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PIAA Second-Round Preview: Weds., March 15

03/13/2023, 11:30pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The PIAA postseason continues Wednesday with the boys 6A, 3A and 2A tournaments and the girls 5A, 4A and 1A brackets. Here’s a quick glance at what’s on tap locally, with a focus on a few games that we’re really keen to see: 

Lower Merion point guard Sam Brown (above, right) and the Aces met Roman Catholic in last year's state semifinals. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Boys 6A: (12-1) Roman Catholic vs. (1-3) Lower Merion
Archbishop Ryan, 7 PM

These two teams met in the state semifinals last year, when the Aces were the District 1 champs, but it was the Cahillites who emerged with a 53-41 victory at Coatesville. Both teams have significantly different looks this time around: Lower Merion graduated Demetrius Lilley, now at Penn State, while Roman Catholic is without Khalil Farmer (Hofstra) and Daniel Skillings (Cincinnati); in fact, of the six players who scored from Roman in that game last year, only two are back. They both do still have their starting point guards, who are going to become plenty familiar with one another by the time they’re done college, as Roman’s Xzayvier Brown (St. Joe’s) and LM’s Sam Brown (Penn) are about to be Big 5 foes. 

The Catholic League champion Cahillites (24-3) are playing shorthanded this postseason, without the availability of senior wings Erik Oliver-Bush and Jermai Stewart-Herring, who both came in from out-of-state this past offseason. That didn’t matter much in a 70-31 romp over Perkiomen Valley in the first round, which saw nine Roman players score, led by sophomore guard Sebastian Edwards’ 15 points, but they face a much stiffer challenge this time around. The Aces (22-4), who beat District 4 champs WIlliamsport 65-58 in the opener, got 18 points from both Sam Brown and Sam Wright. The biggest problem that Lower Merion will have to contend with is the presence of Roman’s two 6-7 forwards, St. Joe’s-bound senior Anthony Finkley and sophomore Shareef Jackson, who carry significant height and heft advantages over a guard-heavy LM lineup.

Winner gets either District 11 champion Parkland or the seventh seed out of District 1, Garnet Valley…more on that one in a second.

Coatesville senior Jermaine Marshall (above, right) leads his team into a District 1 rematch with North Penn. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Boys 6A: (1-8) North Penn vs. (1-9) Coatesville
Pottstown High School, 7:30 PM

Fresh off the first state playoff win in program history, North Penn gets a familiar face in Coatesville, which it defeated 64-60 in the second round of the District 1 playoffs to earn the state bid. This matchup features two squads that like to get up and down the floor, pushing the pace to score in transition. In the aforementioned victory a few weeks back, North Penn saw eight different players find the scoring column, but were led by junior guard Teddy McCallister with 15 points, including a couple clutch buckets. The Knights hit eight three-pointers in the victory and head coach John Conrad plays a deep rotation that also relies on senior Mario Sgro, senior Ryan Deininger, and junior Norm Gee for offensive production. Junior 6-3 wing Corey Meade is also another name to monitor as he brings a certain level of athleticism and effort on both ends of the floor that is tough to prepare for.

Coatesville is led by former Red Raider legend John Allen and he brings an athletic bunch into this matchup that gave the Knights some trouble when they decided to crank up the defensive pressure. Junior guard Zuri Harris and senior Jeremiah Marshall lead the way on offense for Coatesville, as they combined for 31 points in the defeat back in district play; keep an eye on freshman Larry Brown, who’s got some real upside at 6-7. A halftime adjustment by North Penn to a 2-3 zone though was the difference in the first matchup, as they held the Red Raiders to 1-of-14 from the three-point range. The key factors in this one will be if North Penn can handle the defensive pressure of Coatesville and if Allens squad is able to hit some outside shots this time around. 

Wood point guard Ava Renninger (above, right) and the Vikings get Villa Maria in Wednesday's second round. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

@ Bensalem High School
Boys 2A: (1-1) Dock Mennonite vs. (12-2) Sankofa Freedom (6 PM)
Girls 5A: (12-1) Archbishop Wood vs. (1-2) Villa Maria (7:30 PM)

Two local matchups at Bensalem, which have a high likelihood of being rather different games. Dock and Sankofa both love to race up and down the court, while Wood and Villa Maria don’t mind slowing things down and grinding out possessions; it’s certainly possible that one team in the first game scores more points than the entire second game. 

