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PIAA Semifinal Previews: Class 2A-6A

03/20/2017, 2:15pm EDT
By Michael Bullock & Josh Verlin

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

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While Girard College and Faith Christian faced off in a PIAA Class A semifinal on Monday night, the other five state semifinals with teams from southeastern Pennsylvania will all take place on Tuesday.

Here’s an in-depth look at each:


Kwazhere Ransom (above) beat Constitution on this shot in last year's Class A semifinals. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

2A: Math Civics & Sciences vs. Constitution
Philadelphia University, 7:00 PM

It’s “deja vu all over again,” as MCS and Constitution will meet at Philly U in a state semifinal, one year and five days after Kwazhere Ransom hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime in this same building; that lifted the Mighty Elephants escape to a 79-78 win after they blew a 21-point lead in regulation. These two Public League rivals are used to playing four times each year: twice in the regular season, once in the Public League playoffs and once in the state playoffs. Last year, the teams split the regular-season meetings and the playoff meetings, with Constitution winning in the Pub and MCS when it was even more crucial. This year again has been razor-thin: they split in the regular season, and MCS won 78-75 in the Pub playoffs.

Constitution will be happy to be back in Philly after a long road trip up to Danville HS to battle Ridgway, after playing its second-round game up in the Lehigh Valley. The Generals are even happier to see senior guard Tamir Green return to form, dropping 20 points in the quarterfinals after going scoreless the round before; they’ll need him and fellow senior, 6-6 wing Maurice Waters’ best efforts to even the score. Ransom is back, now a junior, and part of an experienced MCS lineup that is led by seniors Malik Archer (6-3), Maqi Watson (6-7), Saheed Peoples (5-10) and Tymair Johnson (5-11); all but Watson were on the team’s run to the championship game last year.

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Quade Green (above) and Neumann-Goretti are going for their fourth straight PIAA championship. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

3A: Neumann-Goretti vs. Del-Val Charter
Liacouras Center, Temple University, 6:00 PM

Speaking of rematches, these two programs have certainly gotten familiar with one another the last few seasons, even if they’re not league opponents like the 2A semifinal above. The Catholic League powerhouse and Public League upstart clashed in the District 12 3A championship games each of the last two years, with Del-Val beating N-G last season before the Saints got revenge on the Warriors with a 65-58 victory back on March 4. Neumann-Goretti hasn’t lost a state semifinal in its last six appearances, going on to win state titles in 2010-12 and 2014-16, with the only exception a quarterfinal loss in 2013; Carl Arrigale’s Saints romped over York Catholic and Holy Redeemer before surviving a challenge from Lancaster Mennonite, 69-56 in the quarterfinal. Del-Val is making its furthest journey into the state tournament after losing to Imhotep in the quarters a year ago; James Lewis’ bunch took out Valley Forge by 18 in the quarterfinals after dispatching first Loyalsock Twp. and then Trinity in the first two rounds.

When it comes to defending the Saints, the toughest two options are Arrigale’s pair of high-major commits, Quade Green (Kentucky) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Villanova). Green, a 6-0 point guard and one of the best floor generals in his class, had 14 points and nine assists against Lancaster Mennonite, as usual staying in complete control the whole way through. Cosby-Roundtree, a 6-8 forward, had 13 points and 11 rebounds, blocking six shots; junior forward Marcus Littles, a 6-9 Division I recruit, had a dozen as well. Del-Val doesn’t quite have the same size, with 6-7 senior Dion Harris providing the only real bulk, but they have two terrific guards in junior Antwuan Butler and senior Mekhi Morris, who are both 20-point capable on any given night. The Warriors will get the majority of their scoring from that trio, but if nobody else steps up and hits a few shots, they’ll have a tough time matching the output of the rest of the Neumann-Goretti cast: senior Mike Milsip (6-4), an East Stroudsburg commit who had 15 against Lancaster Mennonite, plus junior Noah Warren (5-10) and sophomore Christian Ings (6-1), who had 14 in the quarterfinals.

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4A: Imhotep Charter vs. Greater Nanticoke
Freedom HS, Bethlehem, 6:00 PM

With its Division I backcourt plugged in at both ends, Imhotep (29-2) used a late surge to pull away to a 70-51 victory over Audenried in Sunday’s double dip at Temple’s Liacouras Center. Rhode Island-bound lead guard Daron Russell collected 24 points in the victory, the 20th straight for Andre Noble’s powerful Panthers, while 6-3 guard and South Carolina recruit David Beatty added 19 points and seven steals. Beatty’s work at the defensive end allowed Imhotep to harass Audenried into 24 turnovers (17 in the first half) before the all-Philly state quarterfinal came to a close. Switching to a zone in the second half, Imhotep’s length came into play as 6-7 sophomore Donta Scott, 6-6 sophomore Chereef Knox, 6-6 sophomore Jamil Riggins, 6-4 sophomore Dahmir Bishop and 6-8 freshman Elijah Taylor controlled the glass and paint. Scott, by the way, finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three steals as Imhotep put Audenried in the rear view after leading by just five (52-47) after three quarters.

