CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The new “big-school” classification in the Keystone State brings with it a smaller tournament than the previous, 32-team AAAA district tourney, but it doesn’t lack any of the punch.
With the first eight seeds given a bye into next Tuesday’s second round, the opening salvo of eight games that takes place Friday night on the higher seed's home court (all games at 7 PM) should be thoroughly competitive.
Here’s a look at each of those eight, as well as players to watch from all 24 teams over the course of the tournament:
Austin Laughlin (above) has gone for 30+ on several occasions this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
16) Garnet Valley vs. 17) Methacton
Awaiting the winner: 1) Perkiomen Valley
There’s no telling how this one will play out, as both teams are talented but have had their respective ups and downs all year long. Garnet Valley (14-8) won six of its last 10 games entering the postseason, losing twice to Conestoga and once to Upper Darby and Marple Newtown; Methacton ripped off five straight wins from Jan. 10-20 but lost four of its last six, including a Pioneer Athletic Conference playoff game to Norristown. The Warriors (12-10) have a lot of promise in their youth, led by sophomore David Duda Jr. (6-3) and freshman Jeff Woodward (6-8), complemented by a group of seniors led by VIllanova baseball commit Pat O’Neill. Garnet Valley is guard-dominated, led by junior Austin Laughlin (22.5 ppg) and senior Brandon Starr (18.8 ppg). The Jaguars don’t have a player who matches up size-wise with Woodward, so Mike Brown will have to be creative to find ways to slow him down. 6-4 sophomore Cade Brennan might earn first crack at that job.
9) Spring-Ford vs. 24) Avon Grove
Awaiting the winner: 8) Cheltenham
Avon Grove, under first-year head coach Roy Blumenthal, cracked the district bracket for the first time since 2009 behind talented senior guard Brandon McCullough. On the flip side, they’ll face a Spring-Ford team that has been here before, with seniors like guard Chucky Drummond that helped lead the Rams to a state tournament berth last season. The Rams have a very balanced scoring offense, with Drummond, forward Austin Hokanson, and point guard Ryan Fitzpatrick all averaging over 10 points per game. Avon Grove has proven it can pull the upset on a few occasions this season, beating the likes of Great Valley and Downingtown East, but an experienced team like Spring-Ford will be a tough task for the upstart Red Devils.
13) Downingtown West vs. 20) Pennridge
Awaiting the winner: 4) Coatesville
This certainly isn’t the same Downingtown West team or Pennridge team that earned top-five slots in last year’s district tournament – although they both fell one win short of states – but there’s talent on both sides that should provide for an exciting playoff game. Under first-year head coach Stuart Ross, the Whippets feature a senior duo of 6-foot-7 Ursinus-bound forward George Gordon and 6-foot-5 wing scorer Matt Carson. West struggled to find the right formula early, but closed their season by winning seven of their last eight games. As for Pennridge, while three of their last five have been losses, they’re led by 6-foot-2 senior forward Kyle Yoder, a three-year starter, and his brother Sean Yoder at the point. The Whippets will have the size advantage with Pennridge’s tallest player standing at 6-5, but both teams have the experience to do make some noise if they get out of the first round.
Jay Davis (above) and Hatboro-Horsham are used to being District tourney underdogs. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
12) Central Bucks West vs. 21) Hatboro-Horsham
Awaiting the winner: 5) North Penn
One of two Suburban One League matchups in the 6A bracket -- we’ll get to the other in a second -- pits the Bucks (15-7) against the Hatters (12-10), who are just fine with being underdogs. Led by seniors Clifton Moore, a 6-9 sharp-shooting Indiana commit, and Jay Davis, a talented 6-3 slashing guard, Hatboro was ranked No. 25 in last year’s AAAA bracket but upset No. 8 Strath Haven in the first round before beating Coatesville and Pennridge in the play-backs to earn a state bid. This year they’ll have to play a few games on the road again to get back, beginning with a trip to a CB West squad that doesn’t have any high-major athletes but is rock-solid throughout. Juniors Collin MacAdams (16.2 ppg), a versatile 6-4 wing and Jake Reichwein (14.8 ppg), a rugged 6-3 forward, lead the way for Adam Sherman’s squad, which can shoot the lights out. Tempo dictates this one: slower favors CB West, faster favors Hatboro.
