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District, Public League championships, more highlight weekend slate (Feb. 25-26)

02/24/2022, 11:15pm EST
By Andrew Robinson & Josh Verlin

Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) & 

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

State championship weekend aside, there might not be a bigger weekend of the local high school calendar than what’s going in the region over the next few days. League championships, district tournaments, district titles, state playoff qualifiers and more will have the CoBL staff criss-crossing the Delaware Valley, with a lot on the line in every instance. 

Here’s a glance around the biggest games and storylines of note this weekend, with a complete schedule at the bottom:

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Justin Edwards (above) and Imhotep Charter are back in the Public League championship game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Imhotep going for the repeat double in the Pub

The Public League championship games were originally scheduled to be held Friday night at Engineering & Sciences High School. But an outcry from the hoops community demanded the Pub move to a venue more deserving of hosting a title game, and so the doubleheader will take place at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

That’s a much more fitting location for what should be a terrific pair of games. Both games feature the Panthers of Imhotep Charter, with the girls (12-7) going up against Mastery North (17-3) at 1 PM and the boys (22-4) facing Lincoln (14-5) afterwards. 

Both ‘Tep squads will be aiming to erase earlier losses to their opponents this season. The boys suffered their only league loss on Jan. 18, with Lincoln pulling out a 69-66 overtime win; Mastery North dispatched Imhotep 59-22 in their only matchup on Feb. 3, but Imhotep was missing six of its top eight players, all of whom will be back for the one that counts.

For Andre Noble’s boys, a win over Lincoln would be the fifth Public League title in the last six years for the city powerhouse, which has become one of the best programs in the entire state, if not the Northeast. Led by top-five junior wing Justin Edwards and his classmate, point guard Rahmir Barno, the Panthers are experienced, assertive, talented and fearless, with a chip on their shoulder from the earlier defeat. Mel Lindsay’s Railsplitters will carry plenty of confidence of their own, led by point guard Rashan Locke-Hicks and senior forward Aymere Thomas.

As successful as the ‘Tep boys have been, this is the ninth straight Public League championship game appearance for the girls, who’ve won three out of the last five — with the only two losses coming to Mastery North; Dave Hargrove and Mastery North’s Brandon Millwood have split the last two. The Pumas are led by seniors Veyoni Davis, Umayrah Sulayman and Nariyah Turner, plus junior guard Taysia Anderson; Imhotep features senior guards Janai ‘Star’ Smith and Taniyah Finney, plus 6-4 center Mikayla Rambert-Carter, who could be the x-factor against an undersized Mastery squad. 

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Faith Christian Academy aims to end Jenkintown’s District 1 streak

Etching Jenkintown into the District 1 champion’s spot has become standard in recent years, with the program having won it the past six seasons.

Handing the Drakes a seventh straight title is anything but a given this year, especially against a top seeded Faith Christian squad that beat them twice in the regular season. The Lions have been on the losing end in two of those title wins, including last season so they have plenty of incentive to snap the streak.

Jenkintown, the No. 3 seed, has put together a pretty solid campaign despite losing four starters from last year’s PIAA Class A runner-up team. Senior and Co-BAL Constitution Player of the Year Katie McGrath (Muhlenberg), a 1,000-point scorer, has been a major reason for that as the lone holdover from last season’s starting five. Lily O’Brien, Julia Walsh and Sarah Cummings have all come on for J-town over the course of the season

On the other side is the other Co-BAL Constitution Player of the Year in senior Bella Forker leading an FCA squad that has a lot of experience back in fellow division first team selection Joy Hissner, second teamer Emily Brownell and Mikayla Hissner and Kendall Garber. Faith already has a couple titles to its credit this winter, winning the BAL Constitution then taking the BAL tournament trophy last week.

Both teams will move on to states, with the winner facing District 12’s Sankofa Freedom in a regional championship on March 2 and the loser sliding into the third seed out of the regional setup.

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Methacton and Norristown are two of the eight squads still alive for a District 1 6A championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Upstarts hunting upsets in District 1 6A boys quarterfinal round

Forget about the seedings at this point.

It’s an odd-looking quarterfinal bracket in District 1 6A’s biggest classification with the top four seeds trying to hold serve against three double-digit seeds, including the final three teams to even make the field. There’s a 2021 title game rematch, a rare No. 24 vs No. 1 matchup, two teams with similar mentalities and a bitter SOL rivalry on tap for what promises to be an interesting slate Friday night.

