Now comes the true end of the season.
This weekend, a thoroughly amazing 13 teams from the Catholic League will compete in the PIAA state tournament. Last year, Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti boys, Archbishop Wood girls, and Neumann-Goretti girls each captured a state title. Cardinal O’Hara girls lost in the state final.
Among the squads that won a district championship last week were Catholic League champions Archbishop Wood (boys) and Cardinal O’Hara (girls). Could anything surpass celebrating a championship in the Palestra? Even a state title in Hershey?
“That’s a tough question,” said O’Hara junior Kenzie Gardler, one of the mainstays behind the Lions’ 35-30 Catholic League upset of Archbishop Wood. “In my opinion, a Catholic League championship means more to me because the Catholic League is so respected and it was played at the Palestra, which is a historic place.
“But O’Hara’s never won a state title for basketball ever, so … that would mean a lot as well.”
Archbishop Wood senior Collin Gillespie, the Villanova-bound league Most Valuable Player who scored 24 points in the Vikings’ 65-58 championship victory over Neumann-Goretti, summarized that nothing will ever replace winning the Catholic League championship.
“They’re very different,” said Gillespie. “A Catholic League championship is very special, something we will obviously never forget. But our approach is that the season isn’t over, not by a long shot.”
Below is the breakdown of this weekend’s PIAA first round. Every game is single elimination. Victors will play in the second round on March 14 (girls) and March 15 (boys).
In boys’ hoops, on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Division 5A Wood takes on New Oxford at Philadelphia University; Division 3A Neumann-Goretti faces York Catholic 6 at Southern High; Division 3A West Catholic plays Lancaster Mennonite 8 at Garden Spot; and 5A Archbishop Carroll meets Great Valley 7:30 at Spring-Ford.
On Saturday, top-ranked Division 6A Roman Catholic battles Perkiomen Valley 5 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Prep; 6A Archbishop Ryan plays Parkland 6 at Bethlehem Freedom; and 4A Conwell-Egan faces Saucon Valley 5 at Archbishop Carroll.
For the girls, Friday competition includes 6A Cardinal O’Hara vs. Upper Dublin 6 at Philadelphia University; 4A Lansdale Catholic against Berks Catholic 8 at Father Judge; and 2A West Catholic vs. Columbia 7:30 at High School of the Future.
On Saturday, 5A Archbishop Wood faces West Chester Henderson 3:30 at Archbishop Carroll; 5A Archbishop Carroll takes on Mount St. Joseph 4 at Cheltenham; and 3A Neumann-Goretti meets Middletown 3:30 at St. Joseph’s Prep.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.