Breaking down the state boys playoff brackets
The teams: Abington (1-1, 22-5), Harrisburg (3-6, 17-9), Northampton (11-2, 18-8), Saint Joseph’s Prep (12-3, 18-8), Chambersburg (3-2, 19-5), Pocono Mountain West (11-3, 16-10), Hazleton (2-1, 23-1), Norristown (1-7, 18-8), Lincoln (12-1, 21-6), Upper Darby (1-8, 17-10), Lancaster Hempfield (3-3, 23-4), Coatesville (1-5, 21-6), Lower Merion (1-3, 24-5), Manheim Township (3-4, 19-8), East Stroudsburg South (11-1, 24-3), Neshaminy (1-9, 17-10), Reading (3-1, 24-4), Bensalem (1-10, 17-10), Central Bucks West (1-4, 20-7), Emmaus (11-4, 14-12), Roman Catholic (12-2, 19-6), Pennridge (1-6, 19-7), Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1-2, 27-1), Dallastown (3-5, 16-10), State College (6-1, 23-1), Woodland Hills (7-4, 20-4), Pine-Richland (7-2, 20-6), Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7-5, 14-9), Penn Hills (7-1, 23-3), Fox Chapel (7-6, 17-6), Allderdice (8-1, 24-2), Mount Lebanon (7-3, 20-4)
2017 champion: Reading
The outlook: It doesn’t happen often for regional teams in the highest brackets of PIAA boys basketball, but State College absolutely can make a run here. The Little Lions are big, deep, versatile, explosive, and they are a loss at Reading in a game that was close the whole way from being undefeated, even though they played in a very competitive league. They are 6-1 against teams that qualified for the state playoffs, and that doesn’t even consider the handful of out-of-state or non-PIAA teams they defeated along the way.
State opens with a competitive-looking game against Woodland Hills and then likely will meet up with WPIAL runner-up Pine-Richland, a state finalist last year. If they get through that, the Little Lions are looking at the survivor of WPIAL champ Penn Hills and Pittsburgh City League champ Allderdice; Penn Hills won by 14 when those teams met in the middle of the season.
With defending state champ Reading, Roman Catholic and Plymouth-Whitemarsh, the third quad is going to be a really fun watch. And, keep in mind, Pennridge, the sixth-place team from District 1 who beat Reading in overtime in the regular season, is Roman’s opening-round opponent.
When looking at the upper half of the bracket, the discussion has to begin with District 1 champ Abington, District 12 champ Lincoln and District 1 consolation game winner Lower Merion, although you have a once-beaten Hazleton team, Harrisburg, Chambersburg and several other District 1 qualifiers in the mix as well. Count Saint Joseph’s Prep into that equation, too.
Abington’s fared pretty well within the confines of PIAA competition this year, so we’re going to lean its way as the team to come out of that side of the bracket.
Mirror’s finalists: Abington and State College
Mirror state champion: State College
The teams: Penncrest (1-1, 24-3), Shippensburg (3-10, 16-9), Northeastern (3-3, 25-3), Sun Valley (1-5, 18-8), Abington Heights (2-1, 22-3), Garden Spot (3-8, 15-13), Martin Luther King (12-2, 18-10), Chester (1-4, 18-8), York William Penn (3-2, 16-10), Holy Ghost Prep (1-6, 16-12), Bonner-Prendergast (12-1, 22-4), New Oxford (3-9, 20-8), Allentown Central Catholic (11-1, 23-4), Greencastle-Antrim (3-7, 22-5), Dallas (2-2 (20-5), Lower Dauphin (3-4, 19-7), Milton Hershey (3-1, 23-3), West Chester Bayard Rustin (1-7, 17-10), Bishop Shanahan (1-2, 20-5), Hershey (3-5, 22-5), Wissahickon (1-3, 19-7), Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 18-7), Bangor (11-2, 22-3), Lampeter-Strasburg (3-6, 25-4), Franklin Regional (7-2, 20-5), Highlands (7-4, 18-5), Hollidaysburg (6-1, 16-7), Carrick (10-2, 19-5), Mars (7-1, 21-4), Hampton (7-5, 11-13), Cathedral Prep (10-1, 11-12), Washington Trinity (7-3, 20-5)
2017 champion: Archbishop Wood
The outlook: Of the 12 PIAA brackets last year, this one probably had the most upsets, with Abington Heights beating Martin Luther King and Chester to make the state semifinals, District 1 champ Penncrest falling to 3-10 Hershey in the first round, Northeastern beating Archbishop Carroll in two overtimes and Meadville sidelining three members of the WPIAL to get to the state semifinals.
