Sunday, March 2, 2014

PIAA Basketball Playoff: Western AA Preview

Jim Hammett
D6SN Sports Editor
Follow me @JimHammett @D6SN

The Favorite - Seton LaSalle - The Rebels of Seton LaSalle will enter the PIAA Class AA tournament as the favorites to represent the West. Coming off a narrow win in the WPIAL championship, the Rebels enter the state tournament with a 25-1 record. Seton LaSalle's only loss came to the hands of AAA power, Montour. They have rolled through the majority of their schedule and even have some wins over AAA and AAAA team to their credit. The tremendous size and athleticism of Seton makes them a tough team to prepare against. Dale Clancy is a smooth, senior guard that leads the offense. The Rebels have big time size with Levi Masua and Malik White. Seton LaSalle is a deep and talented team, and will be a tough out for anybody.

The Challenger -  Greensburg Central Catholic - GCC boasts a 22-3 record, and nearly pulled off a win against Seton LaSalle in the WPIAL championship. The Centurions have a balanced team with strong guard play. The GCC attack starts with versatile wing, Bryan Graytok. Graytok plays taller than his 6-1 listed height, and has a good all around offensive game. Billy Hipp creates a tough match up being a 6-4 guard, and is more than capable leading the team in scoring. GCC played a daring schedule, and it should help them during this run through the playoffs.

Dark Horse - Quaker Valley - The Quakers enter as the 6 seed from the WPIAL, but it would not surprise anyone if they put on a little run from here. Mike Mastroianni is an excellent coach, and seems to thrive in playoff basketball. Quaker Valley does not have a big time star player, and they are very well balanced. 6-4 junior forward, Chris Conlan, leads the Quakers in scoring. Winter Fondi dishes out 6 assists per game, and is one of many seniors in the QV 10 man rotation.

Top Local Favorite - Richland - Last year saw three local teams advance past the first round, and Conemaugh Township made their way to the round of 8.  The Indians are back,  but I look for Richland to have the best chance to move on a game or two. Yes, the Rams play a good Quaker Valley team, but they have enough fire power to steal a win.  Richland starts four seniors, and they have been playing great ball down the stretch. Matt Shaffer is tough to stop in the post, and Kyle Flick is a versatile, stat-sheet-stuffing guard. The tandem along with shooters, Aaron Miller and Jacob Lushko, make a well put together team.

Toughest Draw - Central - Central made their way to the District final, but bowed to a very strong Richland team. The reward for that run, a date with perennial power Beaver Falls. While all the local teams appear to be underdogs, Central getting a 7 loss Beaver Falls team can be misleading. The Tigers have been the team to beat in recent years, and you can bet they still are capable of making a run to the Western Final.  Beaver Falls played a tough schedule, and with their tradition, this looks like a really daunting task for an undersized Central team.

Under .500 - District 9 is awarded one bid to the state tournament, and 11 win Brookville is the team that got it. After going 8-14 in the regular season, the Raiders won their three district playoff games by a total of ten points. All three teams they beat have winning records. The Raiders meet perennial District 10 power, Mercyhurst Prep.

Most Intriguing Game - West Middlesex vs. Neshannock - West Middlesex has been on a great run recently, but things are a little different this year. The Big Reds went on a Western Final run last year with star player Matt Dogan, but he has since graduated. Sure they came back and managed to get to 20 wins this time around, but they definitely lack the star power Dogan brought to the table. Neshannock has an impressive record, but curiously were blown out by Beaver Falls in the WPIAL playoffs.  It was curious they were blown out simply for the fact they beat Beaver Falls twice in the regular season.  This game has the chance to be a good one with no true clear defined favorite.

Most lopsided game - Penns Valley vs. Seton LaSalle - This is David vs. Goliath if there has ever been one. No need to talk about the Rebels anymore, but Penns Valley could be in trouble. The Rams simply do not have the size or athletes to match Seton LaSalle. Penns Valley runs a deliberate offense and hard nosed defense, but they did not have one game on their schedule that could simulate what they will see Saturday. Penns Valley will try to make this a grudge match, but Seton has the shooters and size to combat the defensive pressure.

And from the East? - Constitution High is ranked number one in the Harrisburg Patriot News state rankings. They hail from the Philadelphia Public League, and they boast a 23-5 record playing the toughest schedule of anyone in the bracket. They will be the most likely team to represent the East, but maybe Loyalsock Township or Lewisburg can give them a run for their money.

