Road to Hershey 2017: State Championship Semifinal Preview
The wait is unbearable for more exciting, March Madness basketball this weekend. However, there is plenty of exciting basketball to be played before the Sweet 16 takes place on Thursday. The PIAA state playoffs are heating up as we enter the semifinals this week. Many local teams find their way in the mix for a state title. History is written, heroes are remembered, and memories are made on this road to the final four of each classification. None of these boys are ready to go home just yet.
2A State Semifinals – Tuesday, 7 PM – Philadelphia University
12-1 Math, Civics, and Sciences (21-9) vs. 12-2 Constitution (19-9)
One of the top rivalries in the Philadelphia Public League, this will be the 8th time these two programs face off in the past two seasons. MCS and Constitution played each other last season in the Class A State semifinal. These two teams will be facing off for the fourth time this season. The Mighty Elephants lead the season series two wins to one. The first three games were decided by a total of 9 points.
Math, Civics, and Sciences is coming off a 87-52 victory over Masterman in the quarterfinals. 1st team All-Public selection, Malik Archer, is the top offensive threat for Math, Civics, and Sciences. Archer is averaging 21 PPG. The Mighty Elephants have some depth as well. Seniors Tymair Johnson, Maqi Watson, Ahmad Wimbash have been big contributors all season to their team’s success. Juniors Anthony McFall and Kwahzere Ransom play huge parts as well.
Constitution handled Ridway 59-40 in their quarterfinal match up. The Generals of Constitution are led by 1st team All-Public selections, Seniors Tamir Green and Maurice Waters. The Generals’ success is really centered around this duo. Constitution receives big contributions from (Sr.) Jamaal Brown, (Jr.) Tyree Mitchell, and (Fresh) Keshaun Hammonds.
Expect nothing less than a high energy, high intensity, hard fought, Philly-style rivalry game. The only thing that would make this exciting season series even more exciting would perhaps be a buzzer-beater.
3A State Semifinals – Tuesday, 6 PM – Temple’s Liacouras Center
12-1 Neumann-Goretti (22-7) vs. 12-2 Del-Val Charter (23-7)
Another matchup with two teams that are very familiar with each other. Although Neumann-Goretti and Del-Val come from two different leagues, they have faced off against each other in the previous two, District 12 3A title games. Del-Val snapped the Saint’s city title streak in 2016, while the Saints got their revenge with a 65-58 victory a few weeks back.
Neumann-Goretti is seeking their 4th consecutive state title, along with a 7th crown in the past eight seasons. Head Coach, Carl Arrigale’s squad is led by McDonald’s All-American Quade Green (Kentucky) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Villanova). Mike Milsip, an East Stroudsburg recruit, has given the Saints a huge lift in the state playoffs as well. (Jr.) Noah Warren, (Soph) Christian Ings, (Jr.) Marcus Littles, and (Sr.) Temple football recruit, Emil Moody, provide a lot of depth to this Saints squad. Neumann-Goretti beat Lancaster Mennonite 69-56 in the quarterfinals.
At the helm for the Del-Val Charter Warriors is Head Coach, James Lewis. Lewis and his team took down a Valley Forge team, led by Lewis’s son, 61-46. The Warriors are led by 1st team All-Public guards Mahki Morris (Sr.) and Antwuan Butler (Jr.). Butler is coming off of a 21 point, 6 rebound performance in the quarterfinals. (Sr.) forward Dion Harris is a force to be reckoned with for the Warriors as well, who was four blocks away from a triple-double last week.
This game is going to feature great guard play. Once again, this will be a tough, intense, up tempo matchup as District 12 represents extremely well in the PIAA semifinals.
4A State Semifinals – Tuesday, 6 PM – Freehold HS, Bethlehem, PA
12-1 Imhotep Charter (29-2) vs. 2-3 Greater Nanticoke (21-7)
The Imhotep Charter Panthers enter this game as the #6 high school team in the country according to USA Today. Imhotep is led by Philadelphia Public League MVP, and Rhode Island bound guard, Daron Russell. Rightfully so, the Panthers’ skipper, Andre Noble, was awarded Coach of the Year. Russell is coming off of a 24 point performance in the Panthers quarterfinal victory over Audenried 70-51. Alongside Russell is 4 star recruit, and South Carolina commit, David Beatty. Beatty scored 19 points and had 7 steals in last week’s win. Imhotep’s pressure defense is a huge part to their success.
Length is also another factor. The Panthers underclassmen, such as Sophomores Donta Scott 6’7, Chereef Knox 6’6, Jamil Riggins 6’6, Dahmir Bishop 6’4, and Freshman Elijah Taylor, 6’8, make it hard for teams to move the ball. Koby Thomas (Sr.) and Bernard Lightsey were All-Public selections as well, making huge contributions to their team’s success. The Panthers have won 20 straight games. Imhotep has won four state titles since 2009.
