SPORTSfever COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME OF THE WEEK

Sept 2                   Morgan State at Towson 6 pm

Game airs live on ESPN 3, ESPN College Extra, WNUV Baltimore, WHP Harrisburg, WLVT Philadelphia/LehighValley

Sept 9                   West Chester at Slippery Rock 6 pm

Sept 16                 Edinboro at West Chester Noon              

Sept 23                 Mercyhurst at Clarion 1 pm

Sept 30                 Gannon at Mercyhurst 1 pm

                                Clarion at Edinboro 4 pm

Oct 5                      Millersville at East Stroudsburg 7

Oct 7                      Kutztown at Bloomsburg 2:30

Oct 14                   Bloomsburg at West Chester Noon        

                                Savannah State at Morgan State 1 pm                   

Oct 21                   Morgan State at Howard 1 pm

                                Bloomsburg at East Stroudsburg 4 pm

Oct 28                   Florida A & M at Morgan State 1 pm

                                East Stroudsburg at West Chester 2 pm

Nov 4                    California at Edinboro Noon                                      

Nov 11                  PSAC Championship Game Noon

Come on Man (Neumann-Goretti, Imhotep, Wood, Kennedy Catholic). Play up.

During this past weekend’s PIAA State basketball championships in Hershey, the talent-stocked Philadelphia basketball teams’ domination of the state basketball tournament continued to take its toll on the psyche of the rest of the state and the PIAA’S gate.

Philadelphia teams Archbishop Wood in 5A, Imhotep Charter in 4A and Neumann-Goretti in 3A all won state championships.

It was the first for Wood, the fifth since 2009 for Imhotep and the seventh in the past eight years for Neumann-Goretti.

The Saints have won four straight after routing Lincoln Park 89-58 in the 3A title game. Only Carlisle and Kennedy Catholic have won four straight as well.

The first year for the Public League in the PIAA state tournament was 2005; 2009 for the Catholic League. The two leagues form District 12.

Since 2006, District 12 teams have won 24 of 50 state championships. Each Philly league has 12 state titles.

District 12 teams have also lost 12 state finals over the same time.

The Catholic League champion has gone on to win a state championship in seven of the last eight seasons.

Neumann-Goretti has a state tournament record of 39-2 since 2009. Overall, the Catholic League has a 108-34 record in state tournament games since 2009.

The domination is such that teams from outside Philly—predominantly small-town teams-- have a very slim chance at winning a state championship in their respective classifications—4A Imhotep and 3A Goretti.

So the cacophony of concerns from the public schools outside of Philadelphia continues to swell up.

Now the PIAA, in response to its membership, has formed a competition committee to examine how to deal with the dominance of Philly schools.

The central beef is that non-public schools and charter schools don’t have geographic borders that effectively limits their talent pool. It’s not a level playing field for the outside-Philly small town teams.

These Philadelphia basketball powerhouses can round up basketball players from just about anywhere so they stack their rosters with blue chip talent.

But is this an issue that can be resolved by the PIAA trying to “regulate” it away?

Probably not.

In reality, it’s a small group of teams that have mastered putting these all-star caliber teams together.

First they identify the talent in the middle schools and AAU. Scope other talent that has developed elsewhere around the region. Then they grease the path for the young athletes to their institution.

“Everyone has been here since ninth grade,” said Imhotep Charter coach Andre Noble after the Panthers rolled Strong Vincent 80-52.

In addition to the rest of state, most Public League and Catholic League teams don’t stand a chance either against Imhotep, Constitution, Math, Civics and Science in the Pub and Neumann-Goretti, Archbishop Wood, Roman Catholic and Archbishop Carroll in the Catholic.

Neumann-Goretti and its coach Carl Arrigale and Imhotep Charter and Noble top the list.

Now Archbishop Wood and its coach John Mosco, a long-time understudy of Arrigale, has joined the club.

Roman and Carroll were eliminated in the early rounds of the state tournament this year but they’ll be back restocked, rest assured.

To a lesser extent among the small schools, Constitution and its coach Robert Moore and Math Civics and Science are also club members. Constitution has won three of the four state championship game it’s been to since 2012.

The Generals lost the state final over the weekend to Sewickley Academy, a private, prep school in Pittsburgh, 68-63 in overtime.

NG, Imhotep and Wood each had two Division 1 recruits, and more on the way. No other team in Hershey had more than one, if that.

Two or more Division 1 recruits just don’t live in the neighborhood.

The coaches of this small group of teams can take a simple action that would go a long way to address this issue.

Play up in classification. 6A works.

“I think I have,” Noble said. “We just haven’t done it. We play a tough non-league schedule. We played Reading.”

Aliquippa and Steel-High are two teams that come to mind about playing up in class. These two teams have always played up in class and have won state championships doing it. Beaver Falls and Farrell are two more who, in effect, challenge their athletes at an appropriate level of competition.

That’s not happening with Neumann-Goretti, Imhotep and company.

“Competition is always fun to play against,” said Villanova-bound Archbishop Wood guard Collin Gillespie. “Definitely the Catholic League is one of the best leagues in the country. Definitely it prepared us for this stage. Just tough teams night in and night out.”

Come on men. Do the right thing. Play the best possible competition that challenges your athletes.

This call out also includes Kennedy Catholic and Girard College the Class A state finalists.

KC defeated five of the teams who made it to Hershey during the regular season (Sewickley Academy, Constitution, Strong Vincent and Lincoln Park), two more in game-style scrimmages (Pine Richland and Meadville), according to Golden Eagles coach Rick Mancino.

Then KC defeated Girard, a District 1 team located in the City of Philadelphia, in the state final 73-56. With its championship, it tied Chester for the most-ever with eight.

Why in the world is KC playing Class A basketball?

Mancino and Girard’s first-year coach Clyde Jones both told one of the TV color analysts for the state championship game telecast that if they don’t make it to the state championship game, that’s “on them.”

Don’t put this on the PIAA. This one is on you fellows. Shame on you for not challenging your players in the state tournament, like you do during the regular season.

Play up.

And one more thought on this…

In the 5A championship game, Meadville was run over by Archbishop Wood 73-40.

Overmatched and overwhelmed, still Meadville coach Mark McElhinny wasn’t about to go negative.

“I’m proud about how we do it,” he said. “Our guys came all the way up through since they were 10 and 12 years old.

“This is also motivation for us to compete against a team like this. We’ve got to get better. Instead of complaining we’ll work harder to try to compete.”

The WPIAL might do well to consider McElhinny’s attitude. WPIAL teams have only won five state championships in the largest classification—4A and now 6A—since 1978.

District 1 has the most over the past 40 years with 17 state championships. District 3 is second with eight.

