Rick O'Brien: Likely champs: Chester, N-G, Constitution

Posted: March 09, 2012

For 28 area boys' basketball teams, including 12 in Class AAAA, the Road to State College continues this weekend.

Opening-round PIAA state action will begin Friday, with Class AAA and A games. It will continue Saturday, with Class AAAA and AA contests.

Here is our preview of the four tournaments, with predicted champion in each classification.

Class AAAA

Chester, fresh off winning District 1, is favored to bring home its second straight title and eighth overall.

It's hard to see Rondae Jefferson and company experiencing much trouble in the first three rounds. And, in the semifinals, the Clippers should have too much firepower for Harrisburg or Central Dauphin, which is powered by 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward Devin Thomas.

In the Eastern part of the draw, our first-round winners are Chester, William Penn, Pocono Mountain West, Central Dauphin East, St. Joseph's Prep, Central Dauphin, Williamsport, and Harrisburg.

In the Western bracket, we have Lower Merion easing past Dover, Wissahickon turning back Easton, and Roman Catholic stopping District 11 runner-up Parkland.

Our second-round picks of games involving area squads: Chester over William Penn, Central Dauphin over St. Joe's Prep, Chambersburg over Wissahickon, and, in a thriller, Lower Merion over Roman.

In the elite eight: Chester over Pocono Mountain West, Central Dauphin over Harrisburg, Lower Merion over Chambersburg, and State College over Shaler.

Final four: Chester ends the high school career of the Wake Forest-bound Thomas, and Gregg Downer's Aces get by the Little Lions.

Final: In a rematch of last Friday's clash, the Clippers, faring better at the foul line and again crashing the offensive glass, knock off the Aces, 66-61.

Class AAA

Neumann-Goretti, which recently bagged its fourth straight Catholic League title, is primed for the first state boys' three-peat since Kennedy Christian won four in a row in Class A from 1998 to 2001.

In addition to N-G, we predict that Boys' Latin, Holy Ghost Prep, and Archbishop Carroll will reach the quarterfinals.

Only the Saints, with too much inside muscle and speed for Holy Ghost, survive this round. Maurice Watson and the Warriors fall to Berks Catholic, and Yosef Yacob and the Patriots bow in overtime to District 7 runner-up Hampton.

An N-G vs. Berks semifinal offers some intrigue. The District 3 champs are powered by 6-9 center Donovan Jack, a Duquesne recruit, and speedy guard Marquis Marshall, son of former NBA player Donyell Marshall.

We expect N-G to beat Berks by 10 points or so, setting up a championship duel against District 7 titlist New Castle.

Final: The Saints, with Derrick Stewart and John Davis doing considerable damage inside, top the undersized (no player taller than 6-3) and previously undefeated Hurricanes, 59-48.

Class AA

The field has four Public League representatives, including defending state champ Imhotep Charter, Communications Tech, Vaux, and Del-Val Charter.

We expect those three to advance to the quarterfinals, with Comm Tech taking on Vaux, ignited by 6-4 junior guard Rysheed Jordan. In this one, we're siding with the Phoenix.

In a rematch of last year's Eastern semifinal, it's Comm Tech vs. Imhotep. And Brandon Austin and the Panthers triumph in a close one, 46-43.

Final: This time, Imhotep, despite strong efforts from Austin and Khyree Wooten, falls short of state gold. District 7's Beaver Falls, paced by 6-8 swingman Sheldon Jeter, prevails, 56-51.

Class A

In the Eastern half of the draw, all signs point to another semifinal showdown between Math, Civics & Sciences and Public League champ Constitution.

Last year, en route to claiming the crown, MC&S downed Constitution, 87-74, in South Philly. This time, with high-flying swingman Savon Goodman in the fold, the Generals make it to the Bryce Jordan Center.

Final: It's Constitution vs. Lincoln Park. And the Generals, after a slow start, outlast Temple recruit Devontae Watson and the Leopards, 67-64, in double OT.

Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 10


Team Record

Last week's rankings in parentheses.

1. Chester (1) 27-0

2. Neumann-Goretti (2) 23-3

3. Lower Merion (3) 25-3

4. St. Joseph's Prep (4) 21-5

5. Friends' Central (5) 22-5

6. Westtown (6) 21-10

7. Constitution (7) 18-9

8. Malvern Prep (8) 24-3

9. Arch. Carroll (10) 18-7

10. Abington (NR) 20-7

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Archbishop Ryan (18-5), Boys' Latin (22-6), Communications Tech (19-9), Perkiomen School (26-3), Roman Catholic (16-9), Wissahickon (22-5).

- Rick O'Brien

Contact Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com,

or @ozoneinq on Twitter.

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