H.S. Basketball: Seven WVC teams start state playoff journey this weekend

Mar. 8—Four Wyoming Valley Conference girls teams and three boys teams begin the PIAA state basketball playoffs this weekend.

In girls, Hazleton Area, Holy Redeemer and Lake-Lehman will play Friday. Dallas will play Saturday afternoon.

The Dallas and MMI Prep boys are in action on Friday. Hazleton Area plays Saturday afternoon.

It's been a long time since a WVC team played for a state championship. Bishop Hoban was the last girls team to do so in 1999. Bishop O'Reilly was the last boys team in 2005. Those schools were part of the merger that formed Holy Redeemer in 2007.

Tickets for all games are $8 — plus, of course, a processing fee — and available only at by following the basketball link under sports and clicking on the bracket for the game you want to attend.

Here's a look at the first-round games starting with the girls.

Pennsbury (20-7) at Hazleton Area (23-4)

Class 6A Girls First Round

7 p.m. Friday

Pennsbury is the ninth seed out of District 1, which has 44 Class 4A programs. The Falcons lost in the second round of the D1 playoffs 54-27 to eventual champion Perkiomen Valley. They battled back through the playoff round, winning three games and allowing just 26 points per game, to gain the ninth seed.

Sophia Vitucci, a 5-foot-5 guard, was a Suburban One League Patriot Division first-team all-star. Layla Matthias, a 5-foot-10 forward, was a second-team selection. The D1 ninth seed has defeated the District 2 champion the past two seasons.

Hazleton Area trailed Williamsport by 10 points at halftime in the D2/4-6A championship game, but outscored the Millionaires 21-5 in the third quarter on the way to a 49-33 win. The key was hitting shots in the third quarter that allowed the Cougars to get into their press defense. They can create a lot of chaos that way. Kaitlyn Bindas had 14 and Alexis Reimold scored 10.

The winner plays Tuesday against the winner of the game between D12 second seed Cardinal O'Hara (21-4) and D1 eighth seed Upper Dublin (22-4).

Bloomsburg (14-11) at Holy Redeemer (21-5)

Class 3A Girls First Round

7 p.m. Friday

District 4 third seed Bloomsburg and District 2 champion Holy Redeemer played on Dec. 2, with Redeemer winning 51-37. The Royals took control with a 20-point second quarter.

Brynna Zentner, a 6-foot senior, had 22 points for Bloomsburg in that game. She averages a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Bella Pistoia, a 5-9 junior, adds eight per game. The Panthers have been inconsistent from 3-point range.

Redeemer knocked off defending state champion Dunmore 51-46 in the District 2 title contest for its first district championship since 2017. Brooke Kroptavich scored 13 and Megan Albrecht added 12, but the Royals have proven throughout the season they have several players who can score.

The winner plays Tuesday against the winner of D12 champion Imhotep Charter (13-11) vs. D3 third seed York Catholic (18-7).

Lake-Lehman (17-10) vs. Notre Dame GP (21-5)

Class 3A Girls First Round

6 p.m. Friday

Allentown Central Catholic H.S.

Notre Dame Green Pond needed just two wins — 40-21 over Pen Argyl and 34-26 over Catasauqua — to capture its third District 11 championship in six seasons.

Senior Olivia Schweitzer had 17 points vs. Catasauqua. She averages a little over nine per game and is the Crusaders' best 3-point shooter. Emily Lessing and Carly Campbell toss in about eight per game each. Notre Dame has held 18 opponents under 40 points.

Lake-Lehman is the District 2 third seed for a second consecutive season. The Black Knights lost in the state quarterfinals in 2023, but a similar state run could be difficult. They slipped past Western Wayne 36-34 in the third-place game on a last-second shot by Molly Jenkins, one of three starters back from last season. Ella Wilson led the entire WVC in scoring with a 20.9 average. Brenna Hunt averaged 13.2 during the regular season, but missed the Western Wayne game with an injury.

The winner plays Tuesday against the winner of D3 second seed Columbia (19-4) vs. D4 second seed Loyalsock (24-3).

Dallas (20-7) vs. Villa Maria Academy (17-8)

Class 5A Girls First Round

Noon Saturday

Great Valley H.S.

Villa Maria was seeded sixth in the District 1 tournament and bumped off third-seeded Radnor and second-seeded West Chester East on the way to the district title game. There, the Hurricanes lost 53-43 to ninth-seeded Bishop Shanahan to get the second seed in states.

