Abington Heights is favored to win the District 2 Class 3A championship. Fellow Lackawanna League members Honesdale and Scranton Prep are expected to be title contenders as well. Same with Crestwood and GAR out of the Wyoming Valley Conference.
In past seasons, that’s would be the cutoff point. Four teams, maybe five, would be legitimate contenders. The rest of the teams would be nothing more than field fillers.
That’s certainly not the case this season as Class 3A boys has a group of second-tier teams that can be very dangerous to the favorites.
“It’s going to be really tough,” Crestwood coach Mark Atherton said. “These first round games, unless you’re a one, two, maybe a three seed, it’s going to be tough. … After our (regular) season, you can end up with three or four losses so you don’t know where you’re going to end up. It’s crazy.”
And it will remain crazy right to Feb. 13, the final day of the regular season for the WVC and Lackawanna League. The first seeding criteria is winning a divisional championship. Abington Heights, GAR and Honesdale all currently lead their divisions. If things stay that way, it means Crestwood and Prep could be pushed as low as the fifth seed, and that’s the danger zone.
“I talked to (Meyers) coach (Pat) Toole before the game,” Holy Redeemer coach Paul Guido said. “Obviously, Meyers is 2A, but we’re 3A. I said 3A is stacked. A couple of those teams are so-called upper echelon — Abington Heights, Scranton Prep, maybe Crestwood. I know Honesdale is very good. But in the middle of the pack, there are teams that if you catch them on the right night on a neutral court. I think we’re one of them.”
Redeemer certainly is. The Royals have won eight of their last 10. They have the size to match up with most teams and are playing with plenty of confidence. But they’re not the only WVC team with a shot at pulling off an upset.
Tunkhannock doesn’t have the size to mix it up too much inside, but it can put up huge points when its perimeter shooting is clicking. Depth, though, is a big concern.
“We go into every game confident,” Tunkhannock coach Dustin Babcock said.
Pittston Area could also be a factor. Center Mason Gross is one of the few big guys comfortable from the perimeter. Tyler McGarry can be an ace from beyond the arc. The Patriots can go about eight deep, although there is an offensive dropoff from starters to reserves.
That could be Lake-Lehman’s problem as well. Things got a little brighter with Adam Dizbon not missing any time despite a shoulder injury. Big Pete Borum can make things difficult in the paint. The bench, though, is young.
Dallas is the super sleeper among the WVC teams in that second pack. The Mountaineers have lost seven of their last 10 games, but three of those setbacks have been by seven points or less, including 50-43 to Crestwood and 76-73 to Pittston Area. Plus, any team that could put two guys 6-foot-6 or better in the paint could be troublesome.
That’s five teams right there without including any second-pack teams in the Lackawanna League.
District 2 has held an open tournament in nine of the past 11 seasons. The top-four seeds in Class 3A all advanced to the semifinals just once. This could be the season like 2008-09, when 10th seed Pittston Area came within a victory of playing for the championship.
The first is Feb. 10. That’s the deadline for teams that have decided not to participate in the District 2 tournaments to contact District 2 chairman Frank Majikes. Once again, it’s an open tournament. Win all your games, lose all your games, it doesn’t matter. Congratulations, you’ve made the postseason … unless you opt out.
Here are the dates for the boys tournaments.
• Class A: Feb. 21, semifinals; Feb. 28, championship.
• Class 2A: Feb. 19, first round; Feb. 22, quarterfinals; Feb. 26, semifinals; March 1, championship and third-place game.
• Class 3A: Feb. 18, first round; Feb. 21, quarterfinals; Feb. 25, semifinals; Feb. 28, championship and third-place game.
There are 17 D2-3A teams, so if a play-in game is necessary for the 16th seed it will be either Feb. 14 or 15.
• Class 4A: Feb. 19, quarterfinals; Feb. 22, semifinals; Feb. 26, championship.
District 4’s Williamsport participates in the tournament. If Williamsport wins the tournament, then the D2 teams it defeated in the semifinals and championship game will play March 1 for the D2-4A title.
Hazleton Area one of the deeper rotations in the WVC and it became a little deeper with the return of senior Will Hierro. Hierro was out with a broken foot until returning last week against Williamsport. Hierro is averaging 4.2 points and shooting 64 percent from the field.
Getting to 400
GAR coach Paul Brown’s 400th career win two weeks ago came in his 26th season as a coach. While that’s a testament to his coaching ability, he also knows he didn’t accomplish it alone.
“When I started back at Dallas, you don’t even think about that stuff,” Brown said. “It’s one of those things that if you’re in it long enough it ends up happening. I’ve been blessed with the athletes I’ve had. It makes winning games easy.”
According to pahoops.org, there are at least five others who coached locally with 500 or more victories. That list is headed by Northwest’s Eddie Gayeski (744). The others are Swoyersville’s Edward Chiampi, 689; Hazleton’s Bruce Leib, 643; Bishop Hoban’s Chet Hine, 564; and GAR’s John Hopkins, 503.