Tough to predict D4 boys tourneys.
By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | February 19, 2018
By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | February 19, 2018
The District 4 seeding process remains a mess and hopefully this is the last year using this unfair process. But we're stuck with it this year so let's break down what should be some of the more unpredictable tournaments in recent memory.
Williamsport will be trying to defend its District 2-4 Class AAAAAA championship. The Millionaires (13-9) are seeded No. 3 and face No. 2 Scranton (16-6) in a difficult semifinal. All signs point to state-ranked Hazleton waiting in the final for that winner. The Cougars defeated Williamsport, 68-47, in December and are deep and explosive. The Millionaires have been up and down but have beaten teams like Pottsville and Central Dauphin East. It also has won three straight games, so Williamsport is capable of defending the championship. Still, it is that unpredictability that makes it hard to trust Williamsport, so the pick is Hazleton over Scranton.
(9 teams, top 3 qualify for states)
Top-seeded Danville captured the HAC championship and has a good core of players who were part of the 2016 Class AA champion. Jordan Bickhart is dangerous in the backcourt and Shane Kozick, Collin Holcombe and Peyton Riley have had some big games. Danville (20-4) will play the winner of the CMVT-Jersey Shore first-round game.
Jersey Shore (10-12) should win that CMVT game and earn a rematch against Danville, a team it took to overtime in its season opener. The Bulldogs can be dangerous, especially if they have multiple players clicking on the same night. Junior Armstrong can essentially play every position and is one of the field's most talented players. He has averged 25.6 points and 10.4 rebounds over his last five games. Nate Ewing is an excellent shooter and Jay Dincher averages nearly 10 points per game.
No. 2 Montoursville (16-6) is having its best season since 1997. The Warriors host No. 7 Shamokin and are trying to reach states for the first time since 1995 and win their first district title since 1985. Montoursville played a challenging non-conference schedule, handed Loyalsock one of its two league losses, defeated HAC-I champion Central Mountain and has won six of its last seven games. John McCarthy and Owen Kiess average in double figures and the Warriors have nice balance, while playing really well together.
No. 3 Athens (14-8) has two explosive scores in Gavin Stein and Ethan Lane and hosts No. 6 Selinsgrove (11-11) which reached last year's final. The Seals have quality guards and Tony Dressler has been playing well. Thomas Kerstetter erupted for 28 points last Thursday against Jersey Shore.
No. 4 Mifflinburg (14-8) split two games with Montoursville and has a 1,000-point scorer in Tanner Stoltzfus. Mifflinburg also defeated HAC-I champion Central Mountain and HAC-III champion Mount Carmel. It hosts No. 5 Shikellamy (12-10) which has won three straight games and handed Lourdes one of its three losses. Darrell Lyles is one of the field's best post players.
Tournament sleeper–Shamokin: The Indians (11-11) have won five straight and dropped a heart-breaker to Danville in their last loss. They are peaking at the perfect time.
Player to watch–Luke Warnecke, Montoursville: The senior might not light it up scoring-wise but he has been critical to Montoursville's success. Warnecke handles the ball well, has excellent vision, leads the team in assists and also can hit the outside shot.
Projected Semifinals: Shamokin over Selinsgrove; Danville over Mifflinburg
Projected Final: Danville over Shamokin
Third-place game: Mifflinburg over Selinsgrove
(8 teams, top 3 qualify)
Hughesville captured the championship as a No. 6 seed and has won its last two championships from that position. The Spartans (12-10) will be trying to repeat from that spot again and open against last year's quarterfinal opponent, No. 3 Mount Carmel. Hughesville has lost some heartbreakers, including two in overtime, but also has won eight of its last 11 games. Center Taylor Mason is having a strong season and senior guard Matt Myers has been key to Hughesville's resurgence as has been an improved defense.
