On the road to Hershey
CLASS AAAA GIRLS
The teams: North Penn (1-1, 24-3), Lebanon (3-7, 21-7), Wallenpaupack (2-1, 21-3), Northampton (11-3, 15-12), West Chester Rustin (1-4, 22-6), Manheim Township (3-4, 27-2), Parkland (11-1, 18-8), Central Bucks East (1-8, 16-10), Archbishop Carroll (12-1, 14-9), Garnet Valley (1-9, 26-2), Cumberland Valley (3-3, 23-5), Central Bucks West (1-5, 21-6), Mount St. Joseph (1-3, 26-3), Cardinal O’Hara (12-3, 17-8), Dover (3-2, 24-3), Bishop Shanahan (1-7, 21-7), Wilson-West Lawn (1-7, 22-7), Methacton (1-10, 20-9), Pocono Mountain West (11-2, 19-8), Abington (1-6, 19-7), Spring-Ford (1-2, 23-6), Red Lion (3-5, 17-9), Northeast Philadelphia (12-2, 17-5), Mechanicsburg (3-6, 22-6), Penn-Trafford (7-1, 20-6), North Allegheny (7-4, 22-2), State College (6-1, 17-7), Mount Lebanon (7-5, 16-6), Obama Academy (8-1, 14-6), Hempfield (7-2, 17-9), McDowell (10-1, 17-7), Fox Chapel (7-3, 19-5)
2013 champion: Spring-Ford
The outlook: Philadelphia area teams typically rule the roost here, and what a crop of them there are from which to choose. Mount St. Joseph’s was rated as the top Class AAAA team in the state at one point, and it only finished third in District 1. North Penn ousted defending state champion Spring-Ford, which returned its best player, by 12 in the district championship game. Archbishop Carroll, the District 12 champion, finished third in the powerful Catholic League behind two lower classification juggernauts. Its first round opponent is District 1 ninth-place finisher Garnet Valley, which is only 26-2.
Throw in good Central Bucks West and Cardinal O’Hara teams, and you can see why this might be another Philadelphia party.
North Penn appears to have a favorable draw into the semifinals, facing Lebanon, Northampton and likely West Chester Rustin, the fourth seed from District 1. The other quarterfinalist is more tricky to predict. Mount St. Joseph looks like a reasonable prediction, but it also could bite the dust in the very first round against O’Hara. The winner of that game, though, seems to have a good chance to make it through to the quarters. However, the other pod not only includes Carroll and Garnet Valley, but Cumberland Valley and Central Bucks West. We favor Carroll to get to the next step.
The bottom half of the bracket features Spring-Ford and District 3 champ Wilson, who appear to be on a quarterfinal collision course that appears to be a meeting of the top two teams in that side.
The bottom quarter of the bracket is highlighted by a first-round pairing of WPIAL champ Penn-Trafford and 22-2 North Allegheny; don’t be shocked if the lower seed prevails and then takes down perennial power Mount Lebanon, which meets State College, in the second round.
Hempfield and Fox Chapel look like a strong bet to meet in the second round, and, again, the lower seed just might be the team that advances. However, none of the west teams looks quite as good on paper as Spring-Ford and Wilson.
