Paths to victory: L-L teams preparing for state playoffs
It’s state playoff time and March Madness is hitting its stride in Lancaster County. Eight L-L teams start their journey for a state title this weekend with most facing tough odds. Let’s go over what each team will have to do to be successful in their first round matchups.
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THE GAME: Cedar Crest (25-5) vs. Spring-Ford (22-4)
PLACE AND TIME: Milton Hershey High School on Saturday at 6:30pm.
HOW CEDAR CREST CAN WIN: The Falcons are perhaps the L-L’s best chance at a formidable run in the boys state playoffs with a L-L title under their belts as well as a silver medal in the boys District Three Class AAAA tournament. To start that run however, they’ll have to contain Spring-Ford’s balanced offensive attack that sports three players averaging double-digit points (Nick Stanek, Drew Kakareka and Gary Hopkins). Crest will have an advantage inside with 6’6 Andrew Eudy so a big game from him will give the Falcons much better odds to advance.
THE GAME: Manheim Central (24-4) vs. Archbishop Carroll (21-4)
PLACE AND TIME: Lackawanna College on Friday at 7:30pm.
HOW CENTRAL CAN WIN: The Barons are having their most productive season in program history after a Section Three title (first since 1980) and a silver medal in the boys District Three Class AAA tournament. Usually the Barons have a height advantage with 6’5 junior Matt Walsh and 6’7 freshman Taylor Funk that forces opponents into mismatches. However, they’ll be running into a huge team in Archbishop Carroll on Friday night that includes 6’9 junior center Ernest Aflakpui and 6’6 junior forward Derrick Jones. In fact, the Patriots have just three players on their roster listed at under 6’0. If the Barons are going to pull an upset, they’ll have to take extreme care of the basketball, be successful at playing small and light up the scoreboard from beyond the arc.
THE GAME: Lancaster Mennonite (20-7) vs. Somerset (16-8)
PLACE AND TIME: Richland High School on Friday at 6pm.
HOW LANCASTER MENNONITE CAN WIN: The Blazers are a scrappy, well-balanced and senior-laden group that just barely got into the state bracket after defeating Boiling Springs in the District Thee seventh-place game. Their rough path to the state tournament doesn’t describe the kind of offensive outburst that Mennonite is capable of however. The Blazers deflect their height disadvantages to most teams by turning the game into a track meet. This can help Mennonite come back from any deficit but it has proven that it can also have an adverse effect while playing with the lead. As long as the Blazers avoid a long cold spell within the course of the game, they will be in a position to win.
THE GAME: Columbia (16-9) vs. Constitution (23-5)
PLACE AND TIME: South Philadelphia High School on Saturday at 5pm.
HOW THE CRIMSON TIDE CAN WIN: Columbia is running into perhaps the favorite to win the boys Class AA state title in District 12 champion Constitution. The Tide will have to find a way to contain 6’6 Ahmad Gilbert who averages over 25 points per game. That problem is, if Columbia contains Gilbert, they have to worry about 6’1 guard Kimar Williams who averages 19 points per game. Columbia is a gritty, hard-nosed team under first-year coach Matt Johns and most likely sees this game as an opportunity to make a name for themselves despite the odds. Though they appear to be out-gunned, don’t expect the Tide to go quietly into the night.
THE GAME: Lebanon Catholic (17-8) vs. Church Farm (23-4)
PLACE AND TIME: Cheltenham HS on Friday at 5pm.
HOW THE BEAVERS CAN WIN: Much like their Section Four colleague Columbia, Lebanon Catholic drew a team in the first round that could win it all in Church Farm. Both teams are sporting three players that average double-digit points but Church Farm is currently riding a 20-game winning streak that collected a District 1 title along the way. If the Beavers want to stifle the Griffins’ run, it will come down to the basics; creating second-chance points and limiting turnovers.
THE GAME: Manheim Township (27-2) vs. WC Rustin (21-6)
PLACE AND TIME: Coatesville High School on Friday at 6pm.
HOW THE BLUE STREAKS CAN WIN: Unfortunately, Township’s two losses on the year have come in their last two games. After going 27-0, the Streaks fell to Wilson in the girls District Three Class AAAA semis before losing to Cumberland Valley in the consolation game. Township should be slightly favored in this matchup simply because of the headaches that 6’2 forward Alexandra Leslie causes for teams. If the Golden Eagles take away Leslie, the Streaks will have to rely on 6’0 forward Kaitlyn VanTash to make shots. WC Rustin has their own dynamic dup in 1000-point scorers Adashia Franklin and Noelle Powell but if Township can control the tempo and not fall behind early, they should be successful.
THE GAME: Lebanon (21-7) vs. North Penn (24-3)
PLACE AND TIME: Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School on Friday at 7:30pm.
HOW THE CEDARS CAN WIN: This isn’t a very lucky draw for Lebanon as they’ll get a North Penn squad that is riding a 10-game winning streak that included a District 1 championship win over Spring Ford. If Lebanon wants to keep it close, they’ll have to lock down on defense and keep the Maidens from going off from three-point land. North Penn has made 33 three-pointers in five playoff games.
THE GAME: Lancaster Catholic (25-3) vs. Villa Maria (15-10)
PLACE AND TIME: Spring-Ford High School on Saturday at 4:30pm.
HOW THE CRUSADERS CAN WIN: Lancaster Catholic is the perennial wild card because of their unique pressing style. In thirty-second year coach Lamar Kauffman’s system, the Crusaders are going to aggressively pressure the Hurricanes from start to finish. Eventual District Three Class AAA champion West Perry was able to break the Crusaders press in the D-3 semis mainly because Lancaster Catholic wasn’t sinking enough shots in order to properly set up the press. To be successful, the Crusaders will need to jump start their offense early in order to create havoc on defense.