This week’s notebook recaps the district playoffs and takes a look ahead at the PIAA Class AAAA Tournament.
By Scott Huff
The ‘true March Madness’ in Pennsylvania scholastic basketball will begin this Saturday as the 32-team field has been established with the ‘one-and-done’ format. No more playback tournaments – no more second chances – or third chances. Win and advance – lose and go home.
Well, the 32-team field is almost set.
There are four ‘play-in’ games Tuesday night to get into that final field of 32 – and Council Rock North (21-6) will host one of those games when the Indians host [District 2-2 seed] Delaware Valley. If Rock North survives that contest, the Indians would play District 3 champion Chambersburg on Saturday at Milton Hershey High School with a 6:00 pm tip-off. A win over Delaware Valley and Chambersburg would present CR North with the winner of the [11-3] Easton (20-7) – [1-4] Wissahickon game on Wednesday (3/14/12).
“We had really high expectations at the beginning of the season,” said Council Rock North head coach Derek Wright after Rock North survived the playback round with a 54-47 win over Cheltenham for the ninth and final seed from District One. “But getting to the state playoffs this way was not one of them. The only really good thing about going in the tournament as a ninth seed is going in with some momentum and a three-game winning streak.”
Abington (20-7) will also go into states with some momentumas the Ghosts captured the #3 seed from District One with a 56-52 victory over host Wissahickon (22-5). Abington will meet [3-5] Central Dauphin (26-2) in a first round state game at William Tennent High School – tip-off @ 3:00 pm. The winner gets the winner of the [12-1] St. Joe Prep (21-5) versus [1-8] Central Bucks West (22-5) game on Wednesday (3/14/12).
“We have a long week of practice, but by winning this game, we get to eliminate some long bus rides,” said Abington head coach Charles Grasty after the Wissahickon win. “It was a great feeling to win this game in front of a lot of family and friends. Even though this was for just a seed, we try to go out and win every game. This is a competitive bunch of guys.”
Wissahickon (22-5) will go in states with its first two-game losing streak of the seasonas the Trojans dropped that 56-52 contest to Abington (20-7) in a game that decided the 3rd and 4th seed from District One. Wissahickon will meet [11-3] Easton (20-7) in a first round game at William Tennent High School – tip off @ 4:30 pm. The winner gets the winner of the CR North/Delaware Valley – Chambersburg game on Wednesday (3/14/12).
“I hate to lose – this game or any game,” said Wissahickon head coach Kyle Wilson after his Trojans lost that contest to Abington. “I thought we played well against Chester (in the district semifinal), but this was not one of our smarter games. Their kids just wanted it more.”
Norristown (19-8) must have also wanted it a little more as the Eagles scored 22 fourth period points to defeat Souderton (20-7) in the district seeding game for the #5 and #6 seeds – 42-36. Norristown will meet [3-3] William Penn (24-5) in a first round game at Milton Hershey High School with a 3 pm tip-off. The winner gets the winner of the (ugh) [1-1] Chester versus [3-7] McCaskey game on Wednesday (3/14/12).
“This is a team that would run through a brick wall – we never quit,” said Norristown head coach Michael Evans. “We showed that after the Chester game (an 81-31 loss) with quality wins against both Central Bucks West and Souderton. We want to keep playing basketball games, and you have to win every game from now on.”
Souderton (20-7) must rebound from a fourth quarter collapse against Norristown asthe Indians move into the first round of states. Souderton will enter the state post season as the #6 seed from District One. The Indians will face District Four champion Williamsport (17-8) in the opening round at Montoursville High School with a 6 pm tip-off. The winner gets the winner of the [3-2] Harrisburg (19-6) – [12-4] Fels (18-8) game on Wednesday (3/14/12).
Central Bucks West (22-5) will go into states with a three-game losing streak as the Bucks were edged 50-44 by Coatesville (23-6) in the #7/#8 seed contest. CB West will meet District 12 champion St. Joseph Prep (21-5) at Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia with a 5 pm tip-off. The winner gets the winner of the Abington (20-7) – Central Dauphin (26-2) game on Wednesday (3/14/12).
Cheltenham (17-10) was shown the PIAA Quad-A District One playoff dooras the Panthers dropped a 54-47 contest to Council Rock North in a game played at Wissahickon for the ninth and final seed from the district.
“This was a team that has battled through some adversity this year, and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Cheltenham head coach Brian Johnson. “We have played in a lot of big basketball games – through the regular season – and in the playoffs. And our players have competed well in those games.”
The Panthers were one of just two teams that were able to defeat Suburban One League American Conference co-champion Wissahickon during the regular season, and the Black Cats came up with impressive playoff wins over both Bensalem and Pennsbury.
“The win over Pennsbury showed just how resilient this team could be,” said Johnson. “We played the fourth quarter of that game with a tremendous amount of determination.”
In the victory over the Falcons, Cheltenham trailed 39-22 at the half; 52-40 after the third period; but closed with 27-11 advantage in the final period to escape with a stunning 67-63 victory. Jarrell Haywood scored 14 of his game-high 29 points in that final period, while Nafis Walker scored 10 of his 16 points in fourth period.
Pennsbury (18-8) was shown the exit door with that loss to Cheltenham as the Falcons would finish with a split of their playoff games.
Pennsbury – which will graduate a trio of productive seniors in Kieran Bolger, Jerrel Burke, and Ryan Charity – defeated both Kennett and Methacton in the playoffs. The Falcons – which finished second in the SOL National Conference - lost to SOL American Conference opponents Norristown and Cheltenham in the playoffs.
1. Abington Galloping Ghosts (20-7)
2. Wissahickon Trojans (22-5)
3. Norristown Eagles (19-8)
4. Souderton Indians (20-7)
5. Central Bucks West Bucks (22-5)
6. Council Rock North Indians (21-6)
7. Cheltenham Panthers (17-10)
8. Pennsbury Falcons (18-8)
9. Bensalem Owls (15-10)
10. Plymouth Whitemarsh Colonials (13-12)