Boys' Basketball: Preview of Semifinal-Round Playoffs

St. Joseph's Prep has been impressive in the PIAA Class AAAA boys' basketball tournament, winning its first three games by an average margin of 19 points.

Despite that, Speedy Morris knows that few predict his Hawks (24-5) to beat Chester (27-3) in a semifinal set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Coatesville.

"Nobody expects us to win, outside of ourselves," Morris said after the Prep hammered Coatesville, 67-43, Saturday. "I don't mind that. Ever since David beat Goliath, there have been upsets."

Chester, which is bidding for its third straight crown, has likewise dominated in states. The Rondae Jefferson-led Clippers have prevailed by an average margin of 20 points.

"It's going to be an honor to play them," Morris said. "The score is going to start at zero-zero. We're not going to back down."

For the Hawks, Steve Vasturia (20.6 ppg.) has been terrific in states. The Notre Dame commit rang up 31 points against Coatesville.

What will it take to knock off Chester? "We need to defend well, rebound well, and take care of the ball," Vasturia said. "And we have to play well for four quarters."

The Hawks' other scoring threats are Wake Forest-bound swingman Miles Overton (15.4 ppg.), 6-4 forward Chris Clover, and wing guard Kyle Thompson.

For Chester, deep and quick at every position, Jefferson, an Arizona signee, averages 15.7 points. The other senior catalysts are 6-7 forward Richard Granberry, wing guard Darius Robinson, and sub James Kirksey.

Key is the Prep's ability to adequately deal with the Clippers' relentless pressure. The Hawks must also limit the number of second-chance opportunities.

Pick: After a close first half, look for Larry Yarbray's squad, as it has done so often, to put on the afterburners. Chester, 65-57.

Here is look at Tuesday's other semifinals:

Class AAAA

Lower Merion (28-3) vs. New Castle (29-0), 7 p.m. at Williamsport. The Red Hurricanes, of District 7, are 56-1 over the last two years.

New Castle, which averages 78.3 points per game, is powered by 6-3 senior swingman Shawn Anderson (20.4 ppg.) and 6-2 junior forward Malik Hooker (16.9 ppg.). Guards Brandon Domenick and Anthony Richards are three-point threats.

The Red Hurricanes, who will press and trap throughout, nailed 11 treys in Saturday's 80-70 win over Erie's Cathedral Prep.

Pick: New Castle lacks size. That opens the door for the Aces' Yohanny Dalembert (6-8), B.J. Johnson (6-7), and Raheem Hall (6-2) to attack the glass. Lower Merion, 72-68.

Class AAA

Imhotep Charter (26-5) vs. Donegal (29-2), 7:30 p.m. at Reading's Geigle Complex. Donegal, of District 3, is flying high after its 55-50 upset of Neumann-Goretti.

The Tribe is spurred by identical twins Jason and Martin Dietrich, 6-6 forward Matt Foltz, and guard Dylan Houseal. Foltz (20) and Martin Dietrich (19) led the way against the Saints.

Imhotep, which is ignited by Providence commit Brandon Austin, has rebounded nicely from its loss to Neumann-Goretti in the District 12 final.

Pick: The Panthers have been on a major roll. That should continue. Imhotep, 59-54.

Archbishop Carroll (22-6) vs. Montour (25-4), 7 p.m. at Chambersburg. The Spartans, of District 7, are very deliberate on offense.

Montour's spark plug is Devin Wilson, a 6-4 senior point guard and Division I recruit who averages 16.9 points per game.

Carroll's drive toward Hershey has been buoyed by the sophomore duo of Derrick Jones (6-6) and Ernest Aflakpui (6-9). Senior point guard Yosef Yacob averages 13.3 points.

Pick: Wilson is the difference in a taut, low-scoring contest. Montour, 45-44.

Class A

Math, Civics and Sciences (26-2) vs. Roberts Vaux (22-8). This is the rubber match. MC&S won, 74-70, in overtime during the regular season; Vaux turned the tables, 62-61, in the Public League semis.

In the playoff meeting, Rysheed Jordan (26 ppg.) poured in 29 points, including the deciding free throw with one-tenth of a second remaining.

Pick: The Mighty Elephants fare better in defending Jordan and survive a thriller. MC&S, 59-57.

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