Greater Nanticoke finds their way in state semifinals for the first time since 1985. The Trojans downed West Philadelphia last week, 78-62. John Beggs’s squad is led by their big three of Luke Butczynski, Trajhan Krupsinski, and Cody Piestrak. This big three has accounted for 167 three-pointers this season for the Trojans. Piestrak is coming off a 20 point performance, while Butcyznski added 18 in their quarterfinal win. Krupsinski adds to the size of Greater Nanticoke at 6’5. Justin Casey, a 6’5 Senior, is a threat as well offensively. Nate Kreitzer has been a contributor all season as well.
Imhotep has their sights on a state title and nothing less. Greater Nanticoke is excellent from the perimeter and does not turn the ball over often. Expect Imhotep to continue to pressure the ball and try to dictate the tempo as Greater Nanticoke will try to slow the game down and play their half-court game.
5A State Semifinals – Tuesday, 7:30 PM – Freedom HS, Bethlehem, PA
12-1 Archbishop Wood (26-3) vs. 2-1 Abington Heights (25-3)
Two teams on winning streaks will face off on Tuesday, but only one of them can continue. The Philadelphia Catholic League Champions, Archbishop Wood, enter this semifinal on a 20 game win streak. The District 2 Champions, Abington Heights, enter this semifinal on a 10 game win streak.
The Vikings of Wood are led PCL co-coach of the year, John Mosco. Mosco’s squad is led by PCL MVP and Villanova commit, Collin Gillespie. Gillespie is having a season to remember, as he leads the Vikings into their first ever state playoffs. Tyree Pickron (Jr.) surpassed the 1,000 career point mark during a career best, 32 point performance last week in Wood’s 71-46 victory over Spring Grove.
Matt Cerruti (Sr.) and 6’10 Seth Pinkney (Jr.) are key contributors to the Vikings as well. Pinkney had 10 blocks in his last game. Archbishop Wood is extremely deep as they run a consistent 9 man rotation out there.
The Comets of Abington Heights are led by 747 game winner, Head Coach Ken Bianchi. Abington Heights is one of the dominant programs of the past two decades in District 2. The Comets have won 20 games in 17 of the last 19 seasons. This is their 11th straight state playoff appearance. Recently, the Comets knocked off powerhouse Chester, and Martin Luther King in back to back wins.
Abington Heights is led by (Jr.) Jackson Danzig, an athletic big man who has scored 86 points in the last 4 games. 7 foot center, Seth Maxwell is coming off an 18 point performance. (Soph) George Tinsley, a 6’5 forward, is a huge contributor to the Comets success as well. Tinsley grabbed 18 boards in a win over MLK.
If I did not have night class tomorrow, I would be getting a ticket to this game tomorrow night. This matchup is most interesting to me. Both teams are extremely balanced, both champions, have centers of 6’11 and 7’0, with two big time scorers in Wood’s Gillespie and Abington Heights’s Danzig. Both coaches are fantastic and experienced to say the least, with programs of two different histories. This is not Mosco’s first rodeo in the state playoffs though, just his first with Wood. This will be a matchup of two very well coached, and very well rounded programs. Expect a goodie.
6A State Semifinals – Tuesday, 7:30 PM – Temple’s Liacouras Center
12-3 Archbishop Ryan (24-5) vs. 3-3 Reading (28-3)
This is a battle of the Red teams, as the Red Raiders of Ryan will face off with the Reading Red Knights.
Archbishop Ryan is making a name for themselves with the stellar season they have had. Joe Zeglinski is the Head Coach for the Red Raiders. Zeglinski’s squad is led by two of the Philadelphia Catholic League’s leading scorers Izaiah Brockington (NJIT commit) and Matiss Kulackovskis (Bowling Green commit). Brockington, a 6’4 Senior southpaw, and Kulackovskis, a 6’7 Junior forward are legit scorers, both capable of scoring 30 points any night. Chris Palantino and 6’9 West Chester commit, Fred Taylor, are big contributors to the Red Raiders as well. Archbishop Ryan is coming of a solid, 60-50 win over Hempfield.
Reading is led by Head Coach, Rick Perez. Perez’s squad feeds off of its core of reliable senior leaders. 5 star recruit, and Miami commit, Lonnie Walker leads the way for Reading. Walker is a McDonald’s All- American as well. Walker dropped 20 points and grabbed 8 boards in their 70-61 quarterfinal win over Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Tyrone Nesby also scored 20 points in the game against P-W. Isiah Cook and Jose Batista are key components to the Red Knights success as well.
This is a solid matchup between teams with big time scorers. Expect a solid offensive game, and perhaps and unsung hero to help solidify his team’s way to the state final. Big stops early on may dictate the outcome of this tough matchup.
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