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PIAA Preview: How the local 5A boys teams stack up

03/07/2023, 12:00pm EST
By CoBL Staff

Imhotep and Rahmir Barno, above, are the clearcut favorites in the PIAA 5A tournament. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The PIAA state playoffs begin this weekend, with more than 70 teams from the Philadelphia area still in the hunt for state trophies. All week long, CoBL’s staff will be taking a look at the teams to watch — local and not — who can compete for titles in all six boys and all six girls’ brackets. 

Here’s a look at all of the local boys’ teams in the 5A bracket, ranked by how likely they are to make a deep run, from least likely to most likely:

(1-6) Holy Ghost Prep
The Firebirds (14-12) grabbed the last qualifying spot out of District 1, which unfortunately got them matched up against powerhouse Imhotep Charter in the first round; they’re playing the first-round game at Lincoln, not far from Holy Ghost in Northeast Philly, but that might be the only advantage they have against the Panthers. Tony Chapman, who surpassed the 900-win mark a couple years back, relies on seniors Noah McDerrmott, Jamel Lindsey and Colin Lucas, while sophomore guard Adrien ‘Ace’ Varella has good size (6-2) and versatility. Senior  Seamus McDermott went down for the season with an ACL injury at the end of January.

(1-4) West Chester Rustin
Rustin certainly got better as the season went on, pulling off road wins at Upper Dublin and then West Chester East to get to the District 1 semifinals, but lost to Radnor and Chichester to end up as the fourth seed out of the district. That got them a tough matchup with Archbishop Ryan in the opening round, with Radnor likely looming in the quarterfinals. The Golden Knights (13-14), under the direction of second-year head coach Vince Mostardi — only the second boys’ basketball head coach in the program’s history, the school opening in 2006 — features seniors Tyler Giunta, Ian Schlesinger, Sam Sproull and Matt Mochumson, plus sophomore guard Chase Hatton

West Chester East and senior Jack Kushner, above, are hoping to play their best hoops of the season in the state tournament (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

(1-5) West Chester East
It’s honestly a little tough to figure the Vikings (18-8) out. When they play well, they’ve beaten the likes of Spring-Ford, Penn Wood, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Rustin, Henderson and more successful teams. But they also lost to Unionville by 28 in the Ches-Mont semifinals and to Rustin in the District 1 quarterfinals, which has them under-seeded in the state bracket, though an 80-34 win over Holy Ghost in the district playbacks was maybe a sign that Tom Durant’s group is figuring it out. Sophomore guard KJ Cochran is a developing Division I talent, and there’s seniors around him in Jack Kusher, Jose Ramos, Stanley Porter and more. They’ve got size, length, talent and depth, which are all good things to happen this time of year.

(1-2) Unionville
As a reward for finishing as the runner-up in District 1 5A, Unionville (22-5) does get what should be in theory an easier first-round game, getting the fifth seed out of District 3 in Muhlenberg (17-10), but that will all but certainly just move Unionville right into a second-round game against Imhotep Charter, which is a tough draw. Chris Cowles has done a great job with this group, which should be right back in states again next year thanks to a junior group consisting of guards Ryan Brown, JT Anderson and Charlie Kammeier, plus 6-6 forward Nick Diehl, and 6-5 freshman James Brenner all coming back. Unionville can shoot the lights out, and really move the ball well, with seniors Robbie Logan and George Napolitano rounding out the top seven.

(12-4) Murrell Dobbins
Believe it or not, the team tied with the second-most wins in the classification is Dobbins (25-2), which has had a breakthrough season under second-year head coach Derrick Stanton, after a 5-10 season a year ago. The winners of the Public League’s ‘C’ Division made it to the Pub semifinals and then beat Bonner-Prendergast in a qualifier, putting them in the 5A bracket for the first time. It’s no easy trip up to play Abington Heights, but if they’re good enough to win up there, they could definitely beat either Chichester or Pocono Mt. West in the second round, which would likely set up a rematch with Imhotep — who beat them by 18 in the Pub semifinals —  in the quarterfinals. Senior wing Kareem Diaz, junior guard Zachary Campbell, junior guard Saleem Hudson and senior guard Faheem Robinson are the names to know, and it’s a group that moves the ball, forces a ton of turnovers and shoots it well from different spots.

