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PIAA Tournament: Class A/4A/5A Quarterfinal Preview

03/16/2018, 1:45am EDT
By CoBL Staff

Keyon Butler (above) and Archbishop Carroll will take on Milton Hershey in a PIAA 5A quarterfinal. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
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The 2017-18 high school season is three rounds of games away from its conclusion, as the six classifications in the state have all reached the quarterfinal rounds. The first of two days of quarterfinal action tips off on Friday with the Class A, 4A and 5A brackets; the other three (2A/3A/6A) will follow on Saturday.

Here’s a look at Friday’s games featuring area teams, as well as a couple others to watch (district-seed, record in parenthesis):

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Class A Bracket
Class 4A Bracket
Class 5A Bracket

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Class 5A
Bonner-Prendergast (12-1, 24-4) vs. Allentown Central Catholic (11-1, 25-4)
Geigle Complex, Reading, 7:30 PM
Back in the state quarterfinals for the first time since four-time all-state choice Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman was still in ACC duds (2014) and not yet in a Michigan uniform vying for Big Ten and NCAA championships, Dennis Csensits’ Vikings’ needed two overtimes to squeeze past Dallas 61-59 in Tuesday’s second round. Chad Kratzer’s two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining provided the game-winning points and pushed the East Penn Conference squad another round deeper. Seniors Jay Vaughan and Keeshawn Kellman netted 15 points apiece to lead ACC, while the 6-1 Kratzer wound up with 11. The 6-8 Kellman, headed for prep school, added 10 rebounds. Balanced up and down the lineup — ACC has six players averaging between 7.5 and 12.6 points per outing — these guys will dial it up from deep. Nick Filchner (9.6 ppg), a 6-3 sophomore, has canned a team-high 3-balls, while the 6-0 Vaughan (10.9) has pocketed 58 and 5-10 senior Dat Lambert (12.6) has knocked down 57. Lambert was bugged by foul issues in Tuesday’s second-round skirmish and only netted three points. While Kellman (8.9) works almost exclusively in the paint, ACC’s other perimeter threats include 6-3 senior Jordan McChristian (7.7 ppg/36 treys), 5-10 junior Sam Vaughan (2.0 ppg/15 treys) and Kratzer (7.5 ppg/12 treys). Kevin Kern, a 6-4 senior, lends help inside.

Milton Hershey (3-1, 25-5) vs. Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 20-7)
Garden Spot HS, New Holland, 7:00 PM
Here’s several words of warning to those heading for Pennsylvania Dutch Country to check out this quarterfinal-round scrap — those heading to Spot for this marquee matchup might want to spend some time loosening the neck muscles since these high-octane squads want to go up and down. Those in the stands might want to hydrate beforehand and have their sneakers laced tightly. Milton Hershey certainly wants to play as fast as humanly possible, since Mark Zerbe’s Spartans don’t pack a lot of collective size into their revved-up lineup yet they are extremely athletic. In his two state outings, 5-9 senior Don’yae Baylor-Carroll (23.7 ppg) has canned a dozen treys while ringing up 60 points. Baylor-Carroll and 6-2 classmate Pedro Rodriguez (18.2) each bucketed 25 points Tuesday night, as the District 3 champions rallied for a 69-61 victory over a Bishop Shanahan squad that buried 10 3-pointers. Josh Parra, who closed out Milton Hershey’s first-round victory over Rustin with a slam dunk, is averaging 11 ppg in the Spartans’ two state victories. Wouldn’t be surprised to see 6-2 senior Treyvon Ferguson, the reigning PIAA Class AAA triple jump champ, draw the assignment of trying to hold down Carroll’s 6-2 lead guard A.J. Hoggard.

Other fixtures in Milton Hershey’s athletic rotation include 5-11 junior Jaiden Young, 6-2 junior Naeem Cross and 6-2 senior Carrington Smith. In state play for the 10th consecutive postseason, Paul Romanczuk’s resilient and remarkably balanced Patriots edged District 3 entry Lampeter-Strasburg 77-76 in overtime in Tuesday night’s second round. Hoggard, who added six boards and five assists to his 19 points, canned a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining in OT to ensure Carroll’s quarterfinal-round date as a trey in the final second made it a one-point result. Keyon Butler, a 6-4 senior, paced the Patriots with 21 points, but 6-2 senior Justin Anderson (17) and 6-4 junior Luke House (13) also reached double figures the Philly Catholic League power. Carroll’s pressure after the break also was a factor in the outcome, as the Patriots forced 11 of Lampeter-Strasburg’s 19 turnovers during that stretch and limited 6-10 Ryan Smith to 13 second-half points after yielding 21 to the East Stroudsburg recruit in the first two quarters.

