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DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Two to watch: Penn Wood guard Tyree Johnson, left, a wizard with the ball, will be too much for William Penn-York. Juan’ya Green, right, is just one of the weapons Archbishop Carroll will unleash on Greensburg Salem.

 
CAMP HILL, Pa. – Come 11 p.m. tomorrow, Southeastern Pennsylvania could become the region of champions.Four area boys’ basketball teams are competing in the PIAA state championship games that begin today at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

Two of the squads – Penn Wood (Class AAAA) and Imhotep Charter (Class AA) – are living up to their state-championship hype from the preseason. And with John Johnson in the lineup, folks had to figure that Girard College would come close to reaching the Class A final.

Archbishop Carroll’s appearance in the Class AAA championship is totally unexpected. Some people are still shocked about the Patriots’ quarterfinal victory over state-championship favorite Neumann-Goretti.

But Carroll, Penn Wood, Imhotep Charter and Girard College are the teams in position to bring state titles back to Southeastern Pennsylvania. And all four teams are making their first final’s appearance in school history.

I predict that three teams will bring home state titles, while the other leaves State College heartbroken.

Here’s my look at the PIAA state boys’ basketball championship games that begin today at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center:

 

Class AAAA, Penn Wood (27-4) vs. William Penn-York (32-1)

Player to watch: Penn Wood’s Tyree Johnson, 5-foot-9 junior point guard.Skinny: Penn Wood and William Penn are mirror images. Both squads prefer an up-tempo game. Both squads love to utilize pressure defense. And both squads have towering inside players.

Projection: A wizard with the ball, Johnson will break William Penn’s pressure defense and set teammates Duane Johnson and Aaron Brown up for easy baskets. Afterward, all three will be cutting down the nets… Read Entire Article Here

RALPH WILSON / Associated Press
Archbishop Carroll’s D.J. Irving drives to the basket against Greensburg Salem’s Jake Mathews.

 By Keith Pompey (Inquirer Staff Writer)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – It’s time to fill up the gas tank, get on the expressway, and head to Archbishop Carroll High School. That’s where the state’s best Class AAA boys’ basketball team plays.

As the PIAA state championships are in full swing, it’s clear supremacy reigns in Radnor.

Greensburg Salem knows. So do the 8,427 fans that attended last night’s PIAA state championship games at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

They witnessed Carroll’s 75-54 dismantling of Greensburg Salem in the Class AAA final.

“It’s the best feeling of my life,” said Patriots forward Kasheef Festus, whose squad is ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer. “I feel as though we just made history.”

They did.

The Patriots became the first Philadelphia Catholic League team to win a state title in this, the league’s first season as an active PIAA member. They also became the first District 12 team to win a Class AAA state title.

The historic moment didn’t come as a surprise.

After beating Catholic League Blue Division rival Neumann-Goretti in the quarterfinals, Carroll was on its way. The Saints were heavily favored to win the crown.

Just like they did against Neumann-Goretti, the Patriots (27-3) showed a lot of determination last night. As a result, the Golden Lions (23-6) didn’t have a chance.

Carroll was just too big and too fast for Greensburg Salem…Read Entire Article Here

On those nights when Imhotep Charter finds itself in a jam, crumbling in front of big crowds, it still has one element separating it from every other team.

The Panthers have Dave Appolon in uniform.

Appolon guided Imhotep to last night’s 58-53 PIAA Class AA state second-round victory over Notre Dame Green Pond at Spring-Ford.

The 6-foot-3 reserve point guard hit a pair of foul shots with 30 seconds left, pushing the Panthers from a shaky three-point lead to a position to win their 28th consecutive game.

Teammate Sam Prescott iced the game with a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds remaining. But it was Appolon’s overall performance that won the game.

The sophomore made 3 of 6 three-pointers to finish with 16 points, along with two steals and two assists, in 16 minutes. Eleven of his points came in the second half. And they came during clutch times, stopping several Crusaders rallies.

“I was just trying to work hard,” said Appolon, whose squad is ranked second in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer. “If not, our season would have been done. So I just had to make shots.” … Read Entire Article

Christopher Martin was adamant.