(12-3) West Philadelphia
West Philadelphia’s been here before, the Speedboys (15-11) making a run to the 4A state quarterfinals last year, upsetting 2021 4A champs Allentown Central Catholic in the first round, and now they’ll try to do it again in the next bracket up, albeit without two of their stars from a year ago in Deyishon Miller and Nasir Washington, the former graduating and latter transferring to Penn Wood. This year’s group relies on senior guards Elijah Hester and John Fields, both back from last year, and their classmates Jabrill Jackson and Jaden Williams. The eye-opener is 6-7 left-handed freshman wing Makel Butts, who’s got range out to the 3-point arc and the ability to finish above the rim with authority, and freshman guard Jayden McKie is a 5-10 bundle of talent. 

Chichester and senior Zaiyin Keys, above, are hoping to win the school's first state playoff game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

(1-3) Chichester
It’s true that Chi would have rather played for the District 1 championship rather than getting upset in the semifinals, but in doing so they avoid having to play Imhotep until the quarterfinals, so they’re a little higher up in this list, even though they’d have a difficult two games to get there. The Delaware Valley League champs for the first time in 30 years, Chichester’s under great leadership in Clyde Jones, who most notably won the 2009 AAAA championship with Penn Wood, and now has the Eagles (21-4) looking for what’s believed to be the program’s first win in state playoff history. Jones starts five seniors in point guard Mazen Sayed, fraternal twins and wing guards Akhir Keys and Zaiyin Keys, wing forward Vince Wildrick and forward Eyan Thomas, who splits time with DJ Anderson at the ‘5’. 

(12-2) Archbishop Ryan
Don’t let Ryan’s 14-10 overall record fool you; the Raiders finished in third place in the Catholic League this season, taking some lumps during a brutal non-league schedule, while also losing to West Catholic in the PCL quarterfinals and Imhotep in the District 12 title game. But Joe Zeglinski has a really strong group, built around the junior class: 6-9 Thomas Sorber, who has a Villanova offer among many others, plus point guard Darren Williams, wing guard Jaden Murray and combo guard Rocco Morabito. Senior guard Michael Zaire Paris, a 5-10 scoring guard, has had a breakthrough senior season as well. But setting up a rematch with Imhotep, which would take place in the state semifinals, will likely mean first getting through a Radnor group that handed them a 57-42 defeat back in December, not to mention what’ll be a tough second-round game against either East Stroudsburg South or West Chester East.

(1-1) Radnor High
If you haven’t heard by this point, Radnor is legit. The unbeaten Raptors (27-0) are having one of the best seasons — if not the best season, though the previous ones were all in the 1950s — in school history, capturing the program’s first district title since 1961 with a 61-36 win over Unionville. They’re senior-led by point guard Danny Rosenblum and wings Charlie Thornton, Cooper Mueller and Jackson Hicke, the quartet best friends since middle school. Throw in junior wing Henry Pierce and senior wings Michael Savadove and Jackson Gaffney and it’s a top seven that (save for Rosenblum) all stand 6-3 and taller and are physical and athletic, not to mention well-coached, unselfish and cool under fire. Just about everybody in the Philadelphia area is hoping to see Radnor and Imhotep in a state semifinal, the Raptors perhaps the only team in the state that could maybe handle the Panthers, as tough a task as that is. Do that, and there’s no reason they can’t win a state title, and fulfill a goal their seniors set back in middle school.

(12-1) Imhotep Charter
There’s no doubt about it: Andre Noble has built a national-level powerhouse in Northwest Philadelphia, and this might just be his best team ever, which is saying something, as they’re 8-0 in state championship games since winning their first one in ‘09. The most notable name on the Panthers (25-3) is the No. 1 ranked player in the senior class, 6-7 Kentucky-bound wing Justin Edwards, whose progression from young lanky wing forward to super-skilled, high-flying, do-everything wing guard has been impressive to watch. Then throw in FGCU-bound point guard Rahmir Barno, who’s been playing his best hoops this season, plus star junior Ahmad Nowell, and it’s a trio that nobody in the class (or state) can match. On top of that, they have 6-7 junior forward Ma’Kye Taylor, 6-3 senior Yahmir Satterfield and more. 

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