(Statistical Information Courtesy of Erie Times-News)
DISTRICT 10 BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS -- CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
Nine Mercer County boys basketball teams will be in action this weekend in the final round of District 10 playoff action. Six will play in championship games while the remaining three will play in consolation games. At least eight of the nine will advance to the PIAA tournament in their respective class and Sharpsville could be the ninth team. The Blue Devils face Mercyhurst Prep in the only win-and-you-are-in consolation game.
CLASS 1A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP
Jamestown vs. Kennedy Catholic, 6:00 p.m., Slippery Rock University
For the second straight season, Region 1 rivals Kennedy Catholic and Jamestown will meet for District 10's title in Class 1A. This is likely the final meeting between the programs for the foreseeable future as Kennedy Catholic will move up to Class 6A next season.
Kennedy (17-4) received a bye to the championship game as District 10 has only three Class 1A teams. Jamestown (12-11) reached the championship game by downing Commodore Perry, 63-40, Tuesday night in the semifinals. Junior forward Austin Smith poured in a season-high 34 points for the Muskies while sophomore forward Darian Keyser posted 10 points in the victory.
The 6-foot-6 Smith and 6-5 Keyser give Jamestown one of District 10's most potent inside combinations. Smith raised his scoring average to 15.7 points per game while Keyser checks in at 12.1 points per game. On the outside, senior guard Jacob Rhoades leads the team with 18 three-point goals while Dawson Urbansky adds 8.8 points per game. Junior forward Richard Graham ranks fourth on the Muskies in scoring (7.1).
Rhoades and Nicholas College are the two seniors on the Jamestown roster for head coach Scot Vannoy. Jamestown advanced to the PIAA Class 1A playoffs last season. This will be the Muskies' second all-time state tournament appearance.
Kennedy returns to action for the first time in 12 days. The Golden Eagles closed the regular season February 16 with a 72-70 loss to First Love Christian despite putting four men in double figures that night. Junior center Oscar Tshiebwe led Kennedy with 19 points while junior guard Maceo Austin fired in 17 points. Junior forward Mattia Acunzo and sophomore forward Ike Herster each added 13 points.
Head coach Rick Mancino did not see the end of that game as he received two technical fouls, along with the early exit that comes with getting two technicals. He will not be on the bench Friday night due to the one-game suspension that ejected players and coaches receive.
Tshiebwe leads Kennedy in scoring, averaging 21.1 points per game while Austin is second at 18.2 points per game. Both players have garnered significant attention from Division I college programs. Acunzo is Kennedy's third double-digit scorer at 10.8 points per game. Herster is fourth at 8.2 points while senior point guard Manis Norman (4.8) engineers the offense.
Acunzo, Austin and senior Sonny Mancino all have 22 three-pointers this season for the Golden Eagles.
Kennedy Catholic won both regular season meetings this season. The Golden Eagles won at Jamestown, 98-62, January 18 as Austin rifled in 36 points. Norman posted 22 points and Herster totaled 18. Smith led Jamestown with 24 points while Keyser (13) and Graham (11) joined him in double figures.
Kennedy completed a season sweep 12 days later at home, 92-25. Acunzo and Tshiebwe both scored a game-high 13 points for Kennedy.
Both teams will advance to the PIAA tournament. The District 10 champion will play District 7's No. 5 team, either Eden Christian or Propel Andrew Street. The D-10 runner-up meets the District 9 runner-up, either Johnsonburg or Elk County Catholic.
CLASS 2A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP
West Middlesex vs. Cambridge Springs, Friday, 6:00 p.m., Prep-Villa Events Center
It's been three years since West Middlesex last won a District 10 title. It's been 43 years since Cambridge Springs won a D-10 title. Friday night, those teams meet for the Class 2A crown in the first half of a championship doubleheader in Erie.
Both teams defeated league foes in the semifinals. West Middlesex rallied for a 42-38 win over defending D-10 champion Wilmington, giving the Big Reds a 3-0 mark against Wilmington. Meanwhile, Cambridge Springs pulled away from Region 3 rival Cochranton for a 64-40 win in the other semifinal Tuesday night.
West Middlesex trailed 11-4 after one quarter before outscoring Wilmington 28-17 in the second half for the win, the Big Reds' 11th straight triumph. Senior guard Marshall Murray drained six three-pointers to finish with a game-high 18 points. He now leads Mercer County with 64 three-pointers on the season. Senior Chase Staunch added a dozen points for West Middlesex (18-6).
Murray (11.6) and Staunch (9.7) are West Middlesex's top two scorers on the season. All five starters average at least seven points per game for the Big Reds. Junior guard Jake Bowen (8.1), junior forward Zach Long (7.6) and junior guard Casey Mild (7.3) round out the starting five. Juniors Rocco Davano and Kaz Hoffman are head coach Chad Mild's top two options off of the bench.