“Come on, Keith, you know the PIAA doesn’t want Neumann-Goretti to win it all,” he said. “Why else would they have to play last season’s state champion and state runner-up in the first two rounds?”

Martin, a reader I spoke to over the phone yesterday, was misinformed.

The Class AAA boys’ basketball brackets weren’t designed to make things rough for the Saints. They were predetermined based on a team’s finish in its district tournament.

That’s why the District 12 champion Saints had to face defending state champion Steelton-Highspire (District 3’s fifth seed) in first round. That’s also why Neumann-Goretti will meet reigning state runner-up Susquehanna Township (District 3’s third seed) in tonight’s second-round matchup at Reading High School.

“That’s all right,” Martin said of my explanation. “Neumann-Goretti is going to beat Susquehanna Township anyway.”… Read Entire Article

Chances are, Plymouth Whitemarsh will contend for next season’s Class AAAA state title.

The Colonials will return four starters from this season’s squad, three of their top four reserves, too.

When Plymouth Whitemarsh takes the court next season, the Colonials might even show signs of invincibility.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to win it all this season. Heck, back-to-back state titles are better than one. Last night, the Colonials made notice that their focus is on winning this season’s title. Next season can wait.

Plymouth Whitemarsh defeated Norristown, 72-50, in a Class AAAA state second-rounder at Spring-Ford.

“We don’t care about next year,” said Colonials junior forward C.J. Aiken, whose squad in ranked 10th in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer. “We want to focus on this year.”… Read Entire Article Here

Some of us were led to believe the Philadelphia Catholic League was invincible.

Even during Chester’s and Lower Merion’s Class AAAA state championship seasons, some of us Philadelphians weren’t impressed by our suburban counterparts. We said those teams would have finished no higher than third in the Catholic League.

We really believed that. We boasted about it. And we made fun of anyone who disagreed.

That’s why some of us were overjoyed when the Catholic League became a member of the PIAA’s District 12 this season. We envisioned instant Class AAAA state championship titles.

Catholic League schools have too much speed. They boast too many Division I prospects. District 1, which is composed of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s suburban schools, doesn’t have a chance. Or so we thought.

If we learned one thing Saturday, it’s that the Catholic League’s perceived invincibility was nonsense.

Pennsbury blitzed North Catholic in a first-round matchup. Out of the game from the start of the second quarter, North was held to a season-low 26 points.

Less than two hours later, Central Bucks South defeated Roman Catholic, 62-57, in a major upset.

The Cahillites are Pennsylvania’s top-ranked Class AAAA team, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News. With McDonald’s all-American Maalik Wayns back from a knee injury, Roman was supposed to be a state champion in waiting. Or so we thought… Read Full Article Here

Class AAAA

Roman Catholic (18-8), District 12, No. 1 seed.

First round: Central Bucks South, tomorrow at Archbishop Ryan, 2:30 p.m. Player to watch: Maalik Wayns, 6-foot-1 senior point guard. Projection: The Cahillites will post impressive victories until they run into Norristown in the semifinals. Still, they triumph and go on to cut down the nets at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

Southern (16-11), 12-2. First round: Plymouth Whitemarsh, tomorrow at St. Joseph’s Prep, 1 p.m. Player to watch: Jamir Hanner, 6-6 junior forward. Projection: The scrappy Rams will be shown the door by PW’s youthful group.

North Catholic (17-8), 12-3. First round: Pennsbury, tomorrow at Council Rock South, 1 p.m. Player to watch: Rakeem Christmas, 6-9 sophomore forward-center. Projection: In a toss-up game that could go either way, North loses… Read Entire Article Here

Instant classic.

That’s the best way to describe what happened yesterday at Malvern Prep.

When Travis Robinson made a layup with five seconds remaining in overtime, the Friends’ Central boys’ basketball team all but clinched the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament title.

A desperation three-pointer by Germantown Academy’s Cameron Ayers rimmed out at the buzzer, and the jubilant Phoenix escaped with a 60-58 overtime victory.

“I knew I was going to finish,” Robinson said of his game-winner. “I had to. I had to step up for my team.”

