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District 1 6A: Boys Second Round Preview (Feb. 21, 2023)

02/20/2023, 12:45am EST
By CoBL Staff

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

The first round of districts is over, with 16 teams left who find themselves in good position to make the PIAA bracket — 12 of those 16 will play in states, including the eight winners of Tuesday night’s second round and four of the losers, who all go into play-backs to determine those final spots. 

Here’s a look at all eight games on Tuesday, as the top eight seeds make their district debuts:

1) Spring-Ford vs. 17) West Chester Henderson
The Rams lost their regular-season finale to Perkiomen Valley and needed a pair of overtimes to survive Pottstown in the PAC semifinals, but a dominant championship game performance against Upper Merion showed what they’re capable of. Sophomore Jacob Nguyen, a 6-4 guard, lit it up for 25 points in the title game win and junior EJ Campbell is the team’s other go-to scorer. However, the Rams go about eight guys deep and emphasize each guy playing a role. Senior guard Caleb Little makes opposing guards uncomfortable with his defense and can score at times and distribute. Classmates Zach Zollers and Alex Lewis and springy sophomore Tommy Kelly have to play big down low for an undersized group.

Nyle Ralph-Beyer (above) and Henderson stormed past Pennridge in the first round. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Henderson looked impressive in a 66-52 win over Pennridge to open the tournament, led by star juniors Connor Fleet and Nyle Ralph-Beyer. Fleet had 27, while Ralph-Beyer scored 15 of his 19 in the second half. Junior guard Kmari Smith, who helped Collegium to a Class 4A title last season, is the other top scorer of the bunch, while junior forwards Danny Surowiec and Evan McFadden add some rebounding and defense to the group. To pull the upset and claim a berth in states, Henderson will have to win the rebounding battle and find a way to get two of Fleet, Ralph-Beyer and Smith going, while finding a way to keep Nguyen and Co. from going off.


8) Garnet Valley vs. 9) Methacton
Only 14 hundreds of a point separated Methacton and Garnet Valley in the district rankings, the Jaguars with just enough of an edge to be hosting this game instead of it being up in the PAC. Garnet Valley (15-8) enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak, including scoring just 29 points against Springfield (Delco.) in the first round of the Central League playoffs, but Mike Brown has had 12 days to get his squad back on track as they host a Warriors side that comes in 16-8, having beaten Conestoga 48-38 in the first round of districts after themselves losing in the opening round of their league playoffs. This one is a rematch of a district quarterfinal from last season when the then top-seeded Warriors held off the then 24th-seeded Jags in OT. 

Methacton’s in the postseason for the first time without any members of its 2020 district championship group, Cole Hargrove and Brett Byrne finally having graduated and moved on, leaving the Warriors in the hands of senior guards Cam Chilson and Matt Christian, as well as junior guard Alex Hermann and sophomore guard Sal Iamello, who along with senior Evan Spang make up the starting lineup for Patrick Lockard. It’s a group that doesn’t have a true post, relying on the likes of the 6-4 Hermann and 6-3 Christian to hit the glass in addition to their scoring duties, though Chilson and Iamello do most of the on-ball creating.

The Jaguars are also without a true ‘5’ man, though they do have some interior presence in the form of 6-5 senior Logan McKee, who plays more of a combo ‘3’ and ‘4’ role but can also defend the rim and gobble up rebounds. Sophomore Jake Sniras (6-2) and senior Max Koehler (York College) can both score the ball at a high clip and junior guard Quinn O’Hara can go off as well, while 6-1 senior forward Ryan Faccenda does a little bit of everything and can knock down shots as well. Wins over Lower Merion, Penn Wood and Upper Darby on the resume highlight what the Jags are capable of.


4) Central Bucks East vs. 20) Abington
If this game plays out anything like the last time these squads met in the postseason - a double overtime Abington win in the 20-21 season semifinals - it should be an outstanding game.

The Patriots come in after dropping the SOL tournament title game to Plymouth Whitemarsh, but the benefit of the bye round should help get senior point guard Joey Giordano back in the mix after he missed the last two rounds of the league tournament. Junior guard Jake Cummiskey has done just about everything for the SOL Colonial champions, from scoring to passing to rebounding and defending, but PW threw everything it had at him, so getting Giordano back will help ease some of that.

