Westtown worked hard for the title
For the second time in school history and second year in a row, Westtown (31-3) has won the Pennsylvania Independent State School Tournament.
Even though Westtown was heavily favored, they were trailing in the second and third quarters of their last two games. They ended up winning both, against Inter-Ac powers Germantown Academy on Feb. 23, and Episcopal Academy on Feb. 24, by 15 points each.
The Moose have five Division I players and three of them, center Mo Mamba (uncommitted), Brandon Randolph (Arizona) and Cameron Reddish (top junior guard), are the best in the county.
“Winning the state tournament was amazing,” said Coach Seth Berger. “Our kids fought through two talented, tough and well coached Inter-Ac teams to come through in the decisive fourth quarters. Their talent and composure came through when we needed it the most.”
Berger doesn’t hide the fact that his starting group which includes Jake Forrester (Indiana offer) and Anthony Ochefu (Stonybrook) is the best in the country. “I think our starting five was the most talented group I have ever seen, in high school, in the country,” he said. “But they still had to go out and perform, and they did that all year long with [all those expectations on them].”
Berger wants to make sure that basketball fans in the area know these playoffs weren’t a walk in the park. “Anyone that knows that the game recognizes how good [Episcopal Academy and Germantown Academy] are,” he said. “They can really play and they follow the game plans to perfection. Eventually, the number of possessions in a full game won it for us both times. Both games were wars which is what we were expecting.”
Randolph scored over 20 points in every playoff game, including 32 versus Episcopal. It looks like he will also have a NBA future like the ones projected for Bamba and Reddish. “What can’t he do?” Berger said. “He plays with a combination of fearlessness, intensity, skill and athleticism that is unique. [NBA player] Dion Waiters is the only player that compares to him as a high school player who was a true scorer that I have coached, or coached against in high school. He also seems to improve by leaps and bounds, week after week. He added rebounding, defense and consistency to his ability to shoot as a senior.” Berger saved his final praise for Bamba, the 7-footer who is considered the top big man in the 2017 class and has yet to commit.
Bamba celebrated euphorically after the Moose’s championship, like he did last year. “Mo knows what means the most and that’s what makes him so special,” Berger said. “He turned to [Berger’s son] T.J. and said, ‘I told you I got you,’ at the end of the game. He gave his medal to his mom after the game. His character speaks for itself.”
Episcopal star Nick Alikakos was proud of his team’s effort in the loss. “I thought the whole game, besides the last three minutes, that it was our game and we ended up winning two of the four quarters,” he said. “It means a lot that I was able to come back from an in-season wrist injury to return and help lead the team to the finals. A lot of people counted us out during the time, because we lost eight games. It was a lot of fun to compete against Westtown. I had played against them all in the [Nike Elite Youth Basketball League] before and it was a very good physical game. We had to take good shots so they didn’t get long rebounds and runouts and we made sure at least three people got back on defense instead of crashing the offensive boards. We did what we could. But they are Westtown. That’s a great team.”