The victory enabled Friends’ Central, ranked No. 9 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, to finish the season at 28-2. Germantown Academy ended its season at 25-6.

If not for Robinson and Malique Killing, the Patriots could have been the players celebrating a victory.

Killing, a reserve point guard, hit a three-pointer to knot the score, 58-58, with 20 seconds remaining in overtime.

On the ensuing possession, Killing stripped the ball from a Germantown Academy guard near the Patriots’ foul line. Robinson got it, raced up the court, and scored the decisive layup.

The junior shooting guard finished with a team-high 21 points. He scored six of Friends’ Central’s nine overtime points.

Sophomore guard Devin Coleman, who forced overtime with a pair of free throws, added 17 points.

Senior center Jeff Holton (24 points) and Ayers (14) led Germantown Academy.

In the girls’ championship game, Germantown Academy defeated Notre Dame Academy, 65-39, in an all-Inter-Ac League final.

The Patriots, ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, finished with a 31-0 record.

The eighth-ranked Irish finished the season at 24-7. Three of Notre Dame’s losses were against Germantown Academy.

Yesterday, the Patriots were led by junior guards Maggie Lucas and Jesse Carey.

Lucas scored a game-high 21 points, while Carey added 17. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s no shortage of candidates for The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania boys’ basketball player of the year award.

But three players stand out. One is listed among the nation’s premier players. Another surpassed a major career milestone. And the third is the backbone of arguably the PIAA’s most renowned program.

Here is a look at the three players (in alphabetical order). The winner will be announced after the season.

SNORTH

RON CORTES / Staff Photographer Roman Catholic's Maalik Wayns (front) is the nation's 19th ranked senior.

Rahlir Jefferson

School: Chester

Position: Forward/center

Height: 6-foot-6

Class: Senior

Skinny: Despite playing out of position, the Temple signee has posted 21 double-doubles in 25 games. Jefferson is averaging 17.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.1 steals, 3.4 blocks and 3.1 assists per game. As one of two returners from last season’s Class AAAA state champions, he is a major reason the young Clippers are 21-4. Jefferson does everything from diving for loose balls to instructing teammates on where to line up. The lockdown defender is the major reason Chester advanced to this season’s state tourney. Once Jefferson gets in the open court, the former swingman is a highlight in waiting.

Dalton Pepper

School: Pennsbury

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Class: Senior

Skinny: The West Virginia signee has surpassed 2,000 career points, with 2,108 and counting. The four-year starter is averaging 24 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.9 steals this season despite sitting out a lot of fourth quarters. A big-time performer, he has averaged 26 points and around 10 rebounds in head-to-head matchups with McDonald’s all-Americans Dexter Strickland (St. Patrick, N.J.), Wally Judge (Arlington Country Day, Fla.) and Xavier Henry (Putnam City, Okla.). Pepper is regarded as the nation’s 50th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2009, according to the Bob Gibbons All Star Report.

Maalik Wayns

School: Roman Catholic

Position: Point guard

Height: 6-1

Class: Senior

Skinny: The Villanova recruit was named Roman’s sixth McDonald’s all-American Wednesday. The old-school Philly point guard is averaging 17.7 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3.5 steals. He has missed the Cahillites’ last seven games after suffering a cartilage tear in his right knee Jan. 26. Even at 80 percent, the playmaker is better than most of the top players in Southeastern Pennsylvania. His impact on a young team showed during two games against Archbishop Ryan. With Wayns, Roman won, 63-36. Without him, the Raiders took a 61-56 overtime victory. It’s easy to see why he’s the nation’s 19th-ranked senior, according to Bob Gibbons. Read the rest of this entry »

By Keith Pompey

Inquirer Staff Writer

There’s been plenty of excitement surrounding basketball games between Archbishop Ryan and Monsignor Bonner.

Who can forget Andrew Rogers’ converting a one-on-one with 0.8 seconds remaining to beat Bonner in last season’s Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals?

Folks still are talking about the Friars’ double-overtime victory over the Raiders on Friday.

Thanks to that recent history, last night’s matchup had a lot of pregame hype. But it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Read the rest of this entry »

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