15) Council Rock South vs. 18) Central Bucks East
Awaiting the winner: 2) Plymouth-Whitemarsh
It's been quite a turnaround for CR South under first-year head coach Derek Wright, considering the Golden Hawks were just 7-15 a year ago, and finished this year 13-9 (7-5 SOL) with the ability to host a first-round playoff game. South is senior-laden, with guards Austin Thomas, Kevin Newbert and Alex Nordenholt on the perimeter plus Ryan Boyd and Ryan McNamee up front. CB East (12-10), led by senior guard Matt Pattyson, enters the playoffs having lost four of its last six games after ripping off four consecutive wins, but those four losses were by a total of 15 points.
10) Lower Merion vs. 23) Central Bucks South
Awaiting the winner: 7) Conestoga
The Central League champion Aces (17-7) would love a rematch with league rival Conestoga in the second round, but first they have to get through the Titans (9-13), which comes into the playoffs on a four-game losing streak. CB South’s disappointing results of late follow up on a six-game win streak, proof that Jason Campbell’s bunch can get it done when things are clicking. But they’ll have their hands full with Gregg Downer’s Aces, who are young but dangerous, as they showed in an 82-60 win over Strath Haven in the league championship game: sophomores Steve Payne (26 points), Jack Forrest (18) and Darryl Taylor (14) combined for over 70 percent of the team’s scoring.
14) Downingtown East vs. 19) Norristown
Awaiting the winner: 3) Abington
The Cougars – once touted as one of the 6A classification’s ten best teams in Pennsylvania – have struggled down the stretch, free falling from where they initially sat in the first district power rankings at No. 2. The loss of prolific junior guard Malik Slay to the flu for several was was the major difference between a Downingtown East team that started 10-0 and the one that finished 14-8 and missed the Ches-Mont Final Four, but the Cougars still have the pieces to make a run, like 6-10 freshman Andrew King and senior guard Ryan Cahill. As for their first-round opponent, Norristown comes in riding the high of a thrilling comeback win in the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs, thanks a double-double from sophomore wing Mickeel Allen. The Eagles play a physical style at both ends with tough guards that will frustrate the Cougars, like sophomore Xavier Edwards and senior Kurahn Clark. While the Cougars may have the edge in talent, they certainly don’t have the edge in momentum, and playoff basketball is all about getting hot at the right time, so an upset in this one is certainly possible.
11) Penn Wood vs. 22) Neshaminy
Awaiting the winner: 6) Pennsbury
The Delaware Valley league champions, Penn Wood (16-6) gets a tough draw as the No. 11 seed in a Neshaminy squad led by one of the area’s rising stars, junior guard Chris Arcidiacono. The younger brother of former Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono, Chris struggled with injuries as a sophomore but has been one of the area’s top scorers as a junior, averaging well north of 20 ppg for Neshaminy (9-13). If Penn Wood can shut up down, Neshaminy will need supporting players like Anthony Papeo and Zach Tredway to step up. The Patriots have an uptempo, guard-oriented attack led by 6-3 slashing wing Pernell Ghee, 5-9 point guard Kairi Jones, 5-11 shooting guard Jay Fitzpatrick and more. Both teams have first-year head coaches: Neshaminy under Mark Tingle, and Penn Wood under Matt Lindeman.
