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League title races, playoff implications abound on big day of hoops

02/07/2023, 1:30am EST
By Owen McCue and Josh Verlin

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) &
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Tuesday’s a huge day on the local high school calendar, with games that have implications on league playoff races, league title races, District 1 fields, and a mixture of the above.

Here’s a look at all you need to know about the important games Tuesday evening:

League-title races

Boys: Chester vs. Chichester

Senior Zaiyin Keys and Chichester are hoping to win their first Del-Val title in three decades with a win over Chester on Tuesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Chichester is looking to lock down its first Del-Val championship in three decades. In order to do so, the Eagles have to beat a team they haven’t since 1987. A win clinches the Del-Val title for Chichester, while a loss would drop the Eagles into a likely tie with both Chester and Penn Wood atop the standings. As if the Clipper needed any more motivation than first place, they currently sit at No. 26 in the District 1-6A power rankings — 24 teams make the tournament. A win and some help could potentially keep Chester from missing the postseason. You’d have to dig deep into the archives to see the last time that happened.

Boys: Penn Charter vs. Malvern Prep
The two teams that split the Inter-Ac title last season with 8-2 records square off on Tuesday with a chance to stand alone in the top spot this time around. Penn Charter (21-2, 7-1) won the first matchup, 55-52, on Jan. 17, but dropped a game to Springside Chestnut Hill on Jan. 27. The Friars (16-7, 7-1) have avoided any other hiccups aside from the loss to the Quakers to give them a shot at first place. Both teams have league games on Friday as well, so the Inter-A championship won’t be a done deal, but Tuesday’s contest could end up being a de-facto championship game for a league that doesn’t have a postseason.

Boys: North Penn vs. Central Bucks East
CB East’s surprise loss to Souderton last week opened the door for North Penn (17-4, 12-3) to force a tie atop the Suburban One Colonial standings. A CB East (18-3, 13-2) win gives the Patriots a division title, while a North Penn victory forces a shared championship. The Knights might be the hottest team in District 1 with 12 straight victories after a 5-4 start, suddenly at No. 7 in the District 1-6A power rankings. The Patriots (18-3, 13-2), who won the first meeting 60-53, come in at No. 4.

Girls: Upper Moreland vs. New Hope-Solebury
The only true ‘title game’ on the girls' side in the SOL comes in the Freedom division — though Plymouth Whitemarsh and Neshaminy both need wins to finish off outright league titles. Upper Moreland (18-3, 13-2) took down New Hope (14-7, 12-3) in a 38-36 contest back on Dec. 22. That contest is what separates these two teams heading into Tuesday. The Golden Panthers would earn an outright title with a season sweep, while the Lions would earn a share of the Freedom championship with a season split.

League & District 1 playoff implications

Harriton and Aiden Abrams have a chance to get into the Central League playoffs with a win over Marple Newtown on Tuesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Boys: Harriton vs. Marple Newtown
The Central League playoffs don’t start until Thursday, but Harriton (12-9, 7-8) and Marple (11-10, 7-8) get the high stakes games going a little early with a win-and-in game. The winner will get the sixth and final spot in the league postseason, while the loser gets left out. The game has district implications as well. Harriton currently sits at No. 22 with several teams in the low to mid 20s fighting for the last of the 24 spots in the District 1-6A tournament. Less than 0.3 power points separate the Rams from No. 25 Springfield-Delco. The Tigers are comfortably in the 12-team District 1-5A playoff field at No. 9 but a win might help bump them up to No. 8 and get a home first-round game.

Girls: West Chester Henderson vs. Bishop Shanahan; Coatesville vs. Avon Grove

Three of the four spots in the Ches-Mont girls basketball tournament are already locked in with American champion West Chester Rustin and National champion Bishop Shanahan — both undefeated in league play — having secured their place in the league tournament along with American second-place team Unionville. The National division’s second-place team will come down to Henderson and Coatesville as the Warriors muddied the race with an upset win over the Raiders on Jan. 31. They will have a tall task in keeping pace with Coatesville, needing an upset victory over Shanahan to sneak into the Ches-Mont semifinals.

District 1 tournament watch

Boys 6A: Upper Darby vs. Conestoga, Penncrest vs. Springfield (Delco.), Springfield (Montco.) vs. Cheltenham, Harriton vs. Marple Newtown, Chester vs. Chichester, Garnet Valley vs. Haverford
As previously mentioned, Chester (No. 26) and Harriton (No. 22) are on the District 1-6A bubble. Haverford (No. 23), Conestoga (No. 24), Springfield (Delco.) (No. 25) and Cheltenham (No. 27) are the other teams near the cutline, and they’re ALL in action on Tuesday night. 

Two of those Central League teams on the bubble have tough opponents on the road: Haverford’s at Garnet Valley (15-6) and Conestoga’s at Upper Darby (15-6), and while a win for either would be a huge boost, they’re certainly not going to be favorites. That’s good news for Springfield (Delco.), which has Penncrest (5-16) on the road, and has to hope that a small boost plus a couple losses ahead of them is enough.

Of the group, only Cheltenham and Chester still have games to play — Chichester at Penn Wood, on Friday, and Chester at Chester Charter next week. While Springfield (Montco.), at 8-14, might not provide Cheltenham a big boost in the rankings, beating the 14-5 Patriots would be a significant help. As for Chester, winning both would be a significant help, but one loss could be enough to keep them out. And let’s not forget No. 28 Council Rock North, which has Pennsbury (15-6) in its season finale, and probably still has a chance to sneak in with the right combo of losses. 

Girls 5A: Marple Newtown vs. Harriton, Sun Valley vs. Unionville, Radnor vs. Strath Haven
The finals two spots in the 12-team District 1-5A tournament will come down to the wire as well as about a tenth of a point separates teams No. 11 through No. 13, with Phoenixville not much further ahead at No. 10, though the Phantoms don’t have any games left on their schedule. Two of the above three are going to get through, while one’s going to find itself just missing out by fractions of a point.

Marple’s currently in the No. 11 seed with 7.106 rating, and the Tigers host Harriton (3-16) on Tuesday, so it’s not clear what that game will do for Marple’s rating given the strength of schedule hit. Sun Valley’s right behind them at No. 12 with a 7.087 rating, and if the Vanguards can take down Unionville (16-4), that should be a significant help to their rating. Strath Haven, at No. 13 with a 7.002 rating, has a trip to District 1 5A No. 6 Radnor (13-8), where a win would also certainly help its rating. 

Boys 5A: Radnor vs. Strath Haven, West Chester Rustin vs. Kennett, New Hope-Solebury vs. Upper Moreland
The boys’ side in 5A seems a little more clear-cut, as No. 11 West Chester Rustin (7.643) and No. 12 Upper Merion (7.559) have a pretty good gap on No. 13 Strath Haven (6.599) and No. 14 Lower Moreland (6.250). But Haven has a big opportunity — albeit a very difficult one — by playing the top team in the district, Radnor, at home in its season finale; if the Panthers pull off the upset, they’ll get a significant boost to their rankings. Rustin has Kennett and Collegium Charter in its final two games, but even if it lost both — which is unlikely — the Knights would still likely be in the field. Upper Moreland’s No. 10, but similarly, a loss would be highly unlikely to drop them far enough to matter.

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