Central's Stone rebounding from father's death

Posted: January 31, 2014

L AST SUMMER, Zachary Stone intended to spend a week surrounded by the rural confines of French Creek State Park, which sprawls across 7,526 acres that spans North Coventry and Warwick Townships in Chester County and Robeson and Union Townships in Berks County.

However, shortly after his arrival, the 17-year-old Central High senior had his life unexpectedly interrupted by devastating news.

Stone was a counselor at YouthWorks, a program that promotes academic achievement, career success, and productive citizenship for in-school Philadelphia youths, when he learned his father, Jimmy Stone, had suddenly passed away.

"It was just tragic," Stone said of the Aug. 12 day a heart attack claimed his father.

Later, he added: "I was sad at first, but then I was mad. Mad at myself a little bit because I didn't get the chance to say goodbye. I was mad at myself, but then again, it's a part of life so I knew what it was."

The internalized anger soon gave way to the sobering reality that he was now the man of the house and would need to care for his mother, Veronica Stone, and 12-year-old brother Isaiah.

What always bonded father and son together eventually helped begin the healing.

"It was like a best-friend relationship," Stone said. "We watched basketball games together, watched TV together, basically, we watched every sport together because his brother [Jeff Stone] played for the Phillies, so we just liked every sport.

"And my sports got my mind off of it. He would probably want me to keep doing what I'm doing. Get an education and keep playing basketball, football and baseball."

Dad, who Zachary said was a college teammate of former NBA star Dennis Rodman at Southeastern Oklahoma State, would have enjoyed yesterday.

Stone, a 6-3, 240-pound forward who teammates call "Z-Bo," scored a career-high 12 points during Central's 77-74 Public League C conquest of host Paul Robeson High (9-7, 8-3).

In a lively and inhospitable environment, Stone hit floaters in the lane, made sprightly dashes to the basket and dished to open teammates when necessary.

With no bleachers in Robeson's gym, fans line the sidelines - so close that a hearty exhale could put patrons in play. Several fans flinched when hard passes zoomed in front. After all, a through-the-hands miscue could mean black eyes.

Central controlled the scoreboard early, but the Huskies cut into the Lancers' 53-42 advantage after three quarters.

Stone (5-for-9 from he field, 2-for-2 from the line) shook off jeers about his weight and broke a 65-all tie with less than two minutes remaining. Later, he assisted Chris Bing (23 points) for two more and then sealed the game with two free throws.

"It's a playoff atmosphere so you have to play through it," he said. "I'm from North Philly [Fairhill and Cumberland] so I play in this atmosphere all the time on the playgrounds. I grew up playing in this. It fuels me."

How about the taunts?

"I wasn't worried about it. I get it all the time. It's just heckling. I like to joke, too, so it doesn't matter."

Robeson was powered by 29 relentless points from LeRon Epps (10-for- 25, 4-for-10 from three). Jihaad Fluellen added 21 (6-for-19, three treys, 6-for-8 at the line).

Bing, a senior center, was huge for Central with 21 rebounds and six blocks. Also significant were senior guard Rafiq Johnson's 13 points and junior forward Kahlil Williams' 20-point, 10-rebound performance. Junior guard Gregory Holdsman dished nine assists for the Lancers, who also weathered "geek squad" catcalls.

"They think that just because we're smart . . . we're not just all brains," Stone said. "We can have athletics. This year we beat all of our rivals so far and I'm proud of that. Our graduating class, No. 273, we beat all of our rivals, and we just want to continue this winning streak and roll into the playoffs."

According to TedSilary.com, this is the Lancers' third perfect league record over the last 91 seasons (also 1932 and 2005).

Stone said he has plans for a business administration or sports medicine degree and is eyeing West Chester or Cheyney.

As for man-of-the-house duties, Stone's objective is clear.

"Just the little things like keep my brother in the gym and taking out the trash," he said, "just all the things that my dad did. I want my brother to experience what my dad gave me so he can experience it the same way so he won't grow up without a father figure."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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