Mirror’s finalists: North Penn and Spring-Ford
Mirror’s state champion: North Penn
CLASS AAA GIRLS
The teams: Archbishop Wood (12-1, 22-3), Berks Catholic (3-6, 19-7), Malvern Villa Maria (1-2, 15-11), Lancaster Catholic (3-3, 25-3), Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 24-3), Bonner-Predergast (12-3, 19-6), Scranton Prep (2-1, 25-1), Danville (4-2, 21-3), West Perry (3-1, 21-5), Freire Charter (12-4, 13-12), Abington Heights (2-2, 16-10), Allentown Central Catholic (11-2, 23-4), Mifflinburg (4-1, 20-5), Holy Redeemer (2-3, 21-5), Radnor (1-1, 14-12), Fleetwood (3-4, 23-5), Susquehannock (3-2, 23-5), Palmyra (3-5, 22-4), Mastery Charter North (12-2, 15-9), Merion Mercy (1-3, 15-12), Huntingdon (6-1, 19-5), Mount Pleasant (7-5, 15-9), Bradford (9-1, 21-2), Elizabeth Forward (7-4, 20-4), Blackhawk (7-1, 23-2), Mercyhurst Prep (10-3, 19-6), West Mifflin (7-3, 18-6), Erie Villa Maria (10-2, 21-3), South Park (7-2, 21-5), Washington Trinity (7-6, 17-7), Hickory (10-1, 25-0), Johnstown (6-2, 11-14)
2013 champion: South Park
The outlook: Defending champion South Park still is in the mix here, but it was displaced as District 7 champion by Blackhawk this year. It looks like it could be a fight between those two WPIAL powers and the top two seeds from District 10 – Hickory and Villa Maria – to determine both the bottom quarter of the bracket and the finalist from the western half (which includes some schools from eastern districts).
Interestingly, Blackhawk and Villa could meet in the second round but have some potentially difficult assignments in the first. Blackhawk will need to dispatch District 10 consy winner Mercyhurst Prep, no stranger to deep state playoff runs itself, while Villa Maria gets WPIAL third seed West Mifflin. How those games turn out might give us a good idea of whether Blackhawk or Hickory should be favored in the event they meet down the road. If one were to pick it now, it would go to Blackhawk on schedule strength.
Hickory lost to South Park in last year’s PIAA opening round, and it looks very likely it will have a shot at redemption in this year’s second round. South Park’s played a very demanding schedule this year, and would be our pick to win a rematch with Hickory. So we’re probably looking at an all-WPIAL quarterfinal between Blackhawk and South Park – Blackhawk prevailed in the District 7 championship by seven.
District 6 winner Huntingdon is part of the top quarter of the western side of the bracket. The Lady Bearcats haven’t been this far in a long time, and will have a real chore ahead if they’re to beat Mount Pleasant in the first round. Look for Elizabeth Forward to knock out District 9 champ Bradford and then beat Mount Pleasant to reach the quarterfinals, where it probably will meet Susquehannock but also might come across darkhorse Merion Mercy.
The two teams that jump out at you in the top half of the bracket are Philadelphia Catholic League power Archbishop Wood and District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic, who could cross paths in the quarterfinals. Of course, to do that, BeCaHi will need to beat another Catholic League team, Bonner-Prendergast, in one of the best opening-round pairings in any bracket.
The bottom quarter of the top half of the bracket lacks a real power, but Allentown Central Catholic and Holy Redeemer has the makings of an entertaining third round game. ACC has the history, but we’ll the dice and say Redeemer makes it happen here.
Mirror’s finalists: Archbishop Wood and Blackhawk
Mirror’s state champion: Archbishop Wood
CLASS AA GIRLS
The teams: Neumann-Goretti (12-1, 25-0), Camp Hill (3-3, 18-7), Minersville (11-1, 25-1), Central Columbia (4-2, 15-10), Delone Catholic (3-2, 20-5), Holy Cross (2-2, 19-8), St. Basil (1-1, 21-5), Ben Franklin (12-3, 12-3), York Catholic (3-1, 23-4), Philadelphia Academy (12-4, 11-5), Dunmore (2-1, 24-2), Warrior Run (4-3, 21-6), Imhotep Charter (12-2, 22-3), Salisbury (11-2, 17-8), Mount Carmel (4-1, 23-4), Montrose (2-3, 20-5), Seton-LaSalle (7-1, 22-4), Blairsville (6-1, 23-2), Mercer (10-2, 18-6), Greensburg Central Catholic (7-4, 19-5), Bishop Canevin (7-3, 19-6), Juniata (6-2, 22-3), Karns City (9-1, 24-1), Girard (10-3, 19-6), Bellwood-Antis (6-1, 24-2), McGuffey (7-6, 20-4), Burrell (7-2, 25-1), Clarion-Limestone (9-2, 16-9), Tussey Mountain (5-1, 23-1), Our Lady of Sacred Heart (7-5, 16-8), General McLane (10-1, 22-3), Neshannock (7-7, 22-2)
2013 champion: Bishop Canevin
The outlook: Neumann-Goretti’s presence makes this probably the least competitive bracket of the eight this year. Goretti’s won all 25 of its games this year, playing some of the best competition a Class AA school could face this season, and only four of those games were determined by single figures. Goretti has a 6-foot-9 center and the core of its team plays AAU ball together.