Senior Carly Catania, a New Hampshire commit, is Villa Maria's go-to player. She had 15 vs. Shanahan. Senior Sophia Tray and sophomore Emma O'Hare supplement the scoring. The Hurricanes had a late-season, three-game losing streak where they lost by one, four and three points.

Dallas didn't played very well offensively in a 42-35 victory over Crestwood in the District 2 third-place game. The Mountaineers did clamp down defensively and beat the bigger Comets on the boards behind Elizabeth Viglone, the only senior in the starting lineup. WVC Division 1 scoring champion Molly Walsh had 16 points.

The winner plays Wednesday against the winner of D12 champion Archbishop Wood (21-5) vs. D1 sixth seed Radnor (19-6).

West Philadelphia (10-13) at Dallas (20-7)

Class 5A Boys First Round

7 p.m. Friday

District 12 third seed West Philly and District 2 second seed Dallas do have some history. Dallas defeated West Philly 79-68 in overtime in the PIAA 4A state quarterfinals in 2022.

West Philly started the season 2-10, but there were three losses by three points or less including one in overtime. Since then, West Philly has put up some strong numbers on offense behind 6-foot-7 junior Makel Butts and 6-4 senior Abrahaman Coulibaly.

Although the players have changed since that meeting with Dallas two years ago, the Speedboys still like to play uptempo on both ends of the court.

Seniors Mikey Cumbo, Cameron Faux and Zach Paczewski all played against West Philly two years ago. Cumbo was the only starter back then and scored 20. The Mountaineers lost 59-40 to unbeaten Abington Heights for the D2 title. Cumbo had a team-high 12 points. They made some minor runs at Abington Heights' lead, but could never get the deficit down to a manageable level.

The winner plays Tuesday against the winner of D11 champion Unionville (23-2) and D3 eighth seed Manheim Central (19-7).

MMI Prep (14-10) at Galeton (12-13)

Class A Boys First Round

7 p.m. Friday

District 2 champion MMI Prep is listed as a second seed by the PIAA based on its runner-up finish in the D2/11 Class A tournament. The Preppers have one thing in common with District 4 second seed Galeton. Both rely on seniors.

For Galeton, the top seniors are Braiden Cimino, who averages 12.4 points and has 53 3-pointers, and Corey Anderson, who tosses in 10.6 per game. The Tigers have no size in their rotation, with Cimino the tallest guy at 6-foot.

MMI Prep won the District 2 title and then returned to the D2/11 playoffs and lost 55-46 to Notre Dame East Stroudsburg in the championship game. The Preppers have a lot of seniors plus some size Galeton doesn't in 6-foot-3 duo Brandon Brobst and Reed Floryshak. Leading scorer Ryan Sones and Lex Lispi are also in their final year.

MMI played a tougher schedule considering it had Holy Redeemer, Nanticoke Area and Wyoming Area among its WVC Division 2 opponents.

Galeton is 0-7 lifetime vs. District 2 teams, although the last time the Tigers played anyone from there was 2001. They are also 3-14 in first-round state games.

The winner plays Tuesday against the winner of D1 champion Christian Chester Scholars (14-10) vs. D3 third seed High Point Baptist (16-7).

Hazleton Area (16-9) at West Chester Henderson (23-5)

Class 6A Boys First Round

1 p.m. Saturday

It was quite an adventurous ride for Henderson in the District 1 playoffs.

The Warriors entered the second seed and just squeezed by No. 15 Downingtown West 67-66. Then came a close win against Central Bucks East 68-63 followed by a close loss to Garnet Valley 50-46. They earned the third seed in states by edging Chester 65-61.

Seniors Nyle Ralph-Beyers and Connor Fleet combined for 45 points vs. Chester. The duo is the main threat on offense. Henderson also has some size with 6-foot-7 Evan McFadden and 6-5 Ryan Ranalli.

Hazleton Area led Scranton by nine at halftime in the District 2 title game, only to fall 68-58 as the Knights started scoring inside. Guard Nikoli Santiago had a season-high 20 for Hazleton Area while big men Joe Marshall had 12 and Luis Guzman added 10.

The winner plays Wednesday against the winner of D12 champion Roman Catholic (25-2) vs. D1 11th- seed Downingtown West (16-11).