West Middlesex is 16-2 when allowing less than 50 points. The Big Reds have won 10 straight games away from home.
Meanwhile, Cambridge Springs used a 35-16 scoring edge over the final 16 minutes Tuesday night to pull away from Cochranton. Senior center Turner Kurt paced Spa with 29 points while senior forward Noah Reisenauer added 14 points in the victory. Kurt (18) and Reisenauer (12) both scored in double figures last Friday in the Blue Devils' 48-35 win over Lakeview in the D-10 quarterfinals.
Kurt leads Cambridge Springs in scoring at 18.8 points per game. Reisenauer, the standout quarterback for Cambridge Springs' D-10 runner-up squad in football last fall, averages 15.5 points. Senior Reese Eakin, another 6-foot-8 pivotman, averages 9.3 points per game. Cambridge Springs has won 16 straight games when holding opponents to less than 50 points.
Cambridge Springs last won the District 10 title in 1975, the last year of A-B-C classification. Spa won the Class C title. However, Cambridge Springs has advanced to the state semifinals twice, first in 1992, and then again in 1997. The 1997 team defeated George Junior Republic in the D-10 semifinals at Gannon, then lost the title game in overtime to Greenville. Led by foreign exchange student Ivan Cilik, who went on to star at Thiel College, the Blue Devils reached the western final in Class AA 21 years ago.
West Middlesex won the D-10 title in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The winner will play the No. 6 team from District 7 (either Leechburg or Springdale). The D-10 runner-up gets District 7's No. 5 team, either Leechburg or Springdale.
CLASS 2A BOYS CONSOLATION
Wilmington vs. Cochranton, 5:00 p.m., Friday, Meadville
Wilmington and Cochranton will open a tripleheader of consolation games Friday night at Meadville. Both teams will advance to the state playoffs but each squad aims to rebound from a tough semifinal loss.
Wilmington (13-12) led for much of the night before bowing to rival West Middlesex, 42-38. Juniors Danny Hanssen and Robert Pontius both led Wilmington with nine points.
Hanssen leads Wilmington in scoring at 13.1 points per game while Pontius (10.6) and junior Colton Richards (10.0) join him in double figures. Sophomore Isaiah Jarzab is fourth at 9.9 points per game.
Cochranton (16-9) dropped its third meeting of the year with Crawford County rival Cambridge Springs, 64-40. Junior Kohl Bernarding led Cochranton with 18 points and Colton Greenlee added 10.
Cochranton pulled one of the bigger upsets of the District 10 playoffs in the quarterfinals when the Cardinals shocked Rocky Grove, 66-63, on Alex McKay's three-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining. Cochranton hit 12 three-pointers in that victory. McKay had six three-pointers and finished with 21 points. Bernarding led the Redbirds with 25 points.
Bernarding has poured in a district-high 562 points this year, good for a 22.4 points per game average. He has 49 three-pointers and 190 total field goals. McKay has 30 three-point goals and is second on the team in scoring average at 8.8.
Cochranton is 16-1 when scoring 54 points or more, 0-8 when held under that total.
Both teams will advance to the state tournament as District 10 gets four berths in Class 2A. Friday's winner will be the No. 3 team and will play the District 9 champion, Ridgway or Coudersport. The D-10 No. 4 team draws the District 7 champion, either Sewickley Academy or Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
CLASS 3A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP
Greenville vs. Fairview, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Prep-Villa Events Center
The Greenville Trojans hope that good things come in threes, as in District 10 titles. The Fairview Tigers hope that the third time will indeed be the charm as Fairview looks to avenge D-10 title game losses to Greenville in both 2016 and 2017. Two years ago, Greenville pulled out a 54-51 win over Fairview in the Class AA title game at Meadville. Last year, Greenville prevailed in the 3A title game at Edinboro, 51-39.
Both teams earned hard-fought victories Tuesday night in the semifinals at Meadville. Greenville rode a 41-point outing from senior guard Joe Batt to a 64-49 win over Mercyhurst Prep. In Tuesday's nightcap, Fairview pulled out a 46-40 win over youthful Sharpsville. Fairview never trailed but could not shake the Blue Devils.
Batt's 41 points Tuesday night gave him 1,007 points -- over the last two seasons. He went over the 1,600-point mark and now has 1,629 for his career. Tuesday's performance raised his scoring average nearly a full point, to 21.5 points per game.
Senior Michael Blaney (9.4 ppg) leads Greenville with 37 three-pointers while 6-5 senior center Tyler Kincaid adds 8.8 points per game. Senior point guard Trap Wentling (8.0) and senior forward Connor Gilfoyle (2.5) round out the probable starting lineup. Wentling is third on the team with 23 three-pointers, trailing Blaney and Batt (27).
