Two weeks to go for District 6 1A-4A seedings
Tonight would have originally marked the start of the District 6 playoffs, but thanks to a decision by the PIAA to shorten the PIAA tournament and allow only champions into the field, teams have two more weeks before the final rankings are set for Class 1A through 4A.
With only champions advancing to the state playoffs, the playoff picture is a little less complicated, and unfortunately some very talented area teams will not make the PIAA field. Fortunately for those teams, as long as they have not already competed in 22 games, they can continue their regular seasons if they chose to do so following their elimination from the district playoffs.
Let’s take a look at each class, boys and girls, and try to see which teams have the best chance of hoisting district gold in March. The Class 5A and 6A teams still have three weeks left to count games, so we’ll leave that analysis out of this column.
There won’t be a better playoff field in District 6 than the Class 4A boys tournament. Tyrone, Bedford and Johnstown all could still finish as the top seed. Central is also in the mix and has only lost to Tyrone (twice) and Class 3A favorite Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic. Penn Cambria, which had been on a roll lately before losing to BG on Friday, is in danger of not even making the five-team field despite having the ability to knock off any of the high seeds if it is playing its best.
If I had to pick today, I’d probably take Tyrone over Johnstown in the final due to the Eagles’ senior experience and the fact they have played so many games already this year against very good competition. But we’ll have to see how these next two weeks play out.
On the girls side, Tyrone and Bedford seem to be the top two teams, and the Lady Eagles have to be considered the favorite after the emergence of sophomore Kayelin Gibbons on a team that made the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals last year and just knocked off Class 5A favorite Hollidaysburg.
Philipsburg-Osceola, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, Westmont Hilltop and Marion Center are near the top of the rankings right now, but in my eyes, tonight’s BG at Westmont game could be a preview of the district final. The Marauders, playing up at Class 3A due to the PIAA’s success formula, have never won a title in 3A.
On the girls side, with all due respect to defending champion Cambria Heights, Forest Hills will be a tall task for anyone to knock off, not just in District 6, but the state.
In the boys’ bracket, with defending champion BG up to 3A, it seems as though Portage will have to navigate a field of tough Heritage Conference competition to win the school’s first-ever boys basketball district title. West Shamokin has won its first 14 games, and United’s only losses are to District 5 Class 1A power Berlin Brothersvalley and West Shamokin.
The Mustangs have been testing themselves outside of the WestPAC and have done a solid job, with the lone blip being a two-point loss to 4A Penn Cambria.
The Heritage Conference also seemingly rules the 2A girls rankings, but Bellwood-Antis and Claysburg-Kimmel have solid teams that could pull off an upset in the early rounds.
Williamsburg and Bishop Carroll Catholic seem like good bets to meet again in the District 6 boys final, and the Blue Pirates have a lot more weapons back than the Huskies, who do play in a very tough league that makes them better as the season goes on every year.
Speaking of that, don’t discount Saltsburg, which is hovering around .500 in a very competitive Heritage Conference.
Bishop Guilfoyle is going to be very hard to stop in Class 1A on the girls side, but Portage coach Lance Hudak has played the underdog role against the Lady Marauders before and nearly pulled off the upset. The Lady Mustangs have looked impressive while going 13-0 this season but just don’t play the type of schedule BG does, so until they meet, it will be tough to imagine how they match up.
Michael Boytim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BoytimMichael