GAR (20-6) vs. Shamokin (22-3)
Class 3A First-Round Game
7:30 p.m. today, Shikellamy H.S.
What’s At Stake: The winner advances to the second round on Tuesday, playing the winner of the game between District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti (22-4) and District 3 fifth seed Berks Catholic (24-5). Those teams play at 7:30 p.m. today at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia.
Last Time In States: District 4 champion Shamokin last qualified for states in 2008-09 when it also won the district’s 3A crown. The Indians defeated D11 runner-up Pottsville 51-39 in the first round, and then fell to D12 third seed and eventual state champion Archbishop Carroll 62-51 in the second round.
GAR is making its second consecutive trip to states, this time as the District 2 third seed. The Grenadiers were the D2 runner-up in 2012-13 and lost in the first round to D3 third seed Donegal 64-44.
Scouting GAR: The Grenadiers were the third seed in the D2-3A playoffs and rolled their first two opponents, No. 14 Berwick 81-34 and 11th-seeded Dallas 76-61. Their quest for a first district title since 2002-03 was halted in the semifinals by seventh-seeded Pittston Area 45-42. GAR, though, was able to squeeze out a state spot with a 56-54 victory over fourth-seeded Honesdale.
As usual, 6-foot-3 senior forward Isaiah Francis led the way. The WVC Division II MVP does everything at a high level, with his picturesque dunks always being a crowd-pleaser. The backcourt consists of seniors James Holmes and Jahlil Harvey. Both can run the show and score, with Holmes being the three-point ace. Nigebo Francis, a 6-7 junior and Isaiah’s cousin, doesn’t bring much bulk. (Sort of a shorter version of NBA first-round pick Nerlens Noel). However, his long arms make him a good rim protector. Plus, his offensive game has developed nicely. Sophomore Dajon Rush rounds out the lineup and 6-4 junior Greg Skrepenak brings size and some scoring punch off the bench.
Scouting Shamokin: The Indians were the top seed in the D4-3A playoffs and defeated fourth-seeded Jersey Shore 61-54 and second-seeded Central Columbia 59-40 to capture their first district title since the 2008-09 season. It’s been quite a turnaround for a team that was 5-17 last season. It’s also their first 20-win season since finishing 24-2 in 2008-09.
Shamokin isn’t a high-scoring team, but does play good defense. It has held 12 opponents to 40 points or less. Two victories have come against WVC opponents — 53-49 over Hanover Area on Dec. 7 and 63-39 over Wyoming Seminary on Dec. 15.
Shamokin has some size in a pair of 6-foot-4 seniors — Austin Stine and Josh Pappas. Stine is the leading scorer at 11.5 points per game. He broke both wrists against Pottsville in the 11th game of the season and returned just in time for the district playoffs. Pappas is more of a defender and rebounder.
The Indians are young in the backcourt with sophomores Jake Weaver (9.8 ppg) and Ryan Sabasovich (8.2 ppg). Weaver stepped up with Stine was sidelined.