Eric Dixon (above) is a load to handle in the paint at 6-8, 250 with an advanced skillset. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Players to Watch
Chris Arcidiacono -- Jr., Neshaminy
-- Talented 6-3 guard who can score from all three levels, at his best slashing to the hoop
Kamau Brickus -- Sr., Coatesville
-- Brickus, a poised 6-0 guard is a go-to scorer and main floor general for the Red Raiders
Eric Dixon -- Soph., Abington
--Powerful 6-8, 250-pound forward with Drexel/St. Joe’s offers; skilled lefty can go inside or out
David Duda Jr. -- Soph., Methacton
-- The son of St. Joe’s assistant Dave Duda is a 6-3 lefty shooting guard with unlimited range
Chucky Drummond -- Sr., Spring-Ford
-- Comes off the bench, but is the Rams most talented scorer, averaging 18 ppg in last 7 games
Mark Flagg -- Sr., Pennsbury
--St. Francis (Pa.) commit, Flagg is a 6-8 forward with 3-point ability; averaging 17.7 ppg this yr
Pernell Ghee -- Sr., Penn Wood
-- Versatile 6-3 wing can play and defend all five positions on the court, and often does for the Patriots
David Giuliani -- Sr., North Penn
-- D-II Merrimack commit is a rugged 6-5 forward who can post up and also pick-and-pop
George Gordon -- Sr., Downingtown West
-- Athletic 6-7 forward that can dominate down low but also step out for a mid-range jumper
Robbie Heath -- Jr., Abington
-- Three-year starter, 6-2 Aussie G is putting himself on D-I radar; dropped 30 in SOL title win
Addison Howard -- Sr., Pennsbury
-- Falcons' go-to perimeter scorer, Howard, a 5-10 guard, averaged 13.0 ppg for the Falcons
Alex Karras -- Jr., Central Bucks South
-- Solidly-built 5-10 guard plays with his head up and is a knock-down outside shooter
Justin Jaworski -- Sr., Perkiomen Valley
-- Prolific scorer (21.5 ppg) both inside and out, does it all for the Vikings, can shoot it from anywhere
Kairi Jones -- Sr., Penn Wood
--Tough, bouncy scoring lead guard for the Patriots is a terrific outside shooter who can get to the rack
Andrew King -- Fr., Downingtown East
-- Promising young forward has a big body (6-6, 240) plus great hands and feet in the post
Austin Laughlin -- Jr., Garnet Valley
-- Terrific scorer, 6-2 guard can rise up and knock down shots even with a hand in his face
Charlie Martin -- Sr., Conestoga
-- Lanky, sharpshooting 6-4 wing forward has gotten much more confident off the bounce this year
Brandon McCullough -- Sr., Avon Grove
-- Red Devils' offense depends on their gunner, as the 5-9 senior enters districts within 71 points of 1,000
Naeem McLeod -- Soph., Plymouth-Whitemarsh
-- Watch out for this rapidly-improving 7-footer, who serves as a rim protector and finisher for the Colonials
Kevin Newbert -- Sr., Council Rock South
-- Lead guard with good size (6-3), Newbert is one of three South guards who can all shine on any particular night
Matt Pattyson -- Sr., Central Bucks East
-- Crafty 6-2 combo guard who plays the game at a good pace, good shooter off the catch or pull-up
Trevonn Pitts -- Sr., Cheltenham
-- A super-athletic 6-3 wing, Pitts is a mismatch nightmare who can score, rebound and defend
Scott Shapiro -- Sr., Conestoga
-- Smooth and steady, this 6-1 senior guard went from 6th man to a key part of the ‘Stoga attack
Malik Slay -- Jr., Downingtown East
-- Big reason the Cougars got out to a 10-0 start, Slay is a 6-2 slashing scoring guard with range
Reece Udinski -- Sr., North Penn
-- VMI commit as a QB, Udinski is a smooth 6-5 wing forward with inside/out ability, plays hard
Sean Yoder -- Soph., Pennridge
-- Athletic, intelligent 6-2 combo guard has had a positive first year of varsity, bright future ahead
Ahmad Williams -- Jr., Plymouth-Whitemarsh
-- With brother Ahmin hurt, this muscular 6-1 guard has to bring a ton of energy for the Colonials
Jeff Woodward -- Fr., Methacton
-- At 6-8, he’s impossible to move off the low block. Poised and smart with back to the basket.
Tag(s): Home High School Josh Verlin Schedule/Standings Central League Conestoga Garnet Valley Lower Merion Avon Grove Coatesville Downingtown East Downingtown West Penn Wood Spring-Ford Methacton Perkiomen Valley Cheltenham Norristown Plymouth Whitemarsh Central Bucks East Central Bucks South Central Bucks West Hatboro-Horsham North Penn Pennridge Abington Council Rock S. Neshaminy Pennsbury