Quad-A Boys Basketball Playoff Preview
The Top Seeds: With a third consecutive undefeated regular season, there was little doubt that the New Castle Red Hurricanes would receive the top seed in the WPIAL Boys Quad-A bracket. The two-time reigning champions have not been tested for a full 32 minutes by a WPIAL opponent this season and have played inspired ball following a loss to Lower Merion in the PIAA semifinals last season. Led by Malik Hooker, an Ohio State football recruit, the Red Hurricanes have the athleticism and speed to outrun and outwork any opponent. Hooker and senior guard Anthony Richards, who is tabbed to play at West Virginia Wesleyan, are both 1,000 point scorers for a team that averages 74.6 points per game, the second best in the classification. Before returning to Class AAA next season, the Red Hurricanes are hoping to leave Quad-A as the top dog in 2014.
The most prolific scoring team in Quad-A this year has been the Hampton Talbots (19-3) who average 75.3 points per game. Led by the perhaps the most-celebrated player in the WPIAL in Ryan Luther, the Talbots have as deep a roster as you’ll find. Luther missed three games in early January due to an ankle injury, but the Pitt-recruit recovered quickly to average 22.1 points per game this season. Ryan Luther is complimented by twin brother Collin Luther, another D-I recruit, and guards David Huber and Joey Lafko. Hampton’s only losses this year are to New Castle and third-seeded North Allegheny.
The NA Tigers’ (19-3) only losses are to New Castle and Hampton, helping solidify the strength of Section 3. There’s no secret to what the Tigers will do offensively, they will shoot the three and shoot the three some more. North Allegheny’s top marksman from the outside is senior Joe Mancini who averages 14 points per game and connected on a school record 11 treys in a single game on January 21 against Shaler. Along with several outstanding sharpshooters from beyond the arc, the Tigers wear down opponents with a full court press and fast-paced transition offense.
The fourth seed went to the champions from Section 2, the Plum Mustangs (18-3). The Mustangs seemed to gallop into a top contender out of nowhere and raced past the competition to their first section title in school history. Plum is paced by sophomore guard James Edwards who averages almost 16 points per game, but relies on a defense that is the stingiest in Quad-A. The Mustangs permit only 45.3 points per contest. Plum has won five of its last six entering the playoffs.
The Sleepers: Second to New Castle, 12th-seeded Gateway (13-9) might be the most athletic team in Quad-A. The Gators have three Division I football recruits playing on the hardwood, including leading scorer Delvon Randall who averages nearly 17 points per game. Head coach Mitch Adams has led the Gators to the WPIAL title game three of the last four years and certainly has a team that’s talented enough to get there again. The problem here however is consistency. An enigma, you can’t be sure which Gators team might appear. Gateway plays the Section 4 champion Upper St. Clair Panthers (16-6) in the first round.
The eighth-seeded Fox Chapel Foxes (17-5) snuck into the playoffs on the final night of section play with a victory over Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Now in the bracket, the Foxes are hoping to make some noise behind a pair of 1,000 point scorers, Matt D’Amico and Brian Papich. D’Amico (pictured left) is a four-year starter and became Fox Chapel’s all-time leading scorer on January 14 with a 15 point effort against Woodland Hills. Papich has had his share of big nights, including a triple-double against Penn Hills on January 4. Papich finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals against the Indians. The Foxes will take on Bethel Park (17-5) in what should be a fantastic first round matchup.
Other Notables: The sixth-seeded Hempfield Spartans (20-2) went a perfect 12-0 in Section 1 and own the top individual scorer in Quad-A, junior guard Kason Harrell who averages nearly 24 points per game. Hempfield’s leading scorer since his freshman season, Harrell already achieved the 1,000th point of his career on January 17 with a 20 point effort against the Norwin Knights. Harrell is regarded as one of the top juniors in the WPIAL and is receiving some D-I interest. The Spartans also have good size which makes the Section 1 champs an interesting team to follow in the post-season.
Hempfield’s opponent in the first round is the third place finisher out of Section 4, the 11th-seeded Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils (11-11). Always well-schooled under head coach Joe David, the Blue Devils top threat is the coach’s son, junior guard Jonny David. Jonny David opened the season with a 42 point effort against Johnstown and has averaged over 17 points per game despite the fact that every defense he faces is keying on him.
The 13th-seeded Kiski Cavaliers (15-5) are often outsized but rarely outmatched thanks to guard Mike Simmons and small forward Joey Brungo. Simmons, who diligently practices his outside shot on a daily basis, pours in 21 points per game and is helped by the gritty play of Brungo on the inside. Brungo, an All-Foothills Conference defensive back, brings a feisty nature to the floor and also has some range to keep defenses honest. Because of a clear lack of size, Cavs first year coach Joey Tutchstone encourages a fast and furious approach on offense and defense.
For a look at the entire field in class Quad-A, you can find the bracket by clicking here.