Next up in our three-part series, we take a look at the girls' and boys' Class AAAA brackets.
GIRLS' CLASS AAAA (full bracket here)
The big player here is obviously Red Lion, one of the three No. 1 girls seeds from the YAIAA. The Lions 19-2 regular season mark earned them top honors in the district rankings.
That said, Red Lion coach Don Dimoff was none too pleased with how his team's side of bracket shook out. Really, it was hard to blame him.
An opening round game against the winner of Carlisle-Cumberland Valley is hardly a gimme, and after that the Lions may be looking at a matchup with No. 8 seed Central Dauphin. The Rams feature senior wing Alyssa Thomas -- who will be playing her college ball at Maryland next year. If Red Lion gets past that hurdle and makes the semifinals, it could run up against No. 4 Cedar Crest or No. 5 Reading. The Lions beat Reading in their season opener, 41-38.
Of course the Lions would like to tote some momentum into districts, and they can do that by beating West York in the county championship on Saturday night. Don Dimoff's team has shown a penchant for winning close games, and it did so again Thursday in a league semifinal win against Delone Catholic.
"We were down two and I told them, I said, 'You know what? Things haven't gone our way. We haven't played particularly well, (but) this is our game,'" Dimoff said of his team's win over the Squirettes. "And they stepped up and did what they had to do in the fourth quarter."
"I think it's a group of girls that have been through the ringer. They won some close games last year in districts. They learned what it took to win. They learned (how to come) together."
Besides Red Lion, four other YAIAA teams will compete in this bracket, and all will participate in play-in games on Friday. No. 12 Spring Grove, which was left out of the YAIAA tournament, will host No. 21 Wilson. The Bulldogs finished 14-10 in the Berks Division I this year. No. 13 South Western will host Hershey, which finished 13-8 this year and scored a 45-37 victory over Spring Grove in late December. The Mustangs also beat the Rockets this year.
Finally, a pair of York-Adams teams will square off Friday when No. 14 New Oxford hosts No. 19 Dallastown. The Colonials won the two meetings between the teams this year by 17 and 9 points, respectively.
Which of these play-in teams has the best chance to make surprising district run? If I had to pick one, I'd go with Spring Grove. Wilson is a good-but-beatable opponent, and while toppling Reading would be an upset, it's not out of the question.
BOYS CLASS AAAA (full bracket here)
We have to start with No. 4 William Penn (21-3) which will compete in Saturday's YAIAA championship game against Eastern York. The Bearcats are playing some of their best basketball right now, and showed in a 58-49 win against York Suburban on Thursday that they can win by playing more than just their run-and-gun style.
"You're going to have to win games any way you can," William Penn coach Troy Sowers said. "I think we showed some of the diversity we have."
Put bluntly, the Bearcats will need all aspects of its game against what figures to be a treacherous district bracket. Assuming the Bearcats survive a first-round pairing with either Carlisle or Lampeter-Strasburg, they'll likely be staring at a date with No. 5 Red Land. That team features a pair of towering forwards -- 6-foot-10 Steve Zack and 6-foot-9 Mike Zangari. William Penn has some size down low, but nothing compared to the interior muscle it boasted last year with Malik Generett and Malachi Leonard. The Bearcats' bigs would have to step up in a big way against the Patriots -- or, perhaps William Penn's stellar guard play and transition game could neutralize their size disadvantage.
Win that game, and William Penn would likely be staring at a semifinal matchup with No. 1 Hempfield (23-0), which has blown away its competition so far this year. It's tough to compare the two, although Hempfield and William Penn had three common opponents this year: West York (WP won, 63-50), Pocono Mountain East (WP lost, 91-87) and J.P. McCaskey (WP won, 98-94). Obviously, Hempfield beat all three teams.
Essentially, a clash between these two teams could be something of epic proportions, although William Penn would have to play the role of underdog.
While William Penn battles for the District 3 title that eluded it last year, three other YAIAA teams be in action in Friday's play-in round. No. 12 Red Lion will try to right the ship when it hosts No. 21 Governor Mifflin. The Lions have lost five of seven going into the game, most recently losing by 20 points to York Suburban in Tueday's YAIAA tournament semifinal. Mifflin sneaked into the playoffs with an 11-11 record, but is no pushover. It beat Dallastown a few weeks ago (which beat Red Lion recently) and lost to Wilson (the No. 2 seed in the district) by one point its last time out.
Also on Friday, No. 11 Central York will host No. 22 Dallastown. In a tantalizing twist, Dallastown probably wouldn't have qualified for districts if not for a win against Central two weeks ago. The Panthers will have to rein in Wildcats sharpshooter Four McGlynn, the league's leading scorer. The winner of that game gets No. 6 Daniel Boone, which finished 20-4 but didn't necessarily face the toughest schedule. Certainly, an upset in that game wouldn't out of the question.