When Clearview boys’ basketball coach Rob MacKerchar walked into the locker room at halftime of Tuesday’s game, his team already knew what the message was going to be.

0-0.

That’s how the Pioneers have approached things all year long, never taking any lead, moment or experience for granted. But after easing past Southern Regional, 69-52, in its Group 4 opener, this Clearview group can claim something that no other team in school history can: 18 wins in a season.

The Pioneers, who will continue their run Thursday night against Lenape, ended a drought of postseason victories that dated back more than a decade, and got an extra special moment in the process as senior Justin McNichols, the school’s all-time leading scorer, turned in 32-point performance in perhaps his final home game.

“We always joke that when Justin has big games, they’re usually very quiet,” MacKerchar said. ”[Against Southern], everybody knew he wanted the ball. … He’s unselfish, sometimes to a fault, but he realized that’s what needed to happen, and he needed to go make plays.”

Clearview’s postseason run ended Thursday in a 72-40 loss to Lenape.

McNichols, who told reporters after the Southern game that this team is “setting the bar high,” has been a part of the team’s evolution behind MacKerchar.

Clearview senior Justin McNichols stretches before the game vs. Lenape.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Clearview senior Justin McNichols stretches before the game vs. Lenape.

The season before the two arrived at Clearview four years ago, the Pioneers finished 5-19. They hadn’t turned in a season above .500 since 2013-14.

Even then, it was a slow build.

The first year, in 2016-17, Clearview ended its season with six straight losses and a 7-17 record. The next year, the Pioneers made the postseason but exited in the first round — just as they did yet again last winter.

Neither MacKerchar nor his veteran-laden group had to mention their previous failures, though, going into Tuesday night.

“They really approached this year like it was a whole new fresh start,” MacKerchar said. “I just try to remind them that what we prepare for every day has gotten us here, and what happened last year, or even last month, is irrelevant.”

That doesn’t mean MacKerchar ignores what could have been. The Pioneers had some impressive talent in their own backyard, most notably Noah Collier, who wound up opting to play for Westtown and is now committed to Pittsburgh.

There were also the Delaney brothers: Tim, now a redshirt junior at Villanova, played three years at Pitman before transferring to Blair Academy, and Matt chose St. Augustine.

Andrew Delaney, the middle of the three boys, played two seasons at Clearview before departing for the private-school ranks. He spent one year at Blair and then another with Matt at St. Augustine and is now a freshman at Adelphi.

Maybe the Pioneers may have broken through long before now. Or maybe not.

“You always want to have more talent,” MacKerchar said. “But what I’ve learned in the four years I’ve been here is how important chemistry is, too, and I don’t want to assume that things would be better if any one player had stayed. … Justin wouldn’t have been the player he’s become if he wasn’t forced to be. He’s risen to the occasion.”