John Iatesta (@phillyphan333)
All season long, Shawn Alston’s been hitting clutch shots that most 10th graders wouldn’t be taking, let along making.
The Haverford School sophomore certainly wasn’t going to back down just because it was the playoffs.
Haverford led early on in their Pennsylvania Independent Schools quarterfinal against Westtown, but they found themselves down seven and losing momentum approaching halftime.
Alston had finished the second quarter off with an and-one to bring Haverford within four points, and then followed that big bucket with a 3-pointer as the third quarter closed to pull his team within one.
That energy definitely carried over from Alston’s 3-pointer as Haverford’s Eric Anderson scored to start the fourth, giving the Fords the lead. They would ride that momentum to a 65-56 win over Westtown.
“I just tried to give my team a lot of momentum. If I show them I’m playing hard and hitting shots, they’re going to hit shots, that’s what I tried to do,” Alston said.
Haverford was able to outscore their opponents 17-9 in the final quarter of the game.
“It’s really special to see as he’s in 10th grade and he’s being put in the situation where he’s having to make big plays in big moments and what it does for your team momentum-wise is it tells you that you should be confident moving forward” Haverford coach Henry Fairfax said.
Alston added an exclamation point to the momentum swing with a powerful dunk off of a turnover at the 4:40 mark of the fourth that gave the Fords a 54-51 lead, taking what seemed to be any remaining energy out of the Westtown bench.
Alston and Anderson lead the way for Haverford, scoring 21 and 18 points respectively. Anderson also contributed three of the teams’ six 3-point makes.
Early on Haverford dominated, going on a 10-2 run in the first four minutes of the game. Westtown’s deliberate pace on offense helped get star wing Jared Nickens open shots, hitting three 3-pointers in the half.
Nickens ended the night with 21 points, a team high. The team’s star carried his team in the second half by scoring 11 of their 20 points.
Westtown got into foul trouble quickly in the second half by picking up six fouls in the third quarter alone. By 3:43 in the fourth quarter Haverford was in the bonus.
Free-throws helped seal the victory for Haverford as they went 17-23 from the line, with 13 of those makes coming in the second half.
Sema’j Reed scored seven of his nine in the second half with five of those points coming from the free-throw line.
Haverford’s free-throw efficiency coupled with Westtown’s lack of free-throw makes helped lead to their ultimate loss. Westtown was only able to make three free throws for the entire game.
Although Alston is only a sophomore, his play has been drawing large amounts of interest from many major colleges.
“I’ve talked basically to every school in Pennsylvania…Penn, Temple, Penn State” Alston remarked, naming Xavier as well as adding that he was too excited after the win to remember all of his collegiate interest.
Alston’s father, Levan Alston, played college basketball at Temple during the 1990s.
“He says it’s my decision. I asked him for feedback you know, he’s leaning towards Temple, I can say that though. He just tells me it’s my decision, go out there and play hard, so I can choose whatever school I want” Alston commented.
Another sophomore that Haverford is expecting to help them through the playoffs is Sean Lloyd. Lloyd contributed 12 points, four rebounds, two steals and a block on the night.
Haverford is 0-2 on the year against Germantown but that was without Lloyd.
“He’s just going to continue to be the spark plug, the huge motor, the heart and soul of what it is that we represent as a ball club” Fairfax said. “Sean is a big part of what we do…not because we want him to play savior, it’s because there’s a certain characteristic that we have to have as a team that he brings to us.”
It will be a big test for the Fords if they meet up with Germantown for a third time. Lloyd was not allowed to play in league games this season since he is a transfer student. Haverford will have a bit of mystery and surprise on their side with Lloyd and he adds another capable scoring option and tough defender.
Haverford and Germantown Academy play on Friday night at Malvern Prep; tipoff is at 6:30.