Senior Kyle Berndt has put together a nice season, the lanky forward another marksman from long range for a Patriots squad that can not only get up and down, but stretch the floor. Tyler Dandrea has no qualms about firing from deep either as another reliable shooter with Miles Demby doing a lot of grinding on both ends and Dhruv Mukund coming on as a bench option late in the season.

It’s late February, otherwise known as that time of year where Abington seemingly has everyone just where it wants them. Charles Grasty has already led his team to one “upset” win this postseason, the Ghosts taking out Pennsbury in Thursday’s pre-opening round opener and looking to make it three straight years with a prolonged run as a lower-ranking seed.

Junior Jeremiah “JJ” Lee has plenty of family stock in the program and he’s come into his own as the leading option for Abington’s relatively young squad. Damon Rawls isn’t that big, but he’s fast and he can pass, firmly grasping the control’s of Grasty’s crew and helping Paul Glants and Josh Young find comfortable shots following Lee’s lead.


5) Downingtown West vs. 21) Haverford High

Donovan Fromhartz (above) and Downingtown West start their district run against Haverford High. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Whippets, the Ches-Mont champions, have one of the best players in the tournament in senior guard Dylan Blair. Blair, an Army commit, is an explosive scorer but also a playmaker at the point guard spot. Sophomore forward Donovan Fromhartz is a strong post presence and outside threat as well. Senior guard Joey Suarez can get hot in a hurry from deep and classmate Kelly Bell does a little bit of everything. Junior forward/wing Alex Neuhaus joins them in the starting lineup and junior guard Antonio Lewis is the sixth man with junior guard Ryan Barker also coming off the bench.

Haverford knocked off William Tennent in the first round, putting Keith Heinerichs’ defensive prowess to work in holding a high-scoring Tennent squad to 46 points in the 14-point victory, the fourth in a row for the Fords (13-10). Haverford has a senior core of guards, including Catholic U (D.C.) commit Googie Seidman, sharpshooter Brian Weiner, wing Tommy Wright and guard Gorman Bright Jr. Seidman, one of the best scorers in District 1, had 29 points in the district opener, and it’ll take a similar effort — with help — for Haverford to pull another upset. But they’ve beaten Lower Merion, Garnet Valley, Conestoga (twice) and Henderson this season, so they’ve got what it takes to put a real scare (at minimum) into the Whippets.


2) Lower Merion vs. 18) Neshaminy
Lower Merion is always dangerous in February under Gregg Downer, and this year’s group is no exception, even if they’re not quite the powerhouse that won the last two District 1 6A championships. Penn commit Sam Brown and fellow senior guard Sam Wright are the two primary ball-handlers and shot-makers for the Aces (20-4), who will have had an eight-day layoff since losing in the Central League championship game to Radnor, aiming to get back to the form that had them winning 13 straight games between Dec. 9 and Jan. 21. Senior guard Jordan Meekins gives them length and shooting ability at 6-4, junior wing John Mobley is an athletic wing presence who rebounds at a high rate, and senior guards Justin Poles and Teddy Pendergrass III bring additional ball-handling, scoring and defense. 

Neshaminy fell short of an SOL Patriot division title and league championship, but they are an experienced and talented group that is more than capable of making a run. Senior Sean Curley is a balanced scorer who is lethal from outside who can also threaten off the dribble. Curley also excels with on-ball defense. Junior Emeer Coombs is Neshaminy’s floor general and can clamp up opposing guards. Nate Townsend provides physicality and athleticism on both ends of the floor, while the 6-foot-4 West Chester Football commit Joey Zack patrols the paint and hoards rebounds. Mark Tingle’s squad upset No. 15 Boyertown to get their first District win since 2018 and will look to play spoiler again. 


7) Perkiomen Valley vs. 10) Upper Darby

Julian Sadler (above) and Perkiomen Valley have played some thrilling playoff games already this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Vikings (16-8) are no stranger to high-stakes drams, winning their last three regular season games to snake into the PAC tournament and winning on a buzzer beater and losing on another in double overtime once they got there. Junior lefty guard Julian Sadler, the PAC’s leading scorer, can fill it up, shouldering the offensive load on most nights. Junior wing Kyle Shawaluk can score and make plays and sophomore guard Mason Thear has turned into a lethal threat from outside and going to the basket as well. Senior forward Morgan McKinney and senior guard Luke Hansen, who will both be playing other sports at the next level, fill in the gaps.