My Picks  -

Seton LaSalle over Penns Valley
Mercyhurst Prep over Brookville
Quaker Valley over Richland
Aliquippa over Fairview
Summit Academy over Conemaugh Township
Beaver Falls over Central
Greensburg Central Catholic over Bald Eagle
West Middlesex over Neshannock

Seton LaSalle over Mercyhurst Prep
Quaker Valley over Aliquippa
Beaver Falls over Summit Academy
GCC over West Middlesex

Seton LaSalle over Quaker Valley
Greensburg Central over Beaver Falls

Seton LaSalle over Greensburg Central Catholic

PIAA Basketball Tournament: First Round Dates/Sites for Local teams.

Jim Hammett
D6SN Sports Editor
Follow me @JimHammett @D6SN


Saturday March 8
D6 #1 Altoona (13-9) vs. D7 4 North Allegheny (21-4) Hollidaysburg High School 5:30

AAA Boys
Friday March 7
D6 #1 Somerset (16-8) vs. D3 #7 Lancaster Mennonite (20-7) Richland High School 6:00

AA Boys
Saturday March 8
D6 #1 Richland (20-5) vs. D7 #6 Quaker Valley (21-3) Central Cambria High School 5:30
#D6 #2 Central (17-8) vs. D7 #3 Beaver Falls (18-7) Altoona High School 5:30
D6 #3 Bald Eagle (20-5) vs. D7 #2 Greensburg Central Catholic Hempfield High School 5:30
D6 #4 Penns Valley (19-6) vs. D7 #1 Seton LaSalle (25-1) Penn Hills HS 5:30
D5 #1 Conemaugh Township (21-5) vs. D7 #5 Summit Academy (16-6) UPJ 7:00

A Boys
Friday March 7

D6 #1 Bishop Carroll (25-0) vs. D9 #4 Clarion Limestone (21-4) Richland HS 7:30
D6 #2 Bishop Guilfoyle (19-6) vs. D5 #2 Forbes Road (16-8) Altoona HS 8:00
D6 #3 Homer Center (22-3) vs. D9 #2 Elk County Catholic (22-3) Clarion U 6:00
D5 #1 Berlin (23-2) vs. D7 #3 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (15-10) UPJ 7:30

Thursday, February 27, 2014

District Six Boys Basketball Quick Championship Outlook.

Jim Hammett
D6SN  Sports Editor
Follow me @JimHammett @D6SN

Class A
2. Bishop Guilfoyle (19-5) vs. 1. Bishop Carroll (24-0)
Friday 8:30 DeGol Arena Saint Francis University

PIAA Playoff Implications: Winner plays District 9 #4 seed (Johnsonburg/Clarion Limestone)
Loser plays District 5 #2 (Forbes Road)

Bishop Carroll and Bishop Guilfoyle will get together for the third time this season on Friday night for all the marbles. This is a rematch of last year's championship that saw the Marauders upset Bishop Carroll by a score of 42-39. Things are a little different, and this game brings some different story lines to the table.

Bishop Carroll comes into this game with a perfect record, and the state's number three ranking. The Huskies have been a machine that have rolled through the Laurel Highlands with relative ease, and have won their postseason games in convincing fashion.  The only problems the Huskies ran into at all this season have been their two meetings with Bishop Guilfoyle.  The other 22 games have typically been blowouts by halftime. Carroll runs a up-tempo pressing game that leads to a lot of steals and layups.  The leader of the attack is junior guard, Brandon Martinazzi. The speedy guard leads the team with 20 points a game. Also, the Huskies have a pretty good big man in 6-6 Marcus Lee, who averages 17 and 7 per game. Scott Lucas, Mitchell Madonna, and David Maruca round out the Huskies four guard lineup. Lucas brings a good scoring spark, while Madonna and Maruca handle the ball and create havoc in the press. Nick Suckinos plays the sixth man role very well, and comes in can make shots.  This team works together, and they all understand their roles very well. They haven't been tested a lot this year, but they all went through a deep run into states last year, and the benefit of those big games should help in this one as the Huskies look for their first title since 2011. 

Bishop Guilfoyle comes in as the defending champions, and they are not short on confidence. They have proven twice this year they belong on the floor with Bishop Carroll, as they played two classic games with the Huskies.The Marauders' offensive game starts with senior forward,  Damon Rickens.  Rickens has had the most success in games with Bishop Carroll this year, as he is averaging 18.5 in those contests.The Marauders can also ride the hot hand of junior guard, Sam McCloskey. McCloskey posted a team high 25 points in a win over Homer Center in the semifinals.  CJ Fulare is another key player for BG, and the senior guard has come up big all year.  Guilfoyle's game plan revolves around their depth, and ability to throw multiple defenders on Carroll. Guys like Brandon Chadbourn, Owen Wolf, and Nick Little add a solid and versatile post presence. Guilfoyle got the last laugh in this rivalry last season, but they did not come out strong in the state tournament. Guilfoyle will be looking to pull the upset Friday, and perhaps take some momentum into a run in the PIAA tournament.

