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Philadelphia Catholic League Playoffs: Quarterfinal Preview (Feb. 17)

02/16/2017, 4:00pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The Catholic League quarterfinal matchups are set after Wednesday night’s pair of first-round games. Each of the eight teams are just one win away from the Palestra, which hosts the semifinals on Feb. 22.

Here’s a look at each of the four Friday night matchups, which each tip at 7 PM:

Collin Gillespie (above) and Wood are on a 13-game win streak heading into the postseason. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

1) Archbishop Wood vs. 8) Bonner-Prendergast (@ Bensalem HS)
Bonner showed remarkable balance in its first-round win over Conwell-Egan on Wednesday night, with all five starters scoring between 10 and 13 points in a 65-51 victory. They’ll need that kind of output and then some to hang with a Wood squad that gets all sorts of production from throughout its top eight. The Friars get a lot of production from the backcourt: undersized seniors Tymir Cooper (10.4 ppg) and Christian Lane (9.8 ppg) split point guard and scoring duties, while 6-4 senior Dylan Higgins (8.8 ppg) and 6-2 senior Justin Gans (8.7 ppg) follow right behind.

John Mosco’s Vikings roll into the postseason as the top team in the CoBL 5A state rankings, a spot they’ve occupied all year long, on a 13-game win streak since losing their league opener to Judge. The engine driving the train is undoubtedly senior guard Collin Gillespie (22.2 ppg); the Catholic League MVP, a 6-2 combo guard, had one of the more remarkable recruiting stock rises in recent history, committing to Villanova a month ago. When Gillespie isn’t knocking down shots, he’s usually dishing off to the likes of 6-3 junior Tyree Pickron (12.9 ppg) or 6-4 senior Matt Cerruti (12 ppg); 6-0 senior Keith Otto, 6-4 junior Andrew Funk, 6-7 junior Karrington Wallace and 6-4 sophomore Julius Phillips all have made important contributions this year as well.

A key battle to watch will be inside, where juniors Ajiri Johnson (Bonner) and Seth Pinkney (Wood) will go head-to-head on both ends of the floor. Pinkney has the size advantage at 6-11 to Johnson’s 6-8, but Johnson is a more physical post presence with better hands; both are Division I targets with numerous offers. Whichever team can best neutralize the impact of the opponent’s big man will have the upper hand. But unless three or four of Wood’s stars all misfire on the same night, the Vikings shouldn’t struggle too much at home.


Father Judge's Marc Rodriguez (above) is the school's first-ever 1,000-point scorer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

4) Archbishop Ryan vs. 5) Father Judge
Last year it was Archbishop Ryan who exceeded expectations in the regular season, then went on the road as the No. 5 seed and upset La Salle to reach the Palestra for the first time in eight seasons. Now this year it’s Ryan as the established league presence with the committed Division I senior who has to hold off the upstart, Judge, which shocked the city six weeks ago by beating Archbishop Wood to open league play and took out Prep, Bonner, Carroll and Egan along the way; one team the Crusaders didn’t beat was the Raiders (18-4, 9-4), who scored a 48-36 win on Jan. 20 in the same gym in which this one will be played.

Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski is looking to make it two semifinal appearances in two years since taking over the program from Bernie Rodgers in the summer of 2015, and he’ll rely heavily on his seniors to get it done. Izaiah Brockington (17.7 ppg), a versatile 6-4 lefty, will be playing at NJIT next fall, and now he looks like he won’t be the team’s only D-I commit; 6-7 senior Matiss Kulackovskis (17.6 ppg) has had a terrific year and just picked up an offer from Bowling Green. Two other seniors, 6-8 Fred Taylor (6.5 ppg) and 6-2 Chris Palantino (5.1 ppg) bring more veteran experience to the starting lineup. But Ryan will need sophomore guards Amin Bryant and Ja’Quill Stone to limit their mistakes and play like upperclassmen to really have a complete-team performance.

Judge (16-6, 9-4) is led by senior guard Marc Rodriguez (19.1 ppg), who earlier this season became the school’s first-ever 1,000-point scorer. A 6-2 guard, Rodriguez has been a steady player for the Crusaders ever since his freshman year but has really taken his game to another level this year, helped out by a veteran core that doesn’t panic under any situation. Fellow seniors Matt O’Connor (12.3 ppg) and Mike Power (8.1 ppg) chip in steadily in the scoring column, and both have gone over 20 during league play. No one’s over 6-2 on the team, but junior Drew Riley has battled against several players considerably larger than himself and more than held his own.

When Judge has won games in league play this year, it’s typically done so by keeping the game played under 50 points; if Ryan can get to that number, that swings the odds heavily in the home team’s favor.


