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The SportsTalk Shop: State Basketball Recap

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After shoveling snow out of my driveway for the final time this winter (even if we get more of the white stuff, I’m just plowing through with my car from now on), I had a chance to witness some of the PIAA state playoff games.  Unfortunately, none of the teams in our RCN-TV coverage area made it all the way through the state tournament, but that didn’t stop us from seeing some tremendous efforts from our local teams in the postseason on RCN-TV.

Here’s a look at our final set of basketball highlight packages from our state playoff game broadcasts; then, a few of my own observations on the final weeks of the PIAA basketball season.

Now a few thoughts as we close out the high school basketball season for our Pennsylvania sports fans.

    • Becahi’s Head Coach is a Stand-Up Guy

First of all, Jose Medina took over the Becahi girls basketball team very late (November) before this season started.  There’s no question this team had talent, but to keep all the pieces together and still win 27 straight games, an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Championship, a District XI 3A title, advance to the 2nd round of the state tournament and to be ranked in the top four statewide throughout the entire season, all were tremendous accomplishments.
Once more, following a disappointing loss to Conrad Weiser and the controversial decision in which his star player, Kalista Walters, was left in the game with three fouls in the second quarter, he responded to my request to be on our “SportsTalk” show and address this and other issues with this year’s team (this show is available through RCN On Demand).  I cannot offer enough respect and support going forward for Coach Medina for tackling these topics head-on with me on our live show, and admire how he and his players have conducted themselves following their surprising, upset loss in the state tournament.  I heard from a good source that their up-and-coming players like Tessa Zamolyi and Rebekah Recchio were quality, hard-working players even before this season started, and the way they addressed the ending of their season makes me think the future of this program is as bright as ever.

    • Speaking of Conrad Weiser…

The Scouts from the Conrad Weiser girls basketball team made for one of the best stories in the entire state.  While some did not count on Weiser to be a force entering the league playoffs—let alone districts and states—the Scouts fought their way into the Final Four in the Berks County playoffs, then followed that up with a trip to the district championship game.  Then, after a mild upset win in the first round of states, they won back-to-back games against the best teams in the state to reach the PIAA quarterfinals.  Head Coach Mark Owens called his team “The Little Engine,” referencing the childhood story of the train that wouldn’t give up.  Despite being discounted multiple times, Owens’ group of undersized players (their tallest player is 5-8, shorter than about a half-dozen players they faced in states) made for an exciting post-season experience and showed what hard work, dedication and determination can do on the scholastic level’s biggest stage.

    • The “Final Pairs”

Here’s a look at the final two teams in each classification of the PIAA tournament.  See if something jumps out at you as readily as it did for many high school sports fans (this weekend’s winning teams in BOLD).

State Basketball Finalists
Class 4A Boys – Roman Catholic, Martin Luther King (Both District 12)
Class 4A Girls – CB West (District 1), Cumberland Valley (Dist. 3)
Class 3A Boys – Newmann-Goretti, Archbishop Carroll (Both District 12)
Class 3A Girls – Archbishop Wood (District 12), Black Hawk (Dist. 7)
Class 2A Boys – Conwell Egan (District 12), Aliquippa (Dist. 7)
Class 2A Girls – Newmann-Goretti (District 12), Seton LaSalle (Dist. 7)
Class 1A Boys – Constitution (Dist. 12), Farrell (Dist. 10)
Class 1A Girls – Old Forge (Dist. 2), Vicentian Academy (Dist. 7)

If you noticed most of the teams reaching the state championship games were from the Philadelphia region (Districts 1 and 12) and that ALL the boys winners were from District 12 (first time that has EVER happened in Pennsylvania), give yourself a gold medal.  It was common knowledge that once the District 12 schools were granted access to the PIAA tournament, the teams from the Delaware Valley would often be favorites in playoff match-ups.  However,  I don’t think many basketball fans not from the southeastern corner of the state anticipated just how dominate these programs are.   I’ve had the opportunity to see teams like Roman Catholic, Martin Luther King, Conwell Egan, Newmann-Goretti and Archbishop Carroll play at a high level for several years.  Their successes is not a fluke, nor do I anticipate their quality of play dropping off any time soon.

Is it right that most championship participants of a statewide tournament come from one area?  I cannot argue against it and believe there are opportunities with this tourney for a team to have a chance—although not a great one—to compete for a crown.  Whether it’s envy, sour grapes or an unjust system, the debate will rage on until more teams from other parts of Pennsylvania start making it to the title games—and for the boys teams, it’ll mean winning championships on a more regular basis.  One thing that cannot be disputed is that the success of high school basketball in Philadelphia is as strong as ever, and any sports fans left to watch the last three rounds of the PIAAs will continue to watch Philly’s brand of basketball for years to come.