Sam Sessoms, a whirlwind senior guard for Shipley's basketball team, was quick to give big man Ray Somerville his due after Tuesday's frenetic triumph over Friends' Central.
"That's my guy," said Sessoms, a dynamic scorer and Binghamton recruit. "He's one of the hardest workers I know."
Somerville registered 10 points, seven blocked shots, and five rebounds as the quick-starting Gators held off Friends' Central, 68-61, in a Friends Schools League matchup at Yarnall Gymnasium in Bryn Mawr.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior forward notched five of his rejections in the first quarter as Shipley sprinted to a 17-7 advantage.
"He's more dialed in between the ears," Gators coach Phil D'Ambrosio said of Somerville's progression since last season. "He's more poised and calm when he gets the ball inside."
Somerville prepped for this season by playing AAU ball for Team Final. His teammates included Archbishop Carroll sophomore guard A.J. Hoggard and Mount Pleasant (Del.) junior forward Kvonn Cramer. "I just worked on improving my overall game," Somerville said. "I wanted to be ready to play at a real high level this year."
Somerville, of Media, spent two years at Penncrest before transferring to Shipley in 2016 and reclassifying as a sophomore. The 17-year-old has scholarship offers from Hartford, High Point, La Salle, Mount St. Mary's (Md.) and Stony Brook, among others.
"We're looking for a little more offense from him this year," D'Ambrosio said. "He's averaging around nine points a game. We'd like for him to get around 12."
Sessoms led the way against Friends' Central with 35 points, nine boards, and six assists. He shot 10 for 18 from the field (2 for 4 from beyond the arc) and 13 for 14 from the line.
"He can do it all," Somerville said. "He's a great scorer, distributes the ball well, and is a good leader. He's a guy you want to follow."
Sessoms' deep three-pointer from up top and fastbreak layup, courtesy of a nifty feed from reserve Randall Brown, put the Gators (7-4 overall, 2-0 FSL) comfortably in front, 26-14, in the second quarter.
Down by 37-20 at intermission, Friends' Central (7-7, 1-1) fought back with a 9-0 spurt at the end of the third stanza and cut the hosts' advantage to 49-48 on Mason Mosley's trey at the start of the fourth.
"I just think we got a little lazy on the defensive end, allowed them to get some second chances," Somerville said. "We've got do a better job of closing out games."
Shipley, which opened the season with an upset of defending PIAA Class 3A state champ Neumann-Goretti, escaped by converting 13 of 16 freebies in the last frame. Brown and Chaz Owens (seven points) each grabbed seven boards.
Omar Nichols paced the Phoenix with 22 points, while Mosley and Myles Robinson (three second-half treys) chipped in 12 and 11, respectively.
FC: Omar Nichols 22, Bryce Spriggs 3, Myles Robinson 11, Toure Mosley-Banks 9, Josh Friday 4, Mason Mosley 12.
S: Sam Sessoms 35, Khai Champion 8, Ray Somerville 10, Ronan Higgins 2, Tom Sobelman 3, Chaz Owens 7, Randall Brown 3.