On the road to Hershey: BOYS
The teams: Abington (1-1, 24-4), Central Dauphin East (3-6, 16-10), Parkland (11-2, 17-9), Archbishop Ryan (12-3, 20-5), Hempfield (3-2, 19-9), William Allen (11-3, 27-2), Williamsport (4-1, 20-4), Penn Wood (1-7, 18-8), Roman Catholic (12-1, 20-5), Perkiomen Valley (1-8, 22-6), Reading (3-3, 25-3), North Penn (1-5, 21-6), Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1-3, 23-5), Lebanon (3-4, 21-7), Pocono Mountain West (11-1, 22-4), Lower Merion (1-9, 21-8), Harrisburg (3-1, 19-6), Downingtown West (1-10, 17-10), Cheltenham (1-4, 19-7), Emmaus (11-4, 20-6), Abraham Lincoln (12-2, 22-5), Conestoga (1-6, 20-7), Coatesville (1-2, 23-5), Carlisle (3-5, 18-8), State College (6-1, 20-4), Woodland Hills (7-4, 16-9), Butler (7-2, 17-9), Canon-McMillan (7-5, 18-6), Pine-Richland (7-1, 24-1), Latrobe (7-6, 19-4), Taylor Allderdice (8-1, 18-8), North Hills (7-3, 19-6)
2016 champion: New classification
The outlook: The top half of this bracket is brutal: The top two teams in the last state rankings before playoffs started — Allen and Reading — finished third in their respective districts. Both still should be factors in this tournament. And District 1 champion Abington and defending Class 4A champion Roman Catholic, missing most of last year’s top players, are in this half of the bracket, too. Abington and Allen could run into each other in the quarterfinals, which would be a tremendous game.
Led by Miami recruit Lonnie Walker, Reading will have a competitive game with North Penn in Round 1 leading into a collision with Roman in the second round and we would bet on a showdown with Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the quarters.
Playing its best ball of the year right now, Harrisburg seems to have the inside track on a final four spot, although District 1 runner-up Coatesville would be tough in the quarters.
The absolute best matchup in the first round is WPIAL champ Pine-Richland against Latrobe. Don’t be surprised if the winner of that game goes all the way to the semifinals. State College has a reasonable chance to beat two District 7 opponents to face the Pine-Richland/Latrobe winner in the quarters.
Mirror’s finalists: Reading and Pine-Richland
Mirror state champion: Reading
The teams: Penncrest (1-1, 20-7), Hershey (3-10, 13-13), Milton Hershey (3-3, 20-5), Chester (1-5, 20-6), Abington Heights (2-1, 22-3), Lampeter-Strasburg (3-8, 17-11), Martin Luther King (12-2, 20-9), Bishop Shanahan (1-4, 19-9), Mechanicsburg (3-2, 22-6), Springfield-Delco (1-6, 15-11), Archbishop Wood (12-1, 23-3), New Oxford (3-9, 14-11), East Stroudsburg North (11-1, 17-10), Manheim Central (3-7, 21-7), West Scranton (2-2, 14-11), Spring Grove (3-4, 20-8), Northeastern York (3-1, 27-2), Wissahickon (1-7, 15-11), Upper Merion (1-2, 16-11), Greencastle-Antrim (3-5, 18-9), Great Valley (1-3, 20-7), Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 18-8), Pottsville (11-2, 20-7), Palmyra (3-6, 21-5), Hampton (7-2, 16-10), Mars (7-4, 15-9), Central Mountain (6-1, 17-8), Erie Cathedral Prep (10-2, 13-12), Moon (7-1, 20-5), Franklin Regional (7-5, 13-11), Meadville (10-1, 21-1), Chartiers Valley (7-3, 17-7)
2016 champion: New classification
The outlook: There are a couple of really big names in the traditional Eastern side of this bracket, with Chester, just the fifth-place finisher in District 1, and Philadelphia Catholic League power Archbishop Wood. Conceivably, they could run into each other in the final four.