Head coach Mark Batt will also utilize senior Josh Hittle and juniors Ronnie Mutinelli and Ryan Wallace off the bench.
Foul trouble helped hold Fairview senior center Sam Parini to eight points Tuesday night in the win over Sharpsville. However, Fairview's second- and third-leading scorers for the season assumed a greater scoring load to help Fairview advance. Senior guard Nick Franos fired in 18 points while junior guard Jamison Cook scored 13 for the Tigers (21-3). Both men hit three three-pointers.
The 6-11 Parini leads Fairview in scoring at 16.3 points per game. He will continue his basketball career at Army. Senior forward Andrew Morosky (5.5) and junior guard Matt Niland (4.8) round out the starting five. Seniors Colin Green (6-4 forward) and Tyler Hetz (6-1 guard) are two of the main options off the bench for Fairview head coach Pat Flaherty.
Greenville is 12-2 when holding opponents to 50 points or less this year. Fairview is 20-1 when scoring 45 points or more.
Joe Batt (19) and Kincaid (11) led Greenville in last year's district title game win over Fairview. Parini paced Fairview with 15 points. Two years ago, Greenville trailed Fairview 41-39 after three periods before rallying for the three-point lead. Wentling (11), Batt (10) and Blaney (10) all scored in double figures. Then-senior Trent McErlane led Greenville with 17 points. Then-sophomores Franos (15) and Parini (13) led Fairview.
Fairview is playing in its fifth straight D-10 title game. The Tigers lost to West Middlesex in both 2014 and 2015.
The winner will face the No. 6 team from District 7, either Burgettstown or Shady Side Academy. The D-10 runner-up draws District 7's fourth-place team, Aliquippa or Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.
CLASS 3A BOYS CONSOLATION
Sharpsville vs. Mercyhurst Prep, Friday, 6:30 p.m., Meadville
A berth in the state playoffs awaits the winner of Friday night's consolation game between Sharpsville and Mercyhurst Prep. It is the only boys consolation game that is an elimination game this weekend.
Sharpsville fell into the consolation game after a 46-40 setback against Fairview. Meanwhile, Mercyhurst fell to Greenville, 64-49.
Sophomore reserve Noah Flaherty led Sharpsville with 10 points Tuesday night while junior guard Rick Ladjevich added nine points. Junior center Ja'Quay Hubbard added eight points for the Blue Devils, who have no seniors on the squad.
Ladjevich leads the Blue Devils (12-10) in scoring at 17.9 points per game. Hubbard (8.7) ranks second while junior point guard Maxx Messett (6.27) and junior forward Luke Levis (6.1) join that duo in the starting lineup. Sophomore guard Brayden Fry (2.3) started Tuesday night in place of sophomore Tylon Eilam, who will likely miss Friday night's game.
Third-year head coach Chris Kwolek could also turn to junior forward Kobe Joseph, junior Donny Brenneman or freshman Jackson Doyle in the starting lineup.
Senior forward Jacob Brooks led Mercyhurst with 12 points Tuesday night against Greenville. Junior guard Alex Miklinski and senior Joe Dombkowski both hit a trio of three-pointers to finish with nine points each. Nick Byerly added nine points, matching his season average.
Miklinski leads the Lakers in scoring at 10.4 points per game. Byerly (8.9) and Brooks (8.8) provide interior support. Junior Griffin Herron adds 8.3 points per night for Mercyhurst (13-11). Dombkowski (5.5) completes the probable starting lineup. Mercyhurst's roster features a throwback look as 15 of the 16 varsity players are juniors or seniors.
Sharpsville seeks its first trip to the PIAA playoffs since 2011. The Blue Devils last won a PIAA game in 1990, downing Conemaugh Valley, 75-65. Mercyhurst seeks its first PIAA berth since 2015.
The winner will face either Karns City or Brookville in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs. Those teams play Friday night for the District 9 Class 3A title.
CLASS 4A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP
Sharon vs. Hickory, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Slippery Rock University
Two bitter rivals who last won a District 10 title a generation ago will meet Friday night for the Class 4A title at Morrow Field House. Hickory pursues its first D-10 title since 1994. Meanwhile, Sharon guns for its first district crown since winning back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991.
Hickory advanced to the D-10 title game for the first time since 2010 by pulling away from Fort LeBoeuf for a 66-50 semifinal win Tuesday night at The Rock. Sharon outlasted Region 5 rival Grove City, 53-44, in Tuesday's other semifinal at Slippery Rock. That vaulted Sharon into the D-10 title game for the first time in 20 years.
Sophomore guard Donald Whitehead and junior Michael Filardi each fired in four three-pointers Tuesday night to help Hickory to the semifinal win. Whitehead led Hickory with 21 points while Filardi finished with 12. Senior forward Brandon Beader, a career 1,000-point scorer, added 11 points in the win.
