Sunday, March 7, 2010
Friday night, for the second time in four days, I went over to Villanova to watch both Penn Wood and Plymouth-Whitemarsh, arguably the two best teams in all of Pennsylvania. Friday night's game, for the district title, is the game that people, myself included, have been waiting for all season long. There were stars on the court and a number of coaches in the stands. Saint Joseph's was represented with both Phil Martelli and Geoff Arnold in the stands. Temple's Fran Dunphy, Penn State's Ed DeChellis, and West Virginia assistant coach Billy Hahn were all among the nearly sell-out crowd.
The game, eventually won 54-49 in overtime by Penn Wood, was a tale of two halves, a number of sub-plots, and a great atmosphere. Going into the game, I was really interested in how the match-up down low between SJU commit CJ Aiken and Penn Wood junior center Shawn Oakman would go. In the first half, we saw very little of that match-up since Oakman went to the bench with two fouls only a few minutes into the first quarter. He sat out the rest of the half, which opened things up in the middle. At the half, CJ was well on his way to a double-double. On one particular sequence, he made a perfectly timed block on the defensive end, sprinted the court, and had an alley-oop way above the rim. It was my fourth time this season seeing Aiken play, and each time out, I am more and more impressed by his timing on the defensive end and his ability to catch anything thrown in his direction on the offensive side of the ball. Despite Oakman's benching, Plymouth-Whitemarsh only held a 5 point lead going into the break. Aiken had a great first half for PW and Tyree Johnson played very well for Penn Wood in half one. The play of the half, and probably the game came in the second quarter. With Penn Wood down just about double digits, Penn Wood junior wing Aaron Brown received the ball on the left elbow and took it hard to the rim, jamming it with home left-handed. After the jam, Brown ran down the court, arms motioning for the Penn Wood faithful to make some noise. They did, Brown took his game to another level, and Penn Wood went to the locker room only down 5.
While CJ Aiken was the most impressive player on the court in the first half, that award easily goes to Aaron Brown for the second half and over-time. Most of that is due to Aaron's great play, but it's also due to Plymouth-Whitemarsh's inability to get the ball to Aiken in the second half. I counted only two or three occasions all half where Aiken got a touch. Part of that is due to Oakman's presence, but it was almost like there was a reluctance by PW's guards to get the ball to their big-man. Jaylen Bond, the junior PW forward, really struggled in the second half, especially from the free throw line. I lost track, but according to the Philly.com article linked below, Bond shot 3-12 from the line, with the bulk of that coming in the second half. Aside from the momentum-changing dunk in the first half, Aaron Brown was quiet up until intermission. That changed in the fourth quarter, when he demanded the ball every time down the court. On one particular play, Brown took the ball hard to the basket and was fouled by Jaylen Bond. After hitting his first free throw, Brown took a step toward Bond and said to him, "You can't guard me. Ever." In this game, that was true. Brown absolutely took over, hitting crucial free throws in overtime for Penn Wood. In this game, he scored on a great variety of dunks, drives, pull-up jumpers, and free throws.
For the game, according to Philly.com, Brown finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds. For Plymouth-Whitemarsh, CJ Aiken had 10 points, 7 boards, and 6 blocks. Those numbers would have probably been a lot higher had CJ gotten more touches on the offensive end.
Both teams now advance to the state playoffs, which begin this coming week.
The day after winning the district title, Aaron Brown took in the Saint Joseph's - La Salle game at SJU along with his father and Penn Wood head coach Clyde Jones. It's clear that Brown is one of SJU's top targets in the junior class, and his performance Friday night should have all SJU fans hoping that he decides to come to Hawk Hill.
The link directly below from the Times Herald, gives a nice recap and video highlights from the game. Aaron Brown's dunk is in the video, and he is number 2 in blue.
The picture above of CJ Aiken is also from the Times Herald article.
Times Herald Video Highlights
Philly.com Recap of PW-PW Game