Junior guard Rahdir Hicks (above) and Malvern Prep are on the verge of running away with the Inter-Ac. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The 2019-20 Pennsylvania high school basketball regular season is quickly coming up on its finish, with some leagues only a couple weeks away from beginning their postseasons. Within a month, district playoffs will be in full swing, and the state championships in Hershey are two months away.
Before we get that deep into the postseason, however, most teams in the area are focused on either or both of two things: their individual league standings, and their spot in the district playoff picture. Here’s a quick catch-up of where things are at in the area’s various high school leagues; Part Two can be found below, and Part One can be found here:
Friends’ Schools League
Playoff Info: Jan. 31 (Play-In Game), Feb. 4 (Semifinals), Feb. 7 (Championship)
Location: TBD (Play-In/Semifinals); La Salle University (Championship)
The Friends’ League has been the Westtown School show since 2013-14, the Moose having collected each of the last six league titles, though there have been close calls: an eight-point win over GFS in 2015, and especially the four-point win over Academy New Church last year. But there’s no denying that Seth Berger has built a powerhouse at the West Chester institution, with numerous future Division I players on the roster, easily more than the rest of the league has combined.
The FSL playoffs includes the top five teams from the nine-team league, which at the moment includes Westtown (6-0), the George School (5-1) and ANC (5-1), followed by Friends’ Central (3-2) and Shipley (3-2). Germantown Friends (2-3) is right behind, but has already lost to both FCS and Shipley this season, so it would take a two-game swing in one direction for either the Phoenix or Gators to slide out of that last spot. If ANC winds up in the championship, at least the Lions know they have what it takes to hang with Westtown, though an 81-57 Moose win on Jan. 16 serves notice that Westtown isn’t messing around.
Playoff Info: None
With a slew of graduates from last year’s champs, Haverford School, departing, the Inter-Ac has taken on a different look. Without a playoff system, the champ is decided solely on conference record. A new face and potential favorite sits atop the standings in Malvern Prep who will look to capture their first Inter-Ac crown since 2012. The Friars (15-4, 4-0) put out a run and gun style offense led by the league’s all time leading scorer Deuce Turner (Bucknell) and three of their four league wins have come by 18+ points. Episcopal Academy (9-10, 3-1) stand in second place led by Colgate bound guard Alex Capitano. Germantown Academy (10-7, 2-2) and Springside-Chestnut Hill (8-8, 2-2) sit in the middle of the standings, while Haverford School (6-10, 1-3) and Penn Charter (6-11, 0-4) round out the bottom. GA should be competitive with high major junior guard Jordan Longino in the mix and they could end up fighting for the second spot after already taking down Episcopal 59-49 in an early matchup, but they’ll meet again this coming Friday, Jan 24th at 7 PM. If Episcopal escapes with a win, their two matchups with Malvern (Tue., Jan 21, 4 PM and Fri., Feb 7, 7 PM) could end up deciding the league. If GA takes the Episcopal game again, their second slate with Malvern (Tue., Jan 28, 5:45 PM) will be crucial to keep their championship hopes alive.
Philadelphia Public League
Playoff Info: Feb. 4 (Preliminary Round), Feb. 6 (First Round), Feb. 10 (Second Round), Feb. 13 (Quarterfinals), Feb. 19 (Semifinals), Feb. 24 (Championship)
Location: Home courts (Preliminary Round through Quarterfinals); Community College of Philadelphia (Semifinals), Liacouras Center (Championship)
Certainly the biggest postseason tournament in the area is the Pub, which sees well more than half of its 60-some programs get at least a play-in game, though it’s around the second round that things start getting really interesting. Ever since the PIAA shifted to a six-classification system, the Pub bracket went from being sorted by classification into an overall seeding system, so there’s no real way to know exactly who will be in what spot. However, by the time things move to the quarterfinals and semifinals, it’s going to be some high-level matchups that’ll be some true Philly basketball.
