Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The high school season is entering the stretch run, with every game taking on more and more importance as league and district standings start to sort themselves out.
Here’s a look around several of the region’s boys basketball leagues, with updates on leaders, key games, and stories to watch; click here for Andrew Robinson's roundup of the girls' side:
Tra Edwards (above) and Bensalem are one of the front-runners in a deep SOL. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Suburban One League
This is an interesting year in the Suburban One, as it’s the first with the league’s new crossover system: the SOL Colonial is paired up with the SOL Patriot, and the Liberty with the Freedom, with all crossover games counting towards the league standings for the first time. Right now, the league is about midway through the crossovers, with another round of intra-divisional games still to play.
There’s only one unbeaten team left in the SOL, and that’s Cheltenham (10-0, 6-0), which currently sits two games clear of the rest of the SOL-Freedom field and haven’t played a game within single digits yet this season. The Panthers have a big game coming up on Friday, traveling to Liberty leader Upper Dublin (9-3, 6-1); if they get past the Cardinals unscathed, they have a very good chance at running through the rest of their regular-season league competition.
Upper Dublin currently sits just one game ahead of Abington (6-4, 5-2), Plymouth-Whitemarsh (7-5, 5-2) and Wissahickon (8-4, 4-2) in the loss column, and they have to play on the road at both Abington (Jan. 28) and Wissahickon (Feb. 8), with P-W visiting on Feb. 4. Also keep an eye on the Abington-PW matchups, which will take place on Jan. 27 at PW and at Abington on Feb. 8; Charles Grasty has a habit of developing teams which are playing at their best in March, and Abington has won three games in a row and five of its last six.
The Colonial division is also highly-competitive right now, with Central Bucks South (8-5, 5-3), CB East (8-4, 4-4), North Penn (6-7, 4-4) and Souderton (9-4, 4-4) all very much in the mix. CB South beat East and Souderton back in December but lost to North Penn; East beat Souderton and North Penn but lost to South, and Souderton beat North Penn, but North Penn is the only one yet to beat the leader. CB South’s matchups this week with Pennsbury (Jan. 18) and at Neshaminy (Jan. 21) will determine what kind of shape the Titans are in once the Colonial stretch begins.
Speaking of Pennsbury, Bill Coleman’s Falcons (7-1, 5-1) have won five straight dating to Dec. 20, and now will take on the three Central Bucks Schools over the next seven days. That sets up a huge road clash at Bensalem (9-2, 7-1) on Jan. 27, and the winner of that one will be the favorite to close out a conference title. The Eagles have a schedule set up to take it home, with five of their next six at home, though a road trip to Council Rock North (9-3, 5-2) on Feb. 4 is also shaping up to be key. And don’t forget about Neshaminy (6-4, 5-2), which has won three straight in crossover play to get back in the mix, and holds an 81-78 win over Pennsbury from back in December.
Pioneer Athletic Conference
The clear class of the PAC-10 thus far has been Methacton. Patrick Lockard’s Warriors are 12-0 overall and 4-0 in the PAC Liberty, putting down second-place Perkiomen Valley (9-5, 4-1) by a decisive 60-39 final this weekend. They’ll still have to play the return game at PV on Feb. 3, but there’s no doubt that Methacton is the front-runner from this point forward. Also still in the mix in the Liberty division are Spring-Ford (7-3, 2-1) and with Norristown (9-4, 2-2); Spring-Ford and Methacton have yet to meet due to COVID, so their two matchups on Jan. 21 (at Methacton) and Feb. 1 (at Spring-Ford) will also be big-time contests.
The Liberty and Frontier leaders will meet this Thursday when Methacton travels to Pope John Paul II (8-4, 4-1), but the Frontier is especially wide-open. Upper Merion (5-5, 3-1), Phoenixville (7-4, 2-1) and Pottsgrove (7-6, 2-2) have shown they’re going to be in the running with the Golden Panthers, whose only division loss thus far was 53-51 at Phoenixville on Jan. 10. That return game will be Jan. 25 at PJP II, who then travel to Upper Merion on Jan. 27 in a week that could decide the league’s winner. Phoenixville has a tough stretch coming up with five straight on the road, including at Boyertown (Jan. 20) and the PJP game.
Kareem Watson (above) and West Catholic are one of two 3-0 teams left in the PCL. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Philadelphia Catholic League
The Catholic League is still early on its league play, but the favorites are clearly starting to emerge. Archbishop Wood and West Catholic are the only two at 3-0, and they each already have a statement league win, with Wood taking down Roman Catholic and West Catholic spanking La Salle, both last week. Roman (3-1) is of course still in the mix, and Neuman-Goretti (1-0) remains the only other unbeaten, though the Saints have been on a COVID pause
Archbishop Ryan (2-1) and Devon Prep (2-1) have looked strong all season. Then the dogfight really begins: O’Hara, Judge and La Salle are 2-2, and Carroll (1-2), Bonner (1-2) and St. Joe’s Prep (1-2) are all starting to feel the pressure of needing to get on the right side of a few games.
