Last year Downingtown West sat on the outside looking in at the state playoffs. This season, they are going to be in the state playoffs following a 70-64 win at Spring-Ford on Tuesday night in the District 1 6A playbacks.
The Whippets got off to a slow start with six turnovers in the first four minutes, but great rebounding kept the game close as the offense tried to get itself together. Once the offense did get itself together, they took control of the game. They would have as many rebounds at half (20) as the Rams would have in the whole game.
That control of the paint gave Downingtown West an eight-point edge going into the second half. Spring-Ford had tried to put together some runs, but Downingtown West would match whatever they got going and looked to have all the momentum going into the break.
“(In) the first half there was no sense of urgency,” Spring-Ford coach Chris Talley said following the game. However, in the second half things changed for the Rams on their way to climbing back into the game.
It didn’t happen right away as Downingtown West ran the score all the way to 45-33 midway through the third quarter, but the Rams battled back. Suddenly, Spring-Ford went on a 14-3 run punctuated by a Ryan Fitzpatrick three-pointer. He would play a huge role in keep the Rams close in the second half with 18 points on 5/11 shooting in his final high school basketball game.
After the teams traded buckets for four minutes, Spring-Ford junior Nestor Diaz (13 points) would grab a loose ball and hit a three pointer to give the Rams a 59-58 lead. Then a two-minute cold stretch filled with turnovers would hit the Rams and that would prove fatal to their season.
Paced by big men Greg Barton and George Gordon, the Whippets would extend the lead to five until Fitzpatrick answered with another three with just under minute left. Forty seconds later and Fitzpatrick would step up to the line for the Rams, but it was too late for his team. Tough defense and easy buckets pushed Downingtown West’s lead to six prior to the Rams’ free throws with nineteen seconds left.
Fitzpatrick would knock it down to give himself 22 points on the night, but ultimately the clock would strike midnight on the Rams’ season and the seniors’ high school careers. The Class of 2017 played a big part in the team’s PAC-10 title and state playoffs berth last year and came one game away from both those things these season. However, it was Downingtown West’s night to make history.
Greg Barton’s double-double (15 points-11 rebounds) and George Gordon’s 24 points catapulted this team into the state playoffs with huge games. Gordon, who plans on playing right down the road from Spring-Ford at Ursinus College, saw this win as validation for all of the work this team has put in following their slow start.
“Even though we had some losses and we had some roller coaster up and down moments this season, our coaches really pulled us through and my teammates bought in,” he went onto add, “We’re right where we want to be” in regards to his team’s bid in the state playoffs.
As for the Whippets’ head coach Stuart Ross, his team is headed to states in his first season as their head coach. Despite his team not getting into the Ches-Mont Final Four, the coach has been able to pull everything together in one season and get his guys into the state playoffs.
Cool and collected after the big win, Coach Ross explained his expectations once he took the job at Downingtown West, “(States) is always a goal, but our main goal has been to get better everyday…I was excited when I took this job because I knew we had the talent to continue the winning tradition.”
As the Rams close the book on another year, the Whippets will continue to fight on into the state playoffs as field continues to narrow as we head towards the PIAA 6A State Playoffs and will either face the winner of District 3 or 11 depending on seeding.