Dock (24-2), which beat Antietam by 19 in its first-round game, has crossed the 70-point barrier four times, topping out a point shy of 80, with nine other games of 60 points or more. Mike Fergus’ attack is led by seniors Nathan Lapp and Hoyt Bultje, junior Vaughn Martin and sophomore Tony Martin, though a group of nine seniors in total make sure they have plenty of veteran leadership and experience. Sankofa (14-12) is much younger, though senior Zaki Alston is one of the best scorers in the Public League; keep a lookout for sophomores Nasir Williams and Asim Hardy, who seem to be next up for head coach Isaiah Thomas. Winner of this one will get a district champ in the quarterfinals, either District 4’s Muncy (20-6) or District 2’s Holy Cross (20-5).

Wood (21-5) and Villa Maria (24-4) are both having good seasons, Villa winning the AACA title and making it to Temple for the second straight year, Wood making it to the Palestra after tying for the PCL regular-season title, but both are playing a little angry after falling just short on their biggest stages thus far. Wood, which took out another AACA squad (Mount St. Joseph’s) in the first round, features Albany-bound 6-2 center Deja Evans in the middle, junior point guard Ava Renninger at point and a strong group of wings including 6-0 Holy Family commit Kara Meredith, 5-10 sophomore Emily Knouse and 5-11 defensive whiz Delaney Finnegan. It’ll be interesting to see how Mike McDonald deploys Finnegan against a Villa squad that’s got the ability to score from a number of places on the court, led by senior point guard Elaina Guerzon (5-3) and senior forward Marah McHugh, a 5-11 Gettysburg commit, along with Ella Iacone, Ava Irvine, Carly Catania and more. Winner gets either Pittston Area (25-2) or Bishop Shanahan (23-5) in the quarterfinals.

Max Koehler (above) is one of a strong senior class for Garnet Valley.
(Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

@ Geigle Complex (Reading HS)
Boys 6A: (11-1) Parkland vs. (1-7) Garnet Valley (6 PM)
Boys 6A: (1-2) Spring-Ford vs. (3-3) Hempfield (7:30 PM)

Up at the legendary Geigle Complex, the main gym at Reading High School, two high-level boys’ 6A games should keep the fans entertained all evening long. Garnet Valley’s in the second round of the tournament after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jake Sniras that lifted the Jaguars past a very good Cumberland Valley squad, and now they have another tough-but-winnable game against the District 11 champs. Parkland’s led by junior guard Nick Coval (23.1 ppg), son of longtime DeSales head coach Scott Coval, and the 6-2 combo guard’s got offers from St. Joe’s, Lehigh, William & Mary, and more. Coval, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference MVP, gets help from 5-9 senior guard Matt Ray, 6-2 senior Joey Gerbasio and 6-0 junior Luke Spang, with juniors Connor Johns (6-4) and Zaire Smaltz (6-3) giving them some length up front. The Jaguars counter with a senior-led group of Logan McKee (6-5), Ryan Faccenda (6-2) and Max Koehler (6-1), the York commit who’s been playing more point guard this year but can take over in the scoring column when necessary. Winner of this one, as mentioned, gets either LM or Roman.

The second matchup of the evening pits the Rams (26-3) against the Black Knights (25-3), two teams that have had excellent seasons thus far. Spring-Ford came up just short in the District 1 championship but bounced back with a 10-point win over a quality Central York squad in the first round, a good sign from a young squad. Sophomore guard Jacob Nguyen could use this tournament to really make a name for himself on the state level, as could junior guard E.J. Campbell, and they’re getting strong production up front from wing forwards Zach Zollers and Tommy Kelly, with senior point guard Caleb Little in the mix. They’ll have to slow down Hempfield senior Miguel Pena, the engine that makes everything go for the Black Knights, who surround the 6-3 guard with shooters and let him go to work, while 6-5 senior Kamyn Lawrence mans the block. 

Reading's Aris Rodriguez (above) and the Red Knights are one of the favorites for the state championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

@ Coatesville HS
Girls 4A: (3-1) Wyomissing vs. (12-3) Neumann-Goretti (6 PM)
Boys 6A: (3-1) Reading vs. (1-6) Upper Darby (7:30 PM) 

This should be a fun set of games at Coatesville, a boy-girl double-header as the District 3 champs in two different divisions play host to a pair of Philly-area squads. Wyomissing (27-2) didn’t have much resistance in its first game, a 69-24 win over Parkway Center City, its’ first PIAA win since 2004, also the same year that it last won county and district titles. It all starts with Berks Player of the Year center Amaya Stewart for Wyomissing; the 6-1 sophomore center with an offer from Temple is the top offensive option (15.1 ppg), rebounder, and is the last line of defense in the Spartans'  stingy 3-2 zone. Forwards Audrey Hurleman and Annie McCaffrey are multi-sport athletes and disrupt opposing offenses at the top of the zone and on the wing, respectively, while sophomore Alexis Hardy and senior Lexi Loeb are two more names to know. 

