Blogs > Gettin' Schooled

A boys basketball blog hosted by Daily Times reporter Christopher A. Vito

Saturday, March 21, 2009


The basketball season is over, but not before three Delaware County teams brought home state championships.

Penn Wood, picked as favorites at season's outset, stepped up to that high praise and claimed the Class AAAA crown by topping William Penn-York, 72-53, at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center Saturday.

Senior All-Delco Duane Johnson and sophomore Aaron Brown chipped in with 20 points apiece, Tyree Johnson had 14 and Will Brown added 12 for the Patriots, who wrapped up their first state-title season with a 28-4 record.

The Archbishop Carroll boys did it Friday, then the girls followed suit by beating Lampeter-Strasburg for the Class AAA championship.

Erin Shields and Hollie Mershon each put in 13 points for the Patriots, who finished their season 30-1 with the 68-45 rout of the Pioneers. Kerri Shields tallied 12 in the last game of her fantastic Carroll career.

That's all there is to report from Happy Valley. Make sure to read it all in the Sunday Times and thanks for your readership through basketball season, both at Gettin' Schooled and Live at the PIAA Championships.

The spring sports season is here, but I need a blogging breather. I'll take a few days off from the blogosphere but keep reading the Daily Times until I get back.

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One team is coming home with the hardware. The other one had a hard night.
Archbishop Carroll's boys basketball team claimed the PIAA Class AAA title over Greensburg-Salem (game story). The Patriots said afterward that their rigorous schedule - which featured three games vs. Neumann-Goretti and meetings with Roman Catholic and Norristown - got them ready for this stage (sidebar).
For Cardinal O'Hara, the trip to Penn State wasn't so memorable. The Lions girls basketball team lost to unbeaten Mt. Lebanon in the PIAA Class AAAA final (game story). A magical end to the Lions' season was not meant to be. Once ranked No. 1 nationally, the Lions lost star center Steph Holzer in the third quarter before losing the game (column).
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There, you will find up-to-the-minute updates by the Daily Times staff on Archbishop Carroll's bid for the PIAA Class AAA girls title and Penn Wood's claim on the PIAA Class AAAA boys crown.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009


Duane Johnson dunks so often, he usually does not think twice about it. The Penn Wood captain had to Wednesday night in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinal.

The senior forward, pictured, drew a technical foul when he dunked on Mt. Lebanon five minutes into the Patriots' 79-58 win over the Blue Devils. A second T would have made him ineligible for Saturday's title game, so Johnson had to pull back on his second dunk later on.

There's a chance that the tech was issued because the folks at Big Spring High School, the site of the game, don't see dunks all that often. Big Spring's public-address announcer Wes Bawer asked media members who cover Penn Wood, "Are we going to see some slamma-jammas tonight?"

According to Bawer, only one player had dunked in Big Spring's six-year-old gymnasium. It occurred during a holiday tournament and the slam was by a Muhlenberg High player. Wondering if there would be multiple dunks, Bawer concluded, "I don't think the backboards can stand more than one."

Johnson dunked once more, teammate Shawn Oakman threw one down and a Mt. Lebanon player softly rattled the rim in the second half, with the rout already in progress.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The field is complete.

Delaware County has gone a perfect 4-for-4 in sending its playoff teams to the PIAA state basketball championship games. Archbishop Carroll boys and Cardinal O'Hara girls won Tuesday to do it, then Penn Wood boys and Archbishop Carroll girls joined the party.

Perfect was the talk around Penn Wood Wednesday. Sophomore Aaron Brown went 10-for-10 from the floor, scored 22 points and led the Patriots past Mt. Lebanon, 79-58, at Big Spring High School in Newville. The Pats will play York in the Class AAAA final Saturday.

At Reading's Geigle Complex, the Carroll girls punched their PIAA title-game ticket by getting past Trinity, 49-45. The Patriots will take on either Lampeter-Strasburg or General McLane (the game wasn't decided as of this post) Saturday night in the Class AAA title tilt at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

More to come in Thursday's Daily Times. Again, we have to get on the road. (It's a 2-hour, 45-minute drive from Big Spring.)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Penn Wood's opponent Wednesday in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinal has made a habit of rallying in games. Mt. Lebanon, of Pittsburgh and District 7, posted a comeback win over quarterfinal draw Erie Cathedral Prep, 51-41.

Here's how the Blue Devils (24-5) did it:
Exhibit A. Evan Pierce (pictured), a junior guard who scored zero points in the first half, went off for 15 in the final nine minutes of the game.

Exhibit B. Deion Turman, a junior 6-8 center, posted an all-around game - with seven points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. He also threw down a dunk with 2:57 remaining, one that broke open the game and broke Erie's hopes.