Typically, the top overall seed goes to the winner of the Pub’s ‘A’ Division, which for the last few years has been Imhotep, but it’s currently Simon Gratz (14-2, 7-0) which sits atop the 11-team division, a game ahead of ‘Tep and MCS (14-4, 5-1), with Constitution (10-6, 5-2) right behind. Gratz still has to play at Constitution (Jan. 23, 6:00 PM) and against MCS (Jan. 30, 3:15 PM), two key games to see. Those teams all figure to grab some top seeds, but there are impressive squads in the lower divisions, as well. Olney (7-0) has been very impressive in the ‘B’ Division, as has Overbrook (7-1), and Southern (6-1), with Palumbo (6-2) leading ‘C’, SLA Beeber (9-1) leading ‘D’ and Esperanza (8-1) leading ‘E’.
Brett Eberly (above) and Methacton are the Pioneer Athletic favorites, and also a favorite in District 1 6A. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Pioneer Athletic Conference
Playoff Info: Feb. 5 (First Round), Feb. 7 (Semifinals), Feb. 11 (Championship)
Location: Spring-Ford High School
Like the Central League, the PAC went to a six-team playoff for the first time this season, introducing a first round into the mix, though unlike the Central League they’ve spaced the rounds out a bit, and the entire thing will be held at Spring-Ford –– and the Rams, at 11-6 (4-3 SOL Liberty), is definitely in the running to make the field, and could have a little home-court advantage.
There are three teams that are all but locked in: Liberty leader Methacton (16-1, 8-0), one of the favorites for the District 1 6A title, as well as Frontier leaders Pope John Paul II (13-3, 7-0) and Phoenixville (9-7, 6-1). After that are three teams are 4-3 in their respective divisions: Pottstown (6-8, 4-3) in the Frontier, plus Spring-Ford and Norristown (8-7, 4-3) in the Liberty. Upper Merion (7-7, 3-4) could make things interesting by beating Pottstown for a game that was supposed to be on Saturday but had to be rescheduled to Jan. 31 due to weather.
Playoff Info: Feb. 8 (Semifinals), Feb. 10 (Championship), Location TBD
The SOL postseason tournament is only six years old, and for as long as it’s been around, it’s been dominated by Abington, which has won four of the five championships; only Central Bucks West (2015) was able to break the Ghosts’ hold on the league’s postseason trophy. But Abington’s Lucas Monroe (Penn) and Eric Dixon (Villanova) are off in college after dominating the league (and District 1) for the last four years, and this year’s league looks wide-open. The four-team bracket consists of the winners of each of the three conferences: the American, Continental, and National, each of which play a double-round-robin regular-season to determine a champion, plus the best team left over.
Right now, each of the divisions has one team unbeaten in league play with at least a two-game lead on the field: Cheltenham (15-2, 9-0) in the American, Pennridge (11-2, 6-0) in the Continental, and Bensalem (13-2, 7-0) in the National. What will be even more interesting is the run for the fourth spot: Wissahickon (8-8, 7-2 American) has come on strong of late, and their battle with Abington (7-7, 6-2) at Abington on Jan. 31 could be the decider; Wissahickon won the first matchup between the two, 86-83 at Wissahickon on Jan. 7.
If it’s not Wissahickon or Abington, It could be Council Rock South (11-5, 5-2), which still has to play Bensalem (@ Bensalem, Jan. 28, 7:30 PM) and against Pennsbury (4-3) and William Tennent (@ Tennent, Feb. 4, 7:00 PM), any or all of which could make or break the Golden Hawks’ ability to get to the final bracket. No matter what, for any of the two-or-three loss teams, it’s clear: the margin for error is extremely slim.
Tag(s): Home Schedule/Standings Friends' Schools Academy New Church Friends' Central George School Germantown Friends Shipley School Westtown School Inter-Ac Episcopal Ac. Germantown Ac. Haverford School Malvern Prep Pac-10 PAC-10 Frontier Phoenixville Pope John Paul II Pottstown PAC-10 Liberty Methacton Norristown Spring-Ford Public League A Constitution Imhotep Lincoln Math, Civics & Sci. Sankofa Simon Gratz Public League B Overbrook Public League C Olney Palumbo Public League D Future SLA Beeber Public League E Esperanza Suburban One SOL Liberty Abington Cheltenham Plymouth Whitemarsh Wissahickon SOL Colonial Central Bucks West Pennridge Souderton SOL Patriot Bensalem Council Rock S. William Tennent Public League