Road to Hershey opens up as state basketball playoffs tip off Friday

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Thursday, March 5, 2020 | 9:49 PM


Last year, the western side of the PIAA Class A boys basketball bracket became a WPIAL block party.

The six District 7 teams that qualified for the 2019 Class A state basketball playoffs were a combined 4-2 in the first round and a perfect 4-0 in the second round.

That set up an all-WPIAL bottom of the bracket in the quarterfinals as district champion Nazareth Prep faced Monessen while section rivals Vincentian Academy and Cornell collided.

Monessen and Vincentian Academy prevailed and met in the semifinals where the Royals raced past the Greyhounds, 57-43, to advance to the Class A state final.

Vincentian lost to District 12 champion Sankofa Freedom Academy by 22 points in the title game.

On Friday, the boys Class A playoffs tip off, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see more success from the WPIAL six that includes new champion Vincentian Academy, Cornell, Nazareth Prep, Bishop Canevin, Geibel Catholic and Imani Christian.

Three big obstacles in the first round include Berlin-Brothersvalley and Shade from District 5 and HSSN top-ranked Elk County Catholic, champion of District 9. Those three teams enter the state playoffs with a combined record of 76-5.

Big scorers

If defense is the key to basketball success in March, a couple of WPIAL Class 2A girls basketball teams will have their hands full on opening night of the PIAA postseason.

WPIAL runner-up Laurel gets to stay close to home as it faces Bellwood-Antis out of District 6 in a 6 p.m. game at New Castle.

The Spartans had a tough time in the district championship game in slowing down Bishop Canevin senior Diajha Allen, who scored a game-high 21 points in the Crusaders’ victory.

Laurel will now try to slow down the Blue Devils’ top gun in Allie Campbell, who averages more than 28 points per game.

A similar challenge awaits Riverview.

The Raiders head east to Pitt-Johnstown to face District 5 champion Everett on Friday.

The Warriors are led by Kaitlyn Maxwell, who averages 30 points per game.

The Road to Hershey

The advantage for reaching the WPIAL championship game, besides playing at The Pete for district gold, is a short journey in the opening round of the PIAA basketball playoffs.

For those teams that have to hit the road on Friday, there are trips north to Erie, Slippery Rock and Farrell, trips northeast to Clarion and St. Mary’s and bus GPS systems set for east to Altoona and Pitt-Johnstown.

However for two district schools, the Road to Hershey opens up with a trip to Chocolatetown.

The South Fayette boys will face District 3 runner-up Muhlenberg in a 5A opener on Friday at 5 p.m. That game is followed by the Baldwin girls against District 3 champion Central Dauphin in 6A at 6:30 p.m.

Both games are being played at Milton High School in Hershey.

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