“I don’t think Philadelphia gives us the respect that I think we deserve,” Pine Richland guard Andrew Petcash told Mike White of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the Rams lost to Reading 64-60 in the 6A final, “I think there are a lot of good teams around us, too.”

Not close enough though to be ready for the level of competition offered up by the big schools in eastern PA.

It will do the WPIAL well to get on a bus and play non-league games in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Respect comes from wins.

State Championship game attendance…

While the Reading fans made the total attendance respectable for 12 championship games played over three days, the Public and Catholic league teams just don’t have a fan following, despite a relatively easy trip up the PA Turnpike to Hershey.

The Reading-Pine Richland 6A final drew a Giant Center record crowd for a high school basketball game of 9,531. The total for the entire 12 games was 26,061.

According to the official score sheets provided by the PIAA, Lincoln Park-Neumann-Goretti had 1,239, Sewickley Academy-Constitution had 1,692, Archbishop Wood-Meadville 2,711 and Imhotep-Strong Vincent 1,500.

There may have been 50 fans in the seats rooting for Imhotep.

By comparison, the WPIAL championship games attendance at Pitt’s Peterson Center was 17,200. The District 3 championship games attendance at Giant Center was 14,216. The District 2 championship games attendance at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre was 11,406.

At last, the Reading Red Knights are state champions

HERSHEY – One middle-aged man, almost an hour after the PIAA Basketball 6A State Championship game ended—won by Reading 64-60 over Pine Richland, spotted from 20 rows up in the arena the Red Knights’ Lonnie Walker, the Miami-bound sensational player who took charge in the second half to score 22 points and who was still signing autographs and posing for pictures with young fans.

He spoke for the thousands from the Red Knight nation that had jammed and owned Hershey’s Giant Center with a record 9,531 crowd on Saturday night and for the countless more who over the years and years had thirsted for this moment.

“Thank you Lonnie,” he shouted with arms raised. “Thank you.”

The long, much-too-long wait is over for Reading. At last, the Red Knights, after 118 years of basketball, are state champions.

“We finally got that ring,” Walker said. “Finally brought that state chip to the City of Reading. I feel on top of the world right now.” See highlights and photos and hear more from Walker above.

And the view couldn’t be better.

The Red Knights, who finished the season 30-3, got it done in grand style, with an electrifying second half rally against Pine Richland, the WPIAL champions and a very good team from suburban Pittsburgh which finished the season 28-2.

The Red Knights won the second half after trailing 30-28 at halftime.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Walker. “We were the stronger team, faster team. We’re the better team. We started to bring it in the second half.”

The Red Knights grabbed the lead for good when Tyrone Nesby converted a Pine Richland turnover, one of 13 forced by in-your-face man-to-man pressure defense, to give them a 40-39 lead with 3:15 left in the third quarter.

Nesby scored all 11 of his points in a clutch, second-half performance.

Walker took it home from there, scoring eight of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.

The Red Knights built an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter but Pine Richland made one last charge to cut to the lead to 52-50 with 3:22 left in the game.

“They made the shots that were open,” said Walker. “Made the layups. Made the passes. That’s what kept them in the game.”

Pine Richland made 56 percent of its shots for the game, a red-hot 80 percent in the second quarter.

But Reading refused to let this state final get away like it did in 1973 when it looked like Stu Jackson and the Red Knights were about to dispatch General Braddock, only for them to lose a heartbreaker 63-62.

Guard Wesley Butler got a pivotal basket. He drove for a layup with a PR defender hanging on him, drew the foul and completed the three-point play to put the Red Knights up 55-52.

Then with 1:20 left, Walker, taking a long pass from Xavier Starks who rebounded a PR missed shot, finished the Rams on a breakaway dunk that ignited a roar in the Giant Center that rocked Chocolatetown and gave the Red Knights a 57-52 lead that, this time, held.

For Reading, Jose Genoa Batista scored 14 points, 12 of them in the first half.

Leading Pine Richland was Notre Dame quarterback recruit Phil Jurkovec who scored 14 points. Andrew Petcash and Sean Colosimo each had 11 points. Nolan Rausch scored 10.

Respected as a high school basketball power throughout generations—the Red Knights are claimed to have won the most games in Pennsylvania to go along with their 20 District 3 championships—Reading at last has its state championship, its first-ever.

This despite losing in the District 3 semifinals to Harrisburg. The resilient Red Knights rebounded to win five state playoff games, including back-to-back gritty wins over Plymouth-Whitemarsh and Archbishop Ryan in their backyard at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

“We’re a public school,” said Walker. “Philly schools have been dominating. We finally brought something home we can be proud about.”

Referencing past Reading legends like past greats Jackson and Donyell Marshall among a long list of others, who were in the building, and coaches like Pete Carill and Jim Gano, along with the thousands and thousands of fans who have stuck with the Red Knights through decades of success, only to come up short in March, coach Rick Perez understood all too well what this state championship meant.

“If I could take this medal and share it with everyone I would,” he said. “Look what we accomplished together. The game was about the kids. They knew what they had to do.”

And what they did was much more than win an important basketball game. They erased all those years of frustrating losses in the state tournament and they gave the community the boost in so many ways it hungered for.

“It was about the City of Reading,” said Walker, who now owns a spot beside the other legendary giants of Reading High sports. “About the community. About the schools. All the young kids. Inspired, motivation, everything that we put in. This was for them.”

Imhotep Charter makes it case as top team in Pennsylvania with easy win in 4A state final

Highlights and photo gallery above

HERSHEY -- Imhotep Charter had no reason to believe that it would finish its season anything short of PIAA 4A state basketball champion.

Led by a highly-regarded major college recruit who was surrounded by some of the best players in Philadelphia, the Panthers were right.

They finished the season as PIAA state champions by thumping District 10 champion Strong Vincent from Erie 80-52 on Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center.

“This was one of our goals all year,” said Imhotep coach Andre Noble. “We always believed we would be here.”

Imhotep had plenty of convincing reasons.

When the possible competition for Imhotep in the state tournament is assessed, it’s no wonder the Panthers were thinking that way.

Imhotep won its five state playoff games—beating Bishop McDevitt, Scranton Prep, Audenried, Greater Nanticoke and Strong Vincent-- by an average of 25 points.

Then factor in a team loaded with talent that has to have major college teams assigning a recruiter just to the Panthers.

Senior guard Dave Beatty, headed to South Carolina, scored 19 points. Senior guard Daron Russell had 25 points, 14 in the first quarter as the Panthers wasted no time taking command with a 27-11 lead after the quarter.

The rest of the team are underclassmen who all played and all but three scored.

