Andrew Carr (above) and West Chester East are the top seed in the District 1 5A playoffs. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The District 1 5A bracket is down to eight.
With half the field eliminated on Tuesday and Wednesday night as all top seeds won their opening-round game, the remaining schools in the Philly suburban bracket for the state’s second-largest classification (by school size) find themselves just one win away from not only making next Wednsday’s semifinals at Norristown High School, but also from automatic qualification for the PIAA Class 5A state tournament.
The four schools who lose Saturday’s matchups aren’t done for the year, as District 1 gets six teams into the PIAA 5A bracket. The four losers will go into play-backs, where just one more win guarantees one of those spots in the state tournament.
Here’s a look at each of the four quarterfinal matchups (all games 7 PM unless otherwise noted):
1) West Chester East vs. 8) Radnor (5 PM)
The top seed in the district for the second year in a row, West Chester East (22-3) hasn’t lost since Jan. 11. Tom Durant’s Vikings are riding a 13-game winning streak –– including a Ches-Mont League championship –– into their match-up with Radnor (15-9). The Raiders finished in fifth place in the Central League and lost to Haverford High in its first-round league tournament match-up before downing No. 9 seed Upper Moreland 50-41 in the opening round of districts. Jamie Chadwin’s group has won four of their last five and six of their last 10, but opened the season with an eight-game win streak, including one over three-seed Penncrest, showing they’re plenty capable.
Radnor’s focal point is senior forward Jack D’Entremont, a mobile 6-foot-6 big man who makes impact plays at both ends of the court. D’Entremont, who’s a high-academic Division III recruit, has ability out to the 3-point arc, but he’s effective around the rim, both grabbing misses and as a post-up option. Junior guard Lewis Robinson is the team’s transition specialist, though junior reserve Jahmir Dixon excels in that role as well, and senior guard Josh Savadove is the top 3-point shooter. West Chester East boasts 6-9 Delaware commit Andrew Carr, who despite his height is a wing whose best asset is his outside shooting, though he also knows how to take advantage of mismatches inside. Another senior, guard Tym Richardson, is a talented scorer and ball-handler with good size at 6-2; Mike Dedda and Jack Kusher provide auxiliary scoring and rebounding.
4) Unionville vs. 5) West Chester Rustin
Two of the four district quarterfinals pit conference rivals up against one another, including this battle of the top two teams in the Ches-Mont American Conference. Unionville (18-7) and Rustin (16-7) split their two regular-season meetings, each winning on their opponents’ court; Rustin beat Unionville 58-53 on Dec. 19, and Unionville returned the favor 49-46 on Jan. 22. So there’s plenty of familiarity between these two, with plenty to play for: in other words, expect quite the fun atmosphere down at Unionville, and a game that goes down to the wire. In each of the three years that there’s been a 5A tournament, Rustin has made it to the second round and lost each time, twice as the No. 5 seed in this exact position –– including last year, when they won two playback games to make it into states. Unionville missed districts in 2017 and ‘18, then made it last year as the No. 3 seed but losses to No. 6 Sun Valley in the second round and No. 2 Holy Ghost Prep in playbacks left Chris Cowles’ group short of states.
Many of the key pieces for Unionville have changed, with Bo Furey-Bastian playing ball at Widener, Wyatt Hockenberry doing the same at Elizabethtown and Drew Lenkaitis playing lacrosse at Vermont. This year’s group is based around 6-6 senior wing forward Logan Shanahan, a sharpshooting stretch-’4’ bound for Emory College (Ga.) next year. Around him, seniors Sean Neylon, Bryce Whitlock and John Passarello bring shooting ability and an understanding of Cowles’ system. Rustin’s a bit younger, with only a couple seniors on the roster. Sophomore guard Argel ‘IV’ Pettit is a talented 6-0 lead guard, and 6-3 junior Griffin Barrouk is a strong outside shooter who can really get hot in a hurry — the younger brother of Penn State-Brandywine’s Bryce Barrouk poured in seven 3-pointers against top-seeded WC East two weeks ago in a Ches-Mont semifinal game.
2) Holy Ghost Prep vs. 7) Penn Wood
After a scare against 15-seed Marple Newtown at home on Wednesday night, the Firebirds hosts Penn Wood in what could be the most intriguing game of the night. Holy Ghost Prep (23-3) has to find a way to get leading scorer and first team All-BAL Tyler Mish in scoring positions after the Tigers did a good job of denying entry passes to him Wednesday night. Fellow senior Steve Cianci stepped up with a 14-point outing, including the go-ahead bucket in the final 20 seconds and a block at the other end to seal the win for the Firebirds, who are under the direction of longtime head coach Tony Chapman, closing in on his 900th win. Holy Ghost made the state playoffs each of the last two years, both times through playbacks.
Penn Wood (14-7) missed out on the district playoffs in 2017 and ‘18, made it last year, but lost to West Chester East in the 1 vs. 8 game, and then to Rustin in the first game of play-backs to miss out on states. The Patriots, who finished second to Chester in the five-team Del-Val League (which doesn’t have a league playoff), enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak; in fact, they haven’t won fewer than three games in a row all season, all of their wins coming in streaks of four, four, and six, with losing streaks of two, one, and four breaking up those winning runs. They’re led by 6-0 senior guard Shamir Baynes, with 6-3 senior Des Johnson and 6-4 junior Jerry Flynn giving them some size in the frontcourt.
Marquis Tomlin (above) and Penncrest host Central League rival Strath Haven on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
3) Penncrest vs. 6) Strath Haven
The other league matchup in the 5A quarterfinals is this battle of Central League foes, who met twice during the regular season and again during the playoffs. Penncrest (20-6) won two of the three meetings, as Mike Doyle’s Lions captured a 57-52 win at Haven on Dec. 17 and a 48-44 decision at home in the first round of the Central League playoffs, though the Panthers (16-8) beat Penncrest on their home court 50-47 on Jan. 30. So no matter what, expect this one to be close, as Penncrest goes for its fourth straight 5A state appearance (the Lions won the district in ‘17 and ‘18), while Haven just won a district 5A game for the first time in three tries since the state changed classification systems four years ago.
As is typical for a Doyle’s coached squad, Penncrest focuses its energy on the defensive end, playing most of its games in the 40s and 50s –– though an 80-point outburst against Radnor in late January shows these Lions do have plenty of bite on the other end. Anchoring the paint in both ends is 6-7 junior Denzel Atkinson-Boyer, a lanky shot-blocker who also helps clean up the boards, though his offensive game is still developing. On the ball are senior Marquis Tomlin, a strong outside shooter –– as is sophomore Ben Stanton –– and senior Aidan Carroll, while sophomore Saahir Lee is a small-but-quick guard who can really get to and finish around the rim. Haven’s go-to offensive option is junior wing Luke Edwards, a 6-2 Swiss Army Knife who can shoot from the outside, attack the rim, defend, distribute, and rebound; sophomore guard Matt Shuler is also a talented scorer, and senior Ibo Pio, a muscular point guard, runs the offense.
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