No matter how many times the SOL may realign or shift its divisions, any time the Cheltenham Panthers and Plymouth Whitemarsh Colonials meet, it’s going to be a battle.. They’re not currently in the same division, but thanks to the SOL’s crossover schedule, the teams did meet in early January with Cheltenham winning fairly big.

Of course, No. 3 seed Cheltenham has done a lot of winning anyway this season, carrying an unbeaten record and an SOL tournament title into the quarterfinals under coach Patrick Fleury. Freshman Josiah Hutson seems to be the new heir apparent at point guard and he’s got a lot of good teammates to pass too like seniors Rasheem Dearry and Justin Savage, both reserves on the Panthers’ 2020 District 1 runner-up team.

PW turned it on late, splitting a share of the SOL Liberty title but not getting an invite to the league’s tournament. That hasn’t seemed to bother Jim Donofrio’s crew, who seek a third straight upset on the road as one of three 20-something seeds in the elite eight.

Junior Qudire Bennett has been on fire down the stretch, sophomore Jaden Colzie is an explosive point guard and seniors Marshall Baker and Zende Hubbard are sparkplug players at guard.

Down in Lower Merion, the defending champion and second seed Aces will have to go through Abington again, after downing the Ghosts in last year’s title game. The No. 23 Ghosts had to win out just to get in, but even with coach Charles Grasty working his postseason magic again, it’s a tall task to get by Demetrius Lilley, Sam Brown and the rest of LM.

Top seeded Methacton seemed like a good bet to at least get this far. No. 24 Garnet Valley on the other hand, well the Jaguars have been nothing but resilient so far with come-from-behind wins over Upper Dublin and Spring-Ford to lock up a state playoff bid.

There are a lot of similarities between Bensalem and Norristown, from their school colors and avian mascots all the way to the hard-nosed defensive intensity the No. 4 Owls and No. 12 Eagles bring to the floor. 

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Gwynedd Mercy going for five-peat in 4A

The Monarchs are in familiar territory as they look to pick up a fifth straight District 1 title but standing in their way is a fourth meeting with AACA rival VJM.

GMA owns a 3-0 record over the Jems, most recently in the AACA tournament final, this season but don’t expect the Monarchs to just look past this one. Prior to the season, the seniors made it clear they wanted to go 4-for-4 as district champions, even if both teams will advance to states regardless of the outcome.

Top seed Gwynedd Mercy got a boost in its big semifinal win over No. 4 New Hope-Solebury when Hannah Griffin returned to the lineup after missing the AACA final due to injury. Plugging the standout junior point guard back into the starting five gives coach Tom Lonergan even more offensive and defensive punch alongside seniors Maddie Newell and twins Sofia and Bianca Coleman.

While the No. 2 Jems have a good amount of seniors, this is new ground for some of them with VJM opting out of last year’s abbreviated postseason. For the team’s St. Basil Academy transfers, including senior starters Tori Nigro, Sammi White and Michaela Joniec, it’s a chance to snap GMA’s streak while adding another district title to their career resumes after helping SBA to a District 1 3A title last year before the school’s closure.

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Girls’ 6A quarterfinals have plenty of storylines

It’s hard to pin down a common theme in the 6A girls quarterfinals other than there should be four very interesting games played across the afternoon on Saturday.

The Falcons’ Nest in Fairless Hills will certainly be ready for this one.

After clawing past a valiant Upper Dublin effort thanks to a big three by Ava Sciolla late, Pennsbury will have to try and keep the pace against a Ghosts team that seemed to shake off its rust against CB West in the second round. Both teams are in states, but they both have designs of playing for a district title as well and old SOL rivalries still run deep.

Abington has received tremendous play from junior Cire Worley all year, with the wing returning from an injury against the Bucks, while Jaida Helm is playing in solid form behind a tiny but tenacious cadre of aggressive guards in the team’s full-court defense. The Ghosts bowed out in last year’s quarterfinals, so they’re plenty motivated to take the next step.

Sciolla has been Sciolla, the Maryland recruit doing a lot of everything for Pennsbury, which has weathered some injury issues to start putting together another playoff push. Senior Nicole Pompili has been strong after missing her whole junior year with an injury and emerging underclassmen Sofia Vitucci and Nevah Dash have both put together some impressive performances for the Falcons this winter.

Yes, Souderton owns a win over Perk Valley this season and no, Soudy coach Lynn Carroll is not putting any stock in ahead of Saturday’s playoff meeting. That win came early but the Souderton coach saw enough to know the Vikings would be a dangerous team with the benefit of time and PV has certainly proven that true.

Garnet Valley is just proving to be full of surprises this postseason, with the No. 14 seeded girls team echoing the boys with a big second round upset of a PAC power to qualify for states. The Jags’ next challenge also comes from the PAC in the form of the league champion Rams of Spring-Ford, who have been on a roll since the end of the regular season.

Top-seeded PW looked every bit the part in their dominant second round win, pinning Great Valley to just single-digits on the scoreboard. Toppling the unbeaten Colonials seems to be a monumental undertaking but the Fords are tough, well-coached and will be prepared.

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State berths on the line in playbacks

Every 5A team in the semifinals and 6A team in the quarterfinals has already qualified for the PIAA state tournaments, but there are quite a few others who are one win away from qualification — and one loss away from being done for the season. The only playback games listed below that aren’t for a state berth are the girls’ District 1 5A playbacks; with only five teams from the district qualifying for states, each of the winners on Friday will still be one win away from the final berth out of the district. 

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Fri., Feb. 25
Girls District 1 5A Semifinals
1) Springfield vs. 4) Bishop Shanahan (7 PM)
6) Radnor vs. 7) Villa Maria (7 PM)

Girls District 1 5A Playbacks
5) Harriton vs. 9) Merion Mercy (7 PM)
2) Marple Newtown vs. 3) Upper Moreland (7 PM)

Girls District 1 6A Playbacks
8) Downingtown East vs. 16) Great Valley (6 PM)

Boys District 1 6A Quarterfinals
2) Lower Merion vs. 23) Abington (5 PM)
1) Methacton vs. 24) Garnet Valley (7 PM)
3) Cheltenham vs. 23) Plymouth Whitemarsh (7 PM)
4) Bensalem vs. 12) Norristown (7:30 PM)

Boys District 1 6A Playbacks
8) Spring-Ford vs. 17) Penn Wood (7 PM)
5) Haverford vs. 20) WC Henderson (7 PM)
7) WC East vs. 15) CR North (7 PM)
6) D’Town West vs. 19) Perkiomen Valley (7 PM)

Girls’ PAISAA First Round
1) Westtown vs. 8) Friends’ Central (4 PM)
4) Germantown Academy vs. 5) Perkiomen School (4 PM)
3) Notre Dame vs. 6) Episcopal (4 PM)
2) Penn Charter vs. 7) Germantown Friends (6:30 PM)

Boys’ PAISAA First Round
1) Westtown vs. 16) Friends’ Central (6 PM)
8) Malvern Prep vs. 9) Kiski School (7 PM)
5) George School vs. 12) Friends’ Select (5 PM)
4) Academy of New Church vs. 13) Abington Friends (5:30 PM)
3) Phelps vs. 14) Germantown Friends (4 PM)
6) Hill vs. 11) Solebury School (5:30 PM)
7) Penn Charter vs. 10) SCH Academy (5 PM)
2) Perkiomen vs. 15) Episcopal Academy (4 PM)

Sat., Feb. 26
Public League Championships @ Liacouras Center
Mastery North vs. Imhotep (1 PM)
Imhotep vs. Lincoln (3 PM) 

Girls District 1 1A Championship
Faith Christian vs. Jenkintown (1 PM, Bensalem)

Girls District 1 2A Championship
Delco Christian vs. Sacred Heart (12 PM, Harriton)

Girls District 1 4A Championship
Gwynedd Mercy vs. Villa Joseph Marie (5 PM, Bensalem)

Girls District 1 6A Playbacks
12) CB West vs. 13) Upper Dublin (TBD)
10) Neshaminy vs. 15) CB South (TBD)
3) Methacton vs. 6) West Chester Rustin (1 PM)

Girls District 1 6A Quarterfinals
4) Pennsbury vs. 5) Abington (12 PM)
11) Spring-Ford vs. 14) Garnet Valley (1 PM)
2) Souderton vs. 7) Perk Valley (2 PM)
1) Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. 9) Haverford (3:30 PM)

Boys District 1 A Championship
Faith Christian vs. Plumstead Christian (3 PM, Bensalem)

Boys District 1 2A Championship
Church Farm vs. Delco Christian (2 PM, Harriton)

Boys District 1 4A Championship
Collegium Charter vs. Pope John Paul (4 PM, Harriton)

Boys District 1 5A Semifinals
1) Radnor vs. 4) Upper Moreland (3 PM)
2) Chester vs. 6) Bishop Shanahan (3 PM)

Boys District 1 5A Playbacks
3) Phoenixville vs. 7) Marple Newtown (1 PM)
8) Sun Valley vs. 12) Chichester (2:30 PM)


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