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BOYS BASKETBALL: Devon Prep, West Catholic Post Three Players Each on All-State 3A Team Following Historic Seasons

By Rich Flanagan, 05/05/22, 8:00AM EDT


Photos: James Williamson, Colleen Claggett, Lou Rabito, Krystal Williams, Donna Eckert & Zack Beavers

By: Rich Flanagan

PHILADELPHIA – The end goal of joining the Philadelphia Catholic League was never about what could potentially ensue once the league postseason had ended for head coach Jason Fisher and Devon Prep.

Inclusion into one of the most talented and competitive leagues in the state meant more opportunities for the Tide to prove themselves against teams with multiple Division I prospects all vying for a trip to the fabled Palestra for a shot at the Philadelphia Catholic League title and, in some ways, immortality. Devon Prep may not be in the same breadth as those programs who have won league championships but after finishing in seventh place then going on an incredible state tournament run, the Tide have solidified their place in history.

Devon Prep (19-8, 7-6 Philadelphia Catholic League) completed its deepest run ever by closing out its season with a 76-58 win over Aliquippa in the PIAA Class 3A Tournament title game in Hershey to secure the program’s first state championship. Fisher, the Pa. All-State 3A Coach of the Year, has pushed his team to focus on preparation for the league season but the state tournament added a new dimension and changed his view of this group’s expectations.

“We never set out to win a state championship,” Fisher said. “We set out to continue to work on things we’ve been working on before. As far as results go, I think you’d have to say it was the most successful, but I don’t know if a coach can say it was the most successful until they allow it to sink in and see how the kids grow.”

With the victory in the title game, Devon Prep became the sixth different Philadelphia Catholic League boys program to claim a state championship, joining the likes of Roman Catholic, Archbishop Wood, Neumann-Goretti, Conwell-Egan and Archbishop Carroll, a team it beat in the first round of the postseason to secure its first playoff victory since joining the league in 2018. The Tide did it with a team-first mentality and a myriad of scoring options, led by IV Pettit, Lucas Orchard, and Jacen Holloway.

Pettit, a First Team All-State selection, became the first Devon Prep player ever to be named first team following a season where he averaged 15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals. The 6-foot-2 senior guard, who began his career at West Chester Rustin and was named All-State Second Team a season ago, shot 40 percent from the field and made 56 three-pointers, 15 of which were made during the state tournament. He scored 29 points in the second round against Columbia then added 20 points in a win over West Catholic in the quarterfinals, a league rival that had beaten the Tide handedly in two previous matchups that season. He poured in 16 points to help Devon Prep complete a dramatic come-from-behind win over Holy Redeemer in overtime in the semifinals then capped off his career with four treys and 15 points in the state final. He finished with 1,437 career points.

The success Devon Prep has had over the last two seasons (27 wins and two league playoff appearances) does not come without Pettit, who became much more than a go-to scorer, according to Fisher.

“There were times this season where he just wasn’t going to let us lose,” Fisher said. “He took it upon himself to make the winning basketball plays. He always had the ability to do it and he wasn’t going to let us lose, like in that Carroll game. I hope people realize now that he’s so much more than a scorer.”

Orchard, a Second Team All-State pick, has been a member of Fisher’s rotation since his freshman season and came on as a sophomore for a team that made its first appearance in the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals. The 6-4 junior guard avg. 15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assist and 2.2 steals while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor. He posted 17 points, including three three-pointers, and five rebounds in the 3A title game. He had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Columbia then 18 vs. Holy Redeemer. As Fisher notes, “He does everything on the floor but his ability to shoot from three-point line vastly improved. He put in a lot of work in the offseason, and you saw it. He has stuff to work on, but you saw the results of that work.”

Holloway “has developed the most out of all the players that we have,” as Fisher frames it. The 6-4 junior lefty almost single-handedly took care of the Burrs in the state quarterfinals, going 7-for-8 from the field with four three-pointers and finishing with 22 points. The Third Team All-State selection avg. 13.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals, and shot 50.6 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc.

He may have also been the best player on the floor against Aliquippa with 16 points and 12 boards. He became a potent outside threat as evidenced by his 42 made three-pointers. Fisher stressed, “he has always gotten away with being physically stronger than other players and one of the things he realized playing in the Catholic League was you can’t do that” and “it’s remarkable to see him shoot the way he has and play off the ball.”

The way in which the Tide made their run to Hershey was through a five-out, motion offense where mismatches tended to arise and open looks on the outside abounded. The Tide were the only Philadelphia Catholic League team to have four players who made at least 40 three-pointers this season: Susquehanna University commit Allen Cieslak (56), Pettit, Holloway, and Orchard (41).

For Fisher, they did things the right way and having so many viable scoring options made converting in crucial moments of the game that much easier.

“They never really looked at it as doing this for individual accolades,” Fisher said. “It was always about putting the team first and when you get a group of guys that are as talented as these are, it makes coaching easy.”

West Catholic (21-6, 12-1) also completed its deepest run in program history but they achieved a number of impressive feats along the way under fourth-year head coach and Philadelphia Catholic League Coach of the Year Miguel Bocachica. The Burrs finished as the No. 2 seed in the Philadelphia Catholic League and their 12 league wins were the most since 1976. They advanced to the league semifinals at the Palestra for the first time since 1999 and made their first state quarterfinal appearance in program history before falling to the Tide, 60-53.