The Saints (11-14) are much better than their record indicates, Andrea Peterson with a young group that’s been getting better and better as the season goes on, having played a brutally tough non-league schedule against top teams from up and down the Mid-Atlantic. The main pair to watch are sophomores Carryn Easley and Amya Scott, who’ve both gone for 20-plus in numerous occasions, neither taller than 5-6 but packed with moxie and scoring ability from all three levels. There are only two seniors on the roster, Amirah Hackney and Sanej Tyler, while freshman Kamora Berry and Zion Costen bring more youthful upside.

On the boys’ side, Reading (28-1) is one of the favorites for the state title, Rick Perez’s group steamrolling through every other PA team it’s played, the only loss coming to D.C. powerhouse Gonzaga High School. The Red Knights are led by senior guard Ruben Rodriguez, a Rider commit, and classmates Myles Grey, Amier Burdine and Aris Rodriguez, plus juniors Yadiel Cruz, Malik Osumanu and Nico Sosa. They play an in-your-face, aggressive, non-stop style — similar to Upper Darby, which is used to being the ones getting teams out of their rhythm, not the other way around. The Royals (19-8) have had a great season led by seniors Nadir Myers, Niymire Brown, Yassir Joyner and Khysir Slaughter, getting past Liberty in double OT in their opening round. But they’re in for a tough task against a Reading squad that always draws a huge crowd, giving them an advantage no matter what gym they occupy.


Here’s Wednesday’s full schedule:

@ Martz Hall (Pottsville)
Girls 5A: (1-1) West Chester Rustin vs. (2-2) Abington Heights (6:30 PM)
Girls 5A: (2-1) Pittston Area vs. (1-3) Bishop Shanahan (8:00 PM)

@ Bensalem HS
Boys 2A: (1-1) Dock Mennonite vs. (12-2) Sankofa Freedom (6 PM)
Girls 5A: (12-1) Archbishop Wood vs. (1-2) Villa Maria (7:30 PM)

@ Pottstown HS
Girls 5A: (11-1) Bethlehem Catholic vs. (1-4) Gwynedd Mercy (6 PM)
Boys 6A: (1-8) North Penn vs. (1-9) Coatesville (7:30 PM)

@ Coatesville HS
Girls 4A: (3-1) Wyomissing vs. (12-3) Neumann-Goretti (6 PM)
Boys 6A: (3-1) Reading vs. (1-6) Upper Darby (7:30 PM) 

@ Geigle Complex (Reading HS)
Boys 6A: (11-1) Parkland vs. (1-7) Garnet Valley (6 PM)
Boys 6A: (1-2) Spring-Ford vs. (3-3) Hempfield (7:30 PM)

@ Easton MS
Girls 4A: (1-1) Nazareth Academy vs. (2-1) Scranton Prep (6:00 PM)
Boys 4A: (1-1) Bishop Shanahan vs. (2-1) Scranton Prep (7:30 PM)

@ Garden Spot HS (New Holland)
Girls 4A: (12-2) Audenried vs. (3-5) Trinity (5:30 PM)
Boys 3A: (12-2) Math, Civics & Sciences vs. (3-1) Trinity (7 PM)

@ Liberty HS (Bethlehem)
Girls 3A: (12-1) Imhotep Charter vs. (2-1) Dunmore (5 PM, Freedom HS)
Boys 2A: (12-1) Constitution vs. (11-1) Mahanoy Area (6 PM)
Boys 3A: (12-1) West Catholic vs. (2-1) Holy Redeemer (8:00 PM PM)

Boys 6A
(12-1) Roman Catholic vs. (1-3) Lower Merion (7 PM, Archbishop Ryan)
(7-2) New Castle vs. (1-4) Downingtown West (5:30 PM, Bald Eagle HS)

Girls 4A
(12-1) Lansdale Catholic vs. (4-2) Jersey Shore (7 PM, Minersville HS)

Boys 3A
(2-2) Mid Valley vs. (12-3) Devon Prep (7 PM, Whitehall HS)

Girls 1A
(1-1) The Christian Acad. vs. (4-2) St. John Neumann (7:30 PM, Blue Mountain HS)

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