Will La Salle, Constitution win state titles?

Posted: March 23, 2014

In its drive to the PIAA Class AAAA boys' basketball final, La Salle - a newcomer to this territory - knocked off perennial state-tournament powers Lower Merion and Chester.

The last obstacle for the junior-laden Explorers is New Castle, of suburban Pittsburgh. The District 7 champs, with a football-studded lineup, arrive with a lofty record of 30-0.

"They've got some tough players," La Salle coach Joe Dempsey said. "They're 30-0. The coaches have made sure their kids are ready to play every night. A lot has to be said for that."

The Explorers (23-6) will face the Hurricanes at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Constitution, another District 12 state finalist, will battle District 7's Seton-La Salle for the Class AA crown.

The Generals, guided by Rob Moore, are trying for their second title in three seasons. In 2012 at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center, they downed District 7's Lincoln Park Charter, 58-49, in Class A.

La Salle has the rare chance of bagging two state titles in one day. In hockey, the Flyers Cup champion Explorers will meet Penguins Cup victor Peters Township at 5 p.m. Saturday at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena.

Here is closer look at Saturday's hoops finals.

Class AAAA

Dempsey is spot-on when referring to New Castle, located about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, as "tough." Four of its five senior starters have football scholarships.

Malik Hooker (Ohio State), Jake McPhatter (Ball State), Drew Allen (Robert Morris), and Stew Allen (Duquesne) soon will return to the gridiron.

Anthony Richards, a senior guard and three-point threat, will continue his basketball career at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan.

Hooker, a 6-foot-1 senior wing guard who is projected to be a defensive back for the Buckeyes, averages nearly 23 points. He is a highlight-reel dunker.

In Tuesday's 58-54 triumph over Abington, Richards led the way with 16 points, including four treys. Hooker, who drew a key charge call in the late going, and Stew Allen, a 6-3 center, added 15 and 11 points, respectively.

La Salle's catalyst, 6-7 junior Dave Krmpotich, will be pitted inside against Stew Allen. Krmpotich, a Division I prospect, will get help from 6-5 senior Jalen Herdsman.

Explorers junior wing guard Shawn Witherspoon has been a recent spark plug, netting 17 points in a 61-55 upset of Chester on Tuesday and 18 in a first-round win over Conestoga.

La Salle also has received strong play off the bench from senior wing Sean Greenberg and 6-3 sophomore forward Shane Stark.

Pick: It should be a tight contest, and the vibe here is that the Hurricanes, with their overall experience, find a way to win. New Castle, 57-55, in overtime.

Class AA

Against Seton-La Salle, Constitution, runner-up to Martin Luther King in Public League play, has to keep close tabs on 5-10 senior guard Dale Clancy. He averages about 15 points.

Clancy has drawn interest from Seton Hall and UMass-Lowell, among others. His uncle Sam starred in hoops at Pittsburgh and went on to play defensive end for the NFL's Cleveland Browns.

The other key contributors for the Rebels (29-1) are 6-6 senior swingman Levi Masua and 6-3 junior forward Ryan Norkus. Seton-La Salle is seeking its first state title since 1988.

Constitution (27-5) is sparked by 6-6 junior forward Ahmad Gilbert, 6-1 junior guard Kimar Williams, and 6-5 senior forward Raheem Liggins.

Pick: The Generals' pressure defense has been critical in their drive to Hershey. Expect them to have similar success in disrupting the Rebels. Constitution, 62-54.


robrien@phillynews.com

@ozoneinq

www.inquirer.com/ozone

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