My Thoughts - I look for this game to be very much like the first two. Bishop Guilfoyle has ball handlers to withstand the pressure, and they also have the depth to throw Carroll different looks. It will come down to a few things for each side

Can Bishop Guilfoyle match Bishop Carroll offensively?  Carroll gets a lot of their points off the press, but are more than capable of putting up numbers in the half court as well. BG will be tested in the half court game once they get into their offense.

Will Bishop Carroll's depth be tested if the game becomes physical?  Bishop Carroll runs with their first five a good bit, and will go probably eight deep if they have to. Still, BG is comfortable going 11 deep if need be, and their bench can bring more to the table.

I picked Bishop Carroll at the onset of the playoffs, and I'll be sticking with that pick.

Class AA
7. Central (17-7) vs. 1. Richland (19-5)
Saturday 8:30 DeGol Arena Saint Francis University

PIAA Playoff Implications: Winner plays District 7 #6 seed (Quaker Valley or Summit Academy)
Loser plays District 7 #3 (Beaver Falls or Aliquippa)

Much like the A game, we have a rematch on our hands, although of a different kind. Back on November 22, these two schools met at Mansion Park for a memorable District Six football final with Central taking down top seeded Richland 27-22. Now the two teams meet on the hardwood, and they are the two teams left standing in a very difficult, and wide open AA field. 

Richland makes it back to championship weekend for the first time since 2011, and they are seeking their first title since 1975. Richland rides the play of an experienced group of seniors that have improved each and every season. From 6 wins in 2012, to 10 wins last year, to now Richland going for a District Title and win number 20 is a tremendous job by Coach Greg Burke and this senior class. Richland is paced by their senior guard, Kyle Flick. Flick runs the point and averages 13 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds a contest.  Flick is a 1,000 point scorer, and was a key player for the 2011 District runner up team.  Matt Shaffer leads the team in scoring and rebounding by posting 13 and 6 a night. Jacob Lushko and Aaron Miller are Richland's outside shooting threats. Ryan Ball rounds out the starting lineup, and brings a big 6-4 presence to the court.  Richland's main production comes from these five guys.  Linnie Joy and Johnny Kutchman can come in and make things happen, but the first five do the majority of the damage. Richland has a toughness about them, and they are definitely hot right now having won 4 straight, all in convincing fashion. 

Central is looking to win their first District Six title since 1995, and the same man is on the bench from their great teams of the 1990's. After a few years of retirement, Reggie Nevins has been back for the past two seasons and already has the Dragons playing for gold with a 17-7 record. Central is a scrappy, and resilient team. The Dragons do not have one player that stands 6-2, and they have strong guard play, and play tough defense. Austin Cunningham is a quick slashing guard that makes things happen for this Central team, and has been averaging 11 points this postseason.  Alex Lafferty is a solid junior guard, and is a very good outside shooting threat for this team. Zach Slagenweit is another quality guard that brings an outside shooting prowess to the court. The Dragons also turn to a pair of 6-1 seniors, Ben Brumbaugh and Lucas Patterson, to play down low and hang with much taller competition. If any team in this field is prepared for a slug fest, it would be Central. They are coming off a pair of hard fought playoff games against conference opponents decided by four points total. 

My Thoughts - I look for this game to be as entertaining as any on the docket this weekend. Both teams are senior laden with great, headstrong athletes. Both sets of seniors are accustomed to winning, and this will be an absolute battle all night long. I think it comes down to a few things.

Can Central hang with Richland's size? The combination of Ball and Shaffer could be a lot to handle for an undersized post tandem from Central. 

How will Richland handle Central's quickness and tough defensive pressure? Central just held a hot shooting Tyrone team to just 33 points, and did not give Bald Eagle much for most of the game. Richland has one player that can comfortably handle the ball in Flick, but the smaller Central guards can give everyone else some problems. 

I actually picked a Tyrone-Penns Valley final, and I was way off on that. AA was very wide open, and I've been saying since about early January that any of the top 7 seeds could make a run here. Central had to play some battles, while Richland calmly took care of business like a top seed should. I think this will be a spirited affair, but I like Richland to prevail. 

