What postseason inexperience? Juniors power G.W. past Olney

George Wash­ing­ton’s ju­ni­or bas­ket­ball class had nev­er played in a Pub­lic League play­off game pri­or to Thursday. The post­season new­comers sure had a funny way of show­ing it.

Ju­ni­or Charles Brown con­nec­ted on four three-point­ers, scor­ing 14 of his 24 points in a tor­rid first quarter that saw the Eagles jump out to a 24-4 lead over host Ol­ney in Thursday’s first round of the play­offs. Brown had plenty of help from fel­low ju­ni­ors Jerome Blume (23 points, 13 re­bounds) and As­ante Ali (two points, six steals, six re­bounds, 10 as­sists) as G.W. with­stood a 35-point second half from Ol­ney’s Sha­keem Stevens (40 points total) to hold on for a 80-70 vic­tory at the former Car­din­al Dougherty High School.

The sixth-seeded Eagles (15-6) ad­vanced to play No. 2 Cent­ral (21-2) in Tues­day’s Class AAAA semi­finals (3:15 p.m. at Cent­ral) after the Lan­cers cruised to an easy 63-47 vic­tory over Lin­coln on Thursday. The oth­er AAAA semi will see No. 4 Frank­ford vis­it top-seeded King at 5:15 p.m. — the Pi­on­eers got there fol­low­ing a 66-55 win over Bartram, also on Thursday.

For Wash­ing­ton and second-year head coach John Creighton, the win was ever-so sweet, es­pe­cially after last year’s one-and-done post­season ap­pear­ance.

“The ju­ni­or class, I can’t say enough about their over­all pres­ence,” Creighton said by phone on Wed­nes­day morn­ing after those ju­ni­ors were re­spons­ible for 54 of Wash­ing­ton’s 80 points against Ol­ney. “None of them had any play­off ex­per­i­ence com­ing in, wheth­er they’re com­ing from here or they trans­ferred from some­where else. They’ve really stepped it up.”

Brown is one of the guys who came from some­where else, trans­fer­ring to Wash­ing­ton via Im­hotep Charter. An in­jury suffered on a dunk at­tempt cost him some games in the middle of Wash­ing­ton’s sea­son, but the 6-foot-4 Brown been rock sol­id when he’s been in the lineup, av­er­aging nearly 15 points per game in Wash­ing­ton’s Di­vi­sion B con­tests. He fin­ished the Ol­ney game 8-for-13 over­all from the field, in­clud­ing 6-for-8 on three-point tries.

“Charles is the type of kid that if he gets go­ing early, he’s go­ing to be un­stop­pable,” Creighton said. “He’s just a great kid, and he nev­er once missed a prac­tice, even when he was hurt. When he’s con­fid­ent, he’s an in­side/out­side ter­ror.”

Now, Creighton will have his hands full fig­ur­ing out how to stop Cent­ral, namely seni­or 6-foot-5 cen­ter Chris Bing, who av­er­aged more than 19 points per game on the sea­son. The Lan­cers’ only losses of the sea­son came Dec. 7 against Penn Wood and Jan. 11 at Penn Charter.

“It all starts with the cen­ter, ob­vi­ously,” Creighton said of Bing. “Any Cent­ral team in any sport is go­ing to be dis­cip­lined and smart, and they’ll jump on every one of your mis­cues. We’re go­ing to watch the film on them, find ways to ex­ecute on of­fense and see if we can loc­ate and ex­ploit any weak­nesses they may have.”

Wash­ing­ton’s depth, as it has been all sea­son, should be a ma­jor ad­vant­age against Cent­ral. The Eagles run 10-deep. In ad­di­tion to the afore­men­tioned ju­ni­ors, ju­ni­or Jher­on John­son con­trib­uted five points against Ol­ney, while seni­ors Joseph Ran­dall (11 points), Khyree Hunt-Hawkins (play­ing hurt en route to eight points) and James Cot­trell (sev­en points) all con­trib­uted. Brown and Cot­trell each stand 6-foot-4, Blume is 6-foot-5 and seni­or re­serve Rasheed Black, at 6-foot-6, should be able to off­set some of Cent­ral’s size.

Be­cause of their depth and ver­sat­il­ity, the Eagles can beat you in­side and out.

“We con­stantly look at match-ups and ways where we can use our strengths against the op­pos­ing de­fense,” Creighton said. “Last year, we were a top-heavy team where we re­lied on one or two guys; now, we run at least 10-deep in our ro­ta­tion, and I think a lot of them have been mo­tiv­ated all sea­son to prove people wrong and show­case their skills. It’s a real tight-knit group.”

Be­cause of that fact, this year’s team has been an ab­so­lute pleas­ure to coach, re­gard­less of wheth­er or not Wash­ing­ton beats Cent­ral.

“These kids are will­ing to learn and they are will­ing to work,” Creighton said. “There are no head­aches on this team. I nev­er feel like I have to push and push and push with them, be­cause they are self-mo­tiv­ated and self-driv­en.

“Just the time and ef­fort they’ve put in, they feel like they’re be­ing vin­dic­ated. They worked hard throughout the sum­mer and fall. When they had some suc­cess, the trust level grew between play­ers and coaches, as well as the play­ers on the court with one an­oth­er. It’s made it that much more spe­cial to see the time and ef­fort be­hind the scenes has come to fruition on the court.”

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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