And if the USA Today High School Super 25 national rankings have any credibility—the Panthers were ranked 6th this past week—the gold medals had their names on them while they were still in the box.

The Panthers finished the season 31-2, losing only to Neumann-Goretti in December.

They won seven games against highly-regarded out-of-state teams from Baltimore, New York, Florida and Las Vegas and they won the Philadelphia Public League championship game over Martin Luther King.

They were District 12 champions.

“It’s our best team,” said Noble. “Our most accomplished team. No (Imhotep) team has done what it’s done nationally. We’ve done all we can do.”

Perhaps a note to consider for 5A state and Catholic League champion Archbishop Wood and the other PIAA state champions, regardless of class.

“I felt like this caped off our season,” said Beatty. “Number three in the country. Now they can’t doubt us.”

To its credit, Strong Vincent made the Panthers work by mounting a spirited challenge.

SV got off the deck after an early salvo from Imhotep to trim the lead to 12 points at 37-25 late in the second quarter.

But the Panthers closed the half by outscoring the Colonels 11-1 to go to the locker room at halftime leading 48-26. SV never got closer than 17 points the rest of the game.

Tennessee State recruit David Morris led the Colonels, who made it to the state final for only the third time and finished the season at 27-4, with 26 points. Aje Gore had 11.

This was Imhotep’s fifth state championship since 2009. They’ve lost three times in the state semifinals, the last two years to Neumann-Goretti.

With the majority of its team returning next season, it’s easy to see why Imhotep will have every reason, once again, to believe that it will return to Hershey to play for the PIAA 4A state championship.

Major college basketball and football recruits in PIAA state basketball tournament

Major college recruits in PIAA State Championships

Basketball

Quade Green                                     Neumann-Goretti           Kentucky

Dahmir Cosby-Roundtree            Neumann-Goretti           Villanova

Collin Gillespie                                 Archbishop Wood           Villanova

Renell Cummings                            Lincoln Park                       Bowling Green

Lonnie Walker                                  Reading                                               Miami

David Morris                                      Strong Vincent                  Tennessee State

Dave Beatty                                       Imhotep Charter              South Carolina

Deron Russell                                    Imhotep Charter              Rhode Island

Football

Journey Brown                                 Meadville                           Penn State

Phil Jurkovec                                     Pine Richland                    Notre Dame

Major college basketball recruits in State tournament

Basketball

Matiss Kulackovskis                        Archbishop Ryan              Bowling Green

Izaiah Brockington                          Archbishop Ryan              NJIT

Dave Kachelries                                               Emmaus                               NJIT

Eli Brooks                                            Spring Grove                      Michigan

Taylor Funk                                        Manheim Central            St. Joes

Stan Scott                                            Williamsport                     Oakland

Talek Williams                                  Allen                                     Central Connecticut State

Football

Micah Parsons                                   Harrisburg                           Penn State

Damion Barber                                 Harrisburg                           Penn State

Archbishop Wood makes its case as best team in PA by winning 5A state crown

 

Pictures and video highlights coming

HERSHEY – Archbishop Wood had to have more on its mind that just winning the PIAA 5A state championship Friday night at Hershey’s Giant Center.

What the Vikings knew preparing for the game--that they were no match in any way shape or form for District 10 champion Meadville—was established in the first seven minutes of the game as they raced off to a 17-2 lead and then showcased their talent, athletes and basketball skill the rest of the way to a 73-40 win.

With its first-ever state basketball championship, the Vikings, who finished 28-3, completed the football-basketball daily double—something that might just become an annual outcome for this powerhouse sports school located in Bucks County.

Wood won the 5A state football championship back in December.

What the Vikings were looking to do in Chocolatetown was to lay claim to being recognized as the best basketball team in Pennsylvania.

Now, Imhotep Charter, which faces Strong Vincent from Erie in the 4A championship game on Saturday afternoon, and the winner between Reading and Pine Richland in the 6A title game Saturday night will have their chance to weigh in on that conversation that can’t be settled on the court.

But the Vikings have already done their talking. And they made a strong case.

First they swept through the Philadelphia Catholic regular season undefeated.

Then they won the championship by beating 3A state champion Neumann-Goretti.

They followed that by winning the PIAA District 12 championship by defeating Public League power Martin Luther King.

Now they have their state gold medals.

“That was out main goal coming into the year,” said Villanova-bound blue-chip guard Colin Gillespie. “I’m just proud of our guys for getting it done.”

Gillespie ran the show for the Vikings, scoring 15 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing eight assists. Tyron Pickron led Wood with 18 points, including five three-point shots. Seth Pickney had 11 and Andrew Funk scored 10.

Strangely, from his perspective, Gillespie called it a “shaky season.”

“We lost our first couple of games, then our (gym) wall fell down so it was difficult playing on the road all year but we stuck together as a group and we got it done,” he told SPORTSfever.

By the way, those losses were to out-of-state powerhouses in the Gonzaga D.C. Classic. The rest of the way they didn’t lose to a Pennsylvania team.

And on Friday the Vikings made their most compelling argument in grand style.

“Competition is always fun to play against,” said Gillespie. “Definitely the Catholic League is one of the best leagues in the country. Definitely it prepared us for this stage. Just tough teams night in and night out.

“We were confident all season. With the group of guys we had, we were always confident. We’re good on offense. Our biggest thing is defense, getting stops. We know we can score.”

Meadville, which returned to the state finals for the second time--the first since losing to Billy Owens and Carlisle in 1987, finished the season 26-2. Armoni Foster led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Simeal Wofford had 14.

Overmatched and overwhelmed, still Meadville coach Mark McElhinny warranted a tip of the cap.

He wasn’t about to go negative.

“They have eight guys who can play,” he said. “A very athletic and skilled team. I’m proud about how we do it. Our guys came all the way up through since they were 10 and 12 years old.

“This is also motivation for us to compete against a team like this. We’ve got to get better. Instead of complaining we’ll work harder to try to compete.”

Sewickley Academy prevails in overtime to win 2A state championship over Constitution

Check back for video highlights

HERSHEY – Sewickley Academy kept looking for a sign that the game was turning its way.

The Panthers weathered charge after charge from Constitution in the PIAA 2A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center until it came.

“They came over to the bench and I knew we were in good shape,” said Panthers head coach Win Palmer. “We were no longer climbing the mountain.”

That was at the end of regulation with the score tied 59-59. Constitution had leads of 12 points in the first quarter, eight points at halftime and six with 2:25 left in the game, only to give them all back.

Still, to get to overtime, the SA needed yet another defensive stop.

After a Constitution timeout with the score tied at 59-59, the Generals turned over their chance to win to dynamic guard Tamir Green.

