To find the difference between Holy Redeemer and Scranton Prep in the Class 3A District 2 tournament, you may have to flip a coin.
And that’s exactly what the district did to determine which would be the top seed when its tourney opens today.
Prep won — just as it did when the two teams met in a nail-biting non-conference battle in January — but that game didn’t come into play. The coin flip did, and fell Prep’s way to break a tie between teams that both went 13-0 in their respective league seasons.
“I don’t think it matters,” Holy Redeemer coach Chris Parker said.
In fact, he believes falling to the No. 2 seed may actually help the Royals.
They’ll get an extra day to get ready, because the Royals will open Thursday against Monday night’s preliminary round winner Wyoming Area — the No. 15 seed. The rest of the Class 3A field starts play today, and Prep will face No. 16 Valley View — which beat Tunkhannock on Sunday in the bracket’s other preliminary round game.
And if Redeemer makes it past the first round, it gets another matchup with a team it already defeated twice during the regular season — the winner of a first-round game between Nanticoke Area and Meyers. If Scranton Prep downs Valley View, it will face either Lake-Lehman or Honesdale in the next round.
“The second round we will face Meyers or Nanticoke, who we’re familiar with,” Parker said. “If Honesdale wins, we don’t know a lot about them. From a personal, coach’s standpoint, it’s a little easier on us. I believe it (the coin flip) did work out in our favor.”
A number of teams will by trying to play their way into a favored position to win District 2 titles. Here’s a look at the four classes of teams entering the District 2 tournament:
Outlook: Wallenpaupack won the District 2/4 title last year, and at 19-3 overall and 11-2 in the Lackawanna League, is favored to repeat while going in as the bracket’s top seed. One more win would have given Hazleton Area the top spot, but the 16-6 Cougars blew big fourth-quarter leads against Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West to finish at 11-3 and tied for second place in the WVC Division I. No matter, both Wallenpaupack and Hazleton Area get opening-round byes to begin the tournament. No. 3 seed Wyoming Valley West stumbled through the final month of the regular season, but the Spartans weren’t exactly dynamite last year — and were within 30 seconds from beating Wallenpaupack and going to states before dropping a heartbreaker in the 2013 district finals.
Dark Horse: Williamsport. The Millionaires, from District 4, lost to Hazleton Area by 11 points and to Valley West by 26 back in December, but right after that, took off to win three of their next four games. Williamsport can be streaky, and streaky teams are often the most dangerous at tournament time.
Upset Special: No. 6 Delaware Valley over No. 3 Wyoming Valley West. After spending most of the season in a battle for the WVC Division I title, Valley West ended the regular season by losing five in a row - including defeats to average Class 3A teams Dallas and Berwick. If they can’t find a way to regroup, the season for the Spartans will end quickly with a sixth straight loss.
Best Opening Game: Scranton at Williamsport. The winner will likely be Wallenpaupack’s first test in the district semifinals.
Prediction: Hazleton Area to unseat Wallenpaupack as the District 2 champion and earn District 2/4’s lone bid to the PIAA tournament.
Outlook: It’s Scranton Prep and Holy Redeemer at the top of the bracket, which is what everyone expected, heading for a rematch of last year’s title game. Prep is the defending district champ, carries a 20-1 overall record and edged Redeemer in a non-conference victory in January. Since then, Redeemer has lost outside sharp-shooter Alana Wilson to a season-ending injury. But the Royals have Alexis Lewis — the only player in the tourney capable of scoring 40 points in every game she plays. Redeemer is 18-4 overall, with a pair of two-point losses to state powers State College and Allentown Central Catholic and a three-point overtime loss to defending district Class 4A champ Wallenpaupack. Don’t discount Crestwood, the WVC Division I champ which carries a 17-4 overall record behind its twin towers — 6-footers Rebecca Rutkowski and Maddie Ritsick. Pittston Area plays with heart from wire to wire, and any game involving Meyers and Lake-Lehman promises to be a fight to the finish. It could come down to a battle between Crestwood and Pittston Area for the district’s third-place game to go to states.
