Sturdy defense and balanced offense made all the difference this season for the Westtown School boys’ basketball team.
The Moose’s timing was pretty good, too.
Westtown raised its game during the Pennsylvania independent schools state tournament, capping the long season with a 72-59 victory over fellow Philadelphia-area power Malvern Prep in the title game Saturday night at Montgomery County Community College.
Junior guard Jalen Warley, who has emerged as one of the top prospects in the country in the class of 2021, scored 19, Pitt recruit Noah Collier scored 15, and Penn recruit T.J. Berger added 14 for Westtown.
“Our kids played their best basketball during the state tournament,” said Westtown coach Seth Berger, T.J.’s father. “I couldn’t have asked for better defensive effort or better decisions with the basketball.
“They were extremely impressive to win a tough Final Four. Balanced scoring in every game from a group that was truly together all year long.”
Westtown School beat Perkiomen School in the PAISAA semifinals on Friday night as Warley scored 26, Collier added 20, and Berger had 14.
Here’s The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10, with last week’s rankings in parentheses:
1. Neumann Goretti (2) 21-4: The Saints jump back on top after Monday night’s 66-58 win over Roman Catholic in the Philadelphia Catholic League title game at the Palestra. Junior Blaise Vespe, an unsung hero all season, erased Roman Catholic’s last lead with a three-pointer from the corner to push the Saints in front, 48-47, with 6 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Vespe also helped close out the victory by taking a charge and making a layup off a sweet dish from Cameron Young for a 57-50 lead. “The smile on his face made it all worth it,” Neumann Goretti coach Carl Arrigale said of Vespe. Neumann Goretti will play High School of the Future in the District 12 Class 3A city title game Thursday at Gratz before beginning its quest for a PIAA state title.
2. Archbishop Wood (1) 19-5: Junior guard Rahsool Diggins set a Catholic League semifinal record with 35 points in a 83-73 loss to Roman Catholic at the Palestra. Diggins, who is rising up the national rankings among point guards in the class of 2021, scored 20 in the fourth quarter. Archbishop Wood, which looms as a legitimate contender for the PIAA Class 5A state crown, will meet Martin Luther King in the District 12 city title game Friday at Jefferson University.
3. Westtown School (3) 24-7: With the 6-5 Warley, 6-11 junior Franck Kepnang and 6-11 sophomore Dereck Lively set to return next season among a few other key veterans, the Moose could be well-positioned to defend their PAISAA title. They’ve won three of the last five.
4. Roman Catholic (4) 16-9: The Cahillites were in prime position to complete their redemption tour by beating the three league teams that had handed them overtime defeats during the regular season in succession in the playoffs. Ahead of Neumann Goretti by a 47-43 score early in the fourth, they went cold from the outside and failed to get the basketball inside to sophomore center Jalen Duren for a long stretch. Sophomore guard Justice Williams scored 17 of his 21 in the second half in another show of his impressive improvement during the season. Roman Catholic will play Philadelphia Public League finalist Gratz in the District 12 Class 6A city title game on Saturday, then begin pursuit of another PIAA state crown.
5. Methacton (5) 24-2: Senior guard Erik Timko scored his 1,000th career point as the Warriors rolled past Pennridge, 69-46, in the District 1 Class 6A quarterfinals. Timko, a junior-varsity player as a sophomore, has scored all 1,000-plus in the last two seasons. Senior center Jeff Woodward, a Colgate recruit, generated 16 points with 21 rebounds as Methacton advanced to face Chester in the semifinals Tuesday night at Temple’s Liacouras Center.
6. Malvern Prep (6) 27-5: Deuce Turner scored 22 points in the loss to Westtown in the PAISAA title game. Turner, a Bucknell recruit, is the Inter-Ac League’s all-time leading scorer with 2,452 points. Junior Lonnie White scored 11 in the final for Malvern Prep, which went undefeated in Inter-Ac play and set the school record for wins in a season. Coach John Harmatuk confirmed a tedsilary.com report that the Friars’ season will continue with an appearance in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational from March 12-14 at Frostburg (Md.) State.
7. Bonner-Prendergast (8) 17-5: Idle since a last-second, 61-59 loss to Roman Catholic on Feb. 14 in the PCL quarterfinals, the Friars will play Imhotep Charter in the District 12 Class 4A city title game Thursday night at La Salle College High. Senior guards Tyreese Watson (17.3 points per game) and Donovan Rodriguez (13.4) and junior guard Malik Edwards (13.6) lead the way for Bonner-Prendergast.
8. West Chester East (10) 23-2: Delaware recruit Andrew Carr scored 40 and fellow senior Tym Richardson added 21 as the Vikings beat Radnor, 68-48, in the District 1 Class 5A quarterfinals. The 6-10 Carr, a versatile inside-outside threat, made a trio of three-pointers for West Chester East, which will meet cross-town rival West Chester Rustin in the district semifinals Wednesday at Norristown.
9. Bishop McDevitt (7) 16-7: The Lancers have been off since a 58-56 loss to Archbishop Ryan on Feb. 14 in the PCL quarterfinals snapped their 10-game winning streak. Seniors Jamil Manigo and Robert Smith will lead the way as they return to action in a District 12 Class 3A seeding game vs. the Philadelphia Public League’s SLA Beeber on Wednesday night at Father Judge.
10. Math, Civics and Sciences (NR) 22-5: The Mighty Elephants make their Top 10 debut after taking down Imhotep Charter and Simon Gratz to capture the program’s first Public League title. Junior Nisine Poplar led the way, making a deep three-pointer to force overtime in the victory over three-time defending champion Imhotep in the semifinals, then scoring 23 to win MVP honors in the title game vs. Gratz. Seniors Tvon Jones, Marcus Middleton and Naadhir Wood also played key roles for MC&S, which will begin pursuit of its second straight PIAA Class 2A state title next week.