That makes things hard to predict this year, as many of those same squads are back, and then you have to throw in York, Bonner-Prendergast, Franklin Regional and Mars as squads that figure to be factors, as well.
Where does Hollidaysburg fit into this minefield of a bracket? Obviously, it’s going to be a big challenge for the Golden Tigers right from the outset against Carrick, who was more consistent throughout the year against generally stronger competition. If the Tigers can utilize their depth and grit to get through the District 8 team, it will meet up with either Franklin Regional or Highlands, either of which figures to be an even bigger hurdle.
We see Mars and Franklin Regional in a WPIAL final rematch in one of the quarterfinals with the Planets prevailing again.
Archbishop Carroll looks tough in the quad above that, probably facing District 3 champ Milton Hershey in the quarterfinals. We like the Philly Catholic league power to prevail here, but it isn’t a sure thing.
In the bottom quad of the top half of the bracket, Allentown Central Catholic and Greencastle-Antrim provides an interesting first-round game, with the winner likely to face York William Penn or Bonner-Prendy in the quarters. Assuming Penncrest doesn’t get upset for the second straight year, it’s looking at a game with Northeastern in the second round. King and Abington Heights are on a collision course for a reprise of their 2017 double-OT thriller in the second round.
Watch out for York, which seems to have found itself in the second half of the season.
Mirror’s finalists: York William Penn and Archbishop Carroll
Mirror state champion: York William Penn
The teams: Berks Catholic (3-1, 26-2), John Bartram (12-4, 13-10), Mifflinburg (4-2, 16-9), Valley View (2-2, 16-9), Conwell-Egan (12-2, 8-15), Wilson (11-3, 16-11), Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 25-3), Nanticoke (2-3, 19-5), Imhotep Charter (12-1, 26-2), Kennard-Dale (3-4, 19-8), Scranton Prep (2-1, 20-5), Tamaqua (11-2, 18-7), Lower Moreland (1-1, 18-7), Overbrook (12-3, 16-8), Montoursville (4-1, 19-6), Middletown (3-3, 17-7), Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (3-2, 14-12), Danville (4-3, 22-5), Huntingdon (6-1, 21-2), Lancaster Catholic (3-5, 24-4), Quaker Valley (7-2, 23-1), Grove City (10-3, 18-7), Hickory (10-2, 20-5), Belle Vernon (7-3, 18-6), New Castle (7-1, 21-4), Fort LeBoeuf (10-4, 8-15), Clearfield (9-1, 15-9), South Fayette (7-5, 16-8), Johnstown (6-2, 18-7), Indiana (7-4, 18-6), Sharon (10-1, 23-2), Valley (7-6, 14-5)
2017 champion: Imhotep Charter
The outlook: Huntingdon wasn’t done any favors by drawing a very good Lancaster Catholic team in the first round, but that’s what happens sometimes if there’s an upset or a tough draw in another district — you get a quality team making the state playoffs as a fifth seed. On the plus side for the Bearcats, they’ve been very consistent and can win in multiple ways, they’ll be playing close to home, the Crusaders struggled at the end of the season, and, if they can get through this, they should have every reason to believe they have a solid shot to make the quarterfinals, at least — potential second-round opponent Bishop McDevitt and Lancaster Catholic had a pretty evenly matched game in the District 3 playoffs.
In fact, Huntingdon wouldn’t have to play another district champion until the state semis, if it got that far. Quaker Valley, though, only has lost once, and that was in the WPIAL finals; that would be Huntingdon’s probable quarterfinal-round foe.
WPIAL champ New Castle and District 10 champ Sharon look like the cream of the lower quad of the bracket, set for a third-round collision. Johnstown could run into Sharon in the second round if the Trojans can best Indiana in its opener.
A similar matchup of teams that could go all the way is in the very top quad with Berks Catholic and Bethlehem Catholic, winners of District 3 and District 11, respectively. Perennial state power Imhotep is in the second quad and looks to have a pretty clear path into the state semifinals.