So let’s just get this out of the way and just say Goretti will beat Camp Hill, Minersville and the Delone Catholic/St. Basil winner to move into the semifinals.
OK, so who does Goretti play then? We’ll get back to that in a moment.
Before we do that, let’s see where area teams Bellwood-Antis and Tussey Mountain stack up in the other side of the bracket. Both have more competitive opening round games than one might anticipate for district champions. Bellwood starts off with a McGuffey team that reached states last year and has an all-state player who averages more than 23 points per game. If the Lady Devils pass that test, they get Burrell, the team that knocked them out of the state playoffs last year and appears to be, like B-A, improved.
The Tussey girls are 23-1, and it’s fair to stop being surprised by a team that wins convincingly even if it doesn’t do it in a particularly pretty manner sometimes. Our Lady of Sacred Heart will present a challenge, but we like Tussey’s chances to get through the first round. Should the Lady Titans advance, the next round will be interesting, because District 10 champion General McLane is 22-3 and its first-round opponent, Neshannock, is 22-2; it might be the best record of second round foes in the entire PIAA tournament.
While B-A and Tussey both could get to the semifinals, there are some really powerhouse teams looming at that point. The top quarter of the western half of the bracket includes WPIAL champ Seton-LaSalle along with defending state champ Bishop Canevin. Seton-LaSalle has beaten Canevin three times this year, all by double figures, so it’s fair to say it’s the favorite. It has an interesting first-round game with Blairsville but it should survive that as well as its probable second round game against Greensburg Central Catholic. Canevin’s biggest hurdle looks like Karns City, but KC could get taken out by Girard on Round 1.
OK, now back to who meets Goretti in the other semifinal. It’s probably going to be one of two very familiar names in this bracket, either York Catholic or Dunmore. They’re on a path to face in the second round, and none of the four teams in the other pod look like a good bet to derail them in the quarters.
However, this is Goretti’s tournament to lose. Or, more likely, to dominate.
Mirror’s finalists: Neumann-Goretti and Seton-LaSalle
Mirror’s state champion: Neumann-Goretti
CLASS A GIRLS
The teams: Steelton-Highspire (3-1, 10-16), St. John Neumann (4-3, 17-8), Parkway West (12-1, 7-4), Jenkintown (12-2, 19-7), Old Forge (2-1, 20-3), Harrisburg Christian (3-2, 25-2), Marian Catholic (11-1, 24-2), Northeast Bradford (4-2, 20-5), Millville (4-1, 24-0), Upper Dauphin (3-4, 13-13), Phil-Mont Christian (1-1, 23-4), Shenandoah Valley (11-2, 15-10), Halifax (3-2, 19-6), Math, Civics and Science (12-2, 13-5), Shade (5-2, 21-5), Bishop Carroll (6-4, 11-12), Vincentian (7-1, 22-3), Port Allegany (9-3, 23-1), Portage (6-2, 23-2), Berlin Brothersvalley (5-3, 21-4), Keystone (9-2, 18-8), Claysburg-Kimmel (6-3, 20-5), Kennedy Catholic (10-1, 21-2), California (7-4, 19-4), Bishop Guilfoyle (6-1, 20-5), Venango Catholic (9-4, 19-6), Serra Catholic (7-2, 23-3), Cochranton (10-2, 19-5), Southern Fulton (5-1, 23-3), Quigley Catholic (7-3, 18-6), Clarion (9-1, 20-6), Frazier (7-5, 16-6)
2013 champion: Tri-Valley
The outlook: For more than a decade, the path to a PIAA Class A girls title went through District 6, which often opposed itself in the semis or even in the championship game.
