PIAA girls basketball analysis

Breaking down the state girls playoff brackets

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Sydney Reed of Juniata Valley (left) and Alyssa Martinazzi of Bishop Carroll will help lead their teams into the PIAA Class 1A playoffs.


The teams: Souderton (1-1, 25-2), Manheim Township (3-7, 19-7), Easton (11-3, 22-4), Olney (12-2, 13-9), Central York (3-2, 23-4), Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1-6, 22-5), Hazleton (2-1, 15-9), Neshaminy (1-8, 18-8), Cardinal O’Hara (12-1, 21-4), Upper Dublin (1-9, 22-5), Garnet Valley (1-3, 23-4), Elizabethtown (3-4, 19-8), Wilson-West Lawn (3-3, 17-9), Abington (1-5, 20-6), Freedom (11-1, 20-7), Perkiomen Valley (1-10, 21-8), Central Dauphin (3-1, 17-5), Central Bucks East (1-11, 17-10), Spring-Ford (1-4, 24-4), Allentown Williams Allen (11-4, 17-8), Nazareth (11-2, 17-9), Council Rock North (1-7, 19-7), Central Bucks South (1-2, 24-4), Cedar Cliff (3-5, 19-7), State College (6-1, 14-10), Dallastown (3-6, 19-9), Peters Township (7-2, 21-4), Bethel Park (7-4, 17-6), North Allegheny (7-1, 25-0), Upper St. Clair (7-5, 13-10), Altoona (6-2, 20-4), Mount Lebanon (7-3, 13-12)

2017 champion: Boyertown

The outlook: Altoona has the opportunity, and the ability, to be a major spoiler/wild card in this bracket. The Lady Lions have shown the ability to play nose-to-nose with undefeated North Allegheny, the team they’d have to beat in the second round. Of course, they also have to beat Mount Lebanon just to get there — Altoona’s 2-0 against their first-round foes, although the second meeting was too close for comfort.

If Altoona can beat North Allegheny, it actually probably is beating the best team in the bracket. Then again, the Lady Lions have looked surprisingly vulnerable to lesser opposition at times, too.

North Allegheny’s superior guard play makes it the team to beat. Peters Township is likely to be the opponent in the quarterfinal for NA or Altoona — the Lady Indians will try to beat Bethel Park for the fourth time this season in the opening round.

The top quad of the lower half of the bracket includes three teams from the Central Bucks School District, and CB South is a legitimate state title threat. The belief here, though, is that Spring-Ford or Central Dauphin comes out of this group; Spring-Ford nearly beat North Allegheny in the regular season and dropped a close game to CB South in the District 1 semifinals.

Philadelphia Public League power Cardinal O’Hara looms as a force in the upper half of the bracket; it shouldn’t be strongly tested until a quarterfinal contest with either Wilson-West Lawn or Bethlehem Freedom. Souderton looks good in the top quad, but Easton and Central York could present strong resistance there.

Mirror’s finalists: Cardinal O’Hara and North Allegheny

Mirror state champion: North Allegheny


The teams: Harrisburg (3-1, 23-3), Upper Merion (1-6, 14-13), Abington Heights (2-1, 18-7), Solanco (3-6, 17-10), Mastery North (12-2, 17-9), Lampeter-Strasburg (3-5, 23-4), Southern Lehigh (11-1, 24-2), Palumbo (12-4, 8-12), Archbishop Wood (12-1, 18-7), Springfield Delco (1-5, 20-7), Mount Saint Joseph (1-3, 15-10), Twin Valley (3-3, 25-3), Crestwood (2-2, 17-8), Susquehannock (3-4, 22-6), West Chester Henderson (1-1, 28-0), Spring Gove (3-8, 16-10), Lower Dauphin (3-2, 24-3), West Chester Bayard Rustin (1-4, 22-6), Malvern Villa Maria (1-2, 19-8), Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 18-7), Hollidaysburg (6-1, 9-14), Palmyra (3-7, 15-11), Oakland Catholic (7-2, 17-8), Hickory (10-3, 16-8), Gateway (7-1, 21-3), Washington Trinity (7-6, 20-4), Harbor Creek (10-2, 19-5), Chartiers Valley (7-3, 18-7), Obama (6-2, 16-7), Mars (7-4, 19-6), Slippery Rock (10-1, 20-4), Thomas Jefferson (7-5, 20-4)

2017 champion: Archbishop Wood

The outlook: Hollidaysburg makes its return to interdistrict play after a three-year absence. While it looks like a good opening-round matchup on the surface — Palmyra is a seventh-place finisher in its district that finished just above .500 and has to travel to Blair County — it really will be a challenging game for the Lady Tigers. They have two common opponents with Palmyra, losing both, where the Lady Cougars won against those teams convincingly.

