Clippers burn the Bulldogs

Posted: March 22, 2007

With 16 seconds to play, Chester's Karon Burton did a little dance for the fans who had excitedly vacated their seats and were celebrating just off the court.

Burton had reason to lift his hands in the air and kick up his feet. The junior point guard poured in a career-high 35 points as the Clippers turned back upset-minded Simon Gratz, 67-60, last night in a PIAA Class AAAA boys' state semifinal game at packed Norristown High.

Burton shot 12 for 24 from the field (5 for 12 from three-point territory) and 6 for 8 from the line. He added four assists and three steals.

With high-scoring forwards Nasir Robinson and Russell Johnson slowed by foul trouble, Burton picked up the slack. He scored 22 points in the last two quarters.

"I was feeling it during warm-up drills, so I was pretty confident that I could take over when those two guys went out," Burton said.

In Saturday's state championship game, District 1 champion Chester (28-5) will take on Schenley (28-3) at 8 p.m. at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center. Schenley, District 8's champion, romped past District 3 titlist Harrisburg, 85-62, in last night's other semifinal.

Robinson, a 6-foot-5 junior who has orally committed to playing at Pittsburgh, picked up his second foul with 4 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter. He sat out the remainder of the half.

"We knew we had to keep playing," Chester coach Fred Pickett said. "The other guys had to come through."

The 5-9, 145-pound Burton drilled three treys in the first quarter. The 17-year-old's cousin, Fareed Burton, played for Chester in the late 1990s and then went to Lincoln University.

"Karon has a big heart," Pickett said. "He can take it to the basket against anybody. He's probably a little more explosive than Fareed was when he played here."

Robinson scored all nine of his points after intermission. Johnson, a 6-6 junior, netted nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers led, 26-21, at the break. At the start of the second half, Gratz's Josh Martin and Alibaba Odd buried back-to-back treys to give the Bulldogs the lead.

Down by 40-39 at the end of the third quarter, District 1 champ Gratz (24-7) moved back in front, 44-40, on a three-point play by 6-5 center Ishmawiyl McFadden and a dunk by Tommie Sykes. But that was the last lead for the Public League powerhouse, as Chester responded with an 18-6 spurt.

Burton's right-wing three-pointer put the Clippers ahead, 55-50, with 3:30 to play. Soon after, it was 58-50 and the Chester fans began making plans for a weekend trip to State College.

Rahlir Jefferson pulled down seven rebounds for the Clippers, while Robinson and Johnson each had six.

For Gratz, which had lost in the first round of states in each of the last two seasons, Martin produced 15 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals. McFadden (16 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) and Charles White (15 points) also played well in a losing effort.

In the state final, the Clippers will try to avenge an 85-74 loss to Schenley on Jan. 28. Coming off the bench, Burton scored 25 points in that defeat.

"When you play for Chester, the goal is always a state championship," Burton said. "We're going there to win it. No question about it."

Simon Gratz6 15 18 21 - 60

Chester16 10 14 27 - 67

SG: Josh Martin 15, Charles White 15, Ishmawiyl McFadden 16, Tommie Sykes 7, Alibaba Odd 3, Keith Harding 3, Sebree Johnson 1.

C: Karon Burton 35, Micah Covert 2, Russell Johnson 11, Nasir Robinson 9, Mark Burrell 2, Rahlir Jefferson 3, Kevin Green-Germany 5.


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019

or robrien@phillynews.com.

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