Speedboys rally, race past Olney Charter

Posted: January 09, 2014

THE DAY was nearly ruined for Lavelle Harper when a message from his head coach early yesterday afternoon said their basketball game was postponed.

Harper, an 18-year-old junior, already had his early-dismissal pass prepared to show teachers when West Philadelphia High skipper Jermaine Snell sent word.

The Speedboys started the day 1-2 in Public League play and were still smarting from a loss to Sayre, so no game meant no redemption.

Then, a second message from Snell, and, game on!

"We were mad at first, but when he told us we were playing that just brought our energy right back up, because we were so amped to play," Harper said.

What followed was a thrilling, 63-62, come-from-behind victory at home against a talented Olney Charter squad.

Harper scored 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting (1-for-4 from three). Tyquaan Bardlavens (8-for-10) was huge off the bench with a team-best 18 points for the Speedboys (4-5, 2-2).

Before tipoff, Trojans head coach Ron Brown explained that frigid temperatures claimed the team bus, which caused the brief cancellation. Eventually, a three-car caravan shuttled the team to West.

The Trojans (7-3, 3-2) seemed unfazed and even used a 16-3 second-quarter burst to seize control. In fact, Olney led, 62-57, with a little more than 2 minutes remaining before turnovers and poor clock management proved costly.

"We could be down by 100 points and we'll still think we can win," said Harper, who lives near 60th and Race. "That's just the dog we have in us. We never give up."

A Bardlavens layup cut the Trojans' lead to 62-59, and Harper's lefty layup got the Speedboys within a point with 1:21 remaining. The final tally belonged to Jabbar Shy (five points), who plucked the ball from Shakeem Stevens near midcourt and raced for glory with seconds remaining.

"It was really unexplainable," Harper said. "My team just kept fighting. My coach told us to keep fighting and we'd get this 'W,' and that's what we did."

Stevens carried the Trojans with 15 of his 18 points in the second half. He also added a game-high seven dimes, but committed six turnovers. Tyheim Monroe led Olney with 20 points (8-for-17), 11 rebounds and two blocks.

The finish was furious, but the game stalled several times leading up to the end. The teams combined for 27 turnovers (Olney 15, West 12) and 19 missed free throws. West was 10-for-20 at the line, while Olney missed eight of 17.

However, perhaps beauty is in the eye of the win holder.

"It was big," said Harper, who also started at quarterback in West's frigid Turkey Bowl clash with Overbrook High. "This win for us was big to get our confidence back up."

The gridiron Speedboys sped off with a 14-8, double-overtime Thanksgiving victory. West's gym was also chilly yesterday, and even the team's scorekeeper blew into his hands for warmth at halftime.

But Harper, whose dad, Denell, played QB at Bartram, paid little mind. Sprained fingers on his non-shooting hand had already cost him a few games.

"It's pretty cold in here, but we just kept fighting and played through it," he said. "We don't worry about anything. We just listen to our coach. We put faith in him and he puts faith in us, so we just have to back him up."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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