But Green could only manage an off-balance jump shot that missed the mark to send the game to overtime.

SA took it from there, outscoring Constitution 9-4 in overtime to win 68-63.

It is Sewickley Academy’s third state title in basketball. The WPIAL champions finished the season 26-4.

Panther guard Justin Pryor, who scored 21 points and had eight rebounds, found Chris Groetsch open for a layup to start the overtime and the Panthers were on their way.

“We scored first,” Palmer said. “Our guys are so good with the lead.”

Pryor and Nate Ridgway, who scored 16 points, spearheaded a lock-down man-to-man defense that made Green work for his 21 points.

“We stuck to our defensive principles,” said Pryor. “We realized we could play with these guys.”

Even after Constitution’s Maurice Waters scored 12 of the first 16 points to give the Generals a 16-4 lead, SA grinded it out on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor to draw even at 23-23.

Waters finished the game with 19 points.

The Colonels closed out the first half with eight unanswered. But SA recovered to grab a 34-33 lead midway through the third quarter.

It’s was back-and-forth the rest of the way.

“If we go down by 15 there was no way we could come back,” said Palmer. “We just had to help (on defense). That’s the way we played all year long. Our guys kept running the offense.”

In the fourth quarter and overtime, Green was determined to win the game all by himself.

He scored the last 12 points for Constitution in the fourth quarter but missed the front end of two one-and-one free throw opportunities. He scored all four points for Constitution in overtime.

In its fourth state championship game since 2012, District 12 runnerup Constitution finished the season 20-10.

Neumann-Goretti makes it four state titles in a row; Kennedy Catholic two in a row

Check out video highlights of these two state championship games at above link

HERSHEY – When teams that make it to the PIAA state basketball championship games have the upper hand in talent, athletes, size and experience playing on the big stage, their mission is simple, really.

Stay focused on taking care of business.

That’s exactly what Kennedy Catholic and Neumann-Goretti have done before and what they did again on Thursday at Hershey’s Giant Center.

In the afternoon, KC, the District 10 champion from Hermitage, won the PIAA A boys state championship for the second straight season by dominating Girard College, the District 1 champion from Philadelphia 73-56.

It was the Golden Eagles’ eighth state championship in school history, tying KC with Chester with most-ever boys state championships.

Later in the evening, Neumann-Goretti, the District 12 champion and the Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse who only joined the PIAA in 2009, won its fourth straight PIAA state championship—its seventh in the past eight years—by routing the WPIAL runnerup Lincoln Park 89-58.

The Saints, who finished the season 24-7, joined Kennedy Catholic (Class A 1998-2001) and Carlisle (Class 4A 1985-1988, as the only teams to win four-straight state championships.

NG’s record in state playoff tournaments since 2009 is an astounding, dynasty-like 39-2.

Kentucky recruit Quade Green and Villanova recruit Dahmir Crosby-Roundtree brought their A games for NG.

Green scored 22 points and Crosby-Roundtree had 13. Christian Ings scored 13 and Mike Millsip had 11.

“We’re really blessed,” Green told SPORTSfever, clutching his fourth PIAA gold medal. “We kept working. Now the results show. We won four state championships.”

Joining Green with four golds are Crosby-Roundtree, Millsip, Emil Moody and Dante Vannicola.

“We wanted to win our last game for our senior season,” said Green. “That’s all it was about.”

Bowling Green recruit Renell Cummings scored 37 points for Lincoln Park, which finished the season 25-6. Evan Brown had 13.

The Leopards hung in there in the first six minutes of the game, trailing 13-9.

But NG scored the next 18 points and never left its foot off the pedal the rest of the game.

“We just played defense,” said Green. “Passing the ball to each other and making each other look good.”

Girard gave KC a somewhat stiffer challenge but the Cavaliers faded in the second half.

KC, which finished the season at 26-2, led 30-20 at halftime but saw its lead to shrink to six points midway through the third quarter.

The Golden Eagles responded by finishing the quarter by outscoring Girard 13-5 and then taking control in the fourth quarter.

There were four Golden Eagles in double-figures. Marcin Wiszomirsky had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Maceo Austin scored 16 points, Drew Magestro had 15 and Mohamed Konate had 11.

“It’s even better,” said Magestro about the repeat. “It’s a great way for us to go out. All I could have asked for. We play our game we have a really good chance to win. We had plenty of experience and we work so hard.”

Daiquan Copeland scored 26 points for Girard, which finished the season at 24-9.  Mikeal Jones had 16.

Lonnie Walker and Reading head to 6A state championship game after win over Archbishop Ryan

Check out the photos and video highlights above

PHILADELPHIA—The PIAA state basketball tournament is a bright-lights stage for blue-chip players like Reading’s Lonnie Walker.

He stole the show on Tuesday night at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

The University of Miami recruit, with Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga in the building, unleashed his wide array of skills, athletic ability and talent by scoring 35 points as Reading defeated Archbishop Ryan 57-51 in the 6A state semifinal.

At last, the Red Knights, longtime a brand name in District 3 basketball, have made it back to the state championship game for the first time since Stu Jackson took them there in 1973.

The RKs, who face WPIAL champion Pine Richland on Saturday night at Giant Center, have never won a state championship in basketball.

Pine Richland spoiled an all-District 3 6A finals by halting surging Carlisle 65-50.

Walker showed what he has talked about during this tournament.

He understands what it takes to win these high-profile, intense, win-or-go-home games full of physical, aggressive play.

“It’s all about who’s going to play harder,” he’s said. “It’s just that simple. Who’s going to play every second, every minute like it’s their last game ever. It’s all about your heart, your energy and how you lead.”

He played on his own level—a notch or two above the competition—duringhis 15-point second quarter as Reading erased an 11-point Ryan lead with 3 minutes left in the quarter and went into the half up 29-27.

Highlight after highlight and they came lightning fast. He dunked twice, drilled a trio of three-point shots, finished at the rim on an acrobatic drive and on defense forced Ryan turnovers with three steals in 48 seconds.

The Liacouras Center was overrun by thousands of Reading fans and they couldn’t get enough.

So Walker gave them another 16 points in the second half and fittingly finished the game with his third dunk.

He made 13 of 19 shots, had four steals and a handful of rebounds.

When he touches the ball, you could hear the decibel level rise.

But the plot didn’t develop for Walker for a while.

Ryan had the start it needed to make it to its first state championship game.

Led by do-everything guard Izaiah Brockington--also headed to Division 1 basketball at NJIT--who scored 14 points in the first 12 minutes, the Raiders from the Philadelphia Catholic League confidently built a 27-16 lead.

