Westtown ousts Friends' Central in FSL semifinal

Posted: February 08, 2012

Seth Berger said the turnaround for Jeremy Schulkin came during a holiday basketball tournament at Trenton Catholic.

"He hit an NBA-range three-pointer at the buzzer to give us a victory over Rutgers Prep," the Westtown coach said. "Since then, he's been on a big-time roll. His play has given us a major boost in the second half of the season."

On Wednesday, with Schulkin shooting 6 for 7 from the field en route to 14 points, Westtown fought past Friends' Central, 55-53, in a Friends Schools League playoff semifinal at packed Germantown Friends.

Schulkin, a senior transfer and wing guard, spent three years at Northern Burlington (N.J.). He then switched to Solebury School, where he was reclassified, for a year.

"I left Northern Burlington to gain more exposure," the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder said. "I was going to stay at Solebury for a second year, but reconsidered things after the school had a hard time replacing graduated players. That's when Westtown came into the picture."

Against Friends' Central, Schulkin, moving well without the ball and freeing himself for easy layups, converted his first five field-goal attempts. His only miss was a fourth-quarter trey.

"He's a spectacular offensive player," Berger said. "And he's fearless. At no point in this game did he hesitate to put the scoring load on his shoulders."

Westtown led by 11 points late in the third quarter, but needed two free throws from Daniel Ochefu with 13.7 seconds remaining to clinch a berth against Academy of the New Church in Friday's 7 p.m. final at Haverford College.

Ochefu, a 6-10 senior and Villanova recruit who grabbed 10 rebounds; sophomore guard Floyd Preito (16 points, four assists, four boards); and 6-7 junior Yilret Yiljep (15 points, 10 boards) also keyed the victory.

With a minute to go, the Phoenix rallied and forged a 51-51 deadlock when Billy Cassidy drained a three-pointer from the left baseline. The junior was fouled by Schulkin on the shot, but missed out on a four-point play.

Preito, who grew up near Broad and Girard in North Philly, put the Moose in front, 53-51, with a pull-up jumper in the lane. After Conrad Chambers (six assists) came up empty on a right-side drive, Ochefu secured the rebound, was fouled, and drained two free throws.

Amile Jefferson, a 6-8 senior still sorting out his college options, paced Friends' Central with 26 points, 10 boards (five on offense), and two blocks.

With Westtown regularly switching defenses, the Phoenix shot 6 for 24 from beyond the arc. Overall, the defending league champs were 20 for 49 from the field.

Friends' Central   11 11 11 20 – 53

Westtown   14 13 15 13 – 55

FC: Karonn Davis 12, Billy Cassidy 9, Amile Jefferson 26, Conrad Chambers 3, Jonathan Lawton 3.

W: Justinas Gaizelis 5, Floyd Preito 16, Daniel Ochefu 5, Yilret Yiljep 15, Jeremy Schulkin 14.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone

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