HAZLETON AREA (22-4) vs. CHESTER (23-5)
PIAA Class 4A Second Round
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bethlehem Freedom H.S.
What’s At Stake: The winner advances to the quarterfinals on Saturday, playing the winner of the game between District 1 fourth seed West Chester Rustin (18-10) and District 11 champion Parkland (22-5). Those teams play at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Geigle Complex in Reading.
How They Got Here: District 1 champ Chester posted a 79-38 victory over D3 seventh seed Carlisle in the first round. District 2 champion Hazleton Area defeated D11 third seed Stroudsburg 63-53.
Scouting Hazleton Area: The Cougars will be playing in the state second round for the first time since the 2006-07 season when they were eliminated 63-52 by D3 fifth seed Wilson. Between that season and this season, their only other state appearance ended in a 70-51 first-round knockout by D3 champion Reading in 2009-10.
Hazleton Area fell behind by five points late in the third quarter against Stroudsburg, which was missing its top scorer — 6-foot-6 Danny Cuevas. The Cougars took control in the fourth quarter by outscoring Stroudsburg 24-10 for a 63-53 victory.
Hazleton Area went inside early with Cuevas out, but received little offensive production. The Cougars d0n’t match up inside with Kyle Karmonick and Reynal Santana — a pair of 6-foot-3 forwards — the tallest starters. Hunter Samec, a 6-6 senior, brings size off the bench.
Of course, Hazleton Area’s forte is its perimeter game. Senior Sal Biasi, the two-time WVC Division I MVP, scored 28 against Stroudsburg despite playing on an injured left ankle. Guards Jon Fogarty (14) and Brett Barron (12) also contributed offensively. Will Hierro did a nice job on the board coming off the bench.
About Chester: Since losing in the first round of the 2008-09 Class 4A playoffs and finishing 16-11, Chester has been on quite a roll. The Clippers won the 4A state championship in 2010-11 and 2011-12. They lost in the title game last season. Including this season, Chester is 114-10 since that 16-11 campaign.
Of Chester’s five losses, only the 73-62 setback to Interboro (10-11) on Feb. 4 is a head-scratcher. The Clippers had defeated Interboro by 20 points earlier in the season. They led Carlisle 20-19 after one quarter, but built the lead to 17 by halftime and held Carlisle to 15 points in the second half in the 79-38 victory.
Chester has a strong inside-outside combination in seniors Tyrell Sturdivant and Mahir Johnson. The 6-foot-8 Sturdivant averages 16 points and has committed to Division I Stony Brook. Johnson is a 6-2 shooting guard who hit for his season average with 19 vs. Carlisle. Marquis Collins, a 6-7 sophomore, and senior point guard Conrad Chambers also enter off big games.