Boys get playoff spot with win over NHS
The Whitehall basketball team took a good run at Chester last Saturday, but in the end, too much depth and size became insurmountable and the Clippers sailed out of Zephyr Gymnasium with a win.
With the 76-68 loss, the Zephyrs were still searching for that elusive 11th win that would have propelled them into the district playoffs.
They finally got that win Monday night when they exacted some revenge against Northampton, defeating them on their own floor, 68-39.
They’ve now made the District 11 playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.
As for Saturday, it was going to be a tall order de-rigging the Clippers who were 7-0 in their conference and 13-6 overall. They had played some of the best teams in the state, and had a roster of players who measured well above six feet.
Still, the Zephs managed to stay competitive throughout the game, winning two of the four quarters before Chester’s half-court trap completely took them out of sync and opened the door for the Clippers victory.
The Clippers also had the luxury of resting players to keep them fresh. With such a deep bench, they were able to maintain constant pressure which wore down the Zephyrs late in the game.
“They’re rotating guys left and right, and we’re basically playing seven guys,” said head coach Jeff Jones. “So eventually, it catches up with you. Physically we’re tired. Especially with the game we faced last night [against Parkland].”
The Clippers were a late replacement for last Saturday’s canceled game in which they were to play Wilson West-Lawn. Jones said that both teams had an open date, and both needed a game, so the meeting was set.
The Zephs got off to a hot start against Chester, taking a 24-12 lead after the first period. They extended that lead when Jackson Buskirk hit a jumper to open the second. And then after a Chester three by Khaleeq Campbell, Buskirk came back down the floor and netted a baseline jumper to make it 28-15, their biggest lead of the night. Buskirk connected on the team’s first six points of the quarter.
But the Clippers began to amp up the pressure, creating a number of turnovers that swung the momentum in their favor. They eventually took the lead on a Maurice Henry dunk, 33-32.
Their ability to create pressure enabled them to stall the Zephyr offense in its tracks, allowing just one more field goal the rest of the way, a Kayden Walschburger three-pointer at the end of the quarter. They flip-flopped the first quarter differential by winning the second quarter by 14 points. With that surge, they took a 37-35 lead into halftime.
The Zephyrs regrouped after the intermission and soon tied the game on a Mikey Esquilin jumper. After Logan McGinley fought for a rebound which ended up a jump ball in favor of the Zephs, Zach Gilbert popped out for a three-pointer which extended their lead to 40-37.
Charles Hudson followed with a baseline deuce and the Zephs were on a 7-0 run.
But once again the Clippers applied the pressure resulting in a turnover. Their half-court trap produced six turnovers and took Whitehall out of its offensive flow for a large part of the second half.
“There’s no plays against something like that,” said Jones. “We talked to the kids about that, and it’s about getting in the right position. And then you have to make plays. You have to make the right pass, the right decision. There’s no offense, per se, to run against that.”
The Zephs still managed to score with McGinley pouring in six points during that stanza, helping them to a 54-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But that’s when Chester found its range from the perimeter with Campbell sinking three, threes en route to a game-high 28 points.
Even though it was their third consecutive loss, Jones knew they were on the verge of busting out of the mini slump.
“The effort that we got the last two nights, against Parkland and here against Chester, if we get that kind of effort I told the kids, I’m not guaranteeing you’re going to win the game, but I’ll guarantee you’ll give yourselves a chance to win the game,” said Jones.
Esquilin also felt that their last two games proved that they could play with a lot of the ranked teams and all they needed to do was come out hard the last two games.
“We can’t settle for one win, we have to get both of these wins,” said Esquilin. “We have to keep the momentum up, keep our intensity up.”
With their ticket now punched, they’ll close out the regular season Wednesday night against Emmaus.