LEBANON, PA – They are still the Chester Clippers.
They no longer compete in the PIAA’s largest classification.
But make no mistake, the Clippers remain one of the elite “brands” of high school basketball in Pennsylvania.
In their 72-53 win over Milton Hershey in their 5A state tournament opener, the Clippers, who have rarely entered the tournament as something other than the PIAA District 1 champion, played like a team with something to prove.
After losing their district quarterfinal, the Clippers were the 5th-place team among the seven teams from District 1. Penncrest, the District 1 champion, was upset Friday night 51-42 by District 3’s 10th-place team Hershey, Chester’s next opponent.
“We felt like we should have won it (District 1 championship),” Clipper guard Ahrod Carter told SPORTSfever. “We had a chip on our shoulder. We felt like we had something to prove.”
In large part due to Carter, the Clippers proved they are serious contenders for the 5A state championship. Carter played a near-perfect game when he scored a career-high 27 points, making 10 of his 12 shots, including seven three-point shots.
“I don’t believe he wanted to finish up,” said Chester coach Larry Yarbray, Sr. “It’s our time of the year.”
It looked just that way as the Clippers jumped to an early 15-4 lead on Milton Hershey, the third-place team from District 3. The Spartans never got closer than nine points.
This despite Milton Hershey, led by Keonte Lucas’ 12 points, holding its own in the turnover and rebound battle.
The difference was outside the three-point arc. Led by Carter’s seven three-point baskets, Chester drained 10—something that past Chester teams rarely turned to. Forward Jamar Sudan added 15 points for the Clippers.
“We have six guys who can make threes,” said Yarbray. “I’m used to that.”
With Chester’s reputation as a basketball powerhouse, why 5A and not 6A coach?
“You’ve got to look at our enrollment is down,” said Yarbray. “We played up for years. With the Catholics, privates and now the charters, they keep coming taking our kids. They've (PIAA) got to do something about it.”