Tyler Sandora (@tyler_sandora)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2017-18 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed so far can be found here.)
At the top, the Ches-Mont is one of the most competitive conferences in the area.
Coatesville, led by a young core of guards, won the championship a year ago on a Jhamir Brickus buzzer beater. The Red Raiders are the favorites to repeat, but a few programs with recent success, as well as a few on the rise, have a chance to challenge them for the trophy.
Here’s a breakdown of how we see the Ches-Mont shaping up in 2017-18:
Liam Ward (above) and Great Valley are the favorites in a wide-open Ches-Mont American division. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Predicted Top 3
1. Great Valley
Even with star sophomore Alex Capitano injured for most of the Ches-Mont play, Great Valley and head coach Paul Girone still managed to finish with an 11-1 record in conference play. Much of that success is due to the reigning American division player of the year, Liam Ward. The Patriots finished first in the American, but fell in the first round of the conference semifinals to Bishop Shanahan. In addition to Ward, senior Matt Porreca will be a big piece of the Patriot’s team which hopes qualify for states for the second year in a row.
West Chester Rustin finished last season in second place, with a record of 9-3. Their two biggest contributors from a year ago, Jake Nelson, a strong 6-6 forward and Tajir Asparagus a lanky 6-4 combo guard, are both back for their junior years. Both Nelson and Asparagus were first-team all division last year as sophomores. Rustin fell to Coatesville in the Ches-Mont semifinals a year ago. They entered the PIAA 5A district tournament as the five seed, and defeated Glen Mills in the first round. They failed to qualify for states, losing their last three games to Shanahan, Chester, and Wissahickon.
Players To Watch
Dom London and Gary Grove both posted big numbers as juniors, and the duo hopes to do the same this year for Octorara. Both guards can shoot it from deep, and can attack the basket with their quickness off the dribble. ...Liam Ward has a chance to repeat as American division player of the year. The 6-5 wing has improved his bounce and is a dangerous threat in transition. …Junior Bo Furey-Bastian averaged 11.1 points per game last season for Unionville. The quick 5-10 guard also nailed 24 3’s a year ago. ...Jake Nelson and Tajir Asparagus make up the best frontcourt in the division, and Rustin’s senior sharpshooter Bryce Barrouk will have an opportunity to showcase his shooting ability this year. ...Vinny D’Angelo has already had a successful two seasons for Sun Valley. The 5-10 guard is known for his ability to score in bunches and lead the offense.
Sophomore point guard Jhamir "Jig" Brickus and Coatesville were the District 1 6A runners-up last year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Predicted Top 3
2. Bishop Shanahan
3. Downingtown West
The National division has much more talent than the American, and is bound to be more competitive. The reigning PIAA 6A District One runner-ups and Ches-Mont champions, the Coatesville Red Raiders enter this year as the favorite to repeat. Coatesville will be led by athletic 6-7 senior big man, Tyrel Bladen, an Eastern Kentucky signee. Bladen emerged last season as a star after not playing much his sophomore year. Not many players in the Ches-Mont or all of District One can elevate as high as Bladen can. A pair of sophomore point guards, Jhamir “Jig” Brickus and DaPree Bryant, will make up the best backcourt in the league.
Downingtown West and second year head coach Stuart Ross have the most size in the conference. In Ross’s first year at the helm, West made the PIAA 6A state tournament as the 10th seed from District One. But in the first round of states, the Whippets fell to a talented Harrisburg team. Senior Greg Barton (6-6) will be the main catalyst for the Whipperts this year. Kyle Lowry’s cousin, Naseem Robinson, should also make an impact in his first year at West after transferring in from Maple Shade (N.J.).
Downingtown West’s rival, Downingtown East, returns senior guard Malik Slay and versatile 6-5 sophomore big man Andrew King. The Cougars started out 10-0 last season, with wins over Downingtown West and District 11 power Pocono Mountain West. They ended up not qualifying for the Ches-Mont playoffs, something they haven’t done in the 15 years of the schools history. With some experience returning, the Cougars have as good a chance of ever of playing beyond the district tournament.
Fresh off of their its first state tournament berth in 22 years, Bishop Shanahan returns a majority of its scoring nucleus, which includes seniors Kevin Dodds, Thomas Ford and David Angelo, while junior guard Joe O’Malley goes from sixth man into the starting lineup. The Eagles finished 10-2 in the division last year, falling to Coatesville in the Ches-Mont championship game, their first ever trip there. Coach Ken Doyle and the Eagles have the talent and experience to make a run in the District tournament this year.
Players To Watch
Downingtown East sophomore forward Andrew King averaged double figures as a freshman, and has made improvements to his athleticism and overall game. He’ll team up with Malik Slay, who’s got two D-II offers to his name; Caldwell and Millersville. ...Destin Murphy has been a huge part of Avon Grove’s turnaround in the last two years. The 6-4 forward can shoot it from deep and put it on the floor to attack the basket. ...Archer Rymiszewski will be the main offensive threat for WC Henderson. The 5-11 senior is known for his ability to hit the deep ball and his pressure on defense. ...Greg Barton, a smooth 6-6 lefty with bounce will be looked upon for scoring for Downingtown West. His classmate, point guard Davis Reardon, will run the point and set up the offense for the Whippets. ...Kevin Dodds (6-6), a Gannon University commit, and David Angelo (5-11) have developed great chemistry over the years for Bishop Shanahan. They will link up with a Hofstra lacrosse commit Thomas Ford, an athletic playmaker, in hopes of making a deeper run in the state tournament. ...Coatesville's Jhamir Brickus, an electrifying point guard, will hope to add onto a successful freshman year which saw him take home division player of the year honors. DaPree Bryant, a standout wide receiver on the gridiron, will team up with Brickus in the backcourt. Hassan Young and Tyrel Bladen will make up the frontcourt for the favorites to take home the Ches-Mont championship.
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