PIAA girls playoff hoop preview
CLASS AAAA GIRLS
The teams: Spring-Ford (1-1, 27-2), Hershey (3-7, 21-5), Wallenpaupak (2-1, 20-4), Parkland (11-3, 20-7), Bayard Rustin (1-4, 20-7), Dover (3-4, 25-3), Nazareth (11-1, 23-4), Pennsbury (1-8, 14-13), Cardinal O’Hara (12-1, 21-5), Methacton (1-9, 24-6), Central Dauphin East (3-3, 20-6), Central Bucks West (1-5, 20-7), Upper Dublin (1-3, 25-2), Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 17-7), Central Dauphin (3-2, 20-6), Boyertown (1-7, 19-9), Wilson-West Lawn (3-1, 26-2), Garnet Valley (1-10, 20-8), Pocono Mountain West (11-2, 23-4), North Penn (1-6, 22-5), Mount St. Joseph (1-2, 26-3), Cumberland Valley (3-5, 22-6), Philadelphia Central (12-2, 15-6), Manheim Township (3-6, 22-5), Bethel Park (7-1, 23-2), Mount Lebanon (7-4, 22-3), Hollidaysburg (6-1, 22-2), Penn-Trafford (7-5, 19-5), Allderdice (8-1, 12-13), Chartiers Valley (7-2, 18-7), McDowell (10-1, 13-10), Gateway (7-3, 20-5)
2012 champion: Archbishop Carroll
The outlook: As hard as it is to believe, 15 years have passed since a District 6 team last played in the girls Class AAAA championship game. So, the law of averages might be on Hollidaysburg’s side.
That might not be the only thing favoring the Lady Tigers. They seem to be experiencing a peak season in a year in which no one else has looked unbeatable. For instance, both WPIAL champion Bethel Park and perennial state finalist Mount Lebanon has three losses each to other District 7 teams; Hollidaysburg’s results against opponents it has in common with Mount Lebanon are identical almost.
Hollidaysburg would face one of those teams if it isn’t tripped up in the first round by a Penn-Trafford team it can’t afford to take lightly.
Chartiers Valley, a semifinalist in Class AAA in 2012, and Gateway are likely to face off in the other second round game on the bottom rung of the bracket – Chartiers should advance, but don’t undersell the Lady Gators.
Eastern teams fill the top eight positions in the bottom half of the bracket, including a couple that are good enough to get to Hershey. Wilson won 26 games and District 3 with great defense. Mount St. Joseph is the runner-up from District 1, which so often has turned out state finalists.
The top half of the bracket is likely to come down to two Philadelphia area schools: either Catholic League and city champ Cardinal O’Hara or District 1 winner Spring-Ford. The winner of the first-round game between Archbishop Carroll and Upper Dublin or Central Dauphin is likely to face O’Hara in the semis. Spring-Ford seems destined to meet another suburban Philly team, Bayard Rustin.
In addition to Mount St. Joseph (twice), Spring-Ford has defeated Rustin, Wilson and Chartiers Valley, which, in turn, defeated O’Hara.
Mirror’s finalists: Spring-Ford and Wilson-West Lawn
Mirror’s state champion: Spring-Ford
CLASS AAA GIRLS
The teams: Prep Charter (12-1, 18-2), Eastern York (3-6, 18-9), Merion Mercy (1-2, 17-11), Gettysburg (3-3, 21-6), Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 24-2), Bonner-Prendergast (12-3, 16-8), Honesdale (2-1, 23-3), Danville (4-2, 22-5), Palmyra (3-1, 28-0), Freire Charter (12-4, 15-11), Scranton Prep (2-2, 25-2), Southern Lehigh (11-2, 22-4), Athens (4-1, 21-4), Holy Redeemer (2-3, 20-7), Malvern Villa Maria (1-1, 19-4), West York (3-4, 23-6), Susquehannock (3-2, 18-8), Lancaster Catholic (3-5, 28-1), Pope John Paul II (1-3, 18-6), Forest Hills (6-1, 20-4), Hampton (7-5, 18-6), Bradford (9-1, 21-2), Blackhawk (7-4, 24-1), South Park (7-1, 23-2), Hickory (10-3, 21-4), Hopewell (7-3, 21-4), Erie Villa Maria (10-2, 22-3), Elizabeth Forward (7-2, 22-3), Central Valley (7-6, 18-5), Franklin (10-1, 24-1), Ligonier Valley (6-2, 16-7)
2012 champion: Archbishop Wood
The outlook: Of the girls classifications, Class AAA is probably about as wide open as it gets. Palmyra, South Park, Blackhawk, Hopewell, Elizabeth Forward, Franklin, Bethlehem Catholic, Lancaster Catholic, Archbishop Wood and both Villa Marias are good enough to get to the finals. Susquehannock and West York could argue they are good enough to be part of that mix, too.