Class AAA
1. Somerset (15-8) vs. 2. Huntingdon (15-8)
Mount Aloysius Convocation Center
Saturday 2:00

PIAA Playoff Implications: Winner plays District 3 #7 (Lancaster Mennonite) 

Somerset and Huntingdon get together for the District Championship Saturday afternoon at the brand new Mount Aloysius Convocation Center to decide the AAA crown.  This will mark the first time since 2008 that the Johnstown Trojans will not be the District champions. Somerset is looking for their first District Six title ever, while Huntingdon is going for their first win since 2002.  

Somerset comes in as the top seed, and they have been hot of late. The Golden Eagles are currently riding a five game winning streak, and the young Golden Eagles are starting to come together. Jake Heiple and Dylan Barnes are two very good sophomore guards that are really coming on strong lately. Both players average around 16 points per game, and they both handle the ball and pass it well on top of their scoring prowess. Connor Zarefoss is a senior that is capable of knocking down three pointers in Somerset's shooting friendly offense. Michael VanLenten is also another capable and versatile player for coach Scott Close. Elliott Dick provides the post presence for Somerset at 6-3. Somerset is solid team, and when they are knocking down their three's, they are very tough to beat. 

Huntingdon started slow at 1-4, but since then, the Bearcats have really put things together. They come in winners of five of six, including a take down of the defending champions, Johnstown. Huntingdon starts their game plan with 6-4 junior wing, Nate Gearhart. The junior averages 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He can really light up, as evidence by a 36 point performance in the season finale against Central Mountain.  Huntingdon also has a smart and heady senior guard in Devon Claar. Claar posts 13 points and 4 assists per game. One of the biggest aspects of Huntingdon's emergence can be attributed to the breakout season by Kobren Frederick. Frederick averages 10 points and 7 rebounds, and poses a presence with his 6-6 frame. Matt Speck and Tanner Cook round out the starting five, and both have the ability to make plays when needed. This Huntingdon team has a lot of firepower, and they definitely have flown a little under the radar in the Mountain League. They are coming together at the right time. 

My Thoughts - Both teams have a lot of young talent, and could be positioning themselves for a run in years to come. This will be a highly competitive game that will be worth the price of admission. 

Can Huntingdon exploit Somerset's lack of size?  The Bearcats made Johnstown pay in round one with their lack of size, and if they can work the post, it could be a tough match up for Somerset.

Can Huntingdon run with the Golden Eagles?  It seems like the Mountain League has a lot of slow and deliberate offenses, and Somerset is definitely an up and down offensive minded team. It is not always the best idea to get in a shooting game with Somerset.

I actually like what Huntingdon is bringing in this one. I like their combination and make up of their team. They blend a veteran point guard with some solid post players.  I think Somerset certainly has the ability to take this one, and it will be fun to see some new times vie for the championship. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

District Six Boys Baksetball A Playoff Primer

Jim Hammett
D6SN Sports Editor
Follow me @JimHammett @D6SN

22-0 Bishop Carroll
The Favorite - Bishop Carroll - 22-0, LHAC Champions, and ranked third in the state. Those are the facts, and they make for an easy pick to make Bishop Carroll the favorites to win District Six. The Huskies rolled through their regular season schedule, and only played in two games that were settled by single digits. Bishop Carroll is coming off two impressive wins with a 16 point road win over AAAA Hollidaysburg, and a 33 point dismantling over Bishop McCort to wrap up the school's first ever LHAC Championship.  Carroll's up-tempo style, strong guard play, and the play of big man Marcus Lee make them the overwhelming favorites to win their first District title since 2011.

The Challenger -  Bishop Guilfoyle - If there is anyone that can take down the Huskies, it is Bishop Guilfoyle. The Maruaders took Carroll to overtime once, and lost by four the second time around, and those were Carroll's only two true tests all year long. Bishop Guilfoyle is also the defending champions, and will not go away quietly.  They have a great group of athletes that play sound defense, and will be out to defend their title.  BG is paced by two solid seniors, CJ Fulare and Damon Rickens, and some great underclassmen athletes like Sam McCloskey, Brandon Chadbourn.

The Dark Horse - Juniata Valley - I think it is understood that Homer Center is the top team behind Carroll and Guilfoyle, it would come as no surprise if they make a run to the championship. Junaiata Valley on the other hand, could maybe surprise some people. The Hornets are coming on strong of late, and had a big time win in the ICC Championship over Northern Bedford. JV has a very balanced attack, with three players averaging double figures. Their versatility could give Carroll some trouble in round two.

New Kids on the Block - St. Joseph's is a newer school, and will be making their first trip to the District Six playoffs this year with a very young team. Prep is a tough team to figure, but it appears they played better basketball down the stretch. They have some blowout losses to teams like Penns Valley and Juniata Valley, but handed 20-2 Cameron County of District 9 one of their losses.  It may be too early for them to be serious contenders, but playing in the playoffs should be a learning experience for this program.