Chester’s prospective road will have the Clippers running into Penncrest in the second round and Martin Luther King in the quarterfinals. Wood, with Villanova recruit Collin Gillespie running the show, doesn’t have a challenge that really seems particularly dangerous before the semifinals.
Upper Merion — the team that sent Chester into the District 1 consolations by three points — and Archbishop Carroll should meet up in the quarterfinals on the lower half of the bracket, although District 3 champ Northestern could give Upper Merion a run for its money in the second round.
With apologies to WPIAL champ Moon and District 10 champ Meadville, the winner of the Mars/Hampton first-round clash seems to have the makings of a state semifinalist. Hampton has won two of the three previous meetings, but the teams split a pair of two-point affairs late in the year. Mars has ace junior Robby Carmody and got all the way to the semifinals in 3A last year — call it a hunch that the Planets find what it takes to make another run this year, but the southeastern PA teams they’re likely to face in the final four might be a little too much.
Mirror’s finalists: Archbishop Wood and Archbishop Carroll
Mirror state champion: Archbishop Wood
The teams: Lancaster Catholic (3-1, 24-4), West Philadelphia (12-4, 13-9), Wilkes-Barre GAR Memorial (2-2, 18-7), Selinsgrove (4-2, 20-6), Conwell-Egan (12-2, 9-14), Saucon Valley (11-4, 14-12), Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 21-6), Nanticoke (2-3, 18-7), Imhotep Charter (12-1, 26-2), Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (3-4, 17-8), Scranton Prep (2-1, 22-3), Salisbury (11-3, 20-7), Jim Thorpe (11-2, 14-11), Universal Audenried (12-3, 18-5), Lewisburg (4-1, 19-6), Berks Catholic (3-3, 21-7), Middletown (3-2, 20-5), Danville (4-3, 17-8), Johnstown (6-1, 15-10), Schuylkill Valley (3-5, 17-10), Quaker Valley (7-2, 22-3), Harbor Creek (10-3, 18-7), Grove City (10-2, 19-6), Central Valley (7-3, 14-10), New Castle (7-1, 23-2), Sharon (10-4, 15-10), Clearfield (9-1, 23-1), McGuffey (7-5, 18-6), Martinsburg Central (6-2, 16-7), Beaver Falls (7-4, 12-9), Erie Strong Vincent (10-1, 23-3), South Fayette (7-6, 13-11)
2016 champion: Roman Catholic
The outlook: Looking at this bracket, it’s hard not to immediately focus on Imhotep Charter. The Panthers are considered an elite team in the country, and they’ve posted some impressive wins against some of the best teams in Pennsylvania as well as the country this winter. There are some other really good teams in the top half of the bracket — Lancaster Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic and Berks Catholic come to mind — but none of them has the pedigree of Imhotep, a 2016 semifinalist in 3A spearheaded by the Division I backcourt of David Beatty (South Carolina) and Daron Russell (Rhode Island).
Central will have its work cut out for it. The Scarlet Dragons open with traditional power Beaver Falls, a team that has made a habit of knocking out area squads the last few years. In fact, that game might be a more daunting hurdle than the prospective second-round pairing with the winner of Strong Vincent and South Fayette.
If the Dragons did win their first two interdistrict games, New Castle would almost certainly await in the quarterfinals.
WPIAL finalists New Castle and Quaker Valley look like the cream of the crop of the bottom half of the bracket, and a semifinal state rematch of the District 7 final looks very likely. It will be interesting to see how Clearfield with its one loss fares against McGuffey in the opening round, needing to win that to get a shot at New Castle.