Mount Carmel (17-6) romped to the HAC-III championship, although Hughesville handed it one of its two league losses. The Tornadoes held a 15-point third-quarter lead against Loyalsock in the HAC semifinals before losing, 53-51 to Loyalsock at the buzzer. Donovan James is a 1,000-point scorer and Tommy Reisinger provides nice scoring punch.
No. 2 Loyalsock (18-6) handed Danville its only HAC loss last Monday before the Ironmen defeated it, 53-49 in Friday's championship. Loyalsock has been plagued by slow starts over the last two weeks, but nearly erased a 17-point deficit Friday. Gerald Ross scored his 1,000th career point in a late-season win over Athens. He, Anthony Pastore, Connor Watkins and Mitch Klingerman all are averaging in double figures. Loyalsock is seeking its 16th state tournament appearance in 19 years, but its first district crown since 2015.
Loyalsock hosts No. 7 Warrior Run (12-10), a team started the year hot, but cooled down the stretch. The Defenders remain dangerous and have one of the field's best players in forward Gage Anzulavich who is averaging a double-double. Forward Ahmahd Keyes could be one of the area's premier players the next two years.
Northern Tier League champion Wellsboro (23-1) earned the top seed for a second straight year and has won 22 straight games. The Green Hornets host No. 8 Bloomsburg and have played in three of the last five championships. They also have a good core back from last year's team. Forward Brandyn Tuttle has recorded an area-high 16 double-doubles and senior guard Dalton Prough does a little bit of everything as does point guard Quinn Henry.
No. 8 Bloomsburg has lost four straight games, but defeated Hughesville on the road, split two games with Warrior Run and dropped a heartbreaker to Shikellamy. It also gave No. 5 Southern Columbia a scare in a six-point loss last Thursday.
No. 4 Troy (14-8) has good wins against Sullivan County and North Penn-Mansfield and gave Loyalsock a tough quarterfinal last year.
Tournament sleeper–Southern Columbia: A finalist last year, the Tigers remain dangerous, despite losing standout forward Julian Fleming to injury. Elijah Dobson and Tobias Walden both average more than 14 points per game and Southern rallied from a 1-5 start. The Tigers defeated Wellsboro in last year's semifinals.
Player to watch–Cassidy Hoffman, Warrior Run: An unsung hero for Warrior Run, Hoffman provides good leadership and sparks its defense. His tenacious defense was a big reason Warrior Run overcame a 27-point second-quarter deficit last month in a dramatic 44-40 overtime win against Hughesville.
Projected Semifinals: Wellsboro over Southern Columbia; Loyalsock over Mount Carmel
Projected Final: Loyalsock over Wellsboro
Third-place game: Mount Carmel over Southern
(6 teams, top 2 qualify)
When North Penn-Mansfield (15-9) captured last year's championship, there were many who thought a repeat was unlikely since they lost four starters, but No. 3 seed has good balance as well as a solid inside-outside game. Forwards Garrett David and Dylan Meyer are averaging near double-doubles while guard Nick Kasper started last year and averages 11.6 points per game. The Tigers swept two games from No. 1 Wyalusing (19-4), defeating it 56-42 in last week's NTL semifinals.
Mansfield hosts No. 6 Sayre (6-16) which showed it can dangerous when it dropped a 63-59 heartbreaker there after holding a halftime lead. The winner of that game will play No. 2 Muncy (15-7). The Indians reached states last year and Nate Paisley, Matt Coyner, Noah Rymsza and Kolby Moyer all are averaging in double figures. Muncy gave Mansfield its toughest district game a year ago and has had four different players deliver 20-point performances.
No. 5 Cowanesque Valley (9-13) plays at No. 4 Northeast Bradford (10-13) with the winner of that facing No. 1 Wyalusing (19-3). CV has played well down the stretch and all five starters are capable of having big games.
Wyalusing captured the NTL-II championship and won its last eight regular-season games. The Rams have made a 12-win improvement from last season and have a good core of athletes who helped the football team win a district title last fall.
