclear; Division III hoops is a possibility, but so is a Division I walk-on spot, Rayer keeping the details of which programs are involved under wraps but confident he’ll be on a roster next year somewhere.

“Just waiting to hear back from some schools and some coaches,” he said. “The portal stuff’s nuts, a lot of coaches said we’re going to wait for the portal to calm down a little and then they’ll get back to me.”

Tariq Jennings (2024 | West Catholic) didn’t quite have the senior season he expected after having the looks of a breakout player last offseason, consistently an eyecatcher with the Burrs last summer and fall. However, he was once again an effective role player at West Catholic, averaging 4.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg and making 16 starts.

“It wasn’t how I expected, but I learned a lot of lessons from it,” Jennings said.

At 6-foot-6 with length to defend, leaping ability and capable outside shot (12-of-45 from 3-point range this season), Jennings has still drummed up college interest. Albright, Arcadia and Eastern are among the Division III programs who have continued to have interest in him. He recently talked to Holy Family about getting on campus as well. He noted his competitiveness is his top trait.

There’s a good chance a prep year could be in store as Jennings mentioned Phelps School as another potential landing spot for him next year. He is planning on playing with Philly Revolution's 2025 group this AAU season.

“I just want to be more prepared to actually go into college,” Jennings said. “I don’t think I’m really prepared right now.”

— A year ago, Kyree Latimer (2024 | Constitution) saw the benefits that his former teammate Jacob Beccles had from a post-grad year at Peddie School (N.J.), turning that into a spot on the Cornell squad. Latimer has similar plans to move into the Class of 2025 and spend the year in the Garden State, as he named Lawrenceville Prep (N.J.) as his most likely landing spot next year. 

The athletic 6-2 guard helped Constitution into the PIAA 2A state quarterfinals this year, a slashing scorer who can finish above the rim, but he wants to take his game to a more refined level before college, and he sees Beccles’ path as one that could fit him.

“That’s like my big brother,” Latimer said. “Seeing him take that extra year and really get him prepared for college in all aspects, mentally, physically, I feel like if I do that too, I’ll be more ready for college next year.”

Latimer said he isn’t talking to any colleges at the moment, though mentioned that Constitution head coach Rob Moore has been talking to some on his behalf. He’s playing this summer with Kings Unlimited, starting with an appearance at the Pitt Jam Fest next weekend, with further stops on the Adidas Gold circuit to follow. 

— Kodi Johnson (2025 | Phelps School) enjoyed his first year in Malvern, the Delaware County native coming to Phelps from Olympus Prep (N.J.), helping the Lions to an appearance in the PAISAA state championship game. The 6-6, 185-pound wing said the move was a beneficial one as he continued to improve his overall basketball IQ and prepare for the next level.

“I can definitely say my 3-point shot making and my defensive IQ [improved],” he said. “I’m starting to move without the ball, (working on) my off-ball movement and my defensive IQ, where to be, stuff like that.”

Johnson’s playing with East Coast Power’s 17s this summer on the Hoop Group circuit, which he played on last year with PA Coalition. His only collegiate interest thus far has come from Rider, which had him on campus last fall, but he’s yet to receive a scholarship offer. 

— It was a breakout junior year for Kevair Kennedy (2025 | Father Judge), the 6-0 point guard earning All-Catholic honors after leading the Crusaders with 17.3 ppg and 6.0 apg as they made it to the Palestra for the PCL semifinals for the first time in a quarter-century. Despite that, he said it’s currently all quiet on the recruiting front, not a single school in contact with him as he heads into a summer playing with Philly Pride’s 17s on the Under Armour circuit. 

“That ain’t really on my mind,” he said. “When my time comes, it’s going to be the right time, so I’m not going to stress it.”

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