Eight area basketball teams aim for more PIAA success
- There are eight area basketball teams still alive in the PIAA state basketball playoffs.
- Two of those teams will play each other when the Susquehannock girls meet New Oxford on Thursday.
- The games were originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, but were postponed until Thursday.
And then there were eight.
That’s the remaining number of area basketball teams still competing in the PIAA boys’ and girls’ state basketball playoffs after the first round.
The good news for two of those squads — the New Oxford girls and Susquehannock girls — is that their second-round commutes will be very short.
The York-Adams League rivals will square off Thursday at West York High School, with the exception of the Spring Grove boys, who will now play Friday.
While some of the drives may be shorter, the competition will almost certainly be more difficult. That's typically what happens when you advance through the state bracket.
With wins in the second round, the area teams will advance to the state quarterfinals this weekend, putting them just three wins from a PIAA championship.
Here’s a brief preview of the seven contests involving local squads.
BOYS' CLASS 5-A
Northeastern (3-1, 28-2) vs. Upper Merion (1-2, 17-10) at Manheim Township High, 7:30 p.m. Thursday: The District 3 champion Bobcats lived up to expectations in Friday’s 78-66 triumph over Wissahickon.
Big runs, such as the 17-0 barrage fueled by defensive pressure in the first half, helped build a 20-plus-point lead in the second half. A few dunks, which are always big crowd favorites for the Northeastern fans, also helped spark the surge.
Antonio Rizzuto matched a career-best with 30 points in the victory, while Fred Mulbah chipped in 19. The Bobcats, ranked No. 9 in the state in 5-A by Mike Bullock's City of Basketball Love, advanced to the second round for the first time since 2004.
Northeastern will need to continue to play the same way when it takes on Upper Merion. The Vikings were similarly impressive in their 62-46 victory over Greencastle in the first round. The District 1 runner-up used a 31-5 run in the second half to take control vs. the Blue Devils.
Much like the Bobcats’ District 3 title game against Mechanicsburg, Rizzuto, Mulbah and company will need to find a way to deal with an opponent with size in the front court. Ethan Miller, a 6-foot, 7-inch forward, scored 20 points in UM’s victory. The Vikings also feature skill in the back court in Matt Few, a Holly Cross recruit, who poured in 23 points against Greencastle, a team that Northeastern defeated three times this season.
Spring Grove (3-4, 21-8) vs. East Stroudsburg North (11-1, 18-10) at Martz Hall (Pottsville), 7 p.m. Friday: Spring Grove standout Eli Brooks, a Michigan recruit, wasn’t about to let his second venture into the PIAA playoffs end like his first.
The Rocket senior poured in 26 points, including a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left, to help his team earn the first-ever PIAA victory in program history.
Brooks is now one point shy of Jacob Iati (2,388) in the York-Adams League’s all-time career scoring list. Just a year ago, the Rockets rode into the state playoffs on a high note, but Spring Grove was dominated 74-43 by Spring-Ford, ending their season in disappointment. Friday’s victory was a lot closer. The Rockets led for the vast majority of it, even after Brooks picked up his second personal foul late in the first quarter.
Now,. Spring Grove can turn its attention toward District 11 champion East Stroudsburg North. The Timberwolves proved adept at limiting an opponent’s Division I star Friday when they held Manheim Central’s Taylor Funk, a St. Joe’s recruit, to 21 points in a 58-55 victory. Funk came into the contest averaging nearly 25 a game.
East Stroudsburg North is led by the trio of Arian Azemi, Darin Bellinger and Josh Noble. Azemi, who averages 16.4 points a game, went off for 24 in his team’s victory over the Barons. Noble chipped in 11 in the triumph, picking up some of the slack for Bellinger, a 6-foot, 5-inch forward who averages nearly 13 points a game.
BOYS' CLASS 1-A
York Country Day (3-1, 20-4) vs. Millville (4-2, 22-4) at Hamburg High, 5 p.m. Thursday: The Greyhounds were pushed a little in the first round, but the District 3 champs still motored past Jenkintown, 67-58, Friday.
Known for a good combination of speed and size, YCD used both to get inside the paint against Jenkintown. De’Aireus Brown led the way with 21 points, while YCD's all-time leading scorer, Jordan Ray, chipped in 15. Center Jalen Gorham added another 14.
Millville, the District 4 runner-up, features a trio of talent as well. Jaylen Reichner leads the Quakers in scoring at 11.6 points a game. Senior Kelly Holdren, who averages around nine points a contest, poured in a game-high 18 points in Saturday’s 42-32 victory over Notre-Dame East Stroudsburg. Tyler Johnson averages a shade below eight points a night for Millville.
YCD was ranked No. 6 in 1-A in the latest City of Basketball Love state rankings.
GIRLS' CLASS 6-A
Central York (3-4, 25-4) vs. Cardinal O'Hara (12-1, 23-3) at Reading's Santander Arena, 6:30 p.m. Thursday: The Panthers have been the class of the York-Adams League all season.