Tournament sleeper–Northeast Bradford: The Panthers have a good group back from last year, rallied from an 0-5 start and dropped a 52-45 decision to Wyalusing late in the season.
Player to watch–Matt Coyner, Muncy: The senior forward has grabbed more than 500 career rebounds, doing most of his damage the last two years while averaging double-doubles each time. Coyner was outstanding in last year's postseason and watching him go against Meyer and David if Mansfield reaches the semifinals would be entertaining.
Projected Semifinals: Wyalusing over NEB; North Penn-Mansfield over Muncy
Projected Final: North Penn-Mansfield over Wyalusing
(8 teams, top 3 qualify)
St. John Neumann has won five straight district championships and the last team other than Neumann to win the title was Sullivan County. Neumann, Sullivan and Millville shared the Mid-Penn championship as well. Because of a flawed system that punishes teams for playing demanding schedules and rewards those who do not, No. 4 Sullivan (17-5) hosts No. 5 Neumann (15-7) in a matchup of teams who have been ranked among the state's top 10 all season.
The Knights have looked outstanding at times, including in blowout wins over Muncy and a 52-35 win over Millville last Friday, but have struggled mightily in others like a 48-28 loss to Millville. Four starters are back from last year's state quarterfinalist and Jaiden Lynch is one of the area's most complete players. Noah Persun and Jaiden Cioffi can be tough inside and the Knights have some quality depth.
Sullivan split two three-point games with Neumann and surged after starting the season 4-3. Point guard John Saxe has made an outstanding all-state case, being among the area's top five scorers and also leading the area in assists. He is the first player in program history to top 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists. Sullivan, though, really took off when its younger players started making a big impact. Sam Carpenter, Justin Metzger, Dave Pardoe and Dylan Hottenstein are some of the players who have made major strides.
Millville (20-2) received a bye into the semifinals and has a good core back from last year's district runner-up that reached the second round of states. Jaylen Reichner is one of the field's best players while Will Holdren can be explosive and Tyler Johnson is a tough matchup inside.
No. 2 Meadowbrook Christian (20-2) reached the 2015 final and gave Sullivan a tough quarterfinal last year. The Lions, who host No. 7 North Penn-Liberty, played nowhere near the schedule the other top four seeds did, but are a serious title contender. Nearly every player is back from last year's team and guard Seth Kendall is a 1,000-point scorer for a well-coached and disicplined team.
North-Penn Liberty made nice progress throughout the season and won five straight games before losing to Athens last Tuesday. Brandyn Choplosky, Duncan Zeafla and Logan Horsley are having good seasons.
No. 3 Lourdes (19-3) is experienced, well-rounded and battle-tested, meaning No. 6 Galeton (8-12) has the quarterfinals' toughest matchup. Center Thomas Schultz might be the field's best player and point guard CJ Reichard is not far behind. Galeton has heated up down the stretch. Evan Brooks averages 18.4 points per game and Isiah Shuemaker averages 14.1.
Tournament sleeper–Meadowbrook: It's hard to say the No. 2 seed is a sleeper, but teams often seem to underestimate this squad. The Lions play hard and will make things tough on whoever they play.
Player to watch–Dalton Gough, Neumann: Gough has developed into a quality point guard in his first year starting and had a three-game stretch in which he dealt 21 assists, including seven against Sullivan.
Projected Semifinals: Millville over Neumann; Lourdes over Meadowbrook
Projected Final: Lourdes over Millville
Third-place game: Neumann over Meadowbrook
Dr. Masse's Top Five
1. Wellsboro (23-1); 2. Montoursville (16-6); 3. Loyalsock (18-6); 4. Williamsport (13-9); 5. Sullivan County
Player of the Week
Taylor Mason, Hughesville
Mason was a force last week, averaging 22 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists in three games. Mason had 18 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks against Warrior Run while topping 500 career rebounds. Mason also broke the program record for blocks in a season and now has 202.