PIAA hoops predictions: Big test in quarters
Northeastern ran wild en route to lopsided PIAA tournament win. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
It doesn't matter what bracket or how many classifications the PIAA decides to add to the state basketball tournaments. When the tournament fields are reduced to their final eight teams, the games take on a different feel.
This is where players can make a name for themselves at the state level, and this is where behind-the-scenes work of coaching staffs can really shine through.
With five York-Adams teams still alive, expect some of the most challenging games of the season to take place this weekend.
Here's a look at quarterfinal action:
Susquehannock (25-4) vs. Southern Lehigh (27-1)
1 p.m. Saturday at Spartan Center, Milton Hershey
Breakdown: Southern Lehigh has made school history, reaching a state quarterfinal for the first time. The Spartans blew out Mastery Charter North in the second round and now have just four losses during their last 57 games. The Spartans have equaled the program's record for single-season victories by winning 27 games for the second straight season. The Spartans are led at the offensive end by 5-foot-11 sophomore forward Olivia Snyder (15 points per game) and junior point guard Amanda Mobley (12 ppg).
Snyder is a double-double threat, scoring 16 points and pulling down nine boards in a 44-29 first-round victory against Dover, a YAIAA Division II foe Susquehannock defeated three times this season.
Both the Spartans and Warriors have balanced offenses, but Susquehannock will need to figure out how to stop Southern Lehigh's big frontcourt that stands 5-11, 6-0 and 6-1, without being plagued by foul trouble that hurt the Warriors in the first round. Anna Mahan, Jaden Walker and Tyler Williams will be tested.
Susquehannock will need to limit Southern Lehigh's offensive outbursts. The Spartans have won every game this season by at least 10 points. The Spartans' only loss this season came in early February at Class 6A powerhouse Cardinal O'Hara, a squad that just dismissed Central York in state play.
Seip's prediction: Southern Lehigh by 9
York Catholic (22-6) vs. St. Basil Academy (29-0)
2:30 p.m. Sunday, Santander Arena, Reading
Breakdown: Even before the tournament began, this was the round where the Irish knew they could face their most difficult opponent of the season. The quarterfinal round would be tricky because even if St. Basil fell in the second round, the Irish would most likely have to play state tournament rival Dunmore (five state games played in six years 2009-14).
St. Basil Academy is no stranger to Irish fans, either. The two programs met in the state tournament in 2015, with St. Basil winning in the second round, and they met two years earlier in the state semifinal, when the Irish won.
St. Basil, along with Class 2A Minersville, is one of just two undefeated girls' programs left in the state. St. Basil is led by 6-foot-3 center Natalie Kucowski, who is averaging 17 points per game, and is a triple-double threat for the Montgomery County school. The Lafayette recruit has more than 500 career blocks. And beware, she can knock down 3-pointers.
Seip's prediction: St. Basil by 3
Northeastern (29-2) vs. Archbishop Carroll (20-8)
2:30 Saturday at Garden Spot H.S., New Holland
Breakdown: Lesson learned from the second round of the state tournament: Don't doubt Northeastern. The Bobcats destroyed a much taller lineup from Upper Merion, and Northeastern never trailed. Even when the Bobcats' lead slipped to three in the second half, Northeastern went on a run to squash any comeback thoughts.
Northeastern's swagger — see various alley-oop dunks and its relentless defense — hasn't diminished in the state tournament.
Granted its quarterfinal matchup will be the biggest test of the year, with Philadelphia's (District 12) third-place team rolling into Lancaster County for the game. But it's a winnable game for Northeastern.
CityBasketballofLove.com had Carroll ranked seventh and Northeastern ninth in its last state rankings of the season. The good news is Northeastern is facing the lesser of the powerhouse Archbishop programs out of Philadelphia. (Archbishop Wood is on the opposite side of the bracket from the Bobcats.)
Carroll is coming off a lopsided win against Palmyra, with 6-6 senior forward Jesse McPherson converting his final seven shots after missing his first two attempts of the game. Freshman 6-3 guard A.J. Hoggard is another Carroll player to watch.
Seip's prediction: Northeastern by 5
Spring Grove (22-8) vs. Archbishop Wood (25-3)
7 p.m. Sunday, Santander Arena, Reading
Breakdown: Archbishop Wood is the favorite to win the entire tournament after winning District 1 and Philadelphia Catholic League titles. Wood has a seven-man rotation that could ultimately feature four Division I college commits.
Best matchup on the floor will be guard Collin Gillespie, who committed to Villanova in January, possibly going against Michigan commit Eli Brooks. Brooks, who grew up a Villanova fan, had an offer on the table from the Wildcats but the suburban Philadelphia school couldn't close the deal as the Wolverines' John Beilein locked up Brooks in the recruiting game early on.
Keep an eye on 6-8 junior forward Seth Pinkney. Spring Grove will have trouble containing him with no true post player on its roster.
Wood will come in with an extra day of rest after playing Thursday, while Spring Grove didn't play its second-round game until Friday night.
Seip's prediction: Wood by 10-plus
York Country Day (21-4) vs. Girard College (22-8)
1 p.m. Saturday at Garden Spot H.S., New Holland
Breakdown: The Greyhounds have advanced one round further than last season's squad, but they run into their biggest challenge this season in District 1 champion Girard College from North Philadelphia.
A five-day-a-week boarding school for economically disadvantaged children, Girard underwent serious changes in its athletic program last summer when the school named former Drexel player and former Drexel assistant coach Bobby Jordan its athletic director. About a month later, Jordan hired Clyde Jones to coach the boys' basketball team. York fans might remember Jones as the head coach at Penn Wood when they won it all in 2009 by defeating York's William Penn in the Class 4A state championship.
Freshman Mikeal Jones (22 ppg) could be the best player for Girard, standing 6-7 and weighing 200 pounds, but Daquon Copeland (20 ppg) is also a force.
Expect York Country Day to play its toughest game since the regular season. This is where York Country Day's improved non-league schedule could help.
Seip's prediction: Girard College by 2