The area boys basketball teams get back to work beginning tonight, as the PIAA Tournament tips off. First up, Church Farm, the Class A champions will face Lebanon Catholic from District 3. On Saturday, the bigger schools take over as three Class AAAA games take center stage. West Chester Rustin faces Central York, Conestoga takes on La Salle and Oxford goes up against Roman Catholic.
Church Farm (23-4) vs. Lebanon Catholic (17-8) at Cheltenham H.S., 5 p.m.The Griffins begin their quest for the Class A title on a hot streak, riding a 20-game winning streak into their matchup with Lebanon Catholic.
Church Farm is making its fifth straight state appearebce, but coach Marc Turner is not taking his opponent lightly.
"They are a very feisty bunch that will get after you,' Turner said. "They remind me of us a lot, actually. They will likely play us man-to-man defensively and that has not happened to our team in quite a while. Most people do not do that against us.
"I really thing they will come after us on both ends of the floor but, that is okay because our guys like to play against an aggressive team. They do not have any weak links on the court and you would not expect them to this time of the season.'
The Panthers are led by wing player Anthony Thomas, who averages a little over 12 points per game. Anthony Pletz is another scorer and rebounder who puts down around 11 points per game.
"Their guards, much like us, attack the basket and like to get to the rim so we play our brand of defense and not allow that,' Turner added. "It should be a very good game because their are no easy ones this time of the season and there really shouldn't be either.' Pick: Lebanaon Catholic is a fairly skilled team, but they have not seen the kind of defensive pressure the district champions will put on them. It should add up to a Griffins' win. Church Farm 65, Lebanon Catholic 48.
Oxford (22-6) vs. Roman Catholic (22-4) at Archbishop Carroll H.S., 3:30 p.m.The ninth-seeded Hornets, who were runnerups in the Ches-Mont League Final Four, have possibly the toughest matchup of the local teams as they draw District 12 champion Roman Catholic, generally regarded as the best Class AAAA team in the state and the tournament favorite.
Oxford coach Sean Harvey knows his team is up against it versus Roman, but they are ready to face the challenge.
"I mean obviously they are very, very good,' Harvey said. "They are like playing a college team. They run, shoot, get out in transition better than almost all high school teams. They have two 1,000-point scorers (Shep Garner, Rashaan London) on their team and they can shoot the ball really well. We are going to mix things up, try some different things and give it our best shot.
"This team I have been so proud of. They have accomplished so much and they are just a great group of kids. We needed the week off because we had so many tough games in a row that started with Rustin, then Great Valley and then right into the districts. We are looking forward to playing the number one team in the state. It is a great opportunity for us.'Pick: Roman Catholic features Penn State-bound Garner and Drexel University signee London, but, the talent pool does not end there. The Cahillities can run, rebound and are very physical. This is a tough spot for the Hornets. Roman Catholic 74, Oxford 58.
West Chester Rustin (17-10) vs. Central York (24-4) at Coatesville H.S., 3 p.m.The Golden Knights, the fourth-seeded from District 1, will lean on star guard Ethan Ridgeway and hot forward Andrew Chobany against the defenisive minded Bearcats, the fourth-pace team from District 3. Central York has been stingy on the defensive end, allowing 43 points a game.
Coach Keith Cochran provides a scouting report on Central York.
"The first thing about them is that they are very well coached,' Cochran said. "They are very patient on offense and they shoot the ball well. They also like to shoot the 3-ball. We are going to have to close out on their shooters right from the beginning.
"Defensively, they like to pack it in a zone, sometimes a little 2-3, or 3-2. They rebound the ball well and they are very patient. we are going to try to speed them up, get them out of their game and try to put the ball in people's hands that are not used to certain situations. We are going to get after them.'Pick: Central York go-to player in junior Sam Saxton, who pours in slightly over 18 points per game. During the season, they won 18 games in a row until falling in the District 3 playoffs. Rustin gets the edge because Ridgeway has really been distributing the basketball expertly lately. The Golden Knights need a big game from center Brendan Halverson, who was impressive against Conestoga in the District 1 third-place game. West Chester Rustin 56, Central York 52.
Conestoga (24-5) vs. La Salle (19-6) at Spring-Ford H.S., 3 p.m.Conestoga has a very tough task as the third seed from 1 takes on the third seed from District 12.
Mike Troy's team knows how to hit the open man, and that knowledge will come in handy against La Salle, a rugged defensive team against whom every possession will be precious.
"La Salle is a very good defensive team that plays hard on both ends of the floor,' Troy said. "They have two quick guards (Najee Walls, Shawn Witherspoon) that can cause you trouble and they are a very disciplined basketball team. They play really hard, they are smart and the have some size in a 6-foot-7 (Dave Krmpotich) in the middle and a couple of 6-3 guys. But, the strength of their team is their defense. This should be a very good basketball game.'
To break down a good defensive team, you need a good play from your guards. Conestoga brings in one of the area's best, Zach Yonda. Pick: LaSalle is a very disciplined, tempo type of team that if allowed to run its sets, can wear a team out. But don't expect Conestoga to let them do that. A lot of people like the Explorers here, but here's a vote for the Pioneers. Conestoga 58, LaSalle 54.