Vincentian of District 7, though, got out of the west in 2013, and the Lady Royals look like they even have a firmer grip on the favorite’s role this time around.
Vincentian figures to get a couple of quick tests with first-round opponent Port Allegany and potential second-round foe Portage both boasting better records than the Lady Royals, albeit against probably lesser competition – they are a combined 46-3. Portage does seem to have a chemistry about it that it could find a groove and do some great things in the tournament, including unseat the defending champ, and the Lady Mustangs, in losing to Bishop Guilfoyle in the District 6 title game on a desperation buzzer-beater, might have gotten a shot of incentive and confidence. They open against Berlin Brothersvalley, which knocked them off in the opening game last year after they lost in the 6-A final and then lost to Vincentian by just two, its closest game before losing to Tri-Valley in the state final.
Speaking of Guilfoyle, the bracket shapes up in a pretty familiar way for the youthful Lady Marauders, who, if they avoid stumbling against Venango Catholic, could see the Serra Catholic and Clarion teams they bested in the second and third rounds last year.
Claysburg-Kimmel, by the way, is in a pod that could lend itself to getting to a quarterfinal round meeting with Vincentian or Portage, although District 10 champ Kennedy Catholic in the second round would provide a good-sized hurdle.
Another area team is competing in the top half of the bracket. Bishop Carroll will go against District 5 runner-up Shade. Carroll’s size and competition during the regular season would seem to give the Lady Huskies a good shot at pulling the perceived upset, which would get them into the second round in another winnable situation with the Halifax/Math, Civics & Science winner. If BC gets through that, it’s probably either undefeated Millville or District 11 runner-up Shenandoah Valley – District 11 has a history in the east similar to that of District 6 in the west when it comes to turning out Class A state title contenders.
Looking at the top quarter of the bracket, it appears the winner of a second round game between District 2 champion Old Forge and District 11 winner Marian Catholic has the upper hand to make it to the semifinals.
Mirror’s finalists: Marion Catholic and Vincentian
Mirror’s state champion: Vincentian
On the road to Hershey
CLASS AAAA BOYS
The teams: Chester (1-1, 22-5), Carlisle (3-7, 18-8), Hazleton (2-1, 21-4), Stroudsburg (11-3, 16-11), West Chester Rustin (1-4, 17-10), Central York (3-4, 24-4), Parkland (11-1, 21-5), Central Bucks West (1-8, 15-12), Roman Catholic (12-1, 22-4), Oxford (1-9, 22-7), Hershey (3-3, 18-8), Lower Merion (1-5, 21-7), Conestoga (1-3, 24-5), LaSalle College (12-3, 19-6), Cedar Crest (3-2, 25-5), Spring-Ford (1-7, 24-4), York (3-1, 22-6), Haverford (1-10, 16-11), Emmaus (11-2, 18-8), Abington (1-6, 22-5), Pennsbury (1-2, 22-5), Wilson-West Lawn (3-5, 26-3), Martin Luther King (12-2, 23-5), Cumberland Valley (3-6, 19-7), New Castle (7-1, 26-0), Bethel Park (7-5, 18-6), Altoona (6-1, 13-9), North Allegheny (7-4, 21-4), Allderdice (8-1, 19-5), Hampton (7-2, 22-4), McDowell (10-1, 22-3), Kiski Area (7-3, 17-6)
2013 champion: Lower Merion
The outlook: Altoona is in the field for the first time since losing in a play-in game at Butler in 2011. The Mountain Lions have been hot to finish the season, but they’ll see just what they’re made of right off the bat when they take on a North Allegheny team that gave Hampton a very competitive game in the WPIAL semifinals. Altoona has size. NA is keyed by its guard play. However, whoever gets through that game will face an uphill battle in the second round against undefeated New Castle – look for New Castle to get out of that pod.
