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PIAA Class AA & AAAA: Second-Round Preview (March 9)

03/09/2016, 1:45am EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
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The PIAA playoff second round began on Tuesday night with the Class A and AAA brackets, and continues this evening with the AA and AAAA tournaments.

Here’s a look at all of Wednesday night’s games that involve area teams (district-seed in parenthesis):

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Class AA

Conwell-Egan (12-1) vs. Minersville (11-1)
Where: Governor Mifflin Intermediate School; Shillington
When: 6:00 PM
How they got here: Conwell-Egan def. Upper Dauphin (62-38); Minersville def. Wellsboro (42-33)

Skinny: Don’t let the five losses in six games heading into the district and state playoffs fool you: Conwell-Egan is a threat to repeat its state crown. The defending AA champion won all five of its state playoff games a year ago by double figures, and the Eagles (16-9) ran that string to six with a rather easy win over the Trojans, behind 23 points from D-II Pace (N.Y.) commit Vinny Dalessandro, a 6-8 forward, plus 14 from senior wing guard LaPri McCray-Pace. Minersville (22-4), the District 11 champion, made it to the second round a year ago as the district runner up and now finds itself going up against one of the favorites in the whole bracket. The Battlin’ Miners don’t have a player on the roster taller than 6-4 senior Justin Fedornak, and most of the rotation is 6-2 and shorter; Dalessandro could have yet another double-double, and if he does that opens things up big-time for McCray-Pace and the rest of Frank Sciolla’s crew.

Danville (4-1) vs. Mastery Charter North (12-2)
Where: Central Dauphin East HS; Harrisburg
When: 7:30 PM
How they got here: Danville def. Elk Lake (70-63); Mastery Charter North def. Mahanoy Area (66-38)

Skinny: Mastery Charter North's no surprise entry in the second week of the tournament, as the Pumas (24-3) made it to the quarterfinals a year ago and return a good portion of that group; they also started off 23-1 this season, so the confidence level is sky-high even after losing to Del-Val in the Public League semis and Conwell-Egan in the District 12 championship. A Mastery North win could potentially set up a quarterfinal rematch with the same Trinity squad it beat in the state tournament a year ago (see below). As for Danville, the Iron Men (16-10) had lost four of five games before ripping off three wins to take the District 4 championship

Trinity (3-1) vs. Parkway Center City (12-3)
Where: Governor Mifflin Intermediate School; Shillington
When: 7:30 PM
How they got here: Trinity def. Holy Cross (60-43); Parkway CC def. Church Farm (39-38)

Skinny: One of the more surprising take-downs in the opening round was Parkway Center City, out of the Public League's "C" Division, take down a Church Farm squad that won the District 1 title and featured two Division I prospects in the frontcourt. But Trinity's forwards are even bigger and more talented than the Griffins', featuring 6-11 sophomore Sean Good, a developing post player with an offer from Penn State and interest from a number of other high-major programs, plus 6-9 Jack Vukelich, a Mt. St. Mary's signee. On the wings, the Shamrocks have 6-4 junior Austin Gilbertson, plus 6-4 sophomore Timmy Edwards, the team's leading scorer at 16.4 ppg heading into the state playoffs. The three-time District 3 AA champions made it to the second round last year but lost in this same spot to Mastery Charter North; we'll see if they learned anything about how to handle the Public League style from that experience.

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Class AAAA

Plymouth-Whitemarsh (12-1) vs. Bangor (11-2)
Where: Geigle Complex, Reading HS
When: 6:00 PM
How they got here: Plymouth-Whitemarsh def. Lebanon (81-41); Bangor def. Central Bucks East (57-37)

Skinny: Both teams looked good in their opening-round wins, though there's no denying that P-W sent a statement with a 40-point win following up on a victory over Chester in the District 1 AAAA championship. The Colonials (26-2) are playing extraordinarily confident basketball right now, behind the leadership of a senior class including Rider commit Xzavier Malone, 6-6 forward Mike Lotito, 6-4 guard Kevin Ashenfelter and 6-3 point guard Oakley Spencer. Bangor (26-2) only has one senior in the starting lineup, point guard Michael Martino, but the 1,200-point scorer is no slouch on the ball. He's got a pair of 6-4 junior identical twins, Dylan and Seth Benton, plus sharpshooters Reece Jones and Anthony Schiavone to dish to; Dylan had a terrific game against C.B. East with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and how he and his brother handle Lotito will go a long way towards how much the Slaters can hang with the Colonials.