Dark Horse: The Pittston Area Patriots just don’t quit, and could make quite a charge in this tournament. Bolstered by spirited guard play from Liz Waleski and Allie Barber — two track stars capable of turning any game into a 32-minute track meet — and 3-point ace Eastin Ashby, the Patriots went 16-4 through the season, finished in a second-place tie in the WVC Division I and gave just about every team they faced fits. They’re never out of a game, even facing double-digit deficits late. The Patriots stunned Hazleton Area with a fourth-quarter rally and took Crestwood to the final buzzer twice. A run to the title game is certainly within their reach.
Upset Special: No. 11 Dallas over No. No. 6 Abington Heights. Even during a rough start to the season, Dallas was within striking distance while dropping frustrating games. The 9-12 Mountaineers lost games by two points to Crestwood, five points to Pittston Area and six points to Wyoming Valley West, then took off on a three-game winning streak to close the regular season with a 7-7 WVC Division I record — polished off by a 48-40 victory over Wyoming Valley West. In other words, Dallas is getting hot at the right time.
Best Opening Game: No. 13 Berwick at No. 4 Pittston Area. The first time they met, Pittston Area escaped with a 45-40 victory. Their second meeting wasn’t quite as suspenseful as the Patriots took control of a 12-point victory early. But it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in one season, right?
Prediction: Scranton Prep to beat Holy Redeemer for the District 2 title and Pittston Area to defeat Crestwood for the district’s third state slot. Shots at Prep’s unfriendly baskets just weren’t falling for Lewis during Prep’s victory over the Royals back in early January, but that’s the thing. Prep is so talented and disciplined, Redeemer needs everything to go just right to pull off a district title. And the Royals don’t have Wilson this time to help from the outside. In a rematch of last season’s title game, new year, same result.
Outlook: Dunmore has owned this district for pretty much the last decade, but may get a challenge this year from a Montrose team that went unbeaten through the regular season and earned the top seed — along with a first-round bye. If it doesn’t reach the championship game, Hanover Area has the balance and hustle to at least play for the district’s No. 3 slot in the state tournament.
Dark Horse: No. 4 Holy Cross. The Crusaders can be unstoppable from the perimeter, and if they get on an early roll in the tournament, watch out.
Upset Special: No. 9 Wyoming Seminary over No. 6 GAR. Back on Jan. 12, GAR blasted Wyoming Seminary in a 30-point victory to sweep the season series between the two. Since then, the Grenadiers struggled to a 1-4 finish. Meanwhile, Sem kept it respectable, going 3-2 down the stretch. GAR ended its regular schedule at 7-12 overall, Sem was at 8-12 and only a seven-point difference separated the teams the first time they met.
Best Opening Game: No. 11 Carbondale at No. 5 Mountain View. While Mountain View finished the regular season with a 7-5 league record, Riverside is traditionally dangerous in the postseason.
Prediction: Dunmore to defeat Hanover Area for the district title and Holy Cross to handle Montrose in the third-place game. Hanover Area really didn’t have any bad losses this season, features tremendous teamwork and proved it can stand up against schools its own size.
Outlook: Old Forge has a 10-2 league record, the No. 1 seed and is coming off a run to the third round of states last season. The only team capable of stopping the Blue Devils from a district repeat is Forest City.
Dark Horse: With Old Forge coming in as the class of the bracket, Forest City could emerge as the district champ if things fall perfectly.
Upset Special: No. 3 Susquehanna over No. 2 Forest City, but only if Forest City gets caught looking ahead to an expected title matchup with Old Forge.
Best Opening Game: No. 4 MMI Prep at No. 1 Old Forge. While this looks like a certain blowout at first glance, MMI Prep has other ideas. Prep finished as the only team without a win in WVC play and at the bottom of Division III at 0-13. But in games outside the conference, Prep is 4-3 and could present a challenge if Old Forge isn’t careful.
Prediction: Old Forge to defeat Forest City for the district title and the bracket’s lone state playoff berth.