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HS Playoff Preview: Ches-Mont, Central, Suburban-One, PAC-10

02/05/2016, 8:00am EST
By CoBL Staff

Dom Guerrera (above) and Downingtown West have their sights set on the Ches-Mont title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
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Here’s a look at several leagues holding playoffs this weekend, featuring the thoughts of one anonymous coach from each league whose team didn’t qualify for the playoffs:

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Ches-Mont League (@ Oxford HS)
Semifinal 1: Coatesville vs. Great Valley (Sat., 6:30 PM)
Semifinal 2: Downingtown West vs. Octorara (Sat., 8 PM)

Breakdown
When Coatesville avenged its earlier loss to Downingtown West this past Tuesday, it locked up the Ches-Mont National Division title, setting up a game with Great Valley, the only member of this year’s league playoffs that was not around for last season’s installment. GV (14-5, 9-3) has one more game against Octorara (20-2, 12-0) before facing the top team in district one, the Red Raiders (21-1, 11-1). Octorara’s game against Downingtown West (20-2, 11-1) will be a rematch of last year’s league title game, which was won by the Whippets, 68-53.

West returns four starters from that league championship run, its two Division I-bound seniors Ryan Betley (Penn) and Josh Warren (Cornell), as well as senior Dom Guerrera and junior George Gordon. Octorara super sophomore Christian Ray, a 6-4 guard averaging well over 20 ppg, was around for last year’s showdown, but didn’t contribute much as it was only his freshman season. As for the Coatesville-Great Valley game, it’s hard to see Rome Boyer and the senior-laden Red Raiders not picking up the win--although Great Valley has been known to pull the occasional upset, having knocked off district eight-seed Central Bucks West in the opening round of last year’s District 1 AAAA playoffs and beating Octorara to end the regular season. However, a Coatesville win would set up either a monumental grudge match with the district’s likely two-seed Downingtown West, or a rematch of a recent 70-44 blowout against crosstown foe Octorara for the Ches-Mont trophy.  --Jeff Griffith

Coaches’ Take
"I think West/Octorara, I’ll be curious to see if Octorara can score 40-45 points against West, with their length and size, Octorara’s going to struggle. West beat them up pretty good last year in the championship and I think Octorara had more scoring last year. I’d be really surprised if that’s less than a 15-point West win...I think Great Valley is a team that likes to run their stuff for a minute, so I think they’ll be fine, it’s just about if they can make enough shots, make enough plays, and not let Coatesville speed them up. If Coatesville speeds team them up, it’s probably not going to turn out well for Great Valley. But I think that game’s going to be close...I would think it’s going to be Coatesville/Downingtown West, which should be a really, really good game. I know Coatesville made some jump shots the other night, which really helped them, and Warren/Betley only combined for 16 points. If West can do a better job making sure that Warren gets touches, and I would assume Betley would make a three, I think having two Division I players and holding them down two times in a row in a 10-day period will be very, very difficult."

CoBL Pick: Downingtown West over Coatesville

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Alex Ischiropoulos (above) and upstart Strath Haven will need to win two games against seasoned squads to take home the Central League for the first time in more than a decade. (Photo: Abigail Hoffer/CoBL)

Central League (@ Haverford HS)
Bye: Ridley
Semifinal 1: Conestoga vs. Strath Haven (Sat., 7 PM)

Breakdown
With its win over Garnet Valley on Thursday night, Ridley finishes the Central League season a perfect 16-0, eliminating the need for the Green Raiders to play a semifinal matchup per league rules. Giving East Stroudsburg commit Brett Foster (17 ppg) and a strong supporting cast including Julian Wing (13 ppg) and Ryan Bollinger (9 ppg) a few extra days’ rest before Monday’s final will only make Mike Snyder’s group more dangerous.

Both Conestoga and Strath Haven have the pieces to pull the upset, depending on who gets there. ‘Stoga (12-4), whom Ridley defeated in last year’s Central League championship, is led by a three-year starter at point guard, Darryl Caldwell. The small-college target has played in more big games than anybody else in the league, and he's got a very good cast around him, including 6-5 senior forward Andrew Larkin, 5-11 senior guard M.J. Lezanic and 6-4 junior Charlie Martin, all of whom are extremely dangerous from the perimeter. Strath Haven (13-3) is much more the upstart, having completed a turnaround from a 2-14 league record a year ago under first-year head coach Dave McFadden. Senior Alex Ischiropoulos and junior Jahmeir Springfield run the offense, but what helps separate the Panthers is 6-8 junior John Harrar in the middle.

Coaches’ Take
"I think Conestoga vs. Strath Haven is very intriguing, kind of like the royal blood of the central blood the last couple of years against the upstart. I think the one thing favors Conestoga is that for so long, they’ve been in so many big games, but the last couple of years, the playoffs haven’t been that kind to Conestoga. Strath Haven has a dominant big man, and big men are hard to find in HS basketball; they’ve been clicking on all cylinders all year, I know they beat (‘Stoga) earlier in December and I think Strath Haven will have a little bit of an edge because of their size. ...Last year Conestoga was in this position, they were undefeated and then Ridley beat them in the league championship, now Ridley’s in that same position; I think is poised here for a long run in the districts, they have the firepower, they have a complete bench. The only thing would be is if Ridley’s looking ahead to the districts and takes them lightly. Strath Haven has flown under the radar with a stunning record, what they’ve done, they’re looking at a 6-or 7-seed in districts, but Ridley would be favored in that game. If they played Conestoga, if Conestoga beats Strath Haven, I still think Ridley...I really thought Lower Merion was going to give Ridley a game, but they keep winning here, so they’re the favorite to take the Central League.”