Displaying its perimeter abilities early and late, Nanticoke (21-7) shrugged off a determined West Philadelphia challenge in Sunday’s quarterfinal-round scrap and ousted the Speedboys 78-62. Cody Piestrak and Nate Kreitzer each netted 20 points for the Trojans — Piestrak scored 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter — who watched a sizable lead shrink to just two (47-45) after three. Luke Butczynski added 18 points, 15 in the opening quarter, as John Beggs’ squad parlayed an 11-trey outing into Nanticoke’s first state semifinal since 1985. Trahjan Krupinski and Justin Casey shared an additional 15 points for the Trojans — Krupinski is a 6-5 sophomore and Casey a 6-5 senior — who led 26-12 after one quarter and 37-25 at the half.

Piestrak, Butczynski and Kreitzer, who combined for 10 of Nanticoke’s 11 3-pointers against West Philly, have knocked down a shared 167 shots from beyond the arc. In states for the first time since 2003 after finishing third in the District 2 playoffs, the Trojans will need continued production from its big three — Butczynski, Kreitzer and Piestrak — to keep moving forward. One last thing: Nanticoke has found Freedom to be a friendly venue since two of its three state victories have materialized there.

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Seth Maxwell (above, last year), Abington Heights' 7-foot senior, is one half of a big-time battle in the post. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

5A: Archbishop Wood vs. Abington Heights
Freedom HS, Bethlehem, 7:30 PM

Since both sides are trying to pin down their first invites to state championship games, emotion figures to be a huge part of Tuesday’s semi at Freedom. For Wood (26-3), in its initial state tournament, getting to a final would be a really, really memorable experience for a squad that’s been ranked No. 1 all season long and run off 20 consecutive victories. And that quality was apparent in Sunday night’s 71-46 victory over Spring Grove, as 6-3 junior Tyree Pickron erupted for 32 points (23 in the first half) — including career point No. 1,000. Yet another quality performance came from Villanova-bound lead guard Collin Gillespie, who packaged 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists before the 6-2 senior’s productive night came to a close with the Vikings in command. John Mosco’s squad also picked up 11 points and four assists from 6-5 senior Matt Cerruti, as well as six points, six boards and 10 blocked shots from 6-11 junior Seth Pinkney. Where Wood has a significant advantage over Heights is with its collective depth, since Mosco typically has 6-0 senior Keith Otto, 6-4 junior Andrew Funk, 6-7 junior Karrington Wallace, 6-5 sophomore Julius Phillips and 5-9 senior Shawn Thompson filling the remaining parts of his terrific nine-man rotation. And all of them contribute.

Abington Heights (25-3) may not possess Wood’s depth, but Ken Bianchi’s Comets showed that wasn’t necessary in Sunday’s 65-61 conquest of Chester as all five starters logged all 40 minutes in a game that needed two overtimes to settle. Sunday’s victory, the Comets’ second straight in double overtime, also propelled the suburban Scranton squad into the state semis for the first time. Jackson Danzig, a 6-5 junior and the son of University of Scranton coach Carl Danzig, poured in a game-high 30 points (5 treys) with 18 arriving in the extra sessions alone. Heights’ 7-0 senior Seth Maxwell added 18 points, snared six rebounds and redirected eight Chester shots, while 6-5 sophomore George Tinsley chipped in 11 points and grabbed 18 boards. Sophomore guard Trey Koehler added six points to the Heights offensive mix. While a lack of depth against Wood’s nine-man rotation has already been listed as an Abington Heights concern, the Comets also lost twice to a Scranton Prep side that Wood handled in December. Since Bianchi has won nearly 750 career games, he’ll be searching diligently for a way to get his Comets into their first state championship contest by guiding them to their 11th straight win.

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6A: Archbishop Ryan vs. Reading
Liacouras Center, Temple University, 7:30 PM

This is the stage where Reading and star wing Lonnie Walker lost last year, to Taylor Allderdice out in Chambersburg, which could give the Knights a big advantage over a Ryan squad that’s in its first playoff run. Just because this game is in Philadelphia, don’t expect Ryan to have an automatic home-court edge: the Reading faithful showed up in droves to Liacouras on Sunday to support their Knights against Plymouth-Whitemarsh, and they got it done in a 70-61 win that was certainly much closer than the final score implies; Rick Perez’s Knights were actually trailing in the final two minutes. Joe Zeglinski’s Raiders also faced a challenge in its quarterfinal, holding off Hempfield for a 60-50 win.

The Miami (Fl.)-bound senior and guard Isiah Cook are back from that team, but several new faces are making a big impact. Seniors Tyrone Nesby (Berks Catholic) and Jose Batista went for 20 and 12 points against P-W, respectively, while Walker tied Nesby with 20 points while adding eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Ryan has a pair of D-I bound seniors of its own in Izaiah Brockington (NJIT) and Matiss Kulackovskis (Bowling Green), who each netted 20 in the quarterfinals. Both teams have a fair bit of size: Ryan boasts the 6-7 Kulackovskis plus 6-9 Fred Taylor, a West Chester commit; Reading has the 6-5 Batista, 6-5 Nesby and 6-5 Walker.


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Tag(s): Home  High School  Josh Verlin  District 3  Michael Bullock  Schedule/Standings  Catholic League  Archbishop Ryan  Archbishop Wood   Neumann-Goretti  Public League A  Constitution  Del-Val  Imhotep  Math, Civics & Sci.