Photos by: Jeremy Park, Dan Hilferty, Zamani Feelings, Mike Nance, James Quinn, & Kathy Leister
By: Rich Flanagan
With two full weeks of games in the books, the Inter-Ac League season looks eerily similar to the way it did at the end of the regular season a year ago. Penn Charter and Malvern Prep both hold perfect league marks with a pivotal matchup slated for Tuesday. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy boasts one of the deeper rosters in the league but has gotten off to a bumpy start. Haverford School looks primed to turn its slow start around while Germantown Academy and Episcopal Academy are still finding their way.
There has been plenty to discuss through the first three games so let’s delve right into it:
Malvern Prep and Penn Charter shared the 2022 Inter-Ac title and split last year’s matchups, so understandably Tuesday’s first matchup inside the O'Neill Center on the Friars campus will be more than just a basketball game between longtime rivals. The Friars boast the best one-two scoring punch the Inter-Ac has to offer in Andrew Phillips (18.2 points per game) and Ryan Williams (17.1).
Phillips poured in a staggering 18 of his game-high 29 points in the opening half in a 70-58 victory over Germantown Academy on Friday. The 6-foot-4 senior forward is one of the most versatile players in the league with his ability to shoot from the outside, convert off the dribble and post up players from either side of the basket. Even at 6-4, he has done most of his damage inside and on putbacks on the offensive glass. He had 14 points against Episcopal Academy and prior to that he scored a team-high 25 points in an overtime win over Academy of the New Church, a game that saw freshman Rowan Miller sink the game-winning free throws with 57 seconds left.
Williams, who burst onto the scene as a sophomore, has continued to find ways to put the ball in the basket and few defenders in the Inter-Ac have been able to conjure up ways to slow him down.
The 6-3 junior guard scored 11 of his 20 points in the first half in that triumph over the Patriots and drilled a pair of three-pointers. He has scored 20 points in three consecutive games and had nine points in the final quarter to put the finishing touches on a 65-45 win over the Churchmen on Jan. 10. He’s possibly the most electric guard the league has to offer and that bodes well for the Friars.
Penn Charter returned its entire roster from last season and that continuity has paid dividends as the Quakers have won 17 of their first 18 games this season. During this unprecedented run, they’ve also won Inter-Ac matchups over Springside Chestnut Hill, Haverford School, and Episcopal Academy so far, but they’ve won those three matchups by a total of 14 points. Lafayette signee and senior point guard Mark Butler has averaged 13.7 ppg during Inter-Ac play and has helped spearhead two crucial wins in Penn charter’s pursuit of another league crown. He had 11 points, six rebounds and nine assists in the Quakers’ 52-50 win over the Blue Devils where fellow senior Keith Gee knocked down the game-winning free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining. Sophomore standout Kai Shinholster, who leads Penn Charter at 13.7 ppg on the season, hit four three-pointers in the victory.
After trailing by 14 at halftime to the Fords, the Quakers outscored the opposition, 33-14 in the second half and pulled out a 53-48 win on the road. Butler scored 13 points, including five in the fourth, and Shinholster had six of his nine points in the final quarter as well. Kai’s brother, Trey Shinholster led Penn Charter with two three-pointers and 14 points in that win. The Quakers handled the Churchmen in a 56-49 win on Friday as Butler had 11 of his 17 points after halftime and 6-3 senior guard Isaiah Grimes got things started with 11 of his 14 points in the first two quarters.
While the first matchup is Tuesday, the second matchup will be three weeks later, and both will go a long way to determining a champion.
For the past two seasons, Springside Chestnut Hill has performed extremely well in nonleague play compiling an 18-7 record but when the calendar has turned to January and Inter-Ac play has begun, there has been a change both in style and preparation. The Blue Devils finished the Inter-Ac season at 6-4 last season while splitting matchups with Malvern Prep and dropping both regular-season games to Penn Charter. They would ultimately get revenge on the Quakers in the opening round of the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) Tournament.
The Blue Devils also had a setback to Haverford School and Friday felt like déjà vu. The Fords pulled out a 51-50 victory as KJ Carson led the way with 14 points and Connor Scanlan stepped in and took a charge with 0.4 seconds left to play. It was the second such loss in the team’s first three league contests as the Blue Devils lost a heartbreaking matchup to the Quakers, 52-50 to open league play. Senior forward Alassane Amadou has been a bright spot as of late as he went for 12 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks against the Fords. The 6-9 Marquette signee tallied 12 points, seven boards and six rejections in a 64-54 win over Germantown Academy earlier in the week. His primary objective is controlling the glass and protecting the rim but if Amadou can continue this recent scoring spurt, the highly recruited Division I prospect could change the trajectory of the Blue Devils season.
Camden Burns and Jaren Morton have performed well in the backcourt. Burns, the 6-1 junior guard, leads the Blue Devils at 14.4 ppg and against the Patriots he hit four shots from deep on his way to 16 points and added six rebounds and eight assists. Additionally, he scored 10 points in the two-point loss to Penn Charter. Morton, the 6-5 senior guard who was previously teammates with Amadou at now defunct Bishop McDevitt, hit three treys and had 16 points versus the Quakers and posted 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists against the Fords. Keni Williams has been a viable fourth option as evidenced by his 15 points against Germantown Academy but 6-3 freshman Owen Kelley, who hit four three-pointers vs. the Fords, is also trying to fill that role. There are still seven Inter-Ac games remaining and plenty of time to get things in order, but the Blue Devils don’t want to fall behind any further.
When looking back on some of the elite scorers to come through Germantown Academy, names such as Jordan Longino, Matt Walsh, Nick Linder, Kyle McCloskey, and Alvin Williams come to mind immediately. For a program that has developed 25 different players who have surpassed the 1,000-point mark in the remarkable history at the school located in Fort Washington, the next great one may be on the current roster, and he has been nothing short of sensational through the early part of the year.
Sophomore Bryce Rollerson leads the Inter-Ac in scoring at 21.6 ppg and has scored 20 points in nine games this season. The 6-foot guard poured in 27 points in the season opener against La Salle then had 23 points in the Inter-Ac opener against Episcopal Academy. A season after averaging 8.9 ppg as a freshman, Rollerson scored a career-high 33 points in the Patriots 64-54 loss to the Blue Devils last week. He hit four three-pointers and corralled nine rebounds as he became the first Germantown Academy player with at least 30 points in a game since Blake Smith, now playing at Northwestern, against Penn Charter on Feb. 11, 2022. He had 10 of his 19 points against Malvern Prep in the Patriots most recent game and opposing defenses have been unable to stop him to this point.
Inter-Ac League Standings
Malvern Prep (3-0)
Penn Charter (3-0)
Haverford School (1-2)
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (1-2)
Germantown Academy (1-2)
Episcopal Academy (0-3)