Trailing for most of Friday night's PIAA District 1 Class AAAA boys' basketball final against Pennsbury, Chester rallied down the stretch, with its pressure defense paving the way, to claim top honors for the fourth consecutive year.
Boosted by an 11-2 spurt at the start of the fourth quarter, the Clippers downed the foul-plagued Falcons, 52-49, before an energized crowd at Villanova's Pavilion.
Tyrell Sturdivant, a 6-foot-8 center, powered Larry Yarbray's squad with 17 points, including 11 in the second half. Fellow seniors Mahir Johnson and Conrad Chambers recorded 10 and nine points, respectively.
Chester claimed its 11th district crown in the last 13 seasons and 23d overall. Norristown (2009) and Penn Wood (2010) are the only others to win the title since Coatesville triumphed in 2001.
Cameron Jones paced Pennsbury with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Fellow junior Derrick Woods contributed 10 points and four blocks.
Chester (22-5) will open the state tournament next Saturday at a neutral site and time to be determined, vs. Carlisle, District 3's seventh-place qualifier.
Pennsbury (21-4) will begin state-tournament action next Saturday against Wilson, District 3's fifth-place finisher.
Down by 47-40 early in the fourth quarter, the Clippers, who are ranked No. 6 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, trimmed the gap to two on Johnson's three-point play and Sturdivant's follow.
With 3 minutes, 15 seconds to go, after Falcons junior guard Mekhi Bryant fouled out, Chester reserve Brewster Ward sank two free throws to make it 47-all.
The Clippers took their first lead since 1-0 when Keyonte Watkins buried a right-wing trey, making it 50-47, with 2:11 to go.
Pennsbury, held to two points in the first 7:32 of the fourth quarter, closed to within 50-49 on Jones' layup with 0:28 left. Five seconds later, after making a steal, Watkins hit the second of two free throws.
From the line, Johnson bumped Chester's lead to 52-49 with 10.2 seconds to go. After the Falcons hurried the ball up the court, back-to-back three-point tries by Jones and Steve Ciotti were off the mark.
Hitting seven three-pointers, including four from Jones and a pair from Nigel Johnson, Pennsbury took a 31-23 advantage into halftime.
Early in the second quarter, Woods' inside basket put the Falcons in front, 18-5, and brought their orange-clad faithful to their feet in the upper deck. Soon after, Jones' three made it 21-9.
Down by 12, Chester responded with an 11-0 spurt capped by Khaleeq Campbell's trey from the left corner and Mahir Johnson's running bank shot.
Pennsbury closed the half with a 10-3 burst that started with Johnson's three-pointer and ended, as time expired, with another Johnson heave.
Pennsbury 16 15 14 4 – 49
Chester 5 18 16 13 – 52
P: Steve Ciotti 4, Mekhi Bryant 5, Derrick Woods 10, Cameron Jones 17, Nigel Johnson 9, Walter Allen 3, Jimmy Flagg 1.
C: Khaleeq Campbell 6, Conrad Chambers 9, Keyonte Watkins 4, Tyrell Sturdivant 17, Mahir Johnson 10, Brewster Ward 6.