RADNOR — Nelson Blickman has been around for a while for Radnor and unfortunately for the three-year starter, he hasn’t seen a ton of winning.
When he first broke into the Raiders’ lineup as a sophomore, Blickman saw his team flounder on the way to a three-win season. A year later, he emerged as Radnor’s go-to guy, but the Raiders were only able to up that win total by two victories.
Coming into his final season, though, Blickman knew things would be different. Chris Monahan’s team brought back an incredible 98.4 percent of its scoring from a year ago and with nine seniors to count upon, there was every reason for heightened optimism at Radnor.
The Raiders have some work to do to claw their way back in the Central League, but as they showed in Saturday night’s 73-60 win over New Media Technology Charter in the championship game of the Walt Katuzny Tournament, they’re not a team that’s easy to handle.
And it all starts with Blickman, the heartbeat of the team who shined under the brightest lights. With Radnor (5-4) trailing 52-48 heading into the final quarter, Blickman took over. He netted 14 of his game-high 28 points to highlight a 25-8 fourth-quarter blitzkrieg from the Raiders, and when Radnor needed a play, there was little doubt as to who was getting the ball. A year ago, Radnor wouldn’t have come back from a seven-point early-fourth quarter deficit, but now things are different.
“It’s a huge change because of our experience,’ said Blickman, who also added four steals. “We’re all seniors now. We know we can’t take plays off. That’s not the type of team we can be. It’s a learning process, I guess, and I think we’re getting there. … We’ve got to keep going. This isn’t enough right now.’
Maybe not, but taking nine games to match last year’s win total achieved in 22 games is a heck of a step forward. The Raiders are competitive, too. They’ve only lost one game by double digits, a 10-point loss to Main Line rival Conestoga, and gave undefeated Upper Darby its closest game of the year before the Royals escaped with a one-point win.
So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Monahan has his team on the right path, even though Radnor’s basketball tradition of late has been, well, lacking. The school hasn’t posted a winning mark since going 14-9 and making the first round of district play in 2008-09, but there’s a very real chance that the Raiders could find themselves on the sunny side of .500 by the time the season comes to an end.
“This just shows (our maturation),’ said Nick Kelly, who played a fantastic Robin to Blickman’s Batman with 17 points and five rebounds, four of them offensive. “We were juniors, now we’re seniors. We’ve been playing together this long and we’re coming together. Last year, it definitely would have been different, but we came together and got the win.’
Blickman’s heroics had a lot to do with it. He drained a 3-pointer to give Radnor a 58-57 lead, its first of the fourth quarter, and followed it up with an and-one on the ensuing possession. But after New Media clawed back to within one and Andrew Lundstrom (four points, six rebounds) fouled out, it was Kelly who came to the rescue. Rashawn Reed deftly found Kelly in the corner and Kelly brought a raucous Radnor student section to its loudest point of the night when his 3-pointer splashed through the net.
“I’m thinking, ‘ Let’s delay the clock here, run it out, maybe get on the line,” said Kelly, who transferred back to Radnor as a junior after spending his freshman and sophomore years at Malvern Prep. “Then Rashawn drove, penetrated and I was wide open. I put it up and it went in. Biggest shot of the game. It was just a total momentum shift, got the crowd into it.’
“Coach wants us to attack and find our guys on the perimeter,’ added Reed, a versatile guard/forward who handed out a team-high five assists. “That’s my role. That’s what I do well. I saw (Kelly) ready for the shot. I just went in, got it to him and he knocked it down. It’s a rush. It’s great knowing that my teammates have the confidence to make shots and I have confidence in them to make them.’
Blickman swiped a steal and laid the ball in for two points on the ensuing possession, more or less cementing the win. It’s that type of effort that the Raiders have come to expect from him on a nightly basis, and if they’re to make any noise down the stretch, it’s what they’ll need him to do.
It certainly won’t hurt if they get more outside help, though. Terrance Quinn (three 3-pointers) and Reed joined Kelly and Blickman in double-figure scoring with 11 points apiece and Chris Galloway provided an instant energy boost off the bench. This won’t be a team that others are eager to play.
“This year, our mentality is proving to ourselves that we can do well,’ Reed said.
That’s a good place to start.