Balanced Bucs - Williamsburg comes into the 2014 playoffs with a unique attack on offense. The Blue Pirates do not have one player that averages 12 points a game, but they have seven different players averaging 4.9 or more.  With seven different people contributing, it can open up the offensive side of the ball and keeping the defense guessing. It will take a complete team effort for Williamsburg to take down Guilfoyle, but if everyone comes to play they can make things interesting.

Slumpin' Stangs - Portage got off to a great start this year, and really surprised a lot of people. Since then, it has been rough. Portage is entering the playoffs losers of four of their past five games. All four of those losses were to playoff teams, but it still can discouraging heading into the postseason, especially with a tough draw against Juniata Valley.

Chasing more Gold - Homer Center locked down a football district championship back in November by defeating Bishop Guilfoyle in a snow covered Mansion Park. The snow is still on the ground, and perhaps another impressive run is in order, only this time on the hardwood. Homer has a very sound 20-2 record, with both losses coming to AA playoff opponents.  The hype will be surrounding a potential Carroll-Guilfoyle rematch, but nobody should sleep on this squad either.


9. Saint Joseph's over 8. Saltsburg

1. Bishop Carroll over 9. St. Joseph's
4. Juniata Valley over 5. Portage 
3. Homer Center over 6. Claysburg-Kimmel
2. Bishop Guilfoyle over 7. Williamsburg

1. Bishop Carroll over 4. Juniata Valley
2. Bishop Guilfoyle over. 3. Homer Center

Bishop Carroll over Bishop Guilfoyle

District Six AA Boys Basketball Playoff Primer

Jim Hammett
D6SN Sports Editor
Follow me @JimHammett

Just a quick note.... I am back on my original blog until our site's issues get resolved, and by that I mean D6SportsNetwork is still 100% business, but the site itself is totally down, and we do not quite know the issue is. So until further notice, my original content like recaps, rankings, and other special features can be seen here.

The Favorite - Tyrone - Tyrone comes in with an impressive resume, and they seem to be the team to beat. The Golden Eagles are experienced and battle tested. The brunt of their attack stems from a pair of senior guards, Brandon Gripp (25 PPG) and Jordan Miller (12 PPG). The two sharp shooters are supported by a sophomore, Anthony Politza (8 PPG). Tyrone has two glue guys in Erik Wagner (6.2 rebounds per game) and Tristan Lingafelt (4 rebounds, 3 assists per game).  If you put that altogether, you have a team that brings scoring, rebounding, and some intangibles.

Nemo Trexler
The Challenger - Bishop McCort - The bracket could set up for a colossal semifinal game with Tyrone and McCort. The Crushers have had a hot hand through much of the second half of the season. McCort's push has been fueled by Nemo Trexler. The senior standout has been scoring in a variety of ways, and his 6-4 athletic frame makes him difficult to defend for just about anybody. Nathan Neiderhiser provides a good secondary option by averaging 11 points, 5 rebound, and 3 assists a night.  The Crushers are built a lot like Tyrone with senior role players like Tyler Rugg (6 points 5 rebounds) and Stephen Ingram (3 assists 2 steals) always making things happen. Trexler was a driving force in two district titles, and many of these seniors have played in big games. Despite the loss to Bishop Carroll, McCort is as dangerous as anyone in the field.

The Dark Horse - Bald Eagle Area -  Can the three seed be a dark horse? I am going to say they can, and here's why. Bald Eagle came in last year as the top seed, but had a less than ideal showing in the district playoffs.  Bald Eagle has two wins over the favorite Tyrone. Yet, still have some doubters out there, but take away an awful 0-3 week for the Bald Eagles, they have played some great basketball all year long. The doubt in this team obviously starts with how the postseason went for them last year. Can Bald Eagle make some more noise this time around? We will see, but by the looks of it, I think they can.

Mountain Madness - Four of the top seven call the Mountain League home, and it has been quite a ride this season. It seemed like the quadruplet of Tyrone, Bald Eagle, Penns Valley, and Central played in some magnificent battles. It also seemed that on any given night, one of these teams could beat the other. Each team managed some big wins against one another, and it will make for an even more exciting playoff run with the potential of a third, much more meaningful meeting between any of these schools.

Opening tip from Richland's 51-50 win
Rubber Match? -  Richland and Bishop McCort are on opposite sides of the bracket, but maybe a third instant classic could be on the way. Richland went down to Osborne Street and won for the first time in ten years, by a score of  51-50, and that came down to the buzzer.  McCort returned the favor against the Rams in their gym. McCort had a nice comfortable lead throughout, but Richland stormed back and took the lead eventually in overtime, but Nemo Trexler hit a three to tie, and a pair of free throws to ultimately win game.  Two games decided by three points, we can only wonder what a possible third meeting could bring.