Whitehead is averaging 26.5 points over the last six games and leads Hickory (20-4) in scoring at 17.6 points per game. He now has 653 career points. Beader provides the inside scoring for the Hornets, averaging 14.5 points. Freshman forward Peyton Mele (8.5), sophomore forward Jaylen Jarvie (7.7) and senior guard Jon Walsh (4.5) are Sharon's likely starters. Filardi and senior Antonio Shannonhouse-Blackwell are the top reserves for first-year head coach Chris Mele.
Hickory is 12-2 in its last 14 games with the two defeats coming by one point each (Grove City, 74-73; Sharon, 52-51). Hickory is 19-1 when scoring 55 points or more. The lone loss came in double-overtime at Grove City.
Sharon earned its third win over Grove City this season Tuesday night. The Tigers led 25-16 at halftime and held Grove City at bay throughout the second half. Senior forward Tristan Ballard led Sharon with a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double while senior defensive ace James McKinney added a season-high 12 points. Junior guard Elite Williams also pumped in a dozen points for Sharon, which extended its win streak to 19.
Junior center Ethan Porterfield had scored in double figures in each of the last 18 games for Sharon before being limited to seven points against Grove City. The 6-8 Porterfield leads the Tigers in scoring at 17.5 points per game and now has 887 career points. Williams is second at 10.4 points per game while senior guard Ramell Askerneese averages 7.8 points per game in his first year as a starter.
Ballard (7.5) and McKinney (5.5) round out the probable starters for third-year head coach Zach Sarver. During its 19-game win streak, Sharon has held 16 opponents to under 50 points and no team has scored more than 54 points.
Sharon won both regular season meetings with Hickory this season. The Tigers won the first meeting at home January 16, 63-42, as Sharon outscored Hickory 24-7 in the fourth quarter. Porterfield (17), Askerneese (16) and Ballard (12) all scored in double digits for Sharon while Whitehead led Hickory with 17 points.
Sharon then pulled out a 52-51 February 9 at Hickory. Again, Porterfield (13), Ballard (12) and Askerneese (10) all reached double figures for Sharon. Whitehead poured in a game-high 26 points for Hickory while Jarvie netted 11.
Sharon defeated Hickory in the 1991 District 10 title game. Hickory's 1994 title win came over another local rival, Grove City.
The winner will face District 7's No. 6 team, South Fayette or Valley. The D-10 runner-up draws the No. 3 team from D-7, either Belle Vernon or Indiana.
CLASS 4A BOYS CONSOLATION
Grove City vs. Fort LeBoeuf, Friday, 8:00 p.m., Meadville
Nearly three months ago, Grove City hosted Fort LeBoeuf in the season opener as part of the Kiser Classic. Now, Friday night, the Eagles and Bison square off for third and fourth place out of District 10 in Class 4A. Both teams will advance to the state tournament as four teams earn berths from District 10.
Grove City's bid for its first district title since 1999 ended Tuesday night with a 53-44 setback against Sharon. Fort LeBoeuf, which will play in the state playoffs for the first time, dropped a 66-50 decision to Hickory in the first semifinal Tuesday night at Slippery Rock University.
Junior guard Marcos Cintron and senior forward Brayden Martin each led Grove City with 11 points while senior center Martin Beatty added eight points. Those men are three of the five Grove City players averaging at least eight points per game this year. Senior guard Isaac Thrasher leads Grove City at 11.7 points per game while junior forward Logan Lutz is second at 10.1. Martin (9.5), Cintron (9.0) and Beatty (8.5) round out the top five.
Juniors Brady Callahan, Caden Mattocks and A.J. Miller, and sophomore Kade Persinger are the primary reserves for third-year head coach Jeff Loughry.
Following a five-game win streak in mid-January, Grove City (17-7) is 5-5 in its last 10 games.
While Grove City has cooled off over the last month, Fort LeBoeuf is 6-3 in its last nine games. In Tuesday's loss to Hickory, senior guards Brandon Kupniewski (21) and Irvin Comic (16) passed Kelley Ponsoll's squad. Comic (12.4 ppg) and Kupniewski (11.1) are LeBoeuf's top two scorers on the season.
Grove City earned a 67-49 win December 8 over Fort LeBoeuf in the season opener. Thrasher rifled in 21 points to lead the Eagles while Cintron (10) and Lutz (10) also scored in double figures. Kupniewski led Fort LeBoeuf with 18 points while Comic posted 13. Junior 6-7 center Dylan Proctor added 10 points.
The winner will face the District 7 runner-up, which will be Quaker Valley or New Castle. District 10's No. 4 team gets the District 7 champion in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs.