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PIAA Playoff Preview: Local First-Round Highlights (March 8)

03/07/2022, 10:00am EST
By Andrew Robinson & Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) &
Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)

The PIAA state playoffs get underway Tuesday night, with six brackets opening First Round play: 2A, 3A and 6A on the girls side; 1A, 4A and 5A on the boys. 

There are 38 games taking place involving teams from District 1 and District 12, at 31 different schools around the eastern half of the state, on Tuesday alone. Some of the best programs in the area will start runs that they hope will end with a giant chocolate bar in Hershey, while others are getting their first taste of states in decades, just hoping to stick around for longer than a night.

Here are a few games of note and storylines to watch on the opening night of states; full brackets can be found here on the PIAA’s website:


Taylor Gurysh (right) and Reese Zemitis (left) have a tough test in Archbishop Carroll in the first round. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Neshaminy poses an intriguing challenge for Archbishop Carroll in 6A opener

The Patriots got their groove back in the District 12 title game against Central, which was timely because they have a test coming on Tuesday night.

Neshaminy is still a youthful team, led by junior Taylor Gurysh and sophomores Lola Ibarrondo and Reese Zemitis, but also one that gained plenty of experience between its SOL schedule and district playoff path. Coach John Gallagher put a tough schedule in front of his team to get it ready for moments like this and Neshaminy will need the well of its experience if it wants to keep its season going.

Carroll, which was able to give sophomore guard Brooke Wilson and her sore ankle a needed rest against Central, has tested itself as proven by its run to the PCL title game. With senior Grace O’Neill running the point, the Patriots have one of the best floor leaders in the bracket and a player who has no problem hitting the big shot.

Having Brooke Wilson back strengthens a defensively solid lineup that includes her older sister, junior Taylor Wilson, Meg Sheridan and sharpshooter Maggie Grant.

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Speedboys hoping to make a big statement
There are seven doubleheaders going on in the region, including Archbishop Ryan hosting a pair (with the Raiders playing West York), Neumann-Goretti’s boys and girls both playing at Cardinal O’Hara, and a good selection of Class 1A and 2A games paired up. But the most interesting doubleheader of the night will take place at West Philadelphia High School.

The Speedboys (19-5), playing in the ‘B’ level of the Philadelphia Public League, went unbeaten in league play and made it all the way to the Pub semifinals, beating King and Constitution along the way before losing to Imhotep by 24, which is better than many others have fared. Now they get to play host to Allentown Central Catholic (21-5), which lost in the District 11 semifinals and emerged as the No. 3 seed from the Lehigh Valley. 

Under the direction of longtime head coach Dennis Csentis, the Vikings won the 2021 Class 4A state title, taking four straight games in the state bracket. They return senior forward Liam Joyce, who had 18 points in last year’s championship win over Hickory, as well as his classmate, guard Tyson Thomas, who picked up an offer from Lehigh last summer.

West Philly features 6-5 forward Deyishon Miller, who averaged 21 ppg this year, and junior guard Nasir Washington, who averaged just north of 18 ppg. Coming after a local 6A game, which has Abington go up against Northeast High, there’s no doubt West Philly is a good place to be Tuesday night.

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Dean Coleman-Newsome (above) and Archbishop Carroll throught their season was over until this weekend. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Carroll boys get unexpected state bid

Francis Bowe thought his team’s season was over, the Archbishop Carroll boys’ coach having guided his young Patriots to an 12-10 record (5-8 PCL) finish, with a loss to Devon Prep in the Catholic League playoffs seemingly it for their winter. 

But then Martin Luther King, which was slotted in to be the No. 5 seed out of District 12, withdrew from the postseason, and Carroll gets another chance. It’ll have been a full 20 days since Carroll last played, and it’ll be interesting to see if their players can get back into season-focus mode, but they have a real chance to make some noise in the bracket if they can get things together. 

Bowe’s backcourt of senior Shawnn Smith, junior Dean Coleman-Newsome, sophomore Moses Hipps and freshman Jake West give the Patriots a combination of play-making, shot-making, and three-level scoring, with Hipps one of the most talented sophomores in the state. If they get quality minutes up front from Harold Ivery and Blake Deegan, these Patriots can hang with most anybody in the state. 

Playing at Berks Catholic (23-4), the District 3 4A champ, is a tough test, with either District 2 runner-up Mid Valley (21-5) or District 4 runner-up Athens Area (20-7) awaiting in the second round. Saints coach Snip Esterly, who’s won more than 700 games and 13 district titles, relies on junior guard Josiah ‘Jay Jay’ Jordan, as well as Ryan Koch, Aidan Sands and Jack Miller

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Haverford faces battle with District 3’s Cedar Cliff

The Fords proved they were one of District 1’s toughest teams in their playoff run and still hold the distinction of being the only team to have a fourth-quarter lead on District 1 champion Plymouth Whitemarsh this season.

That toughness will be tested Tuesday night as they take the trip out to the midstate for a first-round clash with a Cedar Cliff squad that’s been equally tough in the expansive District 3 landscape. The Colts finished third in District 3, the only blemish on their 26-1 record a semifinal loss to eventual district champ Central Dauphin on an incredible half-court shot at the final buzzer.

CC is led by one of its youngest players, freshman Olivia Jones, who has already established herself as one of the top players in the rugged Mid-Penn conference. Jones, a 5-foot-10 wing, has some ties to the area as she plays for the Philly Belles U17 squad coached by Neumann-Goretti coach Andrea Peterson and she’s already on the Division I radar.

Head coach Scott Weyant has guided the Colts to a program-record for wins and his daughter, junior guard Sydney Weyant is another key piece to the puzzle, as is junior guard Taylor Ferraro.

The Fords have a solid player of their own in 6-foot-2 junior Caroline Dotsey, an athlete with inside-out game and growing college interest. Guards Mollie Williams and Emma Rowland, a standout lacrosse player, a tough-minded and forward Mollie Carpenter provides a strong complement to Dotsey’s game.

Both teams are built on their defense, so expect points to be at a premium.

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Anna Azzara (above) and Spring-Ford dispatched Nazareth in the semifinals last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Spring-Ford gets another playoff flashback with Nazareth set to visit

The Rams have to feel like they’re seeing double at this point.

After facing Plymouth Whitemarsh on Saturday in a rematch of the 2021 District 1 6A final, Spring-Ford will turn around into another 2021 postseason rematch. Last season, the Rams gutted their way past Nazareth in the reformatted PIAA 6A playoffs in a semifinal game for the right to get to Hershey.

This year, the match-up happens in the first round but it’s still the same one-and-done stakes.

The Blue Eagles were District 11 champions last year but had to settle for a fourth-place finish this season, meaning they’ll have to make the trip down to the same court their season ended on last March. This is still a solid group, paced by senior guards Kelly Leszcynski (13.5 ppg) and Maddie Ahearn, both ace 3-point shooters with plenty of experience.

Senior Mariana Falzone and sophomores Breelyn Bender and Sam Baker are also top rotation players for Nazareth.

Spring-Ford will have to get its offense back on track after being held in check by PW, although that likely won’t be an issue for a sophomore-laden squad that has a very short-term memory and a lot of confidence.

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Methacton hoping to keep turnaround going against Wilkes-Barre

After a torrid start to the regular season, the Warriors hit a wall right as the postseason started, dropping a pair of PAC games to Spring-Ford and Perk Valley before S-F knocked top-seeded Methacton out in the PAC semifinals. Coupled with a district quarterfinal upset loss to Garnet Valley and it looked like a promising season was on its way to being totally derailed.

However, Methacton has turned things around by winning three straight to come out of the playback bracket as District 1’s ninth seed. The team got an emotional boost during the playback slate when senior Nicole Timko broke the program’s career scoring record and with their roster back together and healthy, the Warriors want to keep this new streak going into states.

Methacton will need sniper Tori Bockrath, post Mairi Smith and point guard Cassidy Kropp to be sharp, because every basket they score will open up more space for Timko to keep adding to her career total.

The Wolfpack are led by a strong interior game paced by forward Gloria Adjayi and ran away from Hazelton to win the District 2 title this past weekend. Danayjha Moore is WBA’s perimeter threat, having upped her game in her first season as a starter.

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Tuesday, March 8
Boys’ 1A First Round
Notre Dame East Stroudsburg vs Strawberry Mansion (at East Stroudsburg South HS), 6pm

Boys’ 4A First Round
South Philadelphia at Bethlehem Catholic, 7pm
Cardinal O’Hara at Wilson Area (Dist 11), 7pm
Archbishop Carroll at Berks Catholic, 7pm

Boys’ 5A First Round
Exeter at Chester, 7pm
Upper Moreland at Shippensburg, 7pm
Marple Newtown vs Pottsville (at Martz Hall), 7pm
Mastery North at Bishop Shanahan, 7pm
Susquehannock at Radnor, 7pm
Chichester vs Imhotep (at La Salle College HS), 7pm

Girls’ 2A First Round
Belmont Charter vs Linden Hall (at Manheim Twp HS), 7:15pm

Girls’ 3A First Round
Conwell-Egan at York Catholic, 7pm
Martin Luther King at Palmerton, 7pm
John Bartram at Trinity (Dist 3), 7pm

Girls’ 6A First Round
Neshaminy at Archbishop Carroll, 6pm
Manheim Twp at Plymouth Whitemarsh, 7 pm
Garnet Valley at Northampton, 7pm
Methacton at Wilkes-Barre, 7pm
Haverford at Cedar Cliff, 7pm
Great Valley at Parkland, 7pm
Dallastown at Pennsbury, 7pm
Nazareth at Spring-Ford, 7pm
Upper Dublin at Central Dauphin, 7pm
Easton at Souderton, 7pm

PIAA Doubleheaders
At Archbishop Ryan
6A girls: Central vs Perk Valley 6pm
5A boys: West York vs. Archbishop Ryan, 7:30pm

At Bonner-Prendergast
2A girls: Columbia vs Penn Treaty, 6pm
1A boys: Plumstead Christian vs City School, 7:30pm

At Archbishop Wood
3A girls: Executive Education vs Imhotep Charter, 6pm
2A girls: Tri-Valley vs Parkway Northwest, 7:30pm

At Bensalem
3A girls: Bloomsburg Area vs MaST Charter, 6pm
1A boys: Roberto Clemente vs Faith Christian Academy, 7:30pm

At Cardinal O’Hara
3A girls: Brandywine Heights vs Neumann-Goretti, 6pm
4A boys: ELCO vs Neumann-Goretti, 7:30 pm

At Pottstown
2A girls: Parkway West vs Sacred Heart Academy, 6pm
4A boys: Trinity vs Collegium Charter, 7:30 pm

At West Philadelphia
6A girls: Abington vs Northeast, 5:30pm
4A boys: Allentown Central Catholic vs. West Philadelphia, 7:30 pm


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