Credit: Blairsville Facebook

What about us? - Blairsville enters with a gaudy 18-3 record, but are they for real?  The Blairsville strength of schedule is not much to speak of, but they did take care of business for the most part of this season. Blairsville has an impressive double digit win over Homer Center to their credit, but have lost two of their last three games coming into the tournament. It is still hard to get a full read on this team just yet. Junior Troy Williams is quite an athlete, and is one of the better players in the field. His running mate, Coltan McMillan is a solid senior guard as well. We will find out soon enough what they will do in the postseason.

Credit: EagleEyeNews

Living by the 3 - We know the old saying, but Tyrone may be good enough to live by the three the whole way through the tournament. Teammates, Brandon Gripp (56  3 pointers) and Jordan Miller (44 3's) have shot the Golden Eagle to a first round bye.  Having two senior guards that have been through the playoffs a few times should help Tyrone's chances. If both kids are on at the same time, it makes them a very difficult team to beat.

Reggie being Reggie - Central is always a tough out, and Reggie Nevins is a big reason why. The Dragons have a confident group, and they are coached very well by this longtime head coach. Some of these players helped Central bring home a football district title, and expect the Dragons to make some noise in the basketball bracket also.

2013 A thing of the past - Last year two veteran teams met for the district six championship, and Penn Cambria dispatched Northern Cambria 63-43. The main thing about that game is that ten of the starters were seniors, and have since graduated. Both teams failed to make the playoffs, and thus a new champion will be crowned in 2014.

Unknown Commodity - Juniata is in the playoff field, and no I'm not talking Juniata Valley.  Juniata High School is very near the District 4 border, and is definitely on the outer reach for District Six.  They have played only two playoff games against District 6 competition this year, and will get to meet 5th seeded Blairsville. Oh, and the distance between the two schools, 135 miles, or a 2 hour 32 minute trip. Luckily for Juniata, District Six uses neutral sites to save some distance.

Nothing Flashy - If there is one thing Penns Valley is known for, it is their defense. The Rams always plays a tough minded, deliberate game that can really frustrate opponents, and this year is no different. Terry Glunt's squad has won many games this season. In fact, 12 games opponents have failed to score more than 40 points against this defense. Penns Valley controls tempo better than most, and they can really take some high powered teams out of their rhythm.


8. Marion Center over 9. West Branch
4. Penns Valley over 13. Cambria Heights 
5. Blairsville over 12. Juniata
7. Central over 10. Mt. Union
6. Bishop McCort over 11. Central Cambria

1. Richland over 8. Marion Center
4. Penns Valley over 5. Blairsville
2. Tyrone over 7. Central
6. Bishop McCort over 3. Bald Eagle

4. Penns Valley over 1. Richland
2. Tyrone over 6. Bishop McCort

2. Tyrone over 4. Penns Valley

Saturday, February 15, 2014

D6SN: LHAC Championship Preview. Bishop McCort vs. Bishop Carroll

Jim Hammett
D6SN Sports Editor
Follow me @JimHammett

The D6SN is proud to announce that we will be broadcasting the boys basketball championship Saturday night at 8:00 between Bishop McCort and Bishop Carroll LIVE over the web, which can be found here. The D6SN covered one basketball game last season, but we have focused this season on keeping tabs with weekly power ranking updates. We are excited to cover the rematch of last season's championship game in which Bishop McCort defeated Bishop Carroll 53-44, and get back into the broadcast booth for the first time since the football district championships.

The names on the jerseys are the same, but much has changed since last season. Bishop Carroll's postseason run last season fueled this season's 20-0 start and number three ranking in the state wide polls. The Huskies returned four starters from last season's state class A quarterfinal team, and they are playing like they are on a mission.  Bishop McCort reached the state's Sweet 16 in AA, but lost some important seniors, their point guard to a transfer, and their head coach. Still, this resilient Crushers team has found a way back to the championship game behind the play of their strong senior class.

