Boys Basketball: A familiar foe halts Chester’s run

POTTSVILLE – His face puckered and his head down, Rahlir Jefferson breathed a deep sigh.

The Chester senior knows that teams all over Pennsylvania did the same thing Wednesday night.

“Everybody knew we were coming for them,” Jefferson said. “Now, they don’t have to worry about us.”

That’s because the Clippers were eliminated from the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs by Williamsport, a 62-49 second-round winner at Pottsville High School’s Martz Hall.

The Millionares (23-3) accomplished what no team has since the 2007 state final – beat the Clippers (24-5) in the state playoffs. It evened up the all-time state-playoff series between these Class AAAA powers, at four games apiece.

It also ended Jefferson’s career in the orange and black. The Temple signee finished his final scholastic game with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, recording his 25th double-double of the year.

For a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, Jefferson thought the Clippers’ season – and his career – went from being on life support to a complete revival. The 6-7 forward streaked down the court and, almost in full sprint, put the brakes on while catching a pass. His pull-up 3-pointer at 4:22 in the final period tied the game at 44.

It had Jefferson thinking optimistically.

“I felt pretty good right there,” Jefferson said of the defending state champions’ chances of sneaking out with a win. “You have to. I just wanted to do something that would get us back in it.”

The Clippers scored only five points in the last four minutes of the game and the Millionaires, District Four’s champion, pulled out the win. They converted on 13-of-16 attempts from the free throw line in the fourth to seal up the game.

You could call it revenge against the Clippers, who eliminated the Millionaires in the first round of last year’s state tournament, but Jefferson did not see it that way.

He said the Clippers did not make enough shots at the right moments to earn a berth in the quarterfinal round. This is the first Clippers team cut short of the quarters since 2001, when York beat them in the opening round.

“We didn’t play Chester basketball,” Jefferson said. “It’s really as simple as that.”

It was slow goings for both teams. When Williamsport’s Isaiah Twine banked a layup with 4:40 left in the first quarter, it represented the first points by either team. The teams shot a combined 0-for-14 to open the game.

Already slowed by cold shooting, the Clippers were stalled by a full-court press that created four first-quarter turnovers. Jefferson broke the press with a pair of baseball passes, both resulting in buckets.

In the second, Nelson propelled the Clippers. His 3-pointer from the top of the key punctuated an 8-1 run that gave Chester a 17-13 lead. His 3 less than a minute later, with 4:02 left, made the Millionaires reconsider their flirtation with a zone defense.

The Clippers held a slim 21-19 lead at the half.

Nelson created a stir on the Chester bench when he picked up his third and fourth fouls only a minute apart late in the third quarter. Chester’s only consistent scorer in this one, the junior guard was needed desperately.

When he fouled out with 2:10 remaining in the game, it basically represented the Clippers’ curtain call.

Nelson finished with 17 points and that pair of 3-pointers. Senior forward Learon Pray and junior guard Laquan Robinson had five apiece.

It’s worth noting that this was expected to be a down year for Chester. The Clippers returned only one starter (Jefferson) from their sixth state-title team, and expectations were significantly lower than they usually are around the Clip Joint.

Sure, fans thought the Clippers would defend their District One reputation and compete for a state-playoff berth, but not too many figured they would make it this far.

“People were counting us out early,” Jefferson said. “We thought we were a state-championship team and that’s what (motivated) us.”

Wednesday’s game was the end of Jefferson’s career in a Clippers’ uniform, but not the end of his career.

“I have Temple waiting on me,” he said, cracking his only smile of the night. “I have some basketball left in me.” Source: Daily Times

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