That should give you an idea of just how strong District 3 is in this classification and just how good the state as a whole is, because District 1, District 12 and District 7 might have teams that are even better, or are, at least, on a par.

For the last few years, this classification (and Class 3A before the PIAA went to six classifications) was dominated by Archbishop Wood or other teams from the Philadelphia Catholic League, and Wood and Archbishop Carroll definitely will be part of the discussion again when it comes to tourney favorites this year. However, there are some less-than-usual suspects, too.

West Chester Henderson jumps to the forefront. Although the Lady Warriors have had a number of close calls this season, they still are undefeated playing in one of the toughest areas of the state. Henderson will play Wood in the quarterfinals in what might turn out to be the clash between the two best teams in the state.

Southern Lehigh and Harrisburg appear to be the cream of the crop in the top quad. Southern Lehigh actually defeated Class 6A power Cardinal O’Hara and almost beat Carroll, so it has to be considered a legit contender and a likely state semifinalist.

Lower Dauphin vs. Archbishop Carroll has the makings of an interesting second-round game in the bottom half of the bracket, the winner likely to face Oakland Catholic in the quarters. Gateway is the favorite to reach the other half of the semis in the lower half, but watch out for Thomas Jefferson, which has gone 1-2 in three close games with the Lady Gators and has strong sleeper potential.

Mirror’s finalists: West Chester Henderson and Archbishop Carroll

Mirror state champion: West Chester Henderson


The teams: Lancaster Catholic (3-1, 27-0), Overbrook (12-5, 11-12), Lewisburg (4-2, 22-5), Allentown Central Catholic (11-2, 17-11), Audenried (12-2, 15-10), Lower Moreland (1-2, 18-7), Scranton Prep (2-1, 23-2), Wyomissing (3-4, 21-5), Bonner-Prendergast (12-1, 14-10), Northern Lebanon (3-5, 20-9), Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 24-3), Berwick (2-3, 17-8), Gwynedd Mercy (1-1, 16-8), Carver Engineering and Science (12-4, 3-14), Nanticoke (2-2, 21-5), Danville (4-3, 17-8), Berks Catholic (3-2, 21-5), Shamokin (4-4, 19-7), Mifflinburg (4-1, 20-5), Kennard-Dale (3-6, 14-12), Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (3-3, 16-8), Prep Charter (12-3, 13-7), Forest Hills (6-1, 17-5), Central Valley (7-3, 17-6), Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (7-1, 22-3), Keystone Oaks (7-7, 17-5), Punxsutawney (9-1, 18-5), Ambridge (7-5, 13-11), Beaver (7-2, 18-6), Belle Vernon (7-6, 18-6), Erie Villa Maria (10-1, 19-4), Blackhawk (7-4, 19-3)

2017 champion: Bethlehem Catholic

The outlook: Expect District 3 and District 11 to have a huge say in which team ultimately is dancing in Hershey, with Lancaster Catholic, Berks Catholic, Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, Bethlehem Catholic and Allentown Central Catholic all appearing to be very, very strong teams.

Of course, Bethlehem Catholic is the reigning champion, and Lancaster Catholic is undefeated. Either of them would be considered the overall favorite, and the chances that they play each other in the semifinals is really high. BeCaHigh’s biggest road block would be Bonner-Prendergast of the Philadelphia Public League in the second round. Lancaster Catholic needs to get past Allentown Central Catholic in the second round and Scranton Prep in the third.

It’s notable that Lancaster Catholic already holds a win against Allentown Central Catholic. Allentown Central Catholic has dropped a couple of games to Bethlehem Catholic by wildly different scores.

Berks Catholic and Bishop McDevitt are in the top quad of the bottom half of the bracket and probably will meet up in the quarterfinals — no offense to the Forest Hills/Central Valley winner, which will be a good team, just not one that appears quite on McDevitt’s level. McDevitt and Berks Catholic haven’t played this year, but McDevitt only lost to Lancaster Catholic by five, while Berks Catholic dropped two to the Lady Crusaders by double figures.

Cardinal Wuerl — better known in the past as North Catholic — is the likely opponent for either of the District 3 teams in the semifinals. The Trojanettes are looking at a rematch of the WPIAL final with Beaver or a clash with traditional power Erie Villa Maria in the quarters. Cardinal Wuerl beat Villa by six early in the season.