Northeastern (3-3, 28-3) vs. Abington Heights (2-1, 24-3)
Martz Hall, Pottsville, 7:30 PM
While both of these programs came within one victory of advancing to Hershey’s Giant Center and playing for Class 5A gold — Abington Heights played through the eastern half of the bracket while Northeastern worked it way through the west — only one of them will be moving on. Northeastern needed a huge fourth-quarter performance to squeeze past Penncrest 63-60 in Tuesday’s second round, as Jon Eyster’s Bobcats outscored the District 1 champions 32-15 in the fourth quarter while catching and passing the suburban Philly Lions. Getting 11 treys from seven different players also played a huge role for the two-time York-Adams champs, who finished third in the District 3 playoffs. While usual go-to guys Fred Mulbah and Albany-bound Antonio Rizzuto were less than 100 percent — Mulbah was sick leading up to the game, while Rizzuto is dealing with a fractured tailbone — they still managed to combine for 21 points. Soph Nate Wilson was the hammer in Tuesday’s victory, however, as the 6-3 youngster bagged four 3-pointers en route to 26 points. Soph Andrew Brodbeck also was part of Northeastern’s frantic late-game run, adding seven points to the Bobcats’ combustible mix.

Abington Heights frontman Ken Bianchi, who began his coaching career at Line Mountain when a certain CoBL staff writer was in the second grade and he was teaching in the same building, will be chasing his 772nd victory when the Comets pull into Pottsville’s impressive Martz Hall. No. 771 certainly didn’t arrive easily Tuesday night, even though an Abington Heights squad that’s captured seven straight District 2 crowns was leading Chester 40-23 with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter. The Clippers fought back and were down one when they missed a game-winning layup, which gave Abington Heights the victory. Jackson Danzig, a Scranton recruit, scored 21 points to lead the Comets, and 6-5 junior George Tinsley added 11. If Abington Heights is going to move onto the state semifinals for the second straight year, Danzig and Tinsley will need to produce like they did against Chester. The Comets likely will need a third contributor to pitch in against the high-octane Bobcats, either 5-11 junior Jack Nealon or 6-1 soph Corey Perkins. Those two shared 15 points in the win over Chester.

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Class 4A
Imhotep Charter (12-1, 28-2) vs. Middletown (3-3, 19-7)
Geigle Complex, Reading, 6:00 PM
Last year, Middletown made it exactly this far in the state tournament, before bowing out to District 7 runner-up Quaker Valley. Behind a deep and versatile senior class full of multi-sport athletes -- Ryan Hughes will be playing college basketball at Ursinus, but most of his classmates will be playing football or other sports at the next level -- the Blue Raiders are back in the final eight, after surviving Overbrook 47-45 in the second round thanks to a late steal-and-layup by Hughes to cap off a 16-point, 17-rebound affair. Chris Sattele’s squad also benefited from a 14-point outing by senior guard Tré Leach and a 10-point, eight-rebound effort from 6-3 senior Chris Plummer, perhaps the team’s best athlete. Now they’ll have to step it up against another Philadelphia Public League foe, but -- no offense to Overbrook -- Imhotep Charter is a different beast entirely.

The defending 4A champs, Imhotep Charter is in the top 15 in the country according to MaxPreps.com, and the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament. Andre Noble’s Panthers are deep and athletic, especially in the junior class and on in the wings. Donta Scott (6-7), Jamil Riggins (6-6), Chareef Knox (6-6), Karam Cummings (6-5) and Dahmir Bishop (6-4) are all Imhotep juniors and Division I prospects; add in sharpshooting 5-11 senior Bernard Lightsey and 6-8 post Elijah Taylor, and there are no fewer than seven or eight players capable of going off for double-digit scoring on any given night. After rolling to an easy 76-30 win over Kennard-Dale in the opener, Imhotep was frustrated a bit by Scranton Prep in the second round, ending up with a 44-32 win in a slow-it-down game that saw Scott score 13 to lead the way. Look for Middletown to try to do the same to stay within striking distance, but if Imhotep turns this into a track meet, it could get ugly yet again.