Mirror’s finalists: Imhotep Charter and New Castle
Mirror state champion: Imhotep Charter
The teams: Neumann-Goretti (12-1, 19-7), York Catholic (3-3, 22-3), Holy Redeemer (2-1, 17-8), World Communications Charter (12-4, 13-13), Lancaster Mennonite (3-2, 23-4), Philadelphia West Catholic (12-3, 5-18), Hughesville (4-1, 16-9), Notre Dame-Green Pond (11-1, 17-9), Valley Forge Military Academy (1-1, 24-4), Parkway Center City (12-5, 13-9), Southern Columbia (4-2, 15-10), Mid Valley (2-2, 23-3), Delaware Valley Charter (12-2, 20-7), Loyalsock Twp. (4-3, 21-6), Camp Hill Trinity (3-1, 22-3), Strawberry Mansion (12-6, 7-14), Central Cambria (6-1, 20-6), Columbia (3-4, 17-8), Westinghouse (8-1, 13-9), Riverside (7-5, 16-8), Fairview (10-2, 21-4), Shady Side Academy (7-4, 18-7), Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (7-1, 21-5), Bellwood-Antis (6-4, 18-7), Karns City (9-1, 17-7), Erie First Christian (10-3, 16-9), Richland (6-2, 21-5), Washington (7-3, 20-5), Lincoln Park (7-2, 21-5), Juniata (6-3, 21-5), Greenville (10-1, 23-2), Seton-LaSalle (7-6, 10-13)
2016 champion: Neumann-Goretti
The outlook: There are a pair of teams from the Mirror coverage area in the lower half of the bracket. Bellwood, a surprise returnee to the state tourney, will have its work cut out for it right off the bat against WPIAL champ North Catholic, but, if the Blue Devils somehow could win there, would have an even-money chance to get into the quarterfinals against the Fairview/Shady Side winner. Bellwood hasn’t gotten to the second round of states since 1996.
Central Cambria has had some PIAA tourney first-round success recently, winning three of its last four tourney openers. First-round foe Columbia comes from District 3, and might be a little bigger of a challenge than one would suspect from a fourth-place finisher in its district, but this looks like a winnable game for the Red Devils, who are riding a nine-game winning streak. A second-round meeting with the Westinghouse/Riverside winner looks very manageable, too, maybe even more than the first-round game.
That would take CC into the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time ever, where a likely clash with North Catholic would occur. Lincoln Park or Washington probably would face the winner in the semifinals.
Neumann-Goretti has owned this classification in recent years, and the Saints still look like the cream of the crop this season. Their battle with York Catholic in the opening round might be the most dangerous encounter before the likely battle with Valley Forge or Delaware Valley Charter in the final four.
Mirror’s finalists: Neumann-Goretti and Lincoln Park
Mirror state champion: Neumann-Goretti
The teams: Marian Catholic (11-1, 21-4), Julia Masterman (12-3, 20-5), Halifax (3-1, 16-10), Muncy (4-3, 14-12) Northeast Bradford (4-2, 15-10), Mountain View (2-2, 11-14), Math, Civics & Sciences (12-1, 18-9), Christopher Dock (1-2, 16-10), Church Farm (1-1, 18-9), Constitution (12-2, 15-9), Scranton Holy Cross (2-1, 18-8), Shenandoah Valley (11-2, 20-4), North Penn-Mansfield (4-1, 21-5), Ridgway (9-3, 21-5), Berlin Brothersvalley (5-1, 16-9), Purchase Line (6-3, 15-9), Sewickley Academy (7-1, 20-4), Rocky Grove (10-4, 21-4), Bishop Guilfoyle (6-2, 17-7), McConnellsburg (5-2, 20-5), West Middlesex (10-2, 11-15), Greensburg Central Catholic (7-4, 23-1), Coudersport (9-1, 24-0), United (6-4, 14-12), Bishop McCort (6-1, 21-4), Jeannette (7-5, 12-12), Our Lady of Sacred Heart (7-2, 18-7), Cambridge Springs (10-3, 21-4), Brockway (9-2, 16-10), Bishop Canevin (7-3, 19-5), Wilmington (10-1, 18-7), Chartiers-Houston (7-6, 19-5)
2016 champion: Aliquippa
The outlook: Can Bishop Guilfoyle make a run here? Quite possibly. Only extraordinary jump-shooting teams usually make noise living on the perimeter at this level in the playoffs, but the Marauders are that kind of team, and the bracket is one in which Guilfoyle at least has the appearance of being able to compete. BG should be able to dispatch McConnellsburg in the opener, which will lead to a huge second-round test with District 7 champion Sewickley Academy. A win there probably would get Guilfoyle a chance to face another WPIAL team, Greensburg Central Catholic, in the quarterfinals.