Bishop Carroll

21-0 Overall 16-0  LHAC

Brandon Martinazzi

#23 Brandon Martinazzi 5-9 Jr. Guard.  19 PPG  2.1 Assists  2.9 Steals.  44% 3 point shooting
#12 Marcus Lee 6-6 Sr. Center. 17 PPG 7.4 Rebounds. 1.0 Blocks.  
#11 Scott Lucas 6-0 Jr. Guard. 8.1 PPG 2.7 Steals.  35% 3 point shooting
#4 David Maruca 5-10 Sr. Guard. 5.7 PPG  2.7 Assists.
#15 Nick Suckinos 6-1 Jr. Forward. 5.4 PPG  33% 3 point shooting
#24 Mitchell Madonna 5-9 Sr. Guard. 5.2 PPG   4.1 Steals  2.9 Assists

Bishop Carroll comes in with the gaudy undefeated record, and it's because of their up-tempo style that forces teams into bad decisions. The Huskies average an impressive 17 steals per game, and it comes from their on-ball pressure and relentless nature. The Huskies' offensive attack starts with their silky smooth junior guard, Brandon Martinazzi. Already a member of the 1,000 point club, Martinazzi finds a lot of his scoring inside the arch for someone who stands only 5-9. Bishop Carroll also relies heavily on their senior center, Marcus Lee. The big man has always been a presence, but has become more assertive and confident down low this season. He is putting up all state numbers, and he can really control the lane with his size and length. Outside of the big two, coach Cosie Aliquo has really found productive roles and niches for the rest of his rotation. Scott Lucas and Nick Suckinos play out on the wing, and really can slash to the basket and cause havoc in their press. Mitchell Madonna and David Maruca are heady, experienced senior guards that are very effective, even when they are not scoring. Nick Burk, a 6-5 senior, provides an extra big body off the bench. This team has not been tested much this season, and have put up some eye popping numbers, including a 26 point victory over McCort earlier in the season. 

Bishop McCort

15-6 Overall  13-3 LHAC

Nemo Trexler

#11 Nemo Trexler 6-5 Sr. Forward. 19 PPG 9.4 Rebounds. 1.2 Blocks. 
#13 Nathan Neiderhiser 6-1 Sr. Guard.  11.9 PPG. 5.7 Rebounds. 3.1 Assists. 38% 3 point shooting.
#23 Tyler Rugg 6-2 Sr. Forward. 6.2 PPG  5.6 Rebounds. 
#32 Karch Helsel 6-3 Jr. Center. 5.7 PPG  5.2 Rebounds
#10 Stephen Ingram 5-7 Sr. Guard. 4.8 PPG.  3.1 Assists. 2.1 Steals
#15 Alex Conahan 6-4 So. Forward. 4.5 PPG  3.3 Rebounds 

Bishop McCort had a slow start, but found their groove after the new year started. McCort feeds off the offense of their senior star, Nemo Trexler, and play solid defense in the half court. Nemo Trexler is closing in on the school's all time scoring mark, and has really opened up his game this season. The senior forward has added a dangerous jump shot to his already wide array of moves, and has been averaging 25 points per game in the second half of the season.Nathan Neiderhiser has made the transition from a role guy to second option without seemingly missing a beat. Neiderhiser provides their top outside shooting threat, but fills the stat sheet in plenty of other ways as well.  Stephen Ingram does not look for the shot much, but his speed and quickness are big part of his game in running the team.  Tyler Rugg provides toughness and versatility, and the two underclassmen forwards, Helsel and Conahan, have different, yet effective games and are capable scorers when they have been called upon this season. McCort may not "wow" a lot of people, but when they are clicking they are a scary team to face, judging by their 25 point victory over a very good Bishop Guilfoyle team.  

Quick Analysis 
Bishop Carroll is a very good team, and the undefeated record is warranted. The Huskies blend a whole arsenal of quick guards with their big time center perfectly. Bishop McCort has been hot down the stretch, and they have really improved since the first meeting between the two teams, and it seems everyone understands their role better now. A few of the things to watch:

- How will Carroll handle the game coming off a game with AAAA Hollidaysburg? Last year, it seemed the Huskies were drained under the same circumstances having played a game the night before. 

- Can anyone stop Nemo Trexler?  The senior forward has always been a big scorer for the Crushers, but has taken it to a new level in recent weeks. Foul trouble always seems to always creep up and be a problem with him, and that could be something to watch during this game. 

- The contrast of BC's quickness against McCort's strength will be something to see. McCort could have problems against the on ball pressure, which could lead to easy Carroll layups. On the other side, if it becomes a half court style of game, McCort has some bigger bodies that can be physical with the smaller Huskies. 

Definitely tune in Saturday at 8:00 on the D6SN.  Our website is having some difficulties, but check back here,, Our Facebook page, and our Twitter for updates on where the broadcast link will be.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

40 Games and 40 Nights

                    The first half of the 2011 season was a real turning point in the Pirates' franchise. Since then, there have been many "turning points" or stretches of games that will be the biggest and most important "since 92." It's true the 2011 season faded in July, and the 2012 season was an absolute disaster in September. The 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates currently sit with a two game lead in the National League Central on the morning of August 18 with a record of 72-50.  I am not saying there will be a "collapse" or that you should prepare for said "collapse" I am simply pointint out where everything is, and where everything is going. 

