Hazleton Area (21-4) vs. Stroudsburg (16-11)
Class 4A First-Round Game
6 p.m. Saturday, Berwick M.S.
What’s At Stake: The winner advances to the second round on Wednesday, playing the winner of the game between District 1 champion Chester (22-5) and District 3 seventh seed Carlisle (18-8). Those teams play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Coatesville High School.
Last Time In States: Stroudsburg, the District 11 third seed, is in the state playoff for the first time since the 1998-99 season. The Mountaineers won the District 11 title that season, but were ousted in the first round by District 1 sixth seed West Chester East 58-56.
Hazleton Area last advanced to the state playoffs in 2009-10 as the District 2 second seed in Class 4A. The Cougars qualified by defeating D1 ninth seed Council Rock North 58-55 in a play-in game. In the first round, they fell 70-51 to D3 champion Reading.
Scouting Hazleton Area: The Cougars entered the D2/4-4A tournament as the top seed and only team in the six-team bracket with a record above .500. They wiped out No. 4 Delaware Valley 75-41 in the semifinals and defeated second-seeded Williamsport 60-48 in the title contest. The championship helped ease the pain of a rough end to the WVC season, where two losses to Crestwood cost the Cougars the Division I title.
The first loss to Crestwood — 67-62 on Feb. 11 — snapped Hazleton Area’s 14-game winning streak. The other was 64-53 in the WVC Division I championship game. The Cougars also lost 69-50 to Owasso, Okla., during a December trip to Florida and 64-61 to Erie Strong Vincent.
Guard Sal Biasi leads Hazleton Area with 26.4 points per game. The Penn State baseball recruit leads the team with 77 three-pointers. Fellow senior guard Brett Barron (12.1 ppg) gets overshadowed at times, but he can also rain down three-pointers. Senior Jon Fogarty (10.1 ppg) is only 5-foot-11 yet leads the team in rebounding. Senior Kyle Karmonick and junior Reynal Santana are both 6-3, but are tough inside. Depth has been boosted by the return of senior Will Hierro, who missed a good chunk of the season with a broken foot.
Scouting Stroudsburg: Stroudsburg entered the D11-4A playoffs as the sixth seed and defeated third-seeded East Stroudsburg North 71-42 in the opening round. The Mountaineers then lost to second-seeded Parkland 59-38 in the semifinals, but regrouped to defeat ninth-seeded Bethlehem Liberty 67-64 in the third-place game.
The Mountaineers started their season by losing six of their first nine games. They then ripped off an eight-game winning streak, but are 5-5 in their last 10 games. A victory would give the program its most wins since the 2008-09 squad finished 17-10.
Senior guard Jacob Battle is Stroudsburg’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game. He is excels at three-point shooting. Junior guard Edwin Lopez can also score from behind the arc. Junior center Danny Cuevas averages 14.5 points and is the team’s leading rebounder. He’s 6-foot-6, but the rest of the lineup ranges from 6-foot to 6-1.