Mirror’s finalists: Imhotep Charter and Sharon
Mirror state champion: Imhotep Charter
The teams: Neumann-Goretti (12-1, 18-6), Steelton-Highspire (3-3, 16-8), Wyoming Seminary (2-1, 21-4), Mastery Charter South (12-4, 16-8), Kutztown (3-2, 20-4), Philadelphia Bishop McDevitt (12-3, 14-10), Wellsboro (4-1, 26-1), Notre Dame Green Pond (11-1, 18-8), Valley Forge (1-1, 23-5), Penn Treaty (12-5, 15-3), Loyalsock (4-2, 20-7), Holy Redeemer (2-2, 18-7), Dobbins Tech (12-2, 18-9), Southern Columbia (4-3, 15-10), Camp Hill Trinity (3-1, 19-5), Tacony (12-6, 14-11), Ligonier Valley (6-1, 21-4), Lancaster Mennonite (3-4, 17-9), Westinghouse (8-1, 17-6), Burgettstown (7-5, 16-7), Greenville (10-2, 15-9), Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (7-4, 13-12), Lincoln Park (7-1, 19-6), Mount Union (6-4, 14-11), Karns City (9-1, 17-7), Mercyhurst Prep (10-3, 14-11), Richland (6-2, 21-4), Aliquippa (7-3, 17-7), Seton LaSalle (7-2, 19-6), Central Cambria (6-3, 14-11), Fairview (10-1, 22-3), Shady Side Academy (7-6, 14-9)
2017 champion: Neumann-Goretti
The outlook: Central Cambria made it all the way to the third round last year and returns to the tournament this year with that experience, possibly playing its best ball of the season. However, the Red Devils also have a much tougher draw than a season ago.
First, Central Cambria must face District 7 runner-up Seton LaSalle — a program with a lot of state playoff experience in its own right — in the opening round. If the Devils make it past that, they probably will run up against District 10 champion Fairview, although Shady Side Academy might give the Tigers a tussle in the opening round.
One thing about Central Cambria’s success last year is it gives District 6 finalists Ligonier Valley and Richland reason to be optimistic. Richland meets Aliquippa in the opening round; the Quips always are going to be a force, but the Rams don’t appear out of their depth. That might be a tougher test than their potential second-round game. Ligonier, meanwhile, draws a solid Lancaster Mennonite team with the potential to play Westinghouse or Burgettstown in the second round, and the Heritage Conference champs are very capable of beating either of those teams if they play their typical game.
Lincoln Park would probably be Ligonier’s opponent in the quarterfinals.
Neumann-Goretti, as usual, is going to be a big part of the conversation in this classification, and sits at the very top of the bracket. There doesn’t look like a team that really could give the Saints a run for their money until the semifinals, but a couple of teams out of the second quad — Valley Forge Military and Camp Hill Trinity — would prove very, very worthy and game adversaries there.
Mirror’s finalists: Neumann-Goretti and Lincoln Park
Mirror state champion: Neumann-Goretti
The teams: Math, Civics & Sciences (12-1, 14-13), Panther Valley (11-2, 16-9), Halifax (3-1, 24-2), Christopher Dock Mennonite (1-2, 23-5), Holy Cross (2-1, 20-6), Northeast Bradford (4-2, 12-14), Berlin Brothersvalley (5-1, 20-4), Bishop McCort (6-3, 16-9), Delaware County Christian (1-1, 16-8), Constitution (12-2, 16-11), Bishop Guilfoyle (6-1, 21-5), Brockway (9-3, 13-13), Moravian (11-1, 19-6), Paul Robeson (12-3, 21-5), Muncy (4-1, 17-7), Northwest (2-2, 10-15), Sewickley Academy (7-1, 2-14), Cochranton (10-4, 16-10), Ridgway (9-2, 25-1), North Penn-Mansfield (4-3, 18-10), Purchase Line (6-2, 20-5), Jeannette (6-2, 20-5), Cambridge Springs (10-2, 20-5), Leechburg (7-5, 14-7), Coudersport (9-1, 22-3), Wilmington (10-3, 14-12), Our Lady of Sacred Heart (7-2, 22-3), Homer-Center (6-4, 14-10), Conemaugh Township (5-2, 14-9), Chartiers-Houston (7-3, 19-6), West Middlesex (10-1, 19-6), Springdale (7-6, 13-9)
2017 champion: Sewickley Academy
The outlook: Bishop Guilfoyle is here and ready to go, and the Marauders should be able to play with the best of them.
That’s a good thing, because they probably will have to do just that, very early in the playoffs.