CoBL Pick: Ridley over Conestoga

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Eric Dixon (43), Abington's 6-foot-6 forward, is one of the area's most impressive freshmen. (Photo: Josh Velrin/CoBL)

Suburban One League (@ Council Rock North)
Semifinal 1: Abington vs. Pennridge (Sat., 1:30 PM)
Semifinal 2: Plymouth-Whitemarsh vs. C.B. West (Sat., 4:30 PM)

Breakdown
These matchups haven't been officially confirmed by the league, but multiple sources have indicated that's what Saturday's games will be, so we're going with it. Abington, the defending league champs from the SOL's first-ever playoffs a year ago, went 13-1 in SOL National play despite the graduation of two D-II guards from last year's District championship squad. Sophomore Robbie Heath paces a talented young core for Charles Grasty's Ghosts, with 6-6 freshman forward Eric Dixon emerging as one of the best underclassmen in the region this year--and 6-5 freshman wing Lucas Monroe isn't far behind. Pennridge is much more experienced, led by do-everything lead guard Danny Long, a Monmouth baseball commit who's a scholarship-level hooper as well; 6-8 senior forward Max Wagner provides size and shooting ability for the Rams, who went 13-1 in SOL-Continental play and are very dangerous through their top eight or nine, all juniors and seniors.

Coaches’ Take
"I think C.B. West is going to win the first round, because Cal Reichwein, their point guard, he’s going to be able to handle the press, and I think he’s going to be able to penetrate and give their shooters the ball. But will they be able to defend, will they be able to rebound? The fouls, I think the calls are going to be somewhat neutral, so that in itself is going to give C.B. West a pretty fair shot. And on the other side, I see Abington advancing against Pennridge. Abington is the most balanced team in the tournament; they have great size, they have good shooters, they have a good point guard, they can press and they can play half-court. They’re the only team that can play all facets of the game. And int he final, I see Abington squeaking out a win over C.B. West for the second straight year, in a close one. Abington has the ability to play the half-court ability with C.B. West, but they can also get out with Robbie Heath in transition and create some problems in transition with their pressure defense, so I think that will be the difference. If C.B. West is able to handle the pressure and not turn the ball over, they could beat Abington, but I think that’s what makes Abington, Abington.”

CoBL Pick: Plymouth-Whitemarsh over Pennridge

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Christian Kelly (above) and Phoenixville enter the PAC-10 playoffs without a league loss on the resume. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Pioneer Athletic Conference (@ Spring-Ford)
Semifinal 1: Perkiomen Valley vs. Phoenixville (Fri., 6 PM)
Semifinal 2: Pope John Paul II vs. Spring-Ford (Fri., 7:45 PM)

Breakdown
Perkiomen Valley (8-5) enters their semifinal game off a couple huge wins, defeating rival Spring-Ford 53-45 last Friday to get themselves into the Final Four, then winning at Downingtown East 41-31 Tuesday night. They’ll need a great defensive team performance and great shooting from junior guard Justin Jaworski if the Vikings want to upset undefeated Phoenixville (13-0). When these two teams last met, Perkiomen Valley led 37-25 in the third quarter before the Phantoms went on a huge 16-3 run to take control of the game and hold on for a 54-49 win. In that game, Jaworski got off to a hot start from three, which they’ll need against a bigger, deeper Phoenixville team. The Phantoms, led by senior wing and PAC-10 leading scorer Christian Kelly will look to exploit their advantage on the inside with 6-6 senior forward Jeff Conboy and 6-6 junior wing Avery Close as well as the 6-4 Kelly.

After an 11-0 league start, Spring-Ford suffered two consecutive setbacks to both Phoenixville and Perkiomen Valley last Thursday and Friday. The 3-ball, which the Rams relied heavily on this season, was nowhere to be found, as they shot a combined 8-34 from beyond the arc in those consecutive defeats. However, the Rams have had a week to rest and recover to get ready for Pope John Paul II, a team they beat by a comfortable 21 points in their only league meeting on January 20th. In that game, the Rams locked down Golden Panthers star Rich Dunham, holding the guard to just 10 points thanks to stellar team defense led by Rams wing Nigel Cooke. For the Golden Panthers to pull off the big upset, Dunham has to have a big night and they have to contain Rams leading scorer Matt Gnias on the perimeter, as the Rams got off to a hot start from three in their first meeting and never looked back.

Coaches’ Take
If you look at Phoenixville, going undefeated the season, and you have a player the caliber of Christian Kelly, it starts there. What are you going to do to slow him down? What’s made them so dangerous this year is the players around him, you have some players who can shoot, Avery Close has been a threat, and Jeff Conboy has been a threat inside and outside. And they bring some kids off the bench, their depth makes them really good, it’s one of the reason’s why they’re 13-0 this year. ...That being said, Spring-Ford and Perk Valley both played them tough this year.  You see some stars across the board, guys are putting up big numbers this year. Jaworski’s been scoring a lot, Dunham’s having a big year for PJP and Gnias has been putting up big numbers and he’s a really tough player; they’ve got some depth as well, Spring-Ford. Looking at how the teams kind of approach defending the star players on the other teams and who’s able to step up, complementary players, that’ll be interesting to see."

CoBL Pick: Phoenixville over Spring-Ford


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