Simon Gratz (12-3) vs. J.P. McCaskey (3-7)
Where: Coatesville Area HS; Coatesville
When: 7:00 PM
How they got here: Simon Gratz def. Lower Merion (63-61, OT); J.P. McCaskey def. Abington Heights (50-46)

Skinny: A pair of unlikely first-round victors get matched up, though one of them has been in this position before. Last year, McCaskey (22-6) qualified as the No. 8 seed out of District 3 and ripped off three straight wins to get to the state semifinals, downing Abington, Methacton and La Salle College HS along the way. They pulled off another impressive win in the opener, overcoming an Abington Heights squad that won the District 2 title and featured a towering and skilled frontcourt. With talented 6-4 senior guard Kobe Gantz leading the way, the Red Hurricane confident they can go further this time, but first have to get through a Bulldogs squad that’s playing fearless basketball in its own right. Under the direction of first-year head coach Lynard Stewart, Gratz (16-9) knocked off state powerhouse Lower Merion in the first round thanks to 16 points from Tyriek Meredith and a double-double from Nasir Campbell (10 points/14 boards), plus 15 from Rashon Johnson. One thing's for certain--some Cinderella story will continue after this game, even if one of those stories sounds a little familiar.

Parkland (11-1) vs. Ridley (1-3)
Where: Geigle Complex, Reading HS
When: 8:00 PM
How they got here: Parkland def. Conestoga (71-49), Ridley def. Wilson-West Lawn (50-34)

Skinny: For the fourth year in a row, Parkland (26-3) finds itself in the second round of the state playoffs, but this has been the ceiling each of the previous three. With four senior starters desperate to keep their high school careers alive--two of them, Kenny Yeboah (Temple) and Devante Cross (Virginia) are playing football in college--they’re going to be as fired-up as ever with a chance to reach the final eight for the first time. Ridley (26-2) is no stranger to the postseason, however, with two straight Central League championships and District 1 final four runs, but this is the first time that seniors Brett Foster, Julian Wing and company have been past the first round of states. Green Raiders coach Mike Snyder will have to draw up quite a defensive plan to stop Parkland’s frontcourt of 6-6 junior Sam Iorio and the 6-5 Yeboah, plus 6-5 Lafayette commit Kyle Stout, who dropped 22 points in the first-round win over Conestoga. Neither team is particularly deep, so foul trouble could present a problem for whoever draws some whistles.

Roman Catholic (12-1) vs. Central Bucks West (1-6)
Where: Bensalem HS; Bensalem
When: 7:00 PM
How they got here: Roman Catholic def. Academy Park (73-58); Central Bucks West def. Central York (60-55)

Skinny: Lafayette commit Cal Reichwein returned from a knee injury to lead the Bucks past the Panthers in the first round, but now things get a lot more difficult in the tourney-favorite Cahillites. Roman Catholic’s Division I starting five of Penn State signees Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostick lead the way, though 6-7 Paul Newman and 6-4 junior D’Andre Vilmar are matchup problems to be worried about as well. Oh yeah, and head coach Chris McNesby can bring 6-2 sharpshooter Dakquan Davis or talented 6-6 freshman Mikael Jones off the bench. Carr, a 6-4 point guard and top-50 recruit, rises to the occasion in the biggest games, while the 6-6 and muscular Stevens will be a problem for a C.B. West squad that relies on its ball movement and outside shooting with a four-out attack. Reichwein leads the way in a group that can all dribble, pass and shoot, but fell seniors Billy Power, Connor Lynch and Luke Irons have all hit big shots during the team’s Suburban One League championship and various other playoff wins. Head coach Adam Sherman will need a yeoman effort from 6-4 senior Erich Hohenleitner and 6-2 sophomore Jake Reichwein, Cal’s younger brother, against a physical and imposing Roman squad.

Chester (1-2) vs. Spring-Ford (1-5)
Where: Cheltenham HS; Wyncote
When: 7:00 PM
How they got here: Chester def. Hempfield (55-46); Spring-Ford def. Spring Grove (74-43)

Skinny: It’s a District 1 showdown for a spot in the quarterfinals as the Clippers and Rams meet for the first time this year. Chester (21-7) presents a matchup problem for any team in the state with its depth and size -- no fewer than six members of the rotation stand 6-5 or taller -- and Spring-Ford will need to make sure this game doesn’t get into a track meet or volleyball contest on the boards. For that, the Rams (21-7) will need strong games from the perimeter trio of Matt Gnias, Nigel Cooke and Charles Drummond, who combined for 47 points in the win over Spring-Grove, but they’ll also need a big effort from 6-6 Cameron Reid inside. Spring-Ford will have to figure out a way to slow down Chester’s big scoring wings, senior Stanley Davis and Marquis Collins, from getting loose inside, but a 3-point contest benefits the Rams.


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