These are excellent teams, but also teams which don’t appear to completely overmatch the District 6 runners-up.
Canevin and Sacred Heart appear to be the strongest entries in the bottom quadrant of the bracket. It will be interesting to see how a young Bishop McCort team deals with Jeannette in the first round, which would take the Crushers into a clash with Sacred Heart before facing Canevin in the quarters.
The two best teams in the field, though, are in the traditional East: Constitution and Math, Civics & Science from the Philly Public League. They’re looking at meeting for the fourth time this year in the state final four, and the previous three meetings have been decided by a total of 10 points. Flip a coin between the two, who met in last year’s 1A semifinals.
There aren’t many obvious choices of opponents that could stand in the way of that contest happening. Marian Catholic and Shenandoah Valley might be the next two best teams in the top half of the bracket, but neither looks as imposing as Constitution and MCS.
Mirror’s finalists: Constitution and Sewickley Academy
Mirror state champion: Constitution
The teams: York Country Day (3-1, 19-4), Jenkintown (1-3, 16-9), Millville (4-2, 21-4), Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg (11-3, 12-13), Nativity BVM (11-2, 13-11), Lourdes Regional (4-3, 19-7), Girard College (1-1, 20-8), West Shore Christian (3-4, 15-10), Lincoln Leadership (11-1, 15-8), Lancaster Country Day (3-6, 16-9), St. John Neumann (4-1, 25-0), Mount Calvary (3-3, 18-9), Lancaster County Christian (3-2, 22-5), Faith Christian (1-2, 24-4), Sankofa Freedom (12-1, 15-10), High Point (3-5, 18-8), Monessen (7-1, 18-7), North Clarion (9-4, 14-11), Shanksville-Stonycreek (5-1, 24-1), New Castle Union (7-3, 18-7), Johnsonburg (9-2, 12-13), Jamestown (10-2, 8-16), Saltsburg (6-1, 24-1), Vincentian (7-4, 19-5), Elk County Catholic (9-1, 26-0), Eden Christian (7-5, 12-10), Williamsburg (6-2, 15-10), Southern Fulton (5-2, 19-5), Imani Christian (7-2, 15-7), Juniata Valley (6-3, 11-13), Kennedy Catholic (10-1, 21-2), Otto-Eldred (9-3, 15-10)
2016 champion: Kennedy Catholic
The outlook: Two local entries are in the lower quadrant of the bracket, and both will be severely tested to make it beyond the second round.
District 6 runner-up Williamsburg has a game it is capable of winning in the opening round against fellow Inter-County Conference member Southern Fulton, although the Blue Pirates look like a slight underdog to the Fulton County power, which has plenty of PIAA tourney experience. Should the Pirates win there, it’s a daunting matchup with undefeated Elk County Catholic, another program that seems to have a spot reserved here every year.
If Williamsburg’s path is tough, Valley’s is riddled with huge obstacles. First, there is WPIAL runner-up Imani Christian right off the bat. If the Green Hornets find a way to pull that off — and Valley is one of those teams that can really surprise at times — their reward is Kennedy Catholic, the defending state champion and probably the team to beat again.
The prediction here is Kennedy dispatches Elk County in the quarterfinals and either Monessen or Vincentian in the semis.
For the second year in a row, Bishop Neumann comes into the tournament undefeated, and it hopes to make a better showing than last year, when it lost in the first round. The added classifications should help Neumann, but something about that potential second-round matchup with District 11 champ Lincoln Leadership looks like it could be problematic.
York County Day looks like the best bet to come out of East, beating either Lincoln of Faith Christian in the semis.
Mirror’s finalists: York Country Day and Kennedy Catholic
Mirror state champion: Kennedy Catholic