2012-13 PIAA Boys Basketball Playoffs Preview

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Defending champion: Chester.

The scoop: Chester (24-3) is the favorite to win its third consecutive title. The Clippers feature 6-7 forward Rondae Jefferson, a University of Arizona recruit who is ranked the No. 19 player in the country by Rivals.com. ... Is WPIAL champion New Castle (26-0) good enough to meet Chester in the final? Most definitely. But two other excellent teams are on the western side of the bracket -- Lower Merion and Harrisburg. Lower Merion is coached by Gregg Downer, who coached Kobe Bryant when he played for the Aces. Lower Merion, which features small forward B.J. Johnson (Syracuse recruit), is 23-3 and lost to Chester, 60-46, in the District 1 final. ... New Castle's first-round game is against Gateway, the same team that New Castle beat in the WPIAL quarterfinals. ... Erie Cathedral Prep is a team to watch on the western side of the bracket. Cathedral Prep senior guard Sheldon Zablotny (19 ppg) has 1,313 points, second best in school history. ... St. Joseph's Prep has two major-college guards. Miles Overton has signed with Wake Forest and Steve Vasturia with Notre Dame. St. Joseph's Prep lost to Neumann-Goretti in the Philadelphia Catholic League championship.

History lesson: This is the 25-year anniversary of a championship individual performance for the ages. In 1988, Carlisle won its fourth consecutive PIAA title with an 80-54 victory against Central Catholic. Carlisle's Billy Owens, a gifted 6-foot-9 senior, scored 53 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He made 19 of 22 shots from the field and 14 of 16 from the free-throw line. Owens went on to be an All-American at Syracuse and played 10 years in the NBA.


Defending champion: Neumann-Goretti.

The scoop: Neumann-Goretti has won three consecutive titles and is trying to become only the third team in Pennsylvania history to win four in a row. The others were Kennedy Christian (1998-2001) and Carlisle (1985-88). Neumann-Goretti has 6-3 guard Ja'Quan Newton, considered one of the best juniors in the state, and also forward John Davis, a Towson recruit. ... Imhotep Charter won Class AA the past two seasons, but moved up to AAA this season. Imhotep Charter lost in the Philadelphia city championship to Neumann-Goretti, 52-51. Imhotep features four-star player Brandon Austin, a Providence recruit. ... Allentown Central Catholic is a team to watch with talented junior guard Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who is drawing interest from major colleges. ... An interesting first-round game in the western region is WPIAL champion Montour against South Fayette. Those two teams played in the same section and split two regular-season games.

History lesson: Thirty-five years ago, the Schenley Spartans won the PIAA title with a 51-50 win against a Lebanon team that had one of the greatest players in Pennsylvania history. Sam Bowie was a 6-11 center for Lebanon who ended up being recruited by colleges across the country. He scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the 1979 final, but Schenley won in front of a capacity crowd at Hersheypark Arena. David Thornton had 14 points for Schenley, Jamie Smith 11 and point guard Calvin Kane 10. Twenty-nine years later, Kane's son, Deandre, helped Schenley win another PIAA title.


Defending champion: Imhotep Charter.

The scoop: The western region is not overly strong this year. That means WPIAL champion Beaver Falls could make it to the PIAA final for the second consecutive season and fourth time in nine seasons. Beaver Falls is the No. 1-ranked AA team in the state in the Harrisburg Patriot-News/Pennlive.com rankings. ... A team to watch in the western region is West Middlesex, which lost to Beaver Falls, 50-41, in the season opener. West Middlesex features 6-5 senior guard Matt Dogan, one of the best players in Western Pennsylvania who averages 25 points a game. Dogan is a Gannon recruit. ... West Middlesex won the District 10 championship with a 71-65 victory against Lakeview in five overtimes. ... Wilkes-Barre Meyers was ranked No. 2 in the state for a while, but lost in the District 2 championship game to Holy Cross. Meyers has been playing the past few weeks without one of its top players, Tyriek Steward, who has an ankle injury. ... District 2 champion Loyalsock is coached by Ron Insinger, who needs one victory to reach 800 in his career.

History lesson: In 1955, led by superstar Don Hennon, Wampum (WPIAL school) capped off a perfect season with a 73-61 victory against Fountain Hill in the PIAA title game at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House. Hennon, who averaged 32.3 points, capped off his career with a 35-point performance. He finished that season with 1,003 points (without the 3-point line). He and Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell are the only players in WPIAL history to score 1,000 points in a season. Hennon went on to become an All-American at Pitt.


Defending champion: Constitution.

The scoop: Vaux, a Philadelphia Public League team, looks like the team to beat. Vaux is ranked No. 1 in the state and is preparing for its first -- and last -- PIAA playoff run. The school will close in June. Vaux is led by senior point guard Rysheed Jordan, ranked the No. 29 player in the country by Rivals.com. Jordan's final three college choices are UCLA, St. John's and Temple. He had 45 points when Vaux lost to Imhotep Charter (Class AAA) in the Philadelphia Public League championship. ... Math, Civics & Sciences has three Division I college recruits. Guard Britton Lee and forward Jeremiah Worthem have both signed with Robert Morris. Lee played at Roman Catholic last year. Also, Math, Civics & Sciences center Quadir Welston is a St. Peter's recruit. ... Lincoln Park has made it to the title game the past two seasons. Looking down the road, it's possible that WPIAL champ Vincentian and Lincoln Park could meet in the quarterfinals.

History lesson: In the 1977 PIAA title game, Elk Lake's Bob Stevenson scored 55 points in a 94-60 victory against Shanksville. The 55 points is still the record for most points in a championship game. Stevenson made 24 of 34 shots and also had 18 rebounds and 10 assists. He scored 1,276 points that season.


Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com


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