LANDSDOWNE — It usually doesn't take long for Malik Jackson to figure out if it's going to be a good night for him and his Penn Wood team.
Thursday night against Chester? Yeah, Jackson said afterward with a wry smile, he knew pretty quickly what kind of night it would be.
The Penn Wood guard scored a game-high 25 points, including draining six 3-pointers, in leading his Patriots over Chester, 65-56, in a marquee Del Val League matchup.
"When I hit my first couple of shots, I know it's going to be a good game,' Jackson said. "If I get started early, it's going to be a good game. ... I knew I had to step up.'
The loss is the first for Chester in Del Val play since Feb. 4, 2010 when it fell to the Patriots, a team that went on to be a PIAA Class AAAA runnerup.
Much of the reason for the end of that auspicious streak was the hot shooting of Jackson, who entered as Delaware County's leading scorer. He had 14 points at halftime Thursday night, and the only thing separating him from his fourth 30-point game of the season was an uncharacteristic 3-for-8 night from the free throw line.
Jackson's outburst certainly wasn't for lack of preparation on Chester's part. He was the focal point of their efforts all week in practice, and though the Clippers threw a passel of defenders and a bevy of defensive looks his way, Jackson kept right on hitting one dagger of a 3 after another.
"I can't comprehend it, because I put three different guys on him and told them the same thing, ' don't leave him,'' said Chester coach Larry Yarbray with a slight chuckle. "I don't care if the guy is penetrating, coming toward him. You fake at him and but you stay on (Jackson). ... Hopefully, they'll figure that out one day.'
To give all the credit to Jackson, though, would sell short a gritty team effort by the Patriots (8-1, 2-0). Each time a spark was needed, it seemed there was a volunteer in a white jersey at the ready.
With Amadou Kaba and Jeff Padilioni severely limited by foul trouble in the first half, in came Naeem East, who provided 10 points, all before halftime, and 10 rebounds. That only captures a portion of his impact, as his length resulted in two blocks, control of the lane to alter numerous Chester shots and several block-outs aiding his teammates in the rebounding effort.
In the second quarter, after four straight turnovers to open the frame, Clyde Jones turned to his bench for a new look. In came Calvin Melton, who ripped off five straight points. With Chester threatening to turn it into a game in the third quarter, it was another guard, Addison Scott, who stepped up with four points and three of his seven rebounds on the day.
"Being in foul trouble was frustrating, but I knew my team was going to carry us until I could get back into the game,' Kaba said. "... That's how we play against any team. We're an eight-man team. Everybody comes in and does what they're supposed to do, and we get the win.'
While Penn Wood got contributions from all corners of its roster, Chester (6-2, 0-1) struggled to find a consistent scoring threat.
Penn Wood's activity in the lane stymied Chester's efforts to get to the basket and once the Patriots adapted to the threat of Tyrell Sturdivant (12 first-half points), the secondary sources of offense were hit-and-miss.
Jahmi Bailey rattled off five quick points to start the third quarter, but that was his only contribution for the day. Ditto Kaleeq Campbell to start the fourth. And while he finished with 14 points, Conrad Chambers entered the fourth quarter just 2-of-6 from the field.
The loss reinforces the message Yarbray and his staff have tried to hammer home this young season: With Chester rebuilding — "still trying to put it together,' is how Yarbray put it — teams smell vulnerability. As if Del Val teams needed a reason to push harder, the fact that the glimmer of hope for a win is brighter than it has been in years intensifies the challenge for the Clippers.
"Teams are going to come at us because we're everybody's championship,' Chambers said. "Everybody tests themselves against us, so I feel as though we need to come out and lay the punch first, and we didn't do that today. They came out with intensity, they got that crowd into it and they got the win.'
The consensus among the Penn Wood players was simple: It's a win — nice, perhaps, and long-awaited for some of their fans — but a win like any other. Plain and simple.
"It's just another win,' Kaba said. "They've been sleeping on us. We've been flying under the radar. We know what we can do. We want to keep it moving, and we're looking forward to a great season.'
"It's just a regular game to us,' Jackson said. "We know what we're capable of. It might be a big win to y'all, but we know what we're capable of.'
In other Del Val action:
Interboro 53, Glen Mills 50: Christian Irons shook off some recent struggles by turning in 17 points and 12 rebounds, and he blocked a 3-point attempt at the buzzer for the Bucs to score a big league win.
Tyler Moralis chipped in 12 points, and Mathias Meyer scored in double-figures for the first time this season with 10 points.
Anthony Burgos scored 12 points, and Dawine Harmon chipped in 12 for Glen Mills (6-4, 1-1).
Academy Park 69, Chichester 64: The Knights survived a foul-marred game thanks to 23 points and five steals from Travis Smith.
Terran Hamm added 19 points, Juwan Collins poured in 15 and Cyrie Spencer recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds for AP (8-1, 1-0).
Derrick Welles had a game-high 21 points for Chichester.