While their District 3 run didn’t fare as well as they hoped, Central was able to keep its season alive with a thrilling 42-41 triumph over C.B. West Friday.
The York-Adams League champs overcame a 41-39 deficit in the final minute to pull out the victory. Bloomsburg recruit Emma Saxton found teammate Teirra Preston, who hit a layup while being fouled, to tie the contest. Preston then converted the free throw for the game’s final point.
Central, ranked ninth in the latest @PaGirlsHoops 6-A rankings, survived despite an ongoing offensive slump since the playoffs rolled around. Averaging nearly 60 points a contest, the Panthers failed to eclipse 43 points for the fifth game in a row.
That trend is certainly concerning, especially against a defensive-minded Cardinal O’Hara squad. The Lions, ranked No. 2 by @PaGirlsHoops in 5-A, used their defense to suffocate Upper Dublin, 52-35, Friday. O’Hara, the Philadelphia Catholic League champs, limited UD to just seven points in the first half.
Much like the Panthers, the Lions feature a multi-talented starting lineup. Led offensively by the trio of Drexel recruit Hannah Nihill, Mary Sheehan and Mackenzie Gardler, the District 12 champs can give defenses nightmares. Add in defensive whiz Molly Paolino, who is adept at applying pressure in the back court, and it’s clear why the Lions are ranked one of the state’s top outfits.
GIRLS' CLASS 5-A
Susquehannock (3-1, 24-3) vs. New Oxford (3-6, 22-8) at West York High, 7 p.m. Thursday: This was a showdown that everyone expected in the District 3 semifinals. But it failed to happen after the Colonials played an uncharacteristically poor game in a quarterfinal loss against Twin Valley.
The PIAA bracket, however, helped pair up the two rivals with a ticket to the state quarterfinals at stake. That is good news for both squads, who will not have to venture very far for Wednesday’s clash at West York High School.
The Warriors were able to take advantage of New Oxford’s hiccup by capturing the program’s first-ever District 3 title. They followed that up with the school’s first-ever PIAA triumph, a 48-45 victory over Radnor, Friday evening.
Now they will get the chance to face the Colonials for the second time this season. That first encounter didn’t end well for Susquehannock. They fell to New Oxford 54-40.
The Colonials seem to have been given a favorable draw early in the PIAA bracket. While they faced the District 2 champion (Abington Heights) in the first round, the Comets got there only after upsetting favored Wyoming Valley West to capture the district title. New Oxford was able to use a 17-0 run the spanned the third and fourth quarters to take control en route to a 58-44 triumph.
Now they get to face a Susquehannock team that they know they can defeat Thursday. That’s the good news. The bad news is that standout forward Kaelyn Long, who along with teammate Haley Luckabaugh scored 18 points in the victory vs. Abington Heights, injured her thumb late in Saturday’s contest. Her status at this point is day to day.
GIRLS' CLASS 3-A
Delone Catholic (3-2, 20-7) vs. West Shamokin (6-1, 25-2) at Hollidaysburg High, 5 p.m. Thursday: The Squirettes had little difficult in getting past Mastery Charter South, 58-28, in the first round Saturday.
Much of that margin of victory can be attributed to freshman Brooke Lawyer, who scored a career-high 17 points in the triumph.
Things figure to be lot tougher now.
The District 3 runner-up will have to venture westward to take on West Shamokin in the second round. The Wolves, ranked fourth in the latest @PaGirlsHoops rankings, rolled past Charleroi, 48-35, Saturday.
The District 6 champs figure to be a bit of a mirror-image of Delone. Both teams feature a talented and big front court. The trio of Olivia Fusara, Katie Glover and Andrea Orlosky combined to score 37 points and collect 24 rebounds in the school’s first-ever PIAA victory.
York Catholic (3-1, 21-6) vs. Pine Grove (11-1, 21-6) at Milton Hershey High, 6:30 p.m. Thursday: The Irish may not be at quite the same level as the York Catholic squads that played for state titles seven times from 2006 to 2013.
With Kate Bauhof on the roster, however, the Irish can never be counted out.
The York Catholic standout poured in 25 points in Saturday’s 60-54 victory over Loyalsock. Bauhof saved her best for last, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter, many of them coming at the foul line, where she shoots an excellent 83 percent.
Bauhof, however, is only part of the story for York Catholic. On any given night, the Irish can get double figures in scoring from Abi Pilkey, who scored 16 Friday, Jania Wright, Gina Citrone or Katy Rader. Unlike several other standout York Catholic teams in the past, this one is shooting over 70 percent as a team at the foul line.
The Cardinals, the District 11 champions, are led the dynamic duo of Rachel Edge and Jen Kaufman. Those two combined for 35 points in Pine Grove’s 55-47 victory against Imhotep Saturday.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.