Quade Green (above) will take his talents to Kentucky this fall -- but N-G has more immediate plans. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

2) Neumann-Goretti vs. 7) Archbishop Carroll
After losing four straight league games to fall all the way down to ninth in the league, Carroll rallied by winning its final three to get a home game in the first round of the playoffs, dispatching La Salle fairly handily on Wednesday night. A deep and versatile Patriots lineup has proved to be a puzzle with different answers on various nights for head coach Paul Romanczuk, who has seen his team take down talented teams in Cheltenham, Penn Wood, La Salle (2x) and Bonner-Prendergast but also lost winnable games at home to Prep and Judge, games that certainly cost Carroll a few games in the PCL pecking order.

So now Romanczuk has to take his team to South Philly to visit the powerhouse that Carl Arrigale has built at 10th & Moore streets, in what’s sure to be a packed and uncomfortably intimate gym on Friday night. And this is, as usual, a poised and talented Saints squad with high-major talent galore, led by the senior duo of Quade Green (19.4 ppg) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (16.8), both of whom landed on the PCL’s first team. Green, a dynamic 6-0 lead guard with confidence and talent aplenty, is headed to Kentucky in the fall; Cosby-Roundtree, a 6-8 jumping jack forward with a rapidly-developing offensive skillset and a terrific defensive presence, is headed to Villanova. The entire top seven is stocked with talent, including 6-2 sophomore guard Christian Ings, 6-4 senior Mike Millsip and 6-3 junior Noah Warren.

While Neumann-Goretti tends to get most of its production from its upperclassmen, Ings aside, Carroll gets contributions from each of the four classes: seniors (Colin Daly, Jesse McPherson, Khari Williams), juniors (Justin Anderson, Devin Ferrero), sophomores (Mark Bradshaw) and freshmen (A.J. Hoggard). Hoggard, a 6-3 guard, is one of the brightest young talents in the league, but he’s playing on bigger and bigger stages than he ever has before, and so it’ll have to be up to those who’ve been here to lead the way. It’s going to take a full effort from the top eight to get it done on the road, but Neumann-Goretti hasn’t lost a home playoff game since well before this website has been around.


Darius Kinnel (above) is one of three juniors who lead the way for Prep. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

3) Roman Catholic vs. 6) Saint Joseph’s Prep (@ Philly U)
Exactly six days after their previous meeting, Roman and Prep go head-to-head once again with the winner going to the Palestra and the loser getting ready for the offseason. And Roman’s got revenge on its mind after Prep pulled off the win on its home court on Sunday, 73-70 in overtime. The coaching matchup pits legend against former pupil: Prep’s William “Speedy” Morris, who won his 700th career high school game -- he also has nearly 300 wins at the collegiate level -- in December, coached Matt Griffin at Prep from 2003-07 before Griffin went on to play at Rider and Boston U; Griffin’s father, John Griffin Sr., played for Morris when he was the coach at Roman in the early 1970s.

Prep (15-7, 8-5) is led by a trio of juniors: guards Kyle Thompson (15.8 ppg) and Darius Kinnel (14.5 ppg) and forward Ed Croswell (14.8 ppg), who seemingly take turns starring for a team that only goes about five-and-a-half deep, as per usual for Morris; seniors Brian Griffin (Matt’s cousin, 7.2 ppg) and Gabe Arizin (5.1 ppg) make up the rest of the starting lineup. Thompson, the son of former Drexel guard Michael Thompson, is a 5-11 combo guard with a terrific outside shot; Kinnel, at 6-1 is a muscular point guard with the ability to get to the hoop and set up the Prep offense. And they both can rely on Croswell, a 6-7 forward who was on the state runner-up MCS squad from last year, to score and defend around the rim.

Roman (18-4, 10-3), which graduated four Division I-bound seniors from last year’s team and had to replace all five starters in the offseason due to transfer, certainly exceeded expectations this season, and has a chance to win it all for the third year in a row, though it’s a tough road ahead. Senior Dak’Quan Davis (13.0 ppg) has taken a big increase in role in stride, getting plenty of help from Fels transfer, 6-3 junior wing Allen Betrand (13.5 ppg), 6-5 sophomore Seth Lundy (11.7 ppg) and 6-0 freshman Lynn Greer III (10.4 ppg), who already holds a Penn State offer.

As per Morris’ style, Prep will try to slow the game down, work through its offense and get open shots; if it can do that, hit its 3s and get Roman to force some looks, the game could yet again swing in the Hawks’ favor. A track meet favors the Cahillites, who like nothing more than to get out on the break. Prep can sustain some stretches of high-frenetic play, but a full 36 minutes of that goes to Roman.

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