Miguel Bocachica, West Catholic - 21-22 PCL Coach of the Year - PSD Photo by Colleen Claggett

As the victories began to mount, particularly a 74-59 win over league champion Neumann-Goretti during the regular season, Bocachica knew he had a special team because they came together to accomplish something bigger than personal accolades.

“They walked into a situation knowing where we’ve been over the past few years, and they knew it was a spot where not a lot of winning was going on,” Bocachica said. “For them to come in here, believe in what we wanted to do and chase it then being in the situations we were able to be in, those things take time and I’m overall proud of the belief they had. The hard work pays off and they will take this with them forever.”

Zion Stanford and Adam “Budd” Clark were two of the catalysts for the Burrs’ unprecedented success this season and both will return next season. Stanford, the 6-5 versatile junior forward and Second Team All-State pick, avg. 14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks while shooting 60 percent from the field. He scored 31 points against St. Joe’s Prep, becoming the first Burrs to player to score 30 in a game since Imere Harris scored 36 points vs. Hackensack Prep (N.J.) on Jan. 2, 2017, and he was also the first West Catholic player to be named First Team All-Catholic since Rob Hollomon in 2009. Stanford is the first Second Team All-State selection since Aquil Younger, who played two seasons at Drexel, in 2010. He had 24 points against the Tide in the Philadelphia Catholic League quarterfinals and holds offers from St. Joe’s, Drexel, Albany, and Bryant. “He found himself more than anything” and “he’s a kid that always plays hard, rebounds, blocks shots and stays engaged. I do think maturity is a major factor, too,” according to Bocachica.

Clark, who transferred in from Boys’ Latin prior to his sophomore season, recently earned his first Division I offer from Lafayette following an unofficial visit on May 4 to add to an already impressive junior season. The 5-9 point guard and Third Team All-State choice avg. 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.5 steals, and shot 50.2 percent from the field. He had 16 points and 10 steals in the opening round of the state tournament vs. Tulpehocken, the Burrs first state victory since 2014. 

Performances like his 17-point, 11-assist game against West Philadelphia and his 20-point, eight-rebound, and nine-assist outing vs. Archbishop Wood became a normalcy for the Burrs. He also dished out 10 assists against Archbishop Ryan at the Palestra.

Clark was the unquestioned floor general on a team with East Stroudsburg commit Nasir Griffin and Cal State Bakersfield commits Kareem and Kaseem Watson (10.9 ppg), and that helped Bocachica’s team reach its potential with such a wealth of talent on the court at one time.

“When he’s bringing the ball up the court, it’s a sigh of relief because you’re not worried about him since he’s taking pride in being a point guard and that’s when we took off,” Bocachica said. “When he started to feel what lesser stat lines felt like in wins, that’s when he really turned the corner. Our kids believe we win games because we have Adam Clark, and they don’t.”

The piece that brought everything together for West Catholic was Sankofa Freedom transfer Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui. The 6-3 junior lefty was ruled ineligible for the district/state playoffs due to PIAA transfer rules but still put together a phenomenal season in helping the Burrs reach the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals. He avg. 11.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 steals while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and making 20 three-pointers. He chipped in 12 points against Archbishop Ryan in the league semifinals and gave the Burrs a lethal scoring option off the bench. “There are a number of games that we probably don’t win unless we have Shemar. I definitely think he was a missing piece and him coming off the bench the entire season shows his character,” as Bocachica stated.

Saraj Ali was named Pa. All-State Class 3A Player of the Year after avg. averaged 21 points, 13 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 4 steals per game. The 6-5 senior posted 29 double-doubles over the last two seasons, and led Loyalsock Township, a team that fell to West Catholic in the second round of the state tournament, to a 104-9 record, four district titles and the 2021 PIAA 3A title in his four seasons. Notre Dame-Green Pond senior guard Brendan Boyle avg. 23.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 3.8 steals per game this season. The 5-11 guard scored a school-record 45 points vs. Saucon Valley and finished his career with a school-record 1,900 points.

2021-22 Pa. All-State Class 3A Team

Jason Fisher, Devon Prep - 3A Coach of the Year

1st Team

Saraj Ali, 6' 5", senior, Loyalsock Township (Player of the Year)

Brendan Boyle, 5' 11", senior, Notre Dame-Green Pond

IV Pettit, 6' 2", senior, Devon Prep

Ty Barrett, 6' senior, Troy Area

Patrick Haigh, 6' 2", junior, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic

Makhai Valentine, 6' 3", junior, Steel Valley

Second Team

Zion Stanford, 6' 5", junior, West Catholic

Easton Fulmer, 6' 1", senior, Franklin

Justice Shoats, 6', senior, Holy Redeemer

Lucas Orchard, 6' 4", junior, Devon Prep

Kobe Magee, 6' 5", senior, Executive Education Academy Charter

Khalif Crawley Jr., 6' 8", senior, Math Civics and Sciences Charter

Third Team

Bryce Epps, 5' 11", junior, South Allegheny

Adam "Budd" Clark, 5' 9", junior, West Catholic

Joseph Roth, 6' 5", senior, Ellwood City

Donovan Walker, 6' 1", junior, Aliquippa

Jacen Holloway, 6' 4", junior, Devon Prep

Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui, 6' 3", junior, West Catholic