In the other pod on the western side of the bracket, Allderdice and McDowell are the district champions, but neither might make it out of the first round. Allderdice isn’t likely to beat Hampton, and McDowell’s game with WPIAL third seed Kiski Area probably is a tossup at best. Look for Hampton to come out of that part of the bracket but fall to New Castle in a District 7 finals rematch in the quarterfinals.
Four teams look like they could meet the Talbots in the semifinals. York always is a contender to make it to the Class AAAA finals, and this year is no different as they come in as the District 3 champion. They shouldn’t have a problem with Haverford or Abington, an upset pick over District 11 runner-up Emmaus in the first round.
Pennsbury and Wilson shapes up as one of the more interesting first round matchups, but give Pennsbury the edge to move into the second round, where it will get another tough test against Martin Luther King of the Philadelphia Public League. That could go either way, but we’ll give York the edge to move into the semis.
In the top half of the bracket, Chester is, as usual, in the catbird seat at the District 1 champion, and the Clippers are expected to roll over Carlisle and the Hazleton/Stroudsburg winner into the quarterfinals. West Chester Rustin and Central York is an intriguing first round clash in the next pod down and that winner should take down the winner of Parkland and Central Bucks West, but neither looks like a match for Chester.
In the other quarter-bracket, District 12 champ Roman Catholic looks like the team to beat. It’s looking at a probable matchup with Lower Merion in the second round and LaSalle College in the quarterfinals, but Roman should be up to the challenges and might very well be the team to beat in the state.
Mirror’s finalists: Roman Catholic and New Castle
Mirror’s state champion: Roman Catholic
CLASS AAA BOYS
The teams: Neumann-Goretti (12-1, 22-4), Berks Catholic (3-5, 24-5), Shamokin (4-1, 22-3), Wilkes-Barre GAR (2-3, 20-6), Pittston (2-2, 18-8), Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (3-3, 26-2), Allentown Central Catholic (11-1, 27-0), West York (3-6, 24-4), Abington Heights (2-1, 25-1), Central Columbia (4-2, 17-7), Manheim Central (3-2, 24-4), Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 21-4), Philadelphia Electrical (12-2, 16-11), Blue Mountain (11-3, 21-6), Holy Ghost Prep (1-1, 22-6), Bermudian Springs (3-4, 22-4), Susquehanna Township (3-1, 19-7), Imhotep Charter (12-4, 20-6), Pottsville (11-2, 23-5), Lower Moreland (1-2, 16-9), Somerset (6-1, 16-8), Lancaster Mennonite (3-7, 20-7), Chartiers Valley (7-2, 24-2), Strong Vincent (10-3, 17-8), Central Valley (7-1, 22-3), Mars (7-6, 15-9), Erie East (10-2, 20-5), Thomas Jefferson (7-3, 22-3), Punxsutawney (9-1, 14-9), Uniontown (7-4, 21-2), Farrell (10-1, 22-3), Montour (7-5, 16-8)
2013 champion: Imhotep Charter
The outlook: This classification has been dominated by Philadelphia area schools of late, and Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Carroll are good bets to keep that theme going.
Although Berks Catholic is a potentially dangerous opening game for Goretti, the District 12 champ should advance and then defeat the Shamokin/GAR winner – we like GAR in an upset there. That will lead to a potential quarterfinal matchup with District 3 consy winner Bishop McDevitt, which will have to get through the winner of a good first round game pitting unbeaten Allentown Central Catholic and West York.
Carroll is paired with District 3 runner-up Manheim Central in another interesting first round game, but look for the Philly Catholic team to get through. After probably dispatching of Abington Heights in the next round, Carroll is looking at a meeting with either District 12 runner-up Philadelphia Electrical or Holy Ghost Prep, the top team in the Philadelphia suburbs, although Bermudian Springs is capable of upending Holy Ghost right out of the gates. Look for a Carroll/Goretti semifinal.
