Here’s a report from Donofrio Classic action at the Fellowship House (515 Harry St., Conshohocken) on Monday, March 30:
Game One: Yellow Jackets 94, Positive Image I 80
After a close game early, Yellow Jackets finished the first half strong to take a 46-37 lead into halftime. They would stretch their lead to as many as 19 before Positive Image cut it down to a 79-71 ballgame with 6:30 remaining; Yellow Jackets would quickly re-expand the lead to 16 and hold on for the win. Luke Connaghan (2015/Archbishop Wood) led the way with 25 points for the winners, while Nick Giordano (2015/Marple Newtown) added 21; Chase Kumor (2015/Conwell-Egan) and Tim Guers (2015/Germantown Academy) added 13 apiece. Positive Image I was led by Cananchet Jordan (2015/Imhotep Charter) and his 20 points, while Jahmil Harris (2015/West Catholic) had 17.
Game Two: Keystone Blazers Black 96, Chester County All-Stars 88
After a back-and-forth first 12 minutes, Chester County took an 11-point lead late in the first half, but Keystone closed the half on a 9-0 run to get the lead down to 51-49. Arvelle Jones (2016/Shipley School) scored 16 of his game-high 26 in the first half to help keep it close. Keystone took the lead in the second half after three consecutive 3-pointers from Tip Swartz (2016/O'Hara), who finished with 18 points. The Blazers never looked back. Matt Margolis (2015/Council Rock North) joined Jones and Swartz in double figures for Keystone with 20 points while Michael Crone (2015/La Salle) added 12. Chester County had four players reach double digits, with Tarojae Brake (2015/Octorara) leading the way with 14. Kevin Crutchfield (2015/Coastesville) scored 13 and Justus Martinez (2016/Coatesville) scored 11. Michael Mohamed (2015/Church Farm) and Levi Worthington (2015/Octorara) tallied 10 apiece.
Giordano has big shoes to fill at ESU
Division II East Stroudsburg (Pa.) will have plenty of available minutes in the backcourt next season, so Marple Newtown senior guard Nick Giordano certainly will have a chance to earn some serious playing time right away in his Warriors career.
But if the 6-foot guard does, he's going to have heavy expectations on his shoulders. The two guards that are graduating this year are Whis Grant (12.9 ppg) and Matt Tobin (9.1 ppg, 6.4 apg)--who were both named honorable mention All-Americans this season. Grant was a first-team All-American last year, when ESU won 30 games and made the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.
With a run of three straight PSAC titles on the line, head coach Jeff Wilson isn’t going to hand the ball to just anybody, even a talented, confident guard who averaged over 26 ppg as a senior.
"I watched them play a couple of times, they were really good players--obviously, All-Americans," Giordano said. "I'd like to play right away, but I've just got to get better, earn some playing time when I get up there.”
Giordano is one of two local guards who will be headed up to East Stroudsburg this fall. He'll be joined by La Salle College HS's Kitt Najee Walls, a 5-11 point guard and two-year starter who helped take the Explorers to the PIAA Class AAAA final last season and to the quarterfinals as a senior.
The two haven't gotten a chance to work out yet together, but they're certainly going to start working on their chemistry soon before they get up to campus this summer.
"Hopefully we can make a good combination up there," Giordano said. "I don't really know him, I've seen him play a lot...I think we would play really well together, he's more of a pass-first, athletic point guard and I can put the ball in the basket."
Still undecided on his major, Giordano said he'd likely study business management. Before he gets to school, he's just enjoying his time playing with the Yellow Jackets, alongside future small-college players like Tim Guers (St. Anselm), Chase Kumor (Salisbury) and Luke Connaghan (DeSales).
"This tournament's great, I love it," he said. "The physicalness just gets you ready for the next level; the next level is crazy physical because those guys are men. It helps a lot."
Brake likely heading to Phelps for year of prep
A player who's flown under the radar in the area, Octorara senior guard Tarojae Brake has decided to take a year of prep school following his graduation in June before continuing his basketball career in college.
Brake, a 1,000-point scorer who played with WE R1 on the AAU circuit, said he's likely going to head to The Phelps School in Malvern, where he's already been accepted.
“Me and my family felt like I wasn’t prepared for college yet," Brake said. "I did just enough to get by so they feel like prep school will help me a lot.”
Brake said he had a pair of Division II offers from Lincoln University and Millersville but has aspirations of playing at a higher level and hopes this summer and next season will put him in the position to do so.
“I’m of course trying to get better and we’ll see what happens," Brake said. "I’m going to work hard over the summer, playing with Team Supernatural with Kobe Nwandu (Northeastern HS) and Anthony Johnson (Glen Mills). We should be pretty solid.”
The Phelps School, a boarding school known for bringing players in for just one or two years, is fresh off its first PAISAA independent school's basketball championship.
The 6-foot-3 Brake is hopeful, if he indeed attends Phelps, that he'll help make an impact and improve his game. He's also looking forward to some of the other things the school will have to offer, like playing with teammates not from the United States.
“It’s going to be fun playing with a lot of international players," Brake said. "I’ve never met someone from another country before so that should be fun.
“They play against a lot of good competition and coach [Brian] Shanahan is a good guy."
--A couple of other players from Monday's action likely heading to a year of prep include Brandon Cazan (2015/Bishop Eustace) and Jahmil Harris (2015/West Catholic). Cazan, a talented 6-foot-6 forward said he's hearing from plenty of Division II and III schools and will likely go to either Lawrenceville Prep or The Hun School. Harris is unsure where he'll end up and said he'd likely make a decision in the next few weeks.
--It looks like D-III DeSales (Pa.) might have made away with the biggest recruiting steal in the area in Archbishop Wood senior Luke Connaghan. The 6-foot-4 forward was already well-regarded in the area, making All-Catholic League second team as a junior, primarily through his ability to post up and clean up for his teammates. But as he showed at the Fellowship House, he's becoming much more than just a post player. Connaghan was all over the place, diving for loose balls and creating extra possessions for his teammates, making a few nifty passes on the fast break as well. Though he still gets most of his scoring done around the bucket, he can break his man down off the dribble and has a variety of ways to get to the hoop and score through contact.
--Arvelle Jones (2016/Shipley) was dominant Monday night, scoring his 26 points in a variety of ways. He was able to take his defender to the rim multiple times and showed off a decent midrange game. He'd still benefit by adding some left hand moves to his arsenal, but getting 26 points against Donofrio Classic competition isn't easy. Jones should be primed for a big senior year in the Friends League next season and and should have himself a solid summer, a crucial one at that, in the months prior.
--Evan Slone (2015/Souderton) seems to be focusing primarily on a quartet of Division III schools--Lebanon Valley, Immaculata, Marywood and Arcadia--while he waits to see which school can provide the most help financially. He's visited all four, saying "they're all similar, small schools, which I like. It's going to be a tough choice." The 6-5, 180-pound senior forward showed why he's being recruited with a tough performance on Monday night, doing a good job of being physical on the blocks, playing tougher than his wiry frame would indicate.