Apparently, Turman's size is not a fluke. The entire lineup has a lot of size, much like Penn Wood's. In that regard, the cross-state opponents will match up well.

And then there's that rallying thing. Let's not forget that Penn Wood erased Pennsbury's 16-minute lead midway through the third quarter to advance to this round, the Western State title game.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


The PIAA unveiled its state-semifinal sites and times for this week. And they favor the local gas stations. Looks like everyone will be driving at least 45 minutes to see any of Delco's four remaining basketball teams.

Archbishop Carroll fans caught the luckiest of breaks. Both the boys and girls teams are playing only a 70-minute drive away, in Reading, on separate nights. It's even better for Cardinal O'Hara girls fans, who only have a 45-minute drive to endure to Ro-Fo.

Sorry, Penn Wood backers. You (and your favorite boys basketball beat writer) are making the 2-hour, 45-minute commute out west. Newville, by my estimations, is about 15 miles west of Harrisburg. Should (not) be a fun drive.

Here are the details you need to know:

Class AAA Boys: Archbishop Carroll vs. York Suburban
***At Reading High's Geigle Complex, 7:30 p.m.

Class AAAA Girls: Cardinal O'Hara vs. Downingtown East
***At Spring-Ford High, Royersford, 7 p.m.

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Class AAAA Boys: Penn Wood vs. Mount Lebanon
***At Big Spring High, Newville, 7 p.m.

Class AAA Girls: Archbishop Carroll vs.
***At Reading High's Geigle Complex, 6 p.m.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009


When Penn Wood knocked off Bartram Wednesday night, the reality set it: the Patriots are Delco's sole survivors in the state playoffs.

Well, sort of.

You've got the Penn Wood Patriots in the Class AAAA bracket and the Archbishop Carroll Patriots in the Class AAA field. Penn Wood beat Bartram, 78-53, at O'Hara, and Chester bowed out of the AAAA tournament with a 62-49 loss to Williamsport.

It seems like both teams have their stiffest tests yet in this weekend's quarterfinal round. The Lansdowne Pats will face Pennsbury in a Saturday tilt that is without a site or time. The Main Line Pats will see league rival Neumann-Goretti at Archbishop Ryan at 7 p.m. Friday.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Wednesday morning, the PIAA announced sites and times for the Class AAA boys and Class AAAA girls quarterfinal rounds. Only two Delaware County teams remain in those classifications, and here's where they will be Friday night:

Boys PIAA Class AAA Quarterfinal
Archbishop Carroll vs. Neumann-Goretti
**Friday, at Archbishop Ryan High School, 7 p.m.

Girls PIAA Class AAAA Quarterfinal
Cardinal O'Hara vs. Lower Merion
**Friday, at Spring-Ford High School, 6:30 p.m.

More to come, when the AAAA boys and the AAA girls play tonight.

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Monday, March 9, 2009


The sites and times for second round games in the PIAA Class AAAA and AAA playoffs have been announced.

And if you have interest in following your favorite Delco teams, you better hit the gas stations before you hit the road. With exception to one game, each site is at least an hour away:

Strath Haven (15-12) vs. York Suburban (25-3), 7:30 p.m.
***At Garden Spot H.S., New Holland
Archbishop Carroll (23-3) vs. Shamokin (24-1)
***At Parkland H.S., Allentown

Chester (24-4) vs. Williamsport (22-3), 7:30 p.m.
***At Martz Hall, Pottsville
Penn Wood (24-4) vs. John Bartram (18-8), 7 p.m.
***At Cardinal O'Hara

The rest of the Class AAAA and Class AAA brackets . . .

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Sunday, March 8, 2009


The feelings Glen Mills coach Craig Mellinger expressed openly outside his team's HersheyPark Arena locker room Saturday night were those of remorse. Maybe there was some regret dashed in there too.

Mellinger, who has been around long enough to win his 300th game this season (pictured), has been down this road before. He knows that the Battlin' Bulls' first state playoff team since 2004 might have been their last for quite some time. There is never any certainty which student-athletes will be back next season at Glen Mills, a school for court-adjudicated youths.

"How many am I guessing I'm losing? Every single kid in our locker room," Mellinger said after the Bulls' 59-44 loss to Central Dauphin East in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament. "And that's always a huge question-marked proposition. A, who's going to still be committed to the court system, and B, who will be in a situation where maybe it's not conducive for him to go back home and they need to stay here and get processed.

"Honestly, and I'm not being facetious – we're probably going to lose every kid in there, so we'll have to start over again."