Last year, Guilfoyle had the misfortune to be in the same pod with eventual champion Sewickley Academy, losing in the second round. This time, BG has 2017 state runner-up and perennial contender Constitution of Philadelphia sitting in the way as a potential second-round opponent. And, if it isn’t Constitution, it’ll be a pretty good Delaware County Christian squad, the District 1 champion.
That presumes Guilfoyle beats Brockway, which the Marauders shouldn’t take lightly; District 9 is underrated in this classification. In fact, it would not at all be surprising to see Coudersport and Ridgway win a game or multiple games — Coudy, if it can turn back Sacred Heart in the second round, has a very good shot to meet West Middlesex in the quarterfinals and even might be good enough to knock off the District 10 champ.
Sewickley Academy looks like the favorite in the top quad of the bottom half of the bracket, but Ridgway won’t go quietly against the Panthers in the second round if they meet up. Jeannette probably will await the winner of that game in the quarters.
If Guilfoyle gets through the second round, it’s probably looking at another Philadelphia school — Robeson — in the quarters. Meanwhile, Math, Civics & Sciences is the smart bet to come out of the top quad. The Mighty Elephants actually beat Constitution in districts after losing handily in the regular season. Those schools might meet again with a berth in Hershey at stake.
Mirror’s finalists: Constitution and Sewickley Academy
Mirror state champion: Sewickley Academy
The teams: York Country Day (3-1, 15-5), Plumstead Christian (1-3, 15-9), Nativity BVM (11-2, 14-7), Sullivan County (4-3, 19-6), Millville (4-2, 21-3), Lincoln Leadership (11-3, 8-17), Faith Christian (1-1, 25-2), Berks Christian (3-4, 22-6), Lourdes Regional (4-1, 22-4), Greenwood (3-3, 16-9), Sankofa Freedom (12-1, 17-7), Girard College (1-2, 18-6), Susquehanna (2-1, 17-8), Conestoga Christian (3-5, 16-9), Lancaster Country Day (3-2, 18-7), Blacklick Valley (6-3, 21-5), Vincentian (7-1, 18-7), Cameron County (9-4, 17-7), Shade (5-1, 22-3), Cornell (7-3, 18-7), Elk County Catholic (9-2, 21-6), Jamestown (10-2, 12-12), Bishop Carroll (6-1, 17-8), Imani Christian (7-4, 13-10), Johnsonburg (9-1, 19-7), Eden Christian (7-6, 16-6), Boalsburg Saint Joseph’s (6-2, 20-7), Shanksville-Stonycreek (5-2, 18-7), New Castle Union (7-2, 17-6), North Clarion (9-3, 21-4), Kennedy Catholic (10-1, 18-4), Propel-Andrew Street (7-5, 17-6)
2017 champion: Kennedy Catholic
The outlook: Last year, Juniata Valley made a run to the state quarterfinals and Williamsburg made the second round in this classification, so there’s reason to believe a team like Bishop Carroll, with more interdistrict experience and a very challenging regular-season schedule, could do something similar.
The Huskies open things with Imani Christian, the team Juniata Valley beat in last year’s opening round. If BC makes it through that, then it probably will play a team with a very similar program, Elk County Catholic, this season’s District 9 runner-up. The winner of that game is looking at Vincentian in the quarterfinals, although don’t discount Shade’s chances to sneak past the Royals.
Of course, for all of those teams to get to Hershey, they have to find a way to beat Kennedy Catholic, the reigning champ and annual big beast on the block. The Golden Eagles’ only loss to a team from Pennsylvania this year was to Indiana, so there might be a glimmer of hope, but it will take a special effort to keep the District 10 champs from returning to the Giant Center. Saint Joseph’s or Johnsonburg probably will get a chance at that in the quarterfinals.
Blacklick Valley has an interesting draw in its quad in the top half of the bracket. That is, there isn’t an opponent in the first two games that the Vikings should feel they cannot compete with. They start out with Lancaster Country Day, and, if they win that, probably get District 2 champ Susquehanna.
Things get hairy in the quarterfinals, though, with Sankofa Freedom of Philadelphia the likely opponent, but district champs Faith Christian and Lourdes Regional are also in the same pod.
That actually looks like a stronger group of teams than there are in the top quad, which only has one district champ and only one team that has more than 19 wins.
Mirror’s finalists: Sankofa Freedom and Kennedy Catholic
Mirror state champion: Kennedy Catholic