In the bottom half of the bracket, defending champion Imhotep Charter stands as a very, very dangerous District 12 fourth seed, its only drawback that it wasn’t quite as good as Carroll or Philly Electrical. Imhotep might even be the first round favorite against District 3 champion Susquehanna Township – whoever wins that should win in the next round over District 11 runner-up Pottsville and District 1 runner-up Lower Moreland.
District 6 champion Somerset opens with Lancaster Mennonite, but these District 3 teams, even the seventh-seeded ones, are pretty good. Somerset is young and might have an uphill fight; however, likely second-round opponent Chartiers Valley should take down either of them and advance to face Imhotep in the semis.
The other quarter-bracket is all western teams, and the cream of the crop are WPIAL champion Central Valley and District 10 champion Farrell. They don’t look to have a huge roadblock standing in the way of their quarterfinal meeting, but we like Imhotep to take down whoever wins that.
Mirror’s finalists: Neumann-Goretti and Imhotep Charter
Mirror’s state champion: Neumann-Goretti
CLASS AA BOYS
The teams: Constitution (12-1, 23-5), Columbia (3-3, 16-9), Lewisburg (4-1, 23-3), Mid-Valley (2-3, 22-4), Bristol (1-1, 16-9), High School of the Future (12-4, 21-3), Holy Cross (2-2, 20-6), Hanover (3-2, 19-7), Elmer L. Meyers (2-1, 19-7), Towanda (4-3, 23-4), West Catholic (12-2, 11-13), Academy at Palumbo (12-5, 17-6), Camp Hill Trinity (3-1, 12-12), Loyalsock (4-2, 24-3), Notre Dame-Green Pond (11-1, 17-9), Delaware Valley Charter (12-3, 17-7), Seton LaSalle (7-1, 25-1), Penns Valley (6-4, 19-6), Brookville (9-1, 11-14), Mercyhurst Prep (10-3, 18-7), Richland (6-1, 20-5), Quaker Valley (7-6, 21-3), Fairview (10-2, 22-3), Aliquippa (7-4, 18-6), Conemaugh Township (5-1, 21-5), Summit Academy (7-5, 16-6), Central-Martinsburg (6-2, 17-8), Beaver Falls (7-3, 18-7), Greensburg Central Catholic (7-2, 22-3), Bald Eagle Area (6-3, 20-5), West Middlesex (10-1, 20-5), Neshannock (7-7, 18-6)
2013 champion: Beaver Falls
The outlook: Central is the only area boys team in what is a minefield of really tough teams – the Scarlet Dragons, for example, open with defending state champion Beaver Falls, which has made a habit of blitzing D6 teams in the first round over the years after stumbling in the WPIAL tournament. The Dragons won’t be intimidated, but this might be too much of an athletic disadvantage for them to overcome, unless their outside shooting comes back around.
The WPIAL, in fact, routinely produces a state finalist in Class A, so it wouldn’t be that big a surprise to see Summit Academy oust District 5 champion Conemaugh Township at the outset, and for Aliquippa to beat District 10 runner-up Fairview while Quaker Valley gives District 6 champion Richland a run for its money. It could very well be Seton-LaSalle, Aliquippa and Beaver Falls making up three-fourths of the quarterfinalists in the bottom half of the bracket, with District 10 champ West Middlesex having to face Greensburg Central Catholic in the second round to avoid a WPIAL sweep.
We like Seton-LaSalle to emerge from the west.
The east appears paved with teams for District 12 champion Constitution to beat en route to a trip to the Giant Center. It should have no trouble with Columbia or the Lewisburg/Mid-Valley winner – give a slight edge to Mid-Valley in that one.
