Steve Martin (above) and Christopher Dock have never made it past the second round of states. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Ed. Note: This story was updated at 12:15 PM Tuesday to reflect location changes.
The first round of the PIAA state tournaments are over, and half the fields have been knocked out; what was a group of 192 teams with state title hopes –– spread across six brackets –– entering the weekend is now 96 remaining, each four wins away from hoisting that trophy.
Class 1A, 4A and 5A continue their brackets on Tuesday night; Class 2A, 3A and 6A on Wednesday.
Below is a quick look at each of the 24 games taking place Wednesday night, with an emphasis on those games featuring teams from Districts 1 + 12. (District-seed in parenthesis, and the “home” team is listed first. Thanks to Brad Everett of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Luke Knopp of the Pottsville Republican-Herald for their assistance with this preview.)
Math Civics & Sciences (12-1) vs. Wyalusing (4-2)
UPDATED: Northwestern Lehigh HS, 7 PM
Lonnie Diggs’ Mighty Elephants are peaking at the right time. MCS, led by junior explosive wing Nisine Poplar, who had a case for Pub player of the year, rolled through the Pub playoffs, avenging an earlier loss to Imhotep Charter in overtime, before beating Simon Gratz for the second time in the finals. That solid play continued into states when MCS picked up a 97-55 win over Schuylkill Valley in the first round. Poplar gets scoring help from Tvon Jones, a 6-4 senior capable of creating off the dribble, as well as versatile guard, Marcus Middleton. Senior forward Naadhir Wood is a strong complement to the rest of the rotation, pulling his weight on the boards and setting screens. Opposite MCS is Wyalusing, a program having its best year in recent memory. After finishing in a three-way tie for the Northern Tier League regular season crown, The Rams went on to earn their first district championship game bid in 12 years where they lost 60-41 to Bloomsburg, and record their first state playoff win in 17 years. Brent Keyes’ roster is anchored offensively by sophomore guard Grady Cobb, a threat to pull up or take defenders off the dribble. Six-foot-two senior forward Matt Brown likes to face up defenders in the post, as well as penetrating from the perimeter and spotting up, while fellow senior forward Mitchell Burke can defend one through five while mixing it up with larger opponents on the boards. Wyalusing edged out Millersburg 56-50 in their opening contest of states.
Holy Cross (2-1) vs. Dock Mennonite (1-1)
Liberty High School, 7:30 PM
Neither Holy Cross (23-2) nor Christopher Dock (23-5) had issues in their opening-round game, winning by nearly identical scores; the District 2 champs took out Sayre, 72-35, while the District 1 champs beat Strawberry Mansion, 70-35. Holy Cross is used to being in this spot under head coach Al Callejas, having made it to the second round in each of the four years of the new 2A tournament, making a trip to the semifinals in 2018 and to the quarterfinals last year, losing to Constitution both times. Junior forward Patrick Bennie led the way for Holy Cross in the win over Sayre with 20 points; senior guard Kieran Burrier, the team’s leader and leading scorer on the season, had 16, and Caleb Callejas (the coach’s nephew) added 13. Dock Mennonite, which is coming off its first district championship in 28 years and has never been further than this in the state tournament, features 6-6, 250-pound senior forward Darius Ellis, who had 17 points in the win over Mansion after leading the way with 24 in the district title win over Church Farm; junior wing guards Steve Martin and Devon Jainlett each had 14 against Mansion.
Executive Education (11-1) vs. Constitution (12-2)
Pottsgrove High School, 6 PM
This hasn’t been the typical season for Constitution, which has become a regular presence in the PIAA tournaments in the Class A/1A and AA/2A both before and after the classification system change in 2017, winning four state championships along the way, most recently in 2018, when Dame Wall led Rob Moore’s Generals to an 81-71 win over Our Lady Sacred Heart. Last year, they won 22 games and made it to the state semifinals last year, but this year Constitution entered the PIAA tournament with a 12-12 record, on a six-game losing streak a month-long layoff after a surprising loss to West Philadelphia in the first round of the Public League tournament. It took overtime to get past York Catholic 44-39 in the first round, and now they have to deal with District 11 champ Executive Education Charter, which opened in 2014 and added a hoops squad for the 2018-19 season. Their leading scorer is senior KeShaun “Champ” Hammonds, but he suffered an injury late in January and is questionable for Wednesday night. Junior guard Quadir Miller and sophomore Jacob Beccles have to pick up the slack, with 6-4 senior forward Aamir Sharif providing size up front. The Raptors, coached by former BeCaHi boss Ray Barbosa, feature 6-5 junior Jevin Muniz, 6-4 senior Titus Wilkins and 6-0 senior Amari Mills. They dispatched Church Farm 55-42 in their first-round game, with Muniz hitting for 17 (two 3s) and Wilkins adding 15.