It also does not help the Bulls' cause that they lose 6-10 All-Delco center Aaric Murray, a La Salle signee who you can pencil in for a double-double almost every night. Murray, who prior to three years ago had never played organized basketball, was considered a project at The Mills.

"All of these guys, from the moment they set foot on our basketball court, are our kids and our projects," Mellinger said. "Some, their learning curve is going to be a lot quicker. Other guys, we’re willing to work with any and all. We just got done saying to these guys, ‘It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with you all.'

"…From November and until now, I don't think they realize how far they've come. I think they'll reflect back on it in a couple of weeks and they'll understand it."

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Here are some links from Saturday's high school action:

Chester 66, Red Land 50: Click for the story; Click for photo slideshow by Eric Hartline.
Penn Wood 51, Penn Manor 46: Click for the story; Click for video by Bob Gurecki.

Archbishop Carroll 59, West York 42: Click for the story.
Camp Hill 54, Sacred Heart 41: Click for the story.
Delco Christian 51, Greenwood 45: Click for the story.

Springfield's Andre Petroski, the reigning Daily Times wrestler of the year, took the bronze medal in the 189-pound division at states. Jon Campbell has the story. He and Daily Times sports editor Rob Parent tag-teamed (wrestling term, get it? Albeit a WWE one) the state championships, where Springfield had four wrestlers make states and three win medals.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009


Sometimes, you just can't have it all.

Five Delaware County boys basketball teams advanced to the state playoffs, and four shored up spots in the second round. Glen Mills' loss Saturday means only those four remain.

Here are the details from Saturday's games:

Chester 66, Red Land 50 - Why is Rahlir Jefferson (pictured) so excited? He and the Clippers are movin' on. In the process, Jefferson recorded his first triple-double of his career (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and became the Clippers' all-time leading rebounder.

Penn Wood 51, Penn Manor 46: The Patriots trailed, 25-19, at halftime only to roar back in the second half. Aaron Brown and Duane Johnson had 15 and 12 points respectively for the Pats.

Central Dauphin East 59, Glen Mills 44: Aaric Murray concluded his career with 14 points and 11 rebounds but the Battlin' Bulls could not stop Demond Bates, who went off for 20 of his game-high 27 points after halftime.

Of course, you're all aware of what Archbishop Carroll and Strath Haven did Friday in the Class AAA field. Now it's onto the next round.
One more thing: here's a shot of Chester's Learon Pray (nine points) by Daily Times staff photographer Eric Hartline, who busted his tail all weekend. He shot the Chester game at HersheyPark Arena, then ran across the street to the Giant Center to take shots of the state wrestling finals.
It's safe to say we're all happy this weekend is coming to a close.

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Friday, March 6, 2009


The first two teams on the chopping block in the state playoffs passed their opening-round tests.

Archbishop Carroll and Strath Haven both survived the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. Carroll knocked off District One champ Phoenixville, 56-50, and Strath Haven bested District 12 runner-up Franklin Learning Center, 76-56.

For Carroll, junior guard D.J. Irving and senior center Kasheef Festus each netted 20 points on their way to the Patriots' first win in the state playoffs in school history.

For Haven, senior guard Calvin Newell poured in 18 points by halftime - half of the Panthers' 36 points through two quarters - in their first-round rout.

Wins by Carroll and Haven were only the beginning. Five teams from Delaware County are in the state playoffs. The Del Val League triumvirate of Penn Wood, Chester and Glen Mills square off in opening-round games Saturday in the Class AAAA bracket.

For more on the boys basketball scene, pick up a copy of Saturday's Daily Times.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


There are certain things coaches are willing to look the other way on:
  • A turnover amidst a flurry of assists? Surely.
  • A missed dunk during a blowout? Of course.
  • A home playoff game in states? Ummm . . . .

Hazleton Area coach Mike Joseph was furious with the decision to play Tuesday's PIAA Class AAAA play-in game at the site of the opponent: Glen Mills.

It's where the Battlin' Bulls were 9-3 entering the game. And it's where four players, including Aaric Murray (pictured) scored in double figures in Glen Mills' double overtime win.

"You know, we didn't get ourselves caught up with why we had to do it," said Joseph, whose team ended its season 20-7. "I think the PIAA really needs to re-think the idea of this play-in situation because this team (Glen Mills) didn't win a championship of any kind. We played in a championship game in our district. They played in playback games. For them to get a home game, for either team to get a home game or an advantage, I think, is unfair.

"We didn't sit around for the last few days and think, 'Oh boy, we have to go down there and play.' We looked at it as a positive thing, and another test for us."

For Joseph, he saw it this way: Hazleton, despite losing the District 2-4 combined region title, claimed the District 2 championship for a fifth time in six seasons.