Mirror’s finalists: Lancaster Catholic and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic

Mirror state champion: Lancaster Catholic


The teams: Imhotep Charter (12-1, 20-7), Delone Catholic (3-3, 21-5), North Schuylkill (11-1, 24-3), Mid Valley (2-3, 17-8), Dunmore (2-1, 25-1), Academy Charter (12-4, 12-7), Mount Carmel (4-1, 21-5), Notre Dame-Green Pond (11-3, 17-9), Saint Basil (1-1, 22-5), West Philadelphia (12-5, 9-5), Holy Redeemer (2-2, 22-4), Hughesville (4-2, 16-9), Neumann-Goretti (12-2, 17-7), Pine Grove (11-2, 19-7), Camp Hill Trinity (3-1, 19-2), Loyalsock (4-3, 21-6), York Catholic (3-2, 13-13), Mastery South (12-3, 19-1), Penns Valley (6-1, 20-5), Seton LaSalle (7-6, 10-14), East Allegheny (7-2, 24-1), Martinsburg Central (6-4, 20-5), Brookville (9-1, 18-5), Northwestern (10-2, 15-9), Bishop Canevin (7-1, 20-4), Central Cambria (6-5, 18-8), Everett (6-2, 21-5), Neshannock (7-4, 20-4), Mohawk (7-3, 19-5), Tyrone (6-3, 17-9), Seneca (10-1, 16-9), Laurel (7-5, 13-11)

2017 champion: Neumann-Goretti

The outlook: For a half-dozen years, this has been Neumann-Goretti’s classification to rule, but the Lady Saints look like mere mortals this year, leaving the door open for a handful of other worthy challengers to step forward to try to wrestle the crown from the queen.

Historically, this class, and the 2A classification that was its forerunner before the PIAA went to six classifications, might seem like it was dominated by WPIAL teams like Seton LaSalle and Bishop Canevin, but schools from this part of the state like North Star, Bishop Guilfoyle, Bishop McCort, Northern Cambria and Westmont Hilltop all have shown District 6 and District 5 can be very competitive, and there are some quality regional teams that could make a run.

Everett jumps right out. The Lady Warriors will have to earn it, though, with a very difficult path starting with Neshannock — the team that knocked them out in a close game last year — and then likely 2017 runner-up Canevin — although Central Cambria is familiar with the Lady Crusaders and better equipped to compete with them than they were in last year’s first round. Whoever comes out of this pod seems likely to play in the state semis.

Tyrone, by the way, has a great shot to play in the quarterfinals if it can get by Mohawk in the opening round.

Central got a very tough opening-round draw with East Allegheny, but, if the Lady Dragons can somehow win there, they would be the favorite in the second round and looking at a potential game with Mountain League rival Penns Valley or York Catholic in the quarters.

The top half of the bracket might even be more wide open. To beat Neumann-Goretti in District 12, Imhotep has to be good. Saint Basil and Camp Hill Trinity always are legit, and Holy Redeemer typically plays quality ball, too. A couple of public schools, Dunmore and Mount Carmel, also will be firmly in the mix, and we wouldn’t at all be surprised if one of them is playing at the Giant Center.

Mirror’s finalists: Dunmore and Bishop Canevin

Mirror state champion: Bishop Canevin


The teams: West Catholic (12-1, 12-12), Steelton-Highspire (3-2, 11-10), Southern Columbia (4-1, 17-8), Northwest (2-2, 14-10), Mahanoy Area (11-1, 24-2), Math, Civics & Sciences (12-3, 10-6), Sacred Heart (1-1, 14-10), Tacony (12-4, 13-8), Old Forge (2-1, 12-12), South Williamsport (4-2, 11-14), Motivation (12-2, 10-8), Minersville (11-2, 22-3), Windber (5-1, 20-5), Brentwood (7-4, 17-7), Camp Hill (3-1, 20-4), Penns Manor (6-4, 21-5), Vincentian (7-1, 23-1), Keystone (9-3, 13-12), Blairsville (6-2, 23-3), Tussey Mountain (5-2, 17-9), Reynolds (10-2, 14-10), Serra Catholic (7-3, 16-8), Coudersport (9-1, 21-3), California (7-5, 15-8), Bishop McCort (6-1, 20-6), Greensburg Central Catholic 7-7, 12-11), Chartiers-Houston (7-2, 19-6), Cambridge Springs (10-3, 21-4), Kane (9-2, 24-2), Bellwood-Antis (6-3, 23-3), West Middlesex (10-1, 21-4), Leechburg (7-6, 19-5)

2017 champion: Minersville

The outlook: This classification doesn’t have quite the punch it did last year, but it still should be a pretty good bracket, and there’ll be more entertaining games now that defending champion Minersville has returned to the pack.