Brockington also had the assignment to chase Walker on defense. When Walker turned up the heat, Brockington was unable to match him and the Raiders lost traction in a hurry.

They never recovered from Walker’s all-out assault. Reading’s lead swelled to 49-35 midway in the fourth quarter and, as so many District 3 teams do so effectively, the Red Knights spread the floor with a four corners offense to drain clock and ride the lead to the finish.

For Reading, now 29-3, Wesley Butler scored 10 points.

Top scorers for Ryan, whichfinished the season with a 23-6 record, were Brockington with 16 points and Matiss Kulackovskis with 13 points.

Raiders’ center Fred Taylor had six points and added seven blocked shots.

Had the Raiders prevailed, it would have given Philadelphia area basketball teams a spot in each of the six state finals this weekend in Hershey.

Still, there’s no question that the best high school basketball in Pennsylvania is played in Southeast PA.

Catholic League teams Archbishop Wood (5A) and Neumann-Goretti (3A), Public League teams Imhotep Charter (4A) and Constitution (2A) and Girard College (1A) of District 1, which is located in the City of Philadelphia, are headed to Hershey.

Reading survives scare from Plymouth Whitemarsh to advance to 6A state semis for second straight season

PHILADELPHIA – When your basketball team has a blue-chip major college recruit, one of the best players in the state, the question always comes during the state tournament:

“Are the players who surround him good enough for his team to win the state championship?”

Reading has Lonnie Walker, a 6-6 exciting super talent headed to Miami of Florida for his college career who can play any position and often does.

That question was answered, at least through the quarterfinals of the 6A tournament, Sunday afternoon at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in a thrilling 70-61 win over Plymouth Whitemarsh that set up a state semifinal for the Red Knights against Archbishop Ryan Tuesday night back in North Philly.

Walker was Walker when it counted most. He scored 10 of his 20 points in the frantic fourth quarter as the Red Knights rallied in the final two minutes.

He opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play, a dunk and a basket off a dribble-drive. He grabbed rebounds and created havoc on defense.

“I knew what I had to do,” said Walker. “It was just about unleashing the beast and playing my game. I didn’t want to lose this game.”

Walker had a lot of help all game long.

Senior Tyrone Nesby scored the first 11 points of the game for Reading and finished with 20 points.

Senior Jose Genoa Batista scored 12 points, all coming in the second quarter when the Red Knights erased PW’s three-point lead after the first quarter and took a 37-32 halftime edge.

Senior Isiah Cook, who scored 11 points, had crucial back-to-back baskets in the paint late in the fourth quarter.

His first basket tied the game at 61-61 with 1:54 left.

He then grabbed a rebound off a PW miss and at the other end scored again to put Reading up 63-61, a lead the Red Knights would not relinquish.

Plymouth Whitemarsh was mixing it up in an intense, physical game for the second time in less than 48 hours. A lot to ask of a high school basketball team but the Colonials, despite 22 turnovers, refused to show fatigue as they hung in there with a fresher opponent.

Down 44-36 early in the second half, PW climbed back in a hurry to tie it up at 50 heading to the fourth quarter.

Its deep rotation of 11 players gave the Colonials spark.

Kevin Tilghman come off the bench and scored 14 points in the second half. Ahmad Williams led the Colonials with 15 points.

Tilghman’s two free throws gave PW a 61-59 lead with 2:10 left in the game but the Colonials would not score again.

“Every game, it’s a test of character,” said Reading coach Rick Perez. “We were quickly humbled because they took the lead. It’s very important your seniors step up. You can’t do it without them.”

Walker and his fellow seniors are now headed to their second consecutive Final Four.

It is the 13th time Reading has reached the PIAA state semifinals. The Red Knights have only advanced to the state championship game twice and have never won it.

“Two years straight, it’s a huge accomplishment,” Walker said. “Shows how hard we’ve been working. (Senior leadership) is one of the main things. We’ve been here before. We know what it takes to win. We know how hard it is. We know the environment. We know how everything is going to be. It’s all about who’s going to play harder. It’s just that simple.”

Get more comments from Walker and highlights of the game at the Highlights link above.

Archbishop Ryan advances to 6A Final Four with win over Hempfield

READING – Izaiah Brockington got his assignment immediately after Archbishop Ryan had advanced to face Hempfield in the PIAA State 6A tournament quarterfinals.

Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski wasted no time telling the multi-talented senior guard, headed to NJIT for a college basketball career, that his job was to stop Ryan Moffatt the lanky guard who is the cog in the Black Knights’ patient, spread-the-floor offense.

Brockington got the job done, holding Moffatt to seven points and scoring a game-high 20 points himself as the Raiders joined the parade of Philadelphia teams to the semifinals across six classes with a 60-50 win over Hempfield, the District 3 runnerup.

“It was a big part of the game plan,” Brockington told SPORTSfever after the win. “It’s nothing new. I’ve done it all year.”

Ryan broke free of Hempfield late in the first quarter and led at halftime 28-19.

With Ryan’s double-digit lead melting down to five midway through the third quarter, Brockington scored 10 straight points and the Raiders entered the fourth quarter ahead 40-29.

“I knew I was shooting poorly in the first half,” said Brockington. “I knew I had to come out in the second half and be aggressive.”

Hempfield was able to draw within six at 53-47 with 1:05 left in the game before Ryan closed it out by making seven of eight free throws in the final minute.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Brockington. “This is our first time (in the state tournament). It’s a great experience. It was one of our goals.”

Matiss Kulackovskis also scored 20 points for Ryan. David Martin-Robinson led Hempfield with 16 points and Bryan Karl had 10.

As has been the case since the Philadelphia Public and Catholic leagues joined the PIAA, teams from PIAA District 12 are dominating once again.

Brockington said playing basketball in Philadelphia gives those teams in the state tournament an edge.

“Definitely,” said Brockington. “There’s a sense of confidence. The Catholic League is considered one of the top leagues in the state. Playing the teams we play, we’re prepared for anything thrown at us.”

Now 23-5, Ryan faces the winner of the Reading-Plymouth Whitemarsh game at Temple University on Sunday afternoon in the state semifinal on Tuesday night.

Hempfield finishes it season 21-10.

Carlisle needs two overtimes to advance to 6A boys Final Four

READING – Carlisle 5-9 senior Ben Milligan has to make the most of his opportunities.

He did just that on Saturday afternoon at Reading High School’s Geigle Complex in the PIAA state 6A quarterfinal against Emmaus.

With a dynamic teammates like point guard Deshawn Millington and forward Ethan Houston, Milligan doesn’t get a lot of touches.

But he had the ball when it counted most in this wild firefight.

Milligan nailed two three-point shots in the final 13.5 seconds of regulation time, the second coming just before the final horn to tie the game at 62-62 and send it to overtime.

He sank another three-point shot in the first overtime that gave Carlisle a 68-66 lead.

But it took the Thundering Herd a second overtime to defeat Emmaus 78-74 and advance to the 6A final four for the first time since 1988 when the Herd finished off a remarkable streak of four straight 4A state championships.

Milligan’s clutch shots culminated a desperation comeback by the Herd. Check out Milligan’s comments on the game highlights link above.

Led by talented guards David and Matt Kachelries who combined for 57 points, Emmaus had a 56-46 lead with 3:05 left in the game.

Carlisle could not control the twin brothers, who repeatedly drove to the basket and kept the pressure on the Herd on offense and defense.

The Hornets grabbed a quick 10-3 lead to start the game and stayed in front by repelling a number of Carlisle charges.

David Kachelries scored eight straight points, part of his 36 for the game, to build the lead to 10 late in the fourth quarter.

But the Herd had one last push in them. And Emmaus’ unwillingness to hold the ball and force Carlisle to foul to protect the lead set the table for a Herd rally.

Finally, Millington, who only had four points in the first three quarters—he sat out most of the third quarter with three fouls, got going.

He scored eight as the Herd outscored Emmaus 10-2.

And when David Kachelries missed a foul shot—his fourth-straight miss--that would have given Emmaus a secure four-point lead with 7.9 seconds left in regulation, Millington grabbed the rebound, raced up the floor and found Milligan, who scored 12 points on four threes, open in front of the Carlisle bench.

Milligan’s three-point shot ripped through the net just before the buzzer.

In the first overtime, Matt Kachelries sent the game to a second overtime when he was fouled on a three-point shot attempt and then made all three free throws with 24.4 seconds remaining.

In the second overtime, with both teams physically spent, Carlisle made just seven of 14 free throws but it was enough to advance.

Houston led Carlisle with 20 points. Millington had 16, Gavyn Barnes 13 and Nate Barnes 12.

Josh Artis had 10 for Emmaus, the fourth-place team from District 11 which finished with a 22-7 record.

Now 21-8, the fifth-place team from District 3 Carlisle faces WPIAL champion Pine Richland (27-1), which won its quarterfinal on Saturday over Butler 64-58.

Plymouth Whitemarsh advances in 6A boys state tournament

BETHLEHEM – In the PIAA state basketball tournament for the third consecutive year, Plymouth Whitemarsh understood what it takes to advance in Pennsylvania’s grueling version of March Madness.

It takes everything a team has.

Drawing from their playoff pedigree, the Colonials somehow found just enough to fight past very talented Pocono Mountain West 66-63 Friday night at Freedom High School in Bethlehem.

There’s no rest for the weary. PW, which has reached the quarterfinals for the third straight year, faces District 3 powerhouse Reading Sunday in the state quarterfinals.

PMW, making only its third-ever trip to the state dance, finished the season 23-5.

The Panthers had that look of a team in charge throughout the first 21 minutes of basketball. Their quickness and talent had PW on the ropes.

Power forward Jalen Vaughs and point guard Isaiah Wiggins took it to the Colonials. Wiggins finished with 28 points and Vaughs had 24.

From that point on, however, PW found its game, led by guard Ish Horn, who had only scored four points.

Horn led the rally with 16 points. Hear his thoughts on the video highlights above.

Horn, who finished with 20 points, had a lot of help. Ahmad Williams scored 15 and Cheo Houston had 13.

PMW jumped on the Colonials at the start of the game and led 16-8 after the first quarter. The lead was 46-39 with three minutes left in the third quarter when PW hit all cylinders, outscoring the Panthers 16-4 to end the third quarter.

A wild end to the quarter it was as Horn launched a half-court shot that banked in at the buzzer to give PW a 55-50 lead.

Wiggins was relentless, scoring PMW’s final eight points, but the Panthers came up short.

Wrapping up the first round of the State Basketball Tournament

The PIAA adding two more classes of competition worked to the Philadelphia Public League’s favor—at least in the first round of the state tournament.

The Pub teams won 10 of 13 games across the six classes.

West Philadelphia and Lincoln in 6A both won their first-ever state playoff games. Masterman in 2A and Audenried in 4A also won a state playoff game for the first time.

Since the Pub shares District 12 state playoff spots with the powerful Catholic League, these teams may not have made the tournament under the prior four-class system.

Of course, the usual contenders—Imhotep in 4A, Del-Val Charter in 3A and Math, Civics and Science and Constitution in 2A—also won their first rounders. But it’s a stretch to include these four among the rank-and-file Pub teams.

All four are stocked with the best players in Philly they can round up and lure to their schools.

Hempfield’s win over Allen gave District 3 6A five wins in six opening round games.

The big school class teams from District 3 had never won five first round games.

Whether this is any indication that District 3 basketball, at least among the big schools, can produce a state champion remains to be seen.

The last state champion in the big-school class was Harrisburg in 2002 in 4A.

“I’m proud to be part of the L-L League and proud to be part of District 3,” said Hempfield coach Danny Walck. “We have great players and great coaches in our district. It speaks for itself.”

In particular, it was a very impressive showing by the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division.

Including regular season champion State College, which is the District 6 champion, the Commonwealth’s four teams in the tournament won their games—Harrisburg, Carlisle and Central Dauphin East in addition to the Little Lions.

No other league produced those kind of results on any level.

And there’s another bright note for District 3 6A teams. No Chester.

The Clippers are now a 5A team. In the state tournament, Chester had a 38-10 record against District 3 teams in the largest classification state tournament

By the way, the Clippers opened the tournament on Friday by defeating Milton Hershey. They get Hershey next.

Hempfield wins clash of styles in first round of 6A boys state tournament

Hempfield followed the often-proven guide of “Learn from your mistakes” and advanced in the PIAA State basketball tournament.

The Black Knights rebounded from a District 3 6A boys championship game shellacking by Harrisburg one week ago to win their state tournament opener over Allen 62-57 Saturday night at Warwick High School in Lititz.

Hempfield once again was playing a team like the Cougars with more quickness and athletic ability.

The Black Knights have a game plan to counter those advantages.

They didn’t execute it against Harrisburg. They did against Allen.

“Against Harrisburg, we got too tight with our offense,” said lanky 6-5 junior guard Ryan Moffatt. “(Allen) is a really athletic team. We’ve got to spread it out against teams like them. They don’t like to guard a lot of space. Coach (Danny) Walck always says space and pace.”

That patience produced long possessions for the Black Knights that shorten the game, taking away opportunities for Allen to score.

On a number of offensive trips, Hempfield passed and dribbled for more than one minute before taking a shot.

That’s the Black Knights’ one weapon that the Allens and Harrisburgs don’t use. A style that’s easy for opponents to underestimate, suggested Hempfield coach Danny Walck.

Hempfield got off to a strong start, taking a 17-7 lead in the first quarter. Allen responded by turning up the pressure on defense and recovered to take its only lead of the game at 22-21 midway second quarter.

The BKs answered the challenge by scoring the final seven points of the first half to lead 30-23 at halftime. Junior Anthony Alston came off the bench to score five of his seven points during that stretch.

Hempfield’s lead grew to 53-42 with 2:31 left in the game.

But Allen charged back with its full-court press, shaking Hempfield to its core by forcing turnover after turnover.

The Knights couldn’t get the ball in bounds and up the floor.

And they couldn’t stop repeated drives to the basket by Allen’s major college basketball recruits Talek Williams and Tyrese Martin.

After outscoring Hempfield 11-1 over 78 seconds, Allen only trailed 54-53.

Time out Hempfield to figure out something to survive.

Then came the baseball inbounds pass from under the Allen basket to Moffatt, who had run past his defender to catch the pass over the center court line. He drew a foul and then made both free throws to put the Knights up 56-53 and put out the fire.

“Coach Walck called for it,” said Moffatt. “Times like that you’ve got to stay together. When you stick together it’s easy to play as a team. We’re close together on and off the court. Guys trust each other.”

Moffatt, who made six of eight free throws in the final 1:07 to finish off the Canaries, scored 23 points. David Martin-Robinson had 13 and Bryan Karl 12 points for Hempfield.

With 50 of Allen’s 57 points, Martin had 29 and Williams 21. The third-place team from District 11, the Canaries finished the season at 26-3.

Now 20-9, Hempfield faces 21-4 District 4 champion Williamsport on Wednesday in the second round of the tournament.

Hempfield is 4-9 in state playoff games and has only advanced to the state quarterfinals once (2010).

West Philadelphia leads a strong showing by the Philly Public League in boys state basketball tournament

They come from the big city but the West Philadelphia Speedboys never played in a gym with such a large crowd.

On Saturday afternoon in the PIAA boys 4A state tournament opener, the spacious Warwick High School gym was full with some 2,000 fans, most of them making noise for Lancaster Catholic, the District 3 4A champions whose campus is only 6 miles south.

The pro-Speedboys’ contingent numbered 100 or so who made the trip from Philly to Lititz.

This unchartered territory only challenged West Philly for the first eight minutes of the game.

The Speedboys scored the last four points of the first quarter to take a 11-9 into the second quarter.

It all settled in after that.

The Speedboys looked right at home building a 32-20 halftime lead and finishing the job in the second.

Led by 6-3 junior power forward Latrell Carroll, who scored 20 of his game-high 24 points and grabbed a half-dozen rebounds in the second half, the one-time Philadelphia Public League powerhouse West Philadelphia won its first-ever state playoff game 78-65 over Lancaster Catholic.

“I came out ready to play in the second half,” said Carroll. “I didn’t let the crowd get into my head as much as it did in the first half. We were prepared for a big crowd. It’s a real big win.”

Carroll drove the basket for layups and made both short and three-point jumpers. He couldn’t miss.

Lancaster Catholic has found answers all season dealing with teams who had quickness. The Crusaders defeated Lebanon for the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship and rallied to beat Middletown in the district final.

But the Speedboys are just that.

“We played at a much faster pace,” said Carroll. “Once we came out for the second half, we knew we were faster.”

Cyrie Coates scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, picking up Carroll until he got going. Dymeir Shackelford scored 14, Maxwell Brown had 12 and Malik Lorenson had 11 for the Speedboys, who face Wilkes Barre GAR in the second round on Tuesday.

Too many scorers for Lancaster Catholic to hold in-check.

Danny Bomberger led the Crusaders, whose 24-5 season ended, with 20 points. Jon Ware had 13 and Chad Wenger and Sean Landis each scored 12.

Chester rolls into the second round of the PIAA state 5A boys tournament

LEBANON, PA – They are still the Chester Clippers.

They no longer compete in the PIAA’s largest classification.

But make no mistake, the Clippers remain one of the elite “brands” of high school basketball in Pennsylvania.

In their 72-53 win over Milton Hershey in their 5A state tournament opener, the Clippers, who have rarely entered the tournament as something other than the PIAA District 1 champion, played like a team with something to prove.

After losing their district quarterfinal, the Clippers were the 5th-place team among the seven teams from District 1. Penncrest, the District 1 champion, was upset Friday night 51-42 by District 3’s 10th-place team Hershey, Chester’s next opponent.

“We felt like we should have won it (District 1 championship),” Clipper guard Ahrod Carter told SPORTSfever. “We had a chip on our shoulder. We felt like we had something to prove.”

In large part due to Carter, the Clippers proved they are serious contenders for the 5A state championship. Carter played a near-perfect game when he scored a career-high 27 points, making 10 of his 12 shots, including seven three-point shots.

“I don’t believe he wanted to finish up,” said Chester coach Larry Yarbray, Sr. “It’s our time of the year.”

It looked just that way as the Clippers jumped to an early 15-4 lead on Milton Hershey, the third-place team from District 3. The Spartans never got closer than nine points.

This despite Milton Hershey, led by Keonte Lucas’ 12 points, holding its own in the turnover and rebound battle.

The difference was outside the three-point arc. Led by Carter’s seven three-point baskets, Chester drained 10—something that past Chester teams rarely turned to. Forward Jamar Sudan added 15 points for the Clippers.

“We have six guys who can make threes,” said Yarbray. “I’m used to that.”

With Chester’s reputation as a basketball powerhouse, why 5A and not 6A coach?

“You’ve got to look at our enrollment is down,” said Yarbray. “We played up for years. With the Catholics, privates and now the charters, they keep coming taking our kids. They've (PIAA) got to do something about it.”

A couple of items from the PIAA District 3 basketball championships last week

Daily Double

With its 67-40 win over Hempfield in the PIAA District 3 6A boys championship game, Harrisburg completed the district championship daily double. The Cougars also won the district 5A football championship in December.

Middletown had the chance to do the same but Lancaster Catholic got in the way. The Blue Raiders, who won the district 3A football championship last fall, lost to the Crusaders in the 4A basketball final 86-78.

Attendance figures announced at Giant Center

6-day, 18-game total 26,304; 4-day, 12-game Finals total 14,216 (1,185 per game)

Monday February 27 Tripleheader Semifinals: 6A girls Central York-Cumberland Valley & 5A boys          Miton Hershey-Mechanicsburg & Spring Grove-Northeastern 5,766

Tuesday February 28 Tripleheader Semifinals: 6A girls Central Dauphin-Cedar Crest & 6A boys Hempfield-Lebanon & Reading-Harrisburg 6,322

Wednesday March 1 Tripleheader Finals: 2A girls Columbia Camp Hill, 2A boys Newport-Halifax & 3A boys Lancaster Mennonite-Trinity 2,548

Thursday March 2 Tripleheader Finals: 1A boys Lancaster County Christian-York Country Day, 3A girls Delone Catholic-York Catholic, 4A boys Middletown-Lancaster Catholic 2,810

Friday March 3 Quadrupleheader Finals: 1A girls Lebanon Catholic-Halifax, 4A girls Bishop McDevitt-Northern Lebanon, 6A girls Central Dauphin-Cumberland Valley, 5A boys Mechanicsburg-Northeastern 5,704

Saturday March 4 Doubleheader Finals: 5A girls Susquehannock-Harrisburg & 6A boys Hempfield-Harrisburg 3,154

Dandy Dozen

Fans saw a lot of pretty good players during the six nights of District 3 basketball at Giant Center.

This dozen was very impressive:

Lonnie Walker (Reading), Chris Whitaker (Harrisburg), Micah Parsons (Harrisburg), Fred Mulbah (Northeastern), Jon Ware (Lancaster Catholic), Sean Landis (Lancaster Catholic), Eli Brooks (Spring Grove), Cade Alioth (Mechanicsburg), David Martin-Robinson (Hempfield), Austin Gilbertson (Trinity), Tim Edwards (Trinity) and Javan Terry (Lancaster Mennonite).

District 3 Basketball Championship scores

6A Boys Harrisburg 67, Hempfield 40

5A Boys Northeastern 61, Mechanicsburg 44

4A Boys Lancaster Catholic 86, Middletown 78

3A Boys Trinity 75, Lancaster Mennonite 72

2A Boys Halifax 44, Newport 40

1A Boys York Country Day 85, Lancaster County Christian 58

 

6A Girls Central Dauphin 40, Cumberland Valley 31

5A Girls Susquehannock 44, Harrisburg 42

4A Girls Northern Lebanon 46, Bishop McDevitt 44

3A Girls York Catholic 57, Delone Catholic 46

2A Girls Camp Hill 59, Columbia 38

1A Girls Lebanon Catholic 55, Halifax 27

Harrisburg dominates Hempfield to win the PIAA District 3 6A championship

Opponents know all too well what to expect when they play Harrisburg.

The Cougars swarm on defense and to the glass with tenacity.

They attack the rim on offense and the opponents’ ball handlers everywhere on the court.

They impose their will with intensity and they make opponents play the game their way.

When opponents fail to measure up the Cougars’ challenge, then they get the result that Hempfield got on Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center in the PIAA District 3 6A Boys championship game.

Harrisburg 67, Hempfield 40.

The Cougars won their 12th big-school district championship since the school was opened in 1971 after the merger of William Penn and John Harris high schools.

It’s always been this way when the Cougars get a chance to showcase their game on the big stage.

They hone their game in the toughest conference in District 3—the Mid-Penn Commonwealth.

Senior Chris Whitaker scored six of his game-high 25 points in the first seven minutes as Harrisburg raced to a 16-5 lead and kept its foot on the pedal the rest of the game.

Whitaker had 13 points in the third quarter as the Cougars’ 31-9 halftime lead grew to 48-25 after three.

Penn State football commit and muscle man Micah Parsons had 14 points that included two dunks (see Photo Gallery).

David Martin-Robinson led Hempfield with 15 points, earning every one of them.

Almost always dominant on its District 3 home turf, the challenge now for Harrisburg is to build on its district championship and go get a PIAA state championship. They did just that in 1998 and 2002 when they won 4A state titles.

Winning a state championship almost always requires that a team has senior leadership (Whitaker), depth (Harrisburg coach Kirk Smallwood uses a rotation of 10 players), more than a couple of players who are capable of scoring points (Whitaker, Tony James, Quintyn Flemister), the ability at every position to play defense and rebound (Micah Parsons, Damien Barber, Elijah Barrett, Zion Patterson) and always some good fortune.

And most importantly, a serious state title contender has to have that burning desire and focus to win.

After defeating Carlisle, Reading and Hempfield in the district tournament, the Cougars have just that look.

The Cougars open the state tournament next Saturday against the District 1 10th-place team Downingtown West.

The challenge for Hempfield, after its three impressive wins to reach the district championship game as a seven seed, is to regroup. The Black Knights face a very talent District 11 third-place team Allen in their state tournament opener.

Northeastern overwhelms Mechanicsburg in fourth quarter to win PIAA District 3 5A boys championship

Photo Gallery above

When Mechanicsburg identifies reasons for how it’s eight-point third quarter turned into a 61-44 loss to Northeastern in the PIAA District 3 5A championship game Friday night at Hershey’s Giant Center, the Wildcats need to look no further than Northeastern’s Fred Mulbah, Austin Greene and Brandon Coleman.

These Bobcats took matters into their own hands, quite literally, and fueled a sudden and decisive rally over the final six minutes.

With their array of athletic abilities—quick hands, speed down the court and jumping, Mulbah, Greene and Coleman forced Mechanicsburg into turnover after turnover, grabbed rebounds that Mechanicsburg’s 6-5 center Cade Alioth had to himself in the first three quarters, and combined for 25 of the final 31 points scored by Northeastern.

Mulbah scored a team-high 27 points, 15 coming over the last 10 minutes of the game.

Austin Greene scored half of his 10 points during the rally.

Brandon Coleman got in on the comeback when he scored five of his eight points. His coast-to-coast dribble after a Mechanicsburg turnover led to a fantastic leap through the lane that he finished off with a thunderous dunk, giving the Bobcats a 44-40 lead.

Mechanicsburg led at halftime 25-20 and built the lead to 33-25 midway through the third quarter.

With a three-inch height advantage over any of Northeastern’s players, Alioth was dominating inside to that point and had the Bobcats in foul trouble trying to stop him.

He scored the Wildcats’ first 12 points and upped his total to 21 points with a layup that gave his team the eight-point third quarter lead.

Alioth finished with 27 points.

When Mulbah, Greene and Coleman got the wakeup call, it didn’t help Mechanicsburg’s effort to steady the ship when its veteran point guard Kyle Scheib fouled out with 5:02 left in the game.

Northeastern won its first-ever basketball district championship and will face Wissahickon, the seventh-place team from Distict 1 in its PIAA state tournament opener next weekend.

Mechanicsburg opens the state tournament against Springfield Delaware County, the sixth-place team from District 1.