For the PIAA, the governing body likely saw it this way: Glen Mills was the ninth-best team among District One's 51 teams in Class AAAA, which apparently outweighs being the second-best team in a region (District 2 and District 4) that has 6 Class AAAA squads. That's the reason for the home game.

Does that mean it's fair to do it this way? Absolutely not. But I think it's a fair compromise, considering Glen Mills had to win three consecutive single-elimination games just to get this far. All things considered, however, the game should be on a neutral floor.

In what other playoff system do you see a game this late in the year played on a team's home court? On top of that, Glen Mills is known state-wide for its built-in fan base, raucous home arena and decibels-loud crowd. It was unrealistic to think Hazleton Area had a shot to win this one.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I've had some time to diagnose how the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs will shake out. Here are a couple observations I made:
Most Likely First-Round Blowout
Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. South Philadelphia. The Patriots (22-5), despite losing to Chester in District One's fifth-place game, are playing some of their best basketball. And Southern (16-11) lost two straight heading into states. And they aren't the most qualified - 5 of their losses are by more than 10 points ... ouch.
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Biggest Headscratcher
Why are Roman Catholic and Central Bucks South playing at Archbishop Ryan? I have a great appreciation for Ryan (my father's alma mater), but the gym is decrepit and dingy, and - frankly - not an ideal spot for a state game.
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Most Overrated Team
Pennsbury: Rated at or near the top in most state polls - and garnering some national attention - the Falcons have yet to demonstrate an ability to win the big game. They lost in the district semis this year (and last year) and stumbled in the state semis last season. I'm waiting for the Falcons to make me eat my words.
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Most Underrated Team
Central Dauphin East: Wouldn't want to play C.D. East, and here's why: it just knocked off the state's lone Class AAAA undefeated team (York-William Penn) to win the District Three title. It's a tough first-round draw for the winner of tonight's playback - either Glen Mills or Hazleton Area.
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Beware the Del Val
I know Plymouth Whitemarsh, Norristown and Pennsbury all made the bracket, but the Suburban One League isn't fit to tie the shoe strings of the Del Val League. A six-team league sent three teams - Penn Wood, Chester and Glen Mills - to states. It's safe to say that trio is already battle tested.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009


Matchups for next week's PIAA Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs have been determined. Times and locations have not been set for the three local teams that qualified - Penn Wood, Chester and Glen Mills:

Glen Mills (1-9) vs. Hazleton Area (2-2)

Penn Wood (1-2) vs. Penn Manor (3-5)
Chester (1-5) vs. Red Land (3-3)

UPDATE (10:34 p.m., Saturday)
The Class AAA bracket is not entirely complete, but filled out enough to determine who Archbishop Carroll and Strath Haven will be playing:

Strath Haven (1-2) vs. Franklin Learning Center (12-2)
Archbishop Carroll (12-3) vs. Phoenixville (1-1)

(Numbers in parentheses refer to district and corresponding seed.)

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


From 15 teams, only five Delaware County teams remain in the hunt for the PIAA playoffs. (It's hard to believe that so many teams - 15 of the 24 in Delco, or 63 percent of the schools I cover - advanced to the postseason, but it's been fun.)

Two teams have assured themselves of Class AAAA state-playoff berths - Penn Wood and Chester. Here's what it'll take for the remaining three to move on.

Record: 13-11.
Next up: Wednesday, vs. Holy Ghost Prep, at Wissahickon.
Scenario: A guaranteed state slot from District One Class AAA, with a win.
Notes: Senior Calvin Newell (pictured) and the Panthers have handled the tests. This is a big one, against the No. 2 Firebirds. A win puts Haven in states for the first time since 2003, when it was a Class AAAA school. A loss puts the Panthers in a third-place game, with a state berth on the line.

Record: 21-3.
Next up: Wednesday, vs. Simon Gratz, at Archbishop Ryan.
Scenario: The third-and-final Class AAA slot from District 12 is up for grabs.
Notes: Win and the Patriots are in, and in their first year of state-playoff eligibility. They are the best Class AAA team in Southeastern Pennsylvania - other than Catholic League champ Neumann-Goretti - but the Pats can hang with the Saints.

Record: 17-7.
Next up: Tuesday, at West Chester Rustin.
Scenario: Ninth-place playback in District One Class AAAA.
Notes: The Bulls lost in the second round, one win shy of a guaranteed state spot. But they - with the help of All-Delco center Aaric Murray (pictured) - kept alive their slim playoff hopes with a win Friday in a playback game. They need to beat Rustin and win again later this week to make states for the first time in five seasons.

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