Ah, the Sweet 16. It’s left a bad taste in the mouth of many boys basketball teams that have qualified for the state playoffs through the District 2 tournaments.
And especially those from the Wyoming Valley Conference. That’s why the odds are stacked against GAR, Hazleton Area and Meyers as they try to advance to the quarterfinals today and Wednesday. It’s not just the opponents but history as well that are working against the WVC first-round survivors.
All three WVC teams will be playing at Bethlehem’s Freedom High School.
District 2 Class 2A third seed GAR (21-6) gets the first crack at moving out of the Sweet 16. The Grenadiers play D12 and three-time state champion Neumann-Goretti (23-4) at 7:30 p.m. today.
On Wednesday, Meyers and Hazleton Area play as part of a doubleheader at Freedom. D2-2A champ Meyers (20-7) plays D12 second seed Philadelphia West Catholic (12-13) at 6 p.m. D2-4A champ Hazleton Area (22-4) faces D1 champion Chester (23-5) at 7:30 p.m.
Chester was the state runner-up last season and won the state title the two seasons prior to that. West Catholic’s record is a bit deceiving based on the schedule it played.
Three WVC boys teams in the second round are the most since the 2006-07 season, when four reach this point. Only one — now-defunct Bishop Hoban — made it to the quarterfinals that season.
The landscape of PIAA boys basketball changed dramatically for the 2008-09 season. The powerful Philadelphia Catholic League finally came aboard as part of District 12 and, at the same time, sank the hopes of District 2 teams of making deep runs in the state playoffs.
Here’s how District 2 teams — as well as District 4’s Williamsport which qualifies for states through District 2 — have fared those previous five seasons since the Philly Catholic League joined the fray:
• Of the 42 teams that qualified for states through District 2 in the last five seasons, only 23 made it out of the first round. And 13 of them were eliminated in the second round. Eight more fell in the quarterfinals. Only last season’s D2-2A champion Holy Cross made it to the title game.
• District 2 hasn’t fared well against District 12 in the last five seasons. District 2 teams have lost 11 of 17 matchups. Lackawanna Conference teams are 5-8 vs. D12 opponents; the WVC is 1-3.
• Holy Redeemer is the only WVC team to defeat a District 12 team in the state playoffs. The Royals downed D12 runner-up Philadelphia Electric 61-50 in the 2010-11 Class 3A playoffs. Holy Cross has four of the five Lackawanna Conference victories against D12 opponents in the postseason.
• The last time a WVC team played for a state championship was in 2004-05, when Bishop O’Reilly defeated D10 champion Kennedy Catholic 65-61 for the Class A crown. District 12 consisted only of Philadelphia public schools at the time and none were in the Class A tournament.