There are too many key matchups to go through all of them, but here are a few to keep an eye on:
Roman vs. West Catholic (Jan. 23, Cristo Rey)
Wood vs. Ryan (Feb. 24, Wood)
Devon Prep vs. Carroll (Feb. 4, Devon Prep)
Roman vs. Neumann-Goretti (Feb. 4, Cristo Rey)
Ryan vs. Devon Prep (Feb. 7, Ryan)
Judge vs. O’Hara (Feb. 11, Judge)
Wood vs. West Catholic (Feb. 11, Wood)
The Ches-Mont National just had its first big-time matchup this past week, as Downingtown West (8-4, 5-0) established itself atop the division with a win over West Chester East (9-2, 4-1) at West; the rematch will come Feb. 3 at East, though the Vikings also have to take on Henderson (9-5, 3-2), at home on Jan. 20. D’Town West also plays Henderson, Jan. 18 at West, and has to play at Henderson on Feb. 10 as well. Bishop Shanahan (6-6, 2-3) will be in the mix for a 5A district bid, while Coatesville (4-3, 1-3) is likely out of the division picture as well but alive for districts.
Over in the Ches-Mont American, Great Valley (10-2, 4-0) is the only unbeaten, and they have a 49-38 December win over Sun Valley (6-6, 3-1), with the return game Jan. 20 at Sun Valley. Great Valley also has to play at Rustin (6-7, 2-2) on Feb. 1 and at Kennett (4-6, 2-2) on Feb. 10
Demetrius Lilley (above) and Lower Merion have a showdown with archrival Radnor on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The top of the Central League is currently occupied by one regular — Lower Merion, who’s 10-1 (7-0) — and Radnor, who at 12-0 (7-0) is perhaps the team of the year thus far in District 1, reaching not-often-seen heights at the Main Line school. Those two will meet on Friday at Radnor, the biggest challenge remaining on the schedule for Radnor, which has already beaten Haverford (9-2, 6-2), Conestoga (8-3, 5-2) and Garnet Valley (8-6, 4-4), with one more against Marple Newtown (8-5, 4-4) still to play.
Gregg Downer’s Aces have a tough week ahead with a trip to ‘Stoga and visit from Penncrest before visiting Radnor, and they play Haverford at home on Jan. 25; further matchups with Conestoga (Feb. 1) and at Haverford (Feb. 8) await as well. Either way, the LM/Radnor/Haverford/Conestoga quarter is in good shape to make up the Central’s playoff field, with Garnet and Marple currently sitting in the No. 5 and No. 6 slots -- the final two that make the CL playoffs -- tied with Springfield (Delco.) (7-5, 4-4), with Upper Darby (4-7, 3-5) lurking.
Friends’ Schools League
As expected, Academy New Church, George School and Westtown are atop the FSL, though it’s early — the three are all 2-0. Even though this is perhaps the deepest the FSL has ever been (certainly during CoBL’s existence), the chances that anybody besides one of those three finishes the regular season atop the standings is closer to ‘none’ than ‘slim.’ Westtown and Academy New Church play a big game on Thursday at Westtown, while George travels to ANC on Jan. 25. The George/Westtown game, which was originally scheduled for last week, will be played Feb. 8 at Westtown; there’s a solid chance that’s also for the league title.
Tag(s): Home Scores + Standings Catholic League Archbishop Carroll Archbishop Ryan Archbishop Wood Bonner-Prendergast Cardinal O'Hara Devon Prep Father Judge La Salle College HS Neumann-Goretti Roman Catholic St. Joe's Prep West Catholic Central League Conestoga Garnet Valley Haverford High Lower Merion Marple Newtown Radnor Ches-Mont Ches-Mont American Great Valley Kennett Sun Valley Ches-Mont National Bishop Shanahan Downingtown West West Chester East Friends' Schools Academy New Church George School Westtown School Pac-10 PAC-10 Frontier Phoenixville Pope John Paul II Pottsgrove PAC-10 Liberty Methacton Norristown Perkiomen Valley Spring-Ford Suburban One SOL Colonial Central Bucks East Central Bucks South North Penn SOL Freedom Cheltenham Upper Moreland William Tennent SOL Liberty Abington Plymouth Whitemarsh Upper Dublin Wissahickon SOL Patriot Bensalem Council Rock N. Neshaminy Pennsbury High School