CONSHOCKEN >> During high school basketball season, Norristown and Upper Merion have one of the biggest rivalries in the area. When the two schools, separated by less than six miles, aren’t vying for control of the Pioneer Athletic Conference, they get along pretty well.
This was on display during the second round of the 60th edition of the Albert C. Donofrio Classic. With a 10-man roster including six players from Norristown and Ty Jones from Upper Merion, M-Sport handled the Great American Pub, 108-90, Thursday night at Fellowship House in Conshohocken.
“We’re all close,” Jones said. “I grew up with all of them. I’m from Norristown. I played with them from the age of four until the seventh year. I’m close to all these guys. It was normal to play with them I play AAU with some of them.
Righteous Mitchell led the Norristown contingent with 10 points while Myon Kirlew added nine, John Dinolfi and Chris Dinolfi eight, DJ Johnson six and Zaki Gomez four. Jones represented the Vikings with 13 points.
The game was never really in doubt in the second half. After M-Sport hit a buzzer-beater to enter half-time with a 52-46 advantage, they opened the game in the open in the opening 7:40 of the second half. They used a 30-14 run to build an 80-60 lead and never let the advantage fall below 12 points in the final 12:20.
“We are not the biggest team but our intensity will always be very high, especially defensively,” said John Dinolfi. (We have) an elite defensive guard combo.
Jones, who was Upper Merion’s point guard this year, played more of a combo guard role on Thursday. He hit three three-pointers in the win and added some nifty layups for his 13 points.
“I was playing a lot of off-ball tonight,” said Jones, who grabbed three rebounds. “Just grab and shoot. When I tried to attack, everyone was playing gaps, so I involved my guys. They looked for me and hit me when I was open.
John Dinolfi was a freshman in 2018 when Norristown went to Plymouth Whitemarsh and lost the season opener, 66-61. It was the first game in the Colonials’ brand new gymnasium.
Since Norristown left the Suburban One League after the 2016 season, the Eagles and Colonials have no guaranteed games each year. The long-time rivals haven’t played since the start of the 2018-19 season.
While Thursday night’s game wasn’t a full Norristown roster with high school head coach Binky Johnson vs. a full PW roster with high school head coach Jim Donofrio, it was six Norristown players against four Plymouth Whitemarsh players.
“We didn’t get a chance to play them,” John Dinolfi said. “We really wanted to play them badly since they beat us on their opening night at PW. I was on that JV team and we lost. We were waiting to play them. We were hoping to maybe see them in districts or states this year, but that didn’t happen.
Long time ahead
Every spring, the best high school basketball players from the Greater Philadelphia area travel to Conshohocken for the Donofrio Classic. NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving have participated in the tournament. Most recently, NBA lottery picks Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter showed off their skills at the Fel.
Qudire Bennett, from Conshohocken, was waiting for his chance to speak. The tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, so it was the Plymouth Whitemarsh junior’s first chance to take part.
“Growing up in Conshy,” said Bennett, who scored 18 points for Great American Pub, “and being small and watching all those players from years ago go far in their lives now — I was like, ‘Man, I want to play in that jaw one day when I get older and go to high school.
M-Sport also recognizes the story behind the Donofrio Classic.
“The (Norristown native) Khalif (Wyatt) team won (the tournament) and he won MVP,” John Dinolfi said. “For him to coach us, he just gives us the backstory and how much it means for the region and the city. We know how much that means to everyone.
Coleman-Newsome does it all
Archbishop Carroll Junior Dean Coleman-Newsome was one of the last players to speak ahead of Thursday night’s game between the Yellow Jackets and Primetime, but that didn’t stop the Yellow Jackets wing from dominating from start to finish.
Coleman-Newsome scored a game-high 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Yellow Jackets’ 122-119 overtime loss to Primetime.
He scored 21 points and hit five of his eight threes in the first half.
The Yellow Jackets built a 16-point, 100-84 lead after the game was tied at 71. Primetime fought back and, with less than six minutes left, erased the entire deficit and took a lead from 110-109 with 55 seconds to go. the game.
Coleman-Newsome hit a three to extend a 104-100 lead to 107-100 with 2:30 to go, but Primetime kept coming.
The Yellow Jackets went 1 for 2 from the free throw line in the final 45 seconds to tie the game at 110.
In the extra session, the Yellow Jackets took a 117-111 lead with a 7-0 run, but Primetime closed with an 11-2 flurry to advance to the quarter-finals next week.
The Yellow Jackets also featured Souderton’s Jayson Bonnet. The senior hit three three-pointers in the game and finished with 11 points and five rebounds.