Bloomsburg (4-1) vs. North Star (5-1)
Our Lady Sacred Heart (7-1) vs. Portage Area (6-2)
Farrell (10-2) vs. Ridgeway (9-1)
Lakeview (10-1) vs. Sto-Rox (7-2)
Clarion (9-2) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (6-1)
Neumann-Goretti (12-1) vs. Holy Redeemer (2-1)
Easton Middle School, 7:30 PM
Holy Redeemer (19-6) had a pretty easy time in its opening-round game, taking out 12-4 seed and Public League squad SLA Beeber 61-32 on Saturday up at Wilkes University; they won’t have nearly as easy a time against Carl Arrigale’s Saints. The odds-on favorite to win the state championship –– especially now that fellow Catholic League squad Bishop McDevitt lost to Camp Hill in the opening round –– also had an easy 32 minutes to open the state tournament, dispatching Brandywine Heights 75-42. Neumann-Goretti boasts 6-8 St. Joe’s commit Jordan Hall, 6-6 Bowling Green commit Cam Young and 5-10 Marist commit Hakim Byrd in its starting lineup alongside another D-I recruit in 6-2 junior guard Hysier Miller plus versatile 6-7 junior forward Blaise Vespe. It’s a group with size, athleticism, speed, shooting ability, and more. The Royals, under the direction of seventh-year Paul Guido, do have some legit size in lanky 6-8 senior forward Jared Piontkowski, the team’s only senior who had 12 points in their opening-round win, as well as 6-6 sophomore Matt Prociak. The Royals’ leading scorer is 5-11 sophomore point Justice Shoats who led the way with 19 points against Beeber; he, 5-11 junior wing Alex Rymar and 5-11 junior point guard Mason Mendygral form their starting backcourt.
Aleem Lee (above) and HS of the Future face District 11 champ Panther Valley for a Class 3A quarterfinal spot. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Panther Valley (11-1) vs. HS of the Future (12-2)
Geigle Complex, Reading, 7:30 PM
Under the direction of second-year head coach Stan Jones, Future is enjoying the best season of its relatively short history, as the West Philadelphia school opened back in 2006; playing in the Public League’s ‘C’ Division, they won their league for the first time in school history and now have won a game in states for the first time ever, beating Columbia 71-46 on Saturday at South Philly. Jones’ group is young, including sophomore forwards Aleem Lee (6-4) and Hadir Boswell (6-3), plus guard Ali Brown, Jones’ son. Junior Themere Simmons had a well-rounded outing in the state tournament opener with 11 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and seven steals, while another sophomore, 6-2 Yasir Muhammad, hit five 3-pointers en route to 21 points. That youth will face a Panther Valley (14-11) squad that starts five seniors and brings another couple seniors off the bench under head coach Patrick Crampsie; the Panthers won the District 11 title for the first time since 1986 and then beat Dobbins Tech 61-40 in their first-round game for their first state win since that time. Their leading scorer is Brandon Stilitino, a 6-0 guard and the program’s all-time leading 3-point maker with 167 triples; he hit eight in the first round. They also have 5-7 Erick Marchorro and 6-0 Aaron Gutierrez, two other double-figure scorers who can hit with consistency from deep.
