Austin Laughlin (above) and Garnet Valley are the highest seed playing in the District 1 6A First Round. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The District 1 6A playoffs begin on Friday night, with eight games between the teams seeded 9-24 in the field. Ten teams out of the bracket will qualify for the state tournament, including the second-round winners and two of the eight losers via a playback bracket, but anybody that loses this round sees its season end immediately.
Here’s a look at the eight games, all of which will tip on Friday, Feb. 16 at 7 PM (unless otherwise noted):
16) Bensalem vs. 17) Pennsbury
One of several league battles in the first round, this matchup of Suburban One-National teams will serve as the rubber match for the Fighting Owls and Falcons, both of whom won on their home courts; Bensalem 51-49 in December, and Pennsbury 61-51 in January. Bensalem (14-8) closed the season strong, winning 11 of its final 14 games, including seven straight before a season-ending loss to Abington. The Owls are led by a senior-laden group, including guards Ward Roberts (14.1 ppg) and Taco Douglas (6.1 ppg) plus forwards James Leible (11.4 ppg) and Kris Shields (8.3 ppg). Pennsbury is also similar stocked with seniors, like guards Raylil Winton (12.8 ppg) and Josh Arruda (6.4 ppg) plus forward Chad Weldon (7.0 ppg). Just as the first two matchups have been, expect this one to be decided well into the fourth quarter. Awaiting the winners are another Suburban One squad, unbeaten No. 1 Plymouth-Whitemarsh (22-0).
9) Garnet Valley vs. 24) Downingtown West
Last year, Garnet Valley both hosted and won a district playoff game for the first time since the Delco school moved up into the “big-school” classification 10 years ago, beating Methacton in the 16-17 game before losing to No. 1 seed Perkiomen Valley in the second round, falling in the playbacks as well. The Jaguars (16-7) just missed out on the first-round bye this time around, and have their eyes set on a trip to No. 8 Upper Darby in the second round of what would be a league matchup. Garnet Valley is led by senior guards Austin Laughlin (22.3 ppg) and Connor O’Brien (12.9 ppg) and junior guard Greg Vlassopoulous (12.9 ppg), though junior forward Cade Brennan has been a double-double machine as well. Downingtown West (11-11) features 6-6 left-handed wing Greg Barton, part of a tall Whippets squad including 6-9 senior Stu McAvoy and talented 6-5 sophomore WIll Howard. But they could have a tough time defending the Jaguars’ multi-faceted attack.
13) Owen J. Roberts vs. 20) Central Bucks East
Owen J. Roberts, the 13 seed this year, hasn’t made the district tournament since the 2009-10 season. The Wildcats (14-8) finished in fourth place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference this season, and are led by senior backcourt of Shyheed May (11.6 ppg) and Sean Praweckyj (8.3 ppg), and senior big man Dawson Stuart (9.4 ppg). C.B. East (12-10) is entering its third straight district appearance, the previous two saw the Patriots advance past the first round. DeSales commit Kyle Cassidy and junior forward Nick Roggio do the majority of the damage for C.B. East, which won its first five games of the year but enters the postseason having lost six of its last nine. Winner gets SOL runner-up Central Bucks West, the No. 4 seed, in the second round.
Vontagoe Donzo (above) and Penn Wood travel to Downingtown East on Friday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
12) Downingtown East vs. 21) Penn Wood
This should be a relatively high-scoring affair, with two teams that generally enjoy playing in the 60s, both featuring a number of talented scoring options. Downingtown East (15-7) is led by senior guard Malik Slay, a D-II recruit, who’s averaging 18.0 ppg, 5.2 apg and 5.3 rpg for the Cougars, who lost to Norristown at this point in the district tournament a year ago; that team had lost three straight heading into the postseason, this one has won eight of its last nine. Big man Andrew King (11.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg), a 6-5 sophomore, is an inside-out threat as well for Downingtown East. Penn Wood (13-8) features a versatile 6-5 senior in Vontangoe Donzo, a triple-double threat, plus a backcourt including junior Shad Kyem, senior Chris Nash and more. The winner of this one plays Ches-Mont runner up Coatesville (19-5), the No. 5 overall seed in the district.
15) Central Bucks South vs. 18) Neshaminy
Neshaminy (13-9) finished its regular season as well as it started it, winning its final four games to close out a season that saw it win its first seven but then lose all but two of the next 11, including a seven-game losing streak from Jan. 11-25. But it looks like Mark Tingle’s squad has figured it out, beating Pennsbury, both Council Rock schools and Truman to set up a matchup with a Titans bunch that’s lost five of its last seven games heading into the playoffs. CB South (14-8) picked up a number of quality wins early in the season, however, including Pennridge and Central Bucks West, both on the road; if they can find that momentum again, they’ll find themselves facing No. 2 Abington in the second round. CB South will have to figure out how to defend Neshaminy’s star senior Chris Arcidiacono without letting his teammates bury one open 3-pointer after another.
10) Methacton vs. 23) Perk Valley
Methacton and Perk Valley split the regular season series in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division this year. On January 20, Perk Valley’s Andrew Light hit a 3-pointer with only a few seconds left to top the Warriors by 3. But on Feb. 2, Methacton came into the Vikings’ gym and defeated them, 64-56. Perk Valley (12-10) didn’t qualify for the PAC final six, and hasn’t played since February 3, a loss to Hatboro-Horsham. Methacton (15-7) is on a roll as of late, winning its last seven games, including a PAC championship over Spring-Ford earlier in the week. The Warriors are led by junior guard David Duda, who went for 38 points in the league championship, but also feature 6-8 sophomore big man Jeff Woodward and senior wing Noah Kitaw. It’ll be another PAC game for whoever wins, as No. 7 Norristown (16-6) awaits the winner.
Shane Scott (above) and Conestoga are hoping to beat Cheltenham and set up a rematch with Lower Merion. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
14) Conestoga vs. 19) Cheltenham
*Tipoff at 7:30 PM
Conestoga (14-8) has been stewing for a week, since a regular-season-ending loss to Garnet Valley that just kept it out of the Central League playoffs; that came after the Pioneers won five of six in league play just to set up a tight finish. They rely heavily on junior guards Zach Lezanic and Shane Scott, plus senior wing Charlie Schappell, a D-III Oberlin (Ohio) commit, and are itching to set up a rematch with Central League rival and league champ Lower Merion (20-4), the No. 3 seed, in the second round. In their way are the Panthers (14-8), which had their sights set on a top-eight seed before senior wing Jack Clark suffered a season-ending knee injury in January. Instead, Cheltenham relies heavily on senior guard Ahmad Bickley, a D-II Chestnut Hill College commit, plus sophomore Zahree Harrison and several others.
11) Spring-Ford vs. 22) North Penn
Spring-Ford (13-9) lost the PAC championship on Tuesday to Methacton, but won its last four games before the loss. Senior guard Nestor Diaz is recovering from an ankle injury, and hit key free throws to beat Norristown in the league semifinals. Junior Noah Baker and Diaz both average double-figure scoring for the Rams. For North Penn (12-10), 6-5 senior David Robinson, a transfer from Academy of the New Church, is having a terrific senior year for the Knights. Classmates Chris Coleman and A.J. Catanzaro make up a supporting cast for a team which finished fourth in the SOL Continental division. Winner gets No. 6 Pennridge (17-5) in the second round.
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