There just doesn’t seem to be a lot to separate the teams.
On paper, Palmyra has the strongest case, simply because the Lady Cougars are undefeated and haven’t really been tested often this season. Of course, that could work against them, eventually, because a deep crop of talented teams in the WPIAL spent the year beating up on each other.
Palmyra also didn’t run into Porscha Speller because the then-undefeated Lady Crusaders were upset by Susquehannock in the District 3 quarterfinals.
Palmyra shouldn’t have much of a problem getting to the quarterfinals, where it’s likely to run into District 1 champ Villa Maria. Bethlehem Catholic, meanwhile, which knocked Allentown Central Catholic out of the District 11 playoffs, looks like the best bet to come out of the other quarterfinal in the top side of the bracket, although BeCaHi could get upset by Catholic League team Bonner-Prendergast in the very first game if it isn’t careful.
The bottom half of the bracket is a bear. Hopewell and Erie Villa Marie meet in the opening round with the winner staring at South Park. In another first-round game, Lancaster Catholic gets a shot to pay back Susquehannock.
Potential second-round matchups include Lancaster Catholic and Archbishop Wood in a rematch of last year’s championship game and Elizabeth Forward versus Franklin. The winner of the latter is likely to get South Park, while the former will probably face once-beaten Blackhawk.
Mirror’s finalists: Palmyra and South Park
Mirror’s state champion: South Park
CLASS AA GIRLS
The teams: Neumann-Goretti (12-1, 13-11), Annville-Cleona (3-3, 16-10), Notre Dame-Green Pond (11-1, 20-5), Southern Columbia (4-2, 19-6), Delone Catholic (3-2, 19-7), Holy Cross (2-2, 19-7), St. Basil (1-1, 17-8), High School of the Future (12-3, 7-1), York Catholic (3-1, 25-2), Parkway Center City (12-4, 9-4), Dunmore (2-1, 20-6), Muncy (4-3, 18-7), Imhotep Charter (12-2, 17-5), Pine Grove (11-2, 22-4), Mount Carmel (4-1, 22-4), Wilkes-Barre G.A.R. (2-3, 14-11), Bishop Canevin (7-1, 22-4), Westmont Hilltop (6-3, 21-5), General McLane (10-2, 22-3), Jeannette (7-4, 17-7), Burrell (7-3, 22-3), Bellwood-Antis (6-2, 24-2), Brookville (9-1, 13-12), Sharpsville (10-3, 17-8), Blairsville (6-1, 24-1), Greensburg Central Catholic (7-6, 17-7), Seton-LaSalle (7-2, 24-2), Kane (9-2, 21-6), Everett (5-1, 18-6), Mohawk (7-5, 17-7), North East (10-1, 22-3), McGuffey (7-7, 20-3)
2012 champion: Seton-LaSalle
The outlook: Can Bellwood-Antis put the disappointment of losing in the District 6 Class AA final behind it and last a few rounds into the PIAA tournament in their first interdistrict appearance in about a decade? The answer is yes.
Falling to Blairsville, combined with Canevin’s upset of defending state champion Seton-LaSalle in the WPIAL final, actually gave the Lady Devils a more favorable bracket. To be sure, the opening game against defensive-minded Burrell will be no picnic, but the Lady Bucs actually are younger and have less postseason experience than does B-A. The winner of that game has what looks to be a comparatively easier game probably against District 10 consolation winner Sharpsville. Of course, after that comes Canevin and Duquesne recruit Erin Waskowiak, although Jeannette – with Ciara Gregory averaging more than 30 points per game – could test the Lady Crusaders.