The second pod is probably the most up in the air, with District 1 champion Bristol opening against District 12 fourth-place High School of the Future. Meanwhile, Holy Cross and Hanover is a clash of the runner-ups from District 2 and District 3. Taking a stab in the dark gives us High School of the Future meeting Holy Cross with the Philly school advancing only to lose to Constitution.
Although it has a losing record, the feeling here is that District 12 runner-up West Catholic is a good bet to make the state semifinals. Why? Because its losses came against powers like Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood. There’s nothing West Catholic is going to see from an athletic standpoint that it already hasn’t.
West Catholic’s toughest test might be its opener against Palumbo, after which it probably will draw District 2 champ Wilkes-Barre Meyers.
In the last pod of the east side of the bracket, look for a Trinity/Del-Val Charter second round game that could go either way. But West Catholic should take down either one of those teams.
Mirror’s finalists: Constitution and Seton-LaSalle
Mirror’s state champion: Constitution
CLASS A BOYS
The teams: New Hope Academy (3-1, 14-9), Sankofa Freedom (12-3, 9-16), Old Forge (2-1, 11-12), Pius X (11-2, 19-4), New Media (12-2, 14-5), Phil-Mont Christian (1-2, 19-5), St. John Neumann (4-1, 27-0), Greenwood (3-4, 18-7), Church Farm (1-1, 23-4), Lebanon Catholic (3-3, 17-8), Mahanoy Area (11-1, 24-2), Galeton (4-3, 20-5), Mount Calvary Christian (3-2, 22-4), Sullivan County (4-2, 19-6), Math, Civics and Science (12-1, 11-14), Delaware County Christian (1-3, 9-16), Lincoln Park (7-1, 25-1), Johnsonburg (9-3, 21-4), Bishop Guilfoyle (6-2, 19-6), Forbes Road (5-2, 16-8), Elk County Catholic (9-2, 23-4), Homer-Center 6-3, 22-3), Cochranton (10-1, 21-3), Vincentian (7-4, 22-3), Bishop Carroll (6-1, 25-0), Clarion-Limestone (9-4, 22-4), Monessen (7-2, 20-6), Erie First Christian (10-2, 15-9), Berlin Brothersvalley (5-1, 23-2), Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (7-3, 15-10), Ridgway (9-1, 20-6), Eisenhower (10-3, 15-9)
2013 champion: Vaux
The outlook: Bishop Carroll reached the semifinals last year, and the Huskies seem to have an excellent opportunity to go at least as far again.
The Huskies start off with a dangerous game against Clarion-Limestone, but they should prevail unless they get complacent. That would lead to a matchup with Monessen, that should beat tournament newcomer Erie First Christian in its opener. Again, there’s no reason to believe Carroll isn’t at least even money to win that game, and with its hunger and experience, it should. Although Berlin and North Catholic might say otherwise, we think the favorite to reach the quarterfinals out of the bottom pod is Ridgway – ironically, Carroll and Ridgway were supposed to play in the regular season but the game was cancelled, so they’ll play it in the playoffs.
Presuming Carroll makes it to the semis, it’s likely a familiar opponent – Lincoln Park – will be waiting. Lincoln Park is the team that knocked BC out in a classic quarterfinal clash last season. This should be good, too, but Lincoln Park seems to have just too much size and athleticism.
Lincoln Park is likely to run into Bishop Guilfoyle in the second round, and the Marauders patience and precision might get the WPIAL champs a bit out of their game, but, again, it’s hard to discount the size and athletic advantage. The Vincentian/Cochranton winner probably is next up, with the edge going to Vincentian to get to the quarters.
In the top half of the bracket, it looks like it probably will be Math, Civics and Science of the Philadelphia Public League taking the measure of Church Farm in the quarterfinals despite its sub-.500 record coming in. In the other quarter, we like New Media to knock Bishop Neumann from the unbeaten ranks in the second round and then to clip Sankofa Freedom. Math, Civics and Science will take on Lincoln Park for the state championship.
Mirror’s finalists: Math, Civics and Science and Lincoln Park
Mirror’s state champion: Lincoln Park