Camp Hill (3-2) vs. Loyalsock Twp. (4-1)
Riverside (2-2) vs. Trinity (3-1)
Richland (6-1) vs. South Allegheny (7-2)
Aliquippa (7-4) vs. North Catholic (7-1)
Brookville (9-1) vs. Lincoln Park (7-2)
Carlynton (7-5) vs. Beaver Falls (7-7)
Methacton (1-1) vs. Lincoln (12-3)
UPDATED: William Tennent HS, 7 PM
Methacton hoops has become the ‘thing to see’ in District 1 hoops this year, Jeff Derstine’s bunch playing like they’re on a mission after losing in the state quarterfinals last year. The best team in school history already took home the program’s first-ever district title, led by 6-10 Colgate commit Jeff Woodward and a strong backcourt of seniors Brett Eberly, Owen Kropp and Erik Timko plus sophomore Brett Byrne, all of whom can really shoot it; Timko, at 6-3 the tallest of the bunch, is also the best slasher with a strong mid-range game and D-II offers. Methacton hasn’t played a close game in over a month, winning each of its seven postseason games thus far by at least 23 points after a 64-38 dismantling of Harrisburg in the opening round. After an inconsistent showing in Public League play, Lincoln is looking to find their footing for a state playoff run, escaping District One’s Bensalem in a 50-48 thriller. A large majority of the Railsplitter’s production will come from 6-foot-2 senior guard Bender, an extremely athletic combo who is at his best driving to the rim, hounding ball handlers, and getting out into the open floor. Freshman Chauncey Presley and sophomore Tamir Powell join Bender in the back court, one of them will need a big game to match the inevitable Methacton guard production. To hopefully slow down Woodward inside, Lincoln will look towards 6-foot-6 junior forward Sahmir Williamson and could rotate in or possibly start 6-foot-8 senior Oluwdara Idowu who is a raw, but capable big with a slew of Division 3 interest. Self admitted by coach Jamel Lindsey, Lincoln plays best off mayhem, which includes a full court press, heavy ball pressure, and physical down hill drives on offense. Don’t look for them to get gassed though, as Lindsey has no problem going 10 deep into his bench. While Methacton should be the early favorite, Lincoln could make it interesting if they’re able to play at their preferred up-tempo pace.
Colin Post (above) and Pennridge have their work cut out for them in Roman Catholic. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Roman Catholic (12-2) vs. Pennridge (1-7)
Bensalem High School, 7 PM
Another matchup between two area programs will take place in the Northeast suburbs, as Matt Griffins’s Cahillites play “host” to Dean Behrens’ Rams in a Catholic League vs. Suburban One League battle. Roman (17-10), which beat Coatesville 81-75 in its opening-round win, might be without senior guard Lynn Greer III (hip injury) for the state playoffs for the second year in a row, but they’re still plenty dangerous –– if not much younger, without their only typical senior starter. Many of the highlight-reel plays belong to the sophomores, 6-4 guard Justice Williams and 6-9 forward Jalen Duren, both five-star prospects who’ve participated in a number of USA Basketball camps (and in Duren’s case, a FIBA international event). In Greer’s absence, senior guard Nasir Lett popped in 16 points, though Williams led the way with 27. Pennridge (21-8), which got by Wilkes-Barre 49-41 in the first round, doesn’t have quite the firepower, but the Rams do have the experience of a run to the state championship game a year ago. Sean Yoder (Navy) and Jon Post are gone, but 6-6 senior big man and Wilkes (Pa.) commit Trent Fisher and his classmate 6-2 point guard Christian Guldin (DeSales commit) lead a group that includes the younger brothers of the recent grads, juniors Luke Yoder and Colin Post, in the starting lineup. It’ll take a near-perfect effort from the SOL champs, but they might just be capable.
Chester (1-3) vs. Simon Gratz (12-1)
Cardinal O’Hara, 7:30 PM
The top seed out of District 12, Simon Gratz, fields one of the area’s best backcourts with Pub MVP Yassir Stover, alongside fellow seniors and all-Pub second team selectees, Yasir Rowell and Edward Harris. The Bulldogs have more experience inside, with senior forwards Duane Satchel and Kyonn Gordon on the block. They round out the rotation with senior wing Ross Carter. The end of Gratz’s Pub season was spoiled by MCS, who beat Lynard Stewart’s team in the regular season finale, and league championship. Gratz has moved past that tough loss, recording a major win over Roman Catholic in the District 12 championship, and beating Garnet Valley 56-51 in the first round of States. Chester, coming off of a 76-63 victory over William Allen, does much of its damage inside courtesy of 1,000-point scorer Karell Watkins as well as Senior forward Zahmir Carroll. The Clippers, historically one of the winningest programs in the area, has a formidable backcourt of its own, consisting of long range shooter, senior Faheem Berry, senior point guard Akeem Taylor, nephew of Chester coach Keith Taylor. The Clippers have had a solid year by their lofty expectations. They were on a ten game undefeated streak before losing big to a Methacton team that has made a habit of running up the score against whoever they face. The Clippers have more than enough talent to pose a real threat to Simon Gratz’s chances of advancing.
Lower Merion freshman Sam Brown (above) has already established himself as one of the area's best 3-point threats. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Wilson (3-1) vs. Lower Merion (1-6)
Milton Hershey School, 6 PM
There wasn’t any reason to think Wilson was going to get a real test from North Penn Saturday at Kutztown. The Bulldogs entered the weekend with one loss all season — a neutral-site defeat at the hands of Central York all the way back in late December — while the Knights finished below .500 in Suburban One play. Yet, Wilson needed nearly all 32 minutes to advance to the second round and go one step further than it did last season. And the Bulldogs’ reward? A Lower Merion side that’s got a healthy Sam Brown hoisting shots up from deep along with 6-8 sophomore Demetrius Lilley, who scored 22 points against Northampton in Round 1 and turned in a similar type of dominating performance against Coatesvillle in the Aces’ final seeding game a week earlier. But it’s senior James Simples who coach Gregg Downer is likely to task with slowing down Stevie Mitchell, Wilson’s star junior guard who scored 17 points to lift his team into the second round and is drawing D-I offers from places like Stanford, Virginia Tech and Penn State. 6-2 senior Avanti Lockhart is one of the Bulldogs’ top defensive options and classmate Kieran Borian gives coach Matt Coldren an outside weapon to stretch the floor.
Cheltenham (1-2) vs. Mt. Lebanon (7-2)
Chambersburg High School, 7 PM
The lower half of the PIAA brackets are technical the “western half” of the brackets, though each classification has a different mixture of programs from different areas; in the 6A tournament, five of the 16 teams in the “western half” were from the eastern half of the state, and another four from the Harrisburg area (district 3). So that ends up with a few matchups like this, where Mt. Lebanon (19-7) has to travel three hours to Chambersburg and Cheltenham (25-4) has a trip of 2.5 hours. The Blue Devils, which finished as the No. 2 seed out of the WPIAL, are led by 6-3 senior guard Jake Hoffman, a Wooster (Ohio) commit who’s gone for as many as 40 points this season. He’s one of four senior starters, along with 6-3 guard Andrew Sapp, 6-4 forward Joe King, and the team’s second-leading scorer, 5-10 Blaine Gartley. Like Cheltenham, Mt. Lebanon doesn’t have a ton of size, with King and 6-4 reserve senior Danny Simboro the tallest parts of its rotation; the Panthers have 6-5 senior wing and Rider commit Jaelen McGlone plus 6-4 senior forward Sean Emfinger in the lineup, but most of the lineup is 6-2 or shorter, including promising sophomore Justin Moore. Moore, who has an offer from CCSU already, hit the game-winner for Cheltenham in its 57-56 opening-round win over Easton, capping off a 13-point night as McGlone led the way with 16 points.
Freedom (11-1) vs. Reading (3-2)
Central York (3-3) vs. McDowell (10-1)
Butler (7-1) vs. Upper St. Clair (7-2)
Math Civics & Sciences 97, Schuylkill Haven 55
Wyalusing 56, Millersburg 50
Holy Cross 72, Sayre 35
Dock Mennonite 70, Strawberry Mansion 35
Executive Education 55, Church Farm 42
Constitution 44, York Catholic 39 (OT)
Bloomsburg 48, Mountain View 45
North Star 64, Homer Center 53
Our Lady Sacred Heart 79, Youngsville 31
Portage Area 67, Cambridge Springs 63
Farrell 69, Coudersport 64
Ridgeway 57, Shenango 49
Lakeview 57, South Side 46
Sto-Rox 78, West Branch 38
Clarion 49, Winchester Thurston 44
Bishop Guilfoyle 59, Brentwood 33
Neumann-Goretti 75, Brandywine Heights 42
Holy Redeemer 61, SLA Beeber 32
Camp Hill 63, Bishop McDevitt 51
Loyalsock 91, Notre Dame-Green Pond 49
Panther Valley 61, Murrell Dobbins 40
HS of the Future 71, Columbia 46
Riverside 70, Central Columbia 57
Trinity 82, Parkway CC 43
Richland 54, Warrior Run 41
South Allegheny 62, Franklin 40
Aliquippa 79, Sharon 72
North Catholic 74, Westmont Hilltop 55
Brookville 49, Neshannock 31
Lincoln Park 67, Penns Valley 59
Carlynton 85, Ligonier Valley 81
Beaver Falls 41, Fairview 30
Methacton 64, Harrisburg 38
Lincoln 50, Bensalem 48
Roman Catholic 81, Coatesville 76
Pennridge 49, Wilkes-Barre 41
Freedom 69, Downingtown East 50
Reading 57, St. Joe’s Prep 45
Chester 76, William Allen 63
Simon Gratz 56, Garnet Valley 41
Wilson 49, North Penn 39
Lower Merion 63, Northampton 51
Cheltenham 57, Easton 56
Mt. Lebanon 69, Cedar Crest 43
Central York 60, Central Catholic 39
McDowell 69, Peters Township 58
Butler 93, Central Dauphin 90 (OT)
Upper St. Clair 63, Allderdice 45
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