Seton-LaSalle is in the lower quarter of the bracket along with Everett and Blairsville. Aside from the surprise loss to a Canevin team they already had bested twice during the regular season, the Lady Rebels only loss was against Centerville, Ohio. They should have little trouble with Kane, Blairsville and North East in setting up a fourth meeting with Canevin.
The top half of the bracket is filled with the usual suspects: York Catholic, Delone Catholic, Dunmore and St. Basil. Throw in Neumann-Goretti, which has played some of the best competition in the state in the Philadelphia Catholic League, as a sleeper.
Delone faces the stiffest test of that group in the first round when it must get by District 2 runner-up Holy Cross. Then it will have to beat District 1 champion St. Basil just for the opportunity to face Neumann-Goretti.
York Catholic has the easier draw into the semifinals, with really only probable second-round opponent Dunmore, a strong defensive team, looking like it can present much of a challenge.
Mirror’s finalists: York Catholic and Seton-LaSalle
Mirror’s state champion: Seton-LaSalle
CLASS A GIRLS
The teams: Steelton-Highspire (3-1, 23-4), Northeast Bradford (4-3, 16-9), Paul Robeson (12-1, 13-1), Jenkintown (1-2, 21-6), Old Forge (2-1, 24-0), High Point Baptist (3-3, 19-5), Tri-Valley (11-1, 23-3), Sayre (4-2, 21-4), Lourdes Regional (4-1, 20-5), Upper Dauphin (3-4, 11-15), Girard College (1-1, 20-4), Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg (11-2, 18-7), Halifax (3-2, 16-10), Motivation (12-2, 10-6), Southern Fulton (5-2, 23-3), Juniata Valley (6-4, 17-9), Vincentian (7-1, 25-1), Keystone (9-3, 20-6), Portage (6-2, 22-3), Berlin Brothersvalley (5-3, 22-4), Port Allegany (9-2, 21-4), Penns Manor (6-3, 17-8), Kennedy Catholic (10-1, 22-2), North Catholic (7-4, 15-10), Bishop Guilfoyle (6-1, 24-2), Johnsonburg (9-4, 17-8), Serra Catholic (7-2, 23-3), Cochranton (10-2, 17-9), Conemaugh Township (5-1, 21-4), Quigley Catholic (7-3, 18-6), Clarion (9-1, 23-3), Winchester Thurston (7-5, 13-9)
2012 champion: Steelton-Highspire
The outlook: One year removed from four PIAA Class A finals appearances in five years, Bishop Guilfoyle is looking to return to the championship game. And, with four very experienced starters – including two past Mirror players of the year – the Lady Marauders look like a good bet to do it.
Guilfoyle’s biggest potential stumbling blocks are Serra Catholic in the second round and Vincentian in the semifinals. Clarion or Quigley probably is the team the Lady Marauders would face between the two WPIAL finalists.
Vincentian will face another regional team in the second round – Portage and Berlin is a toss-up after those teams split in the regular season. Then the Lady Royals are likely to see whoever comes out of the Round 1 game between Kennedy Catholic and Pittsburgh North Catholic.
There are several very good teams in the east. District 2 champion Old Forge has yet to be defeated. It will meet Tri-Valley, a contender for the last several years, in the second round.
The winner of that game will take on two-time defending state champion Steelton-Highspire and two-time reigning state Class A player of the year Malia Tate-DeFrietas. And the winner of that game will be a state finalist, in all likelihood. Tri-Valley already has beaten the Lady Rollers in a close regular-season contest.
Don’t be surprised if Southern Fulton overcomes its loss in the District 5 final to make the quarterfinals, although Lourdes probably will advance from there.
Mirror’s finalists: Steelton-Highspire and Bishop Guilfoyle
Mirror’s state champion: Bishop Guilfoyle