The first round of the District One Class AAAA boys basketball tournament last Friday could scarcely have gone better for the Delaware County contingent. Wednesday’s second round, not so much. But teams getting over the first hurdle last week earned the chance to play on through playbacks for PIAA Tournament berths nine and 10. Three Delco teams populate the top couplet of games for one spot, while Chester has a one and four chance of capturing the other in the bottom half of the playback bracket. Oh yeah, and Ridley still has a chance to capture a district title. Here’s a tidy 10-point rundown of what’s going on this evening.
No. 9 Ridley at No. 1 Conestoga, 7
1. What’s there to say about these teams that hasn’t already been said (or done) in their three meetings this season? Stoga scored a 53-34 win Dec. 16, then Ridley pushed them to overtime before falling, 42-41, in Conestoga’s first game after Andrew Diehl’s wrist injury. Then the Green Raiders clinched a Central League title in a 70-64 win two weeks ago. So yeah, not many secrets here.
2. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but if there’s an area where the Pioneers have a potential edge, it can be through Daniel Vila in the post. Ameer Staggs proved again against Great Valley’s bulky Ryan Buchholz in the second round that he can successfully defend a more physical player. But Vila has the size and length to be a difference maker (and open up space in the lane for Diehl, Darryl Caldwell and Martin Dorsey on drives) if he applies himself.
3. I’ve covered Ridley three times in the last three weeks, so forgive me if I’m short on things to say. So let’s go with this: The Green Raiders have five players averaging at least 7.3 points per game. All five – Staggs, Brett Foster, Nick Czechowicz, Ryan Bollinger and Julian Wing – have scored in double figures in at least eight games this season. That means that shutting down just one player doesn’t torpedo Ridley’s chances.
No. 28 Penncrest at No. 20 Springfield, 7
4. These teams played twice in quick succession down the stretch, Penncrest claiming a 53-49 decision on the road Jan. 22 before Springfield closed out the regular season with a 53-48 win at Penncrest. Those scores illustrate how tight this game will be, and it’s a a clash of very similar styles.
5. Penncrest needs more from its guards. In the first-round win over Penn Wood, Tyler Norwood, Drew Hanna, Nolan Carroll and Mike Doyle combined for 39 points. Against Lower Merion, when the team lost scoring just 36 points, that foursome contributed 18 points. Carroll is the one to look for in particular. The senior has 61 3-pointers this season, but just two in the last four games. Since he’s attempted just 18 free throws and made just 25 two-pointers all season, it seems that knocking down long-range shots would be the path of least resistance for him to get on track.
6. The matchup of the game, for me, is in the post. While Quideer Wimes and AJ Taylor might not match up with each other directly all the time, whichever of that pair has the better night will put his team in a great position to win. Taylor nearly shifted the balance against Lower Merion and showed just how much potential he has, and Wimes has been consistently strong of late for the Cougars, which saw its seven-game winning streak snapped by Plymouth-Whitemarsh Wednesday.
No. 25 Great Valley at No. 17 Academy Park, 7
7. Someone’s going to need to handle Great Valley’s Ryan Buccholz. The Penn State defensive end signee is a handful at 6-5, 240, and he’s not just a static, space-filling big guy. He can create off the dribble, poses a credible threat to shoot from 3 if you ignore him and can work his way out of trouble with more than just brawn. The key will be Lashon Mapp fronting him to deny post entry and being smart in leaving him to contest drivers to the hoop.
8. The magic number is 56. Great Valley wants to play in the 40s. AP struggled in a game played in the 50s against Conestoga (barely shooting well enough to hit the 30s Wednesday). The Knights need to use the home-court intensity, force the pace, establish the press and speed Great Valley up. Here’s a stat that’s hard to argue with: When Great Valley gives up 56 or more points this year, it is 0-7. Seeing as the trio of Travis Smith, Jawan Collins and Rich Caldwell (the latter two of whom combined for just nine points against Stoga) average 47 per game combined, this should be doable.
No. 14 Coatesville at No. 11 Chester, 7
9. This isn’t your typical Chester-Coatesville matchup. The teams have met four times in district title games, and Coatesville, which lost to No. 3 Pennridge Wednesday, has historically held its own against the Clippers, winning five of 14 meetings. This is a winner-go-home proposition, which ratchets up the pressure tremendously, and you can bet that both teams would be disappointed ending their seasons anywhere but in the PIAA Tournament.
10. Chester’s top three scorers in the second-round loss to Abington Wednesday were guard/forward Marquis Collins, forward Jamar Sudan and center Maurice Henry. Against Coatesville’s front line that runs 6-6 (Justus Martinez), 6-4 (Dondre Pittman) and 6-3 (Jordan Young), those guys have to step up big. Then again, the backcourt (outside of Collins) has to do better than 6-for-22 from the field, and Keyonte Watkins can’t have just three points if Chester wants its season to have one or more games remaining.