                     The Pirates have 40 games remaining, starting with the rubber match against the wild card chasing, Arizona Diamondbacks. Take a look at some breakdowns about the remaining games on the schedule.

- 40 Games Total (18 Home/22 Road)   Pirates Home Record 42-21..Road 30-29

- 12 Series (5 Home, 7 Road)

- 25 Games remaining against the NL Central. ( Reds 6, Cardinals 6, Cubs 7, Brewers 6)

- 12 Games against the NL West.    9-11 record against NL West

- 16 Games against teams over .500 or in playoff contention

- 3 Games with NL West leader Texas. Pirates' interleague record is 12-5

- 13 afternoon game. Pirates have 24-21 day game record. 48-29 Night.

                 As you can see, there is no sugarcoating what the Pirates have to do. The Pirates are not a great road team, but they have slightly more games on the road, including a 7 game road trip against the Padres and Giants. Despite the bad records of each team, the Bucs have not fared well against the division overall. The Bucs will also face perhaps their toughest road trip of the season during the September 6-11 span against the Cardinals and Rangers.

               Those points above are simply facts about where the Pirates are, but its obvious what the Pirates need to do, and that is play better than they have the past week. After sweeping the lowly Marlins, the Bucs have dropped 6 of 8, including two tough ones to the team on their heels, the Cardinals.  Through it all, the Pirates still hold a lead over St. Louis and Cincinnati, but heading into the last month and a half, losing 6 of 8 won't fly.

                 The Pirates have some serious concerns heading into these last 40 games.  The pitching is "regressing" a tad.  Jeff Locke has been the one starter that has been around since opening day, and has done better than anyone could have dreamed.  Is he tired, or are some teams starting to figure him out? I'd say a little of both.  Locke's recent trends are disturbing, going 0-1 in five starts, and failing to finish six innings in any of those starts.  He has also allowed 40 hits and 17 walks in his last five outings.  It is probably too soon to make a deal of AJ Burnett, but after his complete game masterpiece on August 4, he has had two poor outings in which he allowed 5 earned runs in both games. Gerrit Cole had an impressive start in his last outing, but how many more does he have left in him?   He has pitched more this season, than he ever has in his life.  Cole is almost assuredly heading for the bullpen eventually. So there it is. The Pirates have a pitching staff in flux heading into the most important 40 games they have had in a while

Is it heading for sudden doom?  I'm not saying that.  An experienced veteran, Wandy Rodriguez, will be back, and hopefully in good enough form to make an impact.  If Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey weren't real people, Francisco Liriano would win the Cy Young. He's been that good, and having him around is a great thing moving forward. AJ Burnett had two bad starts, but seeing his role on this team, he's still in line for some big starts.  Jeff Locke should not be written off just yet either, he could be due for a skip in the rotation, and could be good as new.  A lot is to be said about this rotation, but Jeanmar Gomez and Brandon Cumpton could see some starts during September callus, and they have had some big performances this season.

Offensively, nothing has changed. It's inconsistent, and most guys are week to week in terms of being good hitters. Can Cutch carry this team down the stretch, unlike last season? I certainly think so.  For many people saying this was a "down season" for Cutch (something I never understood) the guy looks like an MVP in every sense of the term. Starling Marte makes you want to party or throw your remote through the TV, it just depends on the play. Pedro can mash home runs, and pitchers have to respect him for it. Walker has been dead red hot in August.   But after that is truly concerning.  You can live with Martin and Mercer for the offense they provide for their respective positions. But First Base?  Right Field?    Its ugly, and a rotating door of Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, Andrew Lambo, Josh Harrison, Alex Presley, and Travis Snider have all failed miserably thus far.   Jones can still get hot. Lambo deserves a chance, but other than that, it is a real problem for this team.

These 40 games will not only define this season, but it could define a lot of people's career's and tenures and this era of Pirates baseball, like Hurdle and Huntington. We have been at this juncture in the past three seasons many times, as sports writers, fans, radio hosts, and bloggers love to say, "this is the biggest game/series/stretch since 1992." But no, THIS stretch is. THESE 40 games are. The city is riding on it, and baseball has never been so important in this town than it will be over these next 40 games.  The doubters are waiting for a collapse, the fans are hoping for the best, and the baseball world is watching.  Your move, Pirates.