Upper Darby (18-7) has one of the area’s most exciting offenses this season, Bob Miller’s senior group top-heavy but talented, its starting five all able to score from all over the court. Senior Niymire Brown is a major matchup problem, the 6-4 wing forward capable of scoring from inside and out and making some great passes on the move; he had 25 points and 12 rebounds in their opening-round win over Cheltenham, while Yassir Joyner had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Nadir Myers added 17. Myers, the point guard, is the true floor general of the group, which also has senior wing Khysir Slaughter — another one capable of going for 20+ — and junior guard Lovo Mulbah in the starting lineup. It’s a true contrast in styles; if Perk Valley can control tempo and wear UD down with its Princeton-style offense, it’ll win. But if UD can get out in transition and prevent Perk Valley’s ball movement from wrecking too much havoc, the Royals should be in control. 


3) Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. 14) Penn Wood
Fresh off their SOL Tournament title, the high-scoring Colonials will play host to a Penn Wood team that’s got the capability to fill it up pretty well in its own right, and each have their own big-time scorer to rely on. Senior Qudire Bennett, the 1,000-point scorer, had been accumulating buckets in a PW uniform for years and now facing the prospect of his last postseason run, he wants to add titles to that list. A pure scorer who can get to the rim and has deep range shooting the ball, Bennett usually finds a way to get his as the Colonials do their thing around him. Penn Wood (16-6) counters with Nasir Washington, who had 37 points in the district tournament-opening win over Norristown, a 30-point blowout for the Patriots, with nine 3-pointers for the 6-3 guard with deeeeep range.

Plymouth Whitemarsh (23-2) goes as Jaden Colzie goes, the junior point guard a year wiser and a year more polished splitting his roles between scoring and assisting - usually good for at least one highlight dime a night - and he’s a key piece in the team’s active pressure defense. Chase Coleman is a menace in the press and in the open floor, his burst to the rim netting a lot of quick baskets. Lincoln Sharpe, the 6-foot-5 senior forward and standout baseball player, is a grinder who doesn’t need shots but instead sets screens, ensnares rebounds and does winning things while Jahseir Sayles can knock down shots and a long bench led by Jimmy Flowers gives veteran coach Jim Donofrio plenty of options.

Along with Washington, Penn Wood has some weapons in 6-5 senior Mekhi Shillingsford, a terrific rebounder and post scorer, plus ball-on-a-string point guard Sadiq Fountain, 6-4 senior forward Jayden Thompson, 6-3 junior forward Donald Hairston and more. Both of these teams are going to be trying to impose their will on each other, as if they’re fighting for the right to be called ‘PW’ for the next year. 


6) North Penn vs. 11) Coatesville
Two of District I’s premier big-school football powers get together on the hardwood with the same stakes as so many of their fall meetings carry - a bid to states on the line.

North Penn has been idle since falling to PW in the SOL Tournament semifinals, so the Knights have had a little time to regroup after dropping two of their last three. This is a team that can score, but NP will have to be at its sharpest on defense to try and reverse course and recapture the fire that ignited the double-digit win streak it had prior to this last stretch.

Lead guards Mario Sgro and Norman Gee III might be the quickest backcourt in the district, two shifty, elusive ball handlers who can collapse a defense on their drives and let their teammates go to work. Teddy McAllister is another athletic guard with microwave capabilities on offense, Ryan Zeltt - the football team’s four-year starting quarterback - is a steady stretch big man and Ryan Deininger is a really competent scorer who just puts the ball in the hoop. Corey Meade is a spark plug off the bench and fits right into what the Knights are trying to do.

Coatesville, under the direction of all-time program great and first-year head coach John Allen, has a mix of all four classes in his rotation, from seniors Jeremiah Marshall and Christian Proctor, both 6-2 guards, to 6-0 junior point guard Zuri Harris and 6-2 wing Dior Kennedy, 6-1 sophomore guard Amon Fowlkes and 6-7 freshman Larry Brown, who gives them a significant post presence and who has been making strides as the year’s gone on. 

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