Although it was upended in the District 6 semifinals, Bellwood-Antis entertains very realistic hopes of making it to Hershey. The Lady Devils might have the most talented player in the classification in sophomore Alli Campbell, and they have size and shooting and the ability to put up a lot of points. On the flip side, they also are young and haven’t been tested a whole lot. The potential, though, is there. They’ll face a large — literally — obstacle in the opening round with Kane’s size, and then they’ll run into West Middlesex, which probably enters the tournament along with Vincentian as the two teams with the best resumes from the bottom side of the bracket. The winner of that probably will line up against either Bishop McCort or Chartiers-Houston.

Vincentian is the probable semifinalist from the other quad in the bottom half of the bracket. Tussey Mountain would see the Lady Royals in the second round if the Lady Titans could find a way to upset Blairsville in their first game — that will be a tough task because Blairsville is very much like Tussey but a lot more experienced and proven.

Coudersport probably gets Vincentian in the quarters.

The winner of a quarterfinal round game between Philadelphia West Catholic and Mahanoy Area probably will be the state finalist in the upper half of the bracket, the winner meeting Minersville in the state semis. West Catholic is only a .500 team but comes out of the rough Catholic League and is the only team to beat Vincentian this season.

Mirror’s finalists: Mahanoy Area and Vincentian

Mirror state champion: Mahanoy Area


The teams: Lebanon Catholic (3-1, 22-6), Cowanesque Valley (4-4, 15-9), Sankofa Freedom (12-1, 20-4), Greenwood (3-5, 14-13), Weatherly (11-1, 16-8), Christian Academy (1-3, 15-9), Benton (4-2, 16-9), Lancaster Country Day (3-3, 18-7), Lourdes Regional (4-1, 16-9), Harrisburg Christian (3-6, 14-5), Nativity BVM (11-2, 8-17), Sullivan County (4-3, 21-4), Jenkintown (1-1, 26-1), York Christian (3-4, 17-8), Linden Hall (3-2, 18-5), Southern Fulton (5-3, 19-5), Winchester Thurston (7-1, 19-5), Elk County Catholic (9-4, 16-11), Bishop Carroll (6-2, 22-2), Shanksville-Stonycreek (5-2, 17-8), Allegheny-Clarion Valley (9-2, 20-6), Sewickley Academy (7-3, 14-6), Kennedy Catholic (10-1, 18-5), Portage (6-3, 16-9), Juniata Valley (6-1, 22-3), Otto-Eldred (9-3, 21-4), Berlin Brothersvalley (5-1, 23-2), Quigley Catholic (7-4, 15-9), West Greene (7-2, 22-3), Farrell (10-2, 12-11), North Clarion (9-1, 26-0), Cornell (7-5, 8-16)

2017 champion: Lebanon Catholic

The outlook: Historically, District 6 has put its best foot forward in this tournament, and there’s every reason to believe that will continue this year, as all three area teams that have advanced appear to be high quality: Juniata Valley returns all five starters from the team that reached the state finals last year, Bishop Carroll returns all five starters from the team that beat Valley in last year’s district finals, and Portage gave Carroll everything it could handle in this season’s D6 semifinals.

All should run into some major tests en route to a possible trip to Hershey. Juniata Valley is looking at a potentially difficult test against a very good Berlin Brothersvalley team that might not be getting the attention it deserves as a potential state contender. Presuming the Lady Hornets pass that, a matchup with unbeaten North Clarion and all-everything forward Tori Obernarder looms in the quarterfinals.

Carroll probably has the highest ceiling in the bottom half of the bracket, even more than Valley, but the Lady Huskies have had a hard time reaching and maintaining peak performance, and it will be interesting to see if the loss to the Lady Hornets in the district championship woke them up. The Lady Huskies’ path includes likely meetings with athletic WPIAL champ Winchester Thurston in the second round and Kennedy Catholic in the quarterfinals. However, Portage could force a rematch with Carroll if it can pull the upset on the District 10 champs in what is one of the more intriguing opening-round games.

The traditional eastern side of the bracket looks a lot more clear for defending champ Lebanon Catholic. The Lady Beavers’ sternest challenge figures to come from District 1 champion Jenkintown in the state semifinals, a rematch from last season. Sankofa Freedom and Weatherly will try to upend the District 3 champ before that happens.

Mirror’s finalists: Lebanon Catholic and Juniata Valley

Mirror state champion: Lebanon Catholic