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St. Joe's Prep reunion leads Team Awesome to Donofrio championship

04/17/2024, 12:15am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

CONSHOHOCKEN — In the weeks leading up to the 2024 Donofrio Classic, Tristen Guillouette, Jalen Harper and Jordan Ellerbee were all texting back and forth about their potential teams for the 62nd annual spring all-star tournament. 

“Another team hit me up and another team hit Jordan up,” Guillette said, “so we texted in the group chat, and we’re like ‘yo, what team are we playing on? I’m trying to play with all of y’all.” 

Jordan Ellerbee (left), Jalen Harper (center) and Tristen Guillouette teamed up for Team Awesome. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

All three had heard from Toomey Anderson, who’s put together a Donofrio team each year since 2013 — so, as Guillouette put it, “we decided to rock out with Team Awesome.”

As it turns out, that was a good choice. With Guillouette, Harper and Ellerbee all playing key roles, Team Awesome captured the 2024 Donofrio Classic championship on Tuesday night at the Fellowship House, 104-94 over Positive Image (Blue), earning Anderson his first Donofrio title in his 10thf try.

It was a meaningful four-game reunion for the trio, who were set to be third-year teammates at St. Joseph’s Prep this season before a denied eligibility waiver meant Guillouette had to play out his final year of high school ball at the George School up in Newtown. 

With Guillouette going off to Florida Gulf Coast in two months and Harper deciding on where he’ll go to prep school after graduating from Prep in June, this was the last opportunity for the three of them to play together in some real competition before going their separate ways. And they ended on a win.

“It feels great, it feels natural,” said Ellerbee, a junior at the Prep. “Tris is really my brother so it always feels good to play with him. For us to play together like we should have during the season, just shows people that we really would have run the city.”

“It’s a great feeling, it’s probably going to sink in later,” Harper said. “I was glad to be able to play with him one last time, that’s one of the main reasons why me and Jordan wanted to do this so bad, just wanted to play with Tristen again.”

The trio had become close friends since Guillouette and Ellerbee arrived at Prep before the 2021-22 school year, Ellerbee a freshman and Guillouette a transfer from Life Center (N.J.). They joined with Harper and Jaron McKie to immediately form the young core of a Hawks program under Jason Harrigan that took big steps forwards each of the following two seasons. 

When Guillouette had to leave Prep for George just before the start of the season, it was a major blow. The Hawks still had a good year, winning 17 games, but lost to Archbishop Ryan in the PCL quarterfinals. 

All year long, Guillouette, Ellerbee and Harper were staying in touch, the three getting in workouts together when they could, getting to catch a few of each other’s games. When they found out they were going to be teammates one more time, they knew they were in for something special. 

All three said the meaning wasn’t lost on them for a second.

“For sure, I was looking forward to it,” Guillouette said. “One last run with my guys, that’s what I was telling everyone — ‘yo, I get to play with Jordan and Jalen.’ I know it’s a historical tournament, but I was like, I get to play with Jordan and Jalen, those are my guys, I was happy about it.”

The 6-foot-9 Guillouette finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the championship game for Team Awesome, a conglomerate squad put together by Anderson, the high-energy former Muhlenberg standout who’s now the coordinator of athletics and activities for the Allentown School District. 

Deuce Jones (left) scored a combined 85 points in the Donofrio semifinals and championship to win tournament MVP honors. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Jones, who had a tourney-high 47 points in the semifinals, followed that up with a 38-point outing, going 18-of-21 from the foul line in the second half of a physical contest. The future La Salle guard was constantly getting past defenders and into the lane, Positive Image forced to throw body after body after him to stop him from getting to the rim.

“I knew he was going to come out here, put on a show, attack the rim, play aggressive on both ends of the floor and compete,” Guillouette said. “That’s the biggest thing I like about his game, he competes at both ends of the floor.”

Ellerbee added 12 points and some key assists down the stretch, while Harper chipped in six points to the win. Team Awesome led almost the entire way through, scoring the game’s first 10 points, though Positive Image Blue — led by Abdrahaman Coulibay’s 27 points — came back to tie it twice within the game’s last eight minutes. 

Team Awesome got some last-minute buckets from Perkiomen School junior Hayden Johns (19 points) and overall strong foul shooting to close it out.

For Harper and Ellerbee, the run through the prestigious post-season tournament came in their first attempt. Guillouette was in it in 2023, for a much shorter run.

“My first year we got bounced in the first round, it wasn’t that fun,” he said. “Then I started seeing online [...] how many people compete, all the legends in it. (George School) coach Ben Luber won MVP, he tells me about that all the time. It was fun just seeing how historic this is, the culture behind it and competing in it and winning it.”

The three get to spend two more months hanging out and shooting hoops together, before Guillouette leaves for FGCU on June 15 to begin his Division I journey. Ellerbee, the only one of the three who’ll be back at St. Joe’s Prep in the fall, will have to get used to hooping with a different group of Hawks.

“This offseason is very important for us,” he said. “We’re getting older now [...] just have to take that leadership role and take over.”

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