Berks Catholic (3-1, 28-2) vs. Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 27-3)
Martz Hall, Pottsville, 6:00 PM
Although it’s extremely difficult to believe that both of these programs are in the state quarterfinals for the first time — especially based on their respective recent hoops histories — it’s true. That means one school will be celebrating history Friday night at the Mecca when the final buzzer finally sounds. Will it be Berks Catholic, which has rattled off 24 consecutive victories and pushed head coach Ken “Snip” Esterly past 700 career wins? Or will it be a Bethlehem Catholic program skippered by Ray Barbosa that’s won its last 13? Berks Catholic downed Valley View 56-36 in Tuesday’s second round, as Luis Garcia, Keba Mitchell and Casey Jack combined for 44 points. Garcia paced the the Berks County and District 3 champs with 20 points, while shot-blocking specialist Mitchell added 10 boards to go with his 14. Remarkably balanced, Berks Catholic has four regulars averaging between 9.7 and 11.2 points per game in Jack (11.2), 6-2 senior Tre Dabney (10.2), Mitchell (9.8) and Garcia (9.7). Additional help comes from 6-1 junior Kyran Mitchell, 6-0 senior Jack Hagelbarger and 6-6 junior Luke Painton. Becahi, meanwhile, continued its impressive run by thumping Conwell-Egan 97-66 in Tuesday’s second round. Northwestern recruit Ryan Young rolled up 25 points for the Golden Eagles, who led 33-13 midway through the second period and by as many as 37 points before everything was over. Four others reached double figures, as Justin Paz, Kenny Bell, DeAndre Gardner and Kyle Young shared 50 additional points for Barbosa’s bunch. Paz, a 6-0 junior, and 6-10 Ryan Young, both average just over 16 ppg for the East Penn Conference and District 11 champs. Gardner, a 5-10 senior, checks in at 10.6 per contest.

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Class A
Faith Christian (1-1, 25-1) vs. Plumstead Christian (1-3, 17-9)
Spring-Ford HS, 7:30 PM
After dismantling Berks Catholic in the first round of the PIAA Class A state tournament, 80-34 and cruising to victory over Millville, 66-43 in the second round, District 1 Class A champions Faith Christian has reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament for the second straight year. Last season, Faith Christian took care of Sankofa in the quarters and then fell in the semi-finals to eventual state champion runner-up, Girard College. Head Coach Tony DaCosta has a mix of playoff experience and talent on his roster as every players except one is either a senior or a junior. Seniors Landon Coyle, Sawyer Smith, Darius Forney, and Charles Ervin and juniors Owen and Derian Bradford, Josh Forker and Isaiah Robinson look for revenge after the Lions came up short last year. Coyle hit five three-pointers and scored a game-high 18 points, Erivin scored 15 points and Owen Bradford finished with 10 in their win over Millville. Bicentennial league foe Plumstead Christian stands in their way as head coach John Elton led the Panthers to their first ever state tournament this season. The Panthers bested York Country Day in the first round, 62-50 and beat Sullivan County 67-50 in the second round. Senior guard Kyle Elton and junior guard Carson Curry provide a 1-2 punch in the backcourt for the Panthers as Elton scored 15 points and Curry finished with 22 in their win over Sullivan County. In their two meetings this season, Faith Christian got the better of Plumstead Christian, 74-52 in their first meeting on Jan. 30 and 75-44 in their second meeting on Feb. 5.

Lourdes Regional (4-1, 24-4) vs. Susquehanna Community (2-1, 19-9)
Wyoming Area HS, Exeter, 7:00 PM
Although it’s been quite some time since either of these small-school programs has advanced this far, only one of them will prevail and move into Pennsylvania’s Final Four. Lourdes ensured its first date in the quarterfinals since 1993 by sidelining District 12 hammer Sankofa Freedom 57-49 in Tuesday night’s second round, as 5-10 junior Ty Klembara collected 19 points and canned five of the Red Raiders’ seven treys. James Sandri’s outfit also picked up 17 points from 6-5 junior Thomas Schultz and 10 more from 5-10 senior C.J. Reichard while building a 40-30 lead through three quarters. While 6-3 senior Larry Czeponis and 5-7 sophomore Adam Sandri round out the starting five for the District 4 champs — and 6-0 senior Dawson Williams is typically the first guy off the bench — Schultz (20.4 ppg), Klembara (14.2) and Reichard (12.4) are the usual go-to guys for a Lourdes squad that hasn’t lost to a 1A opponent all season. Klembara and Reichard can hurt teams from deep, too, as they have more than 90 treys between them. Susquehanna Community also is treading in unfamiliar territory, as the Sabers haven’t been in the state quarters since 1999. And even though Lawrence Tompkins’ club needed to fend off a late rush by District 3 runner-up Lancaster Country Day in Tuesday’s second round, the District 2-11 subregional victors emerged with the 57-54 triumph. Burly 6-5 junior Bryce Baldwin paced Susquehanna by scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds, while 6-0 sophomore lead guard Mason Deakin added 19 as the Sabers constructed a 47-37 lead early in the fourth quarter. Senior Eric Lee tacked on 10 points for Susquehanna, while 5-8 senior Travis Craig put a defensive lid on Country Day’s elusive Andrew Williams by limiting him to four second-half points. Williams pocketed 17 before the break.


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