Roman Catholic is trying to earn its third state title in the last four seasons; Imhotep is seeking a second straight crown and fifth overall; and Constitution is bidding to earn gold for the fourth time.
Imhotep will begin play in the PIAA Class 4A tournament on Friday, and Roman and Constitution hit the road that leads to Hershey in Class 6A and 2A, respectively, on Saturday.
Here is a breakdown of the three classifications, and a predicted winner in each group.
In addition to Roman, the other locals that could claim top honors out of the Eastern bracket are District 1 titlist Abington, St. Joseph’s Prep, Lower Merion, and Lincoln. Roman, which was stunned by Lincoln in the District 12 final, and District 1 runner-up Plymouth Whitemarsh will try to make it to the Giant Center from the West.
There is a strong potential for a pair of second-round showdowns on Wednesday: Abington vs. St. Joseph’s Prep; and Roman vs. Plymouth Whitemarsh.
Abington and St. Joseph’s Prep both have terrific trios. The Ghosts are led by 6-foot-7 forward Eric Dixon, 6-6 wing Lucas Monroe, and guard Robbie Heath; the Hawks feature 6-8 center Ed Croswell and fearless guards Darius Kinnel and Kyle Thompson.
Roman vs. Plymouth Whitemarsh would likewise be intriguing. The Cahillites are ignited by 6-6 wing Seth Lundy, lead guard Lynn Greer, and high-leaping wings Allen Betrand and Hakim Hart. The Colonials are paced by 7-2 center Naheem McLeod, senior twins Ahmin and Ahmad Williams, and fellow guard Ish Horn.
If Khalif Meares and Lincoln can beat Upper Darby in the first round, they could face Jhamir Brickus and Coatesville, which opens against District 3’s Manheim Township, in the second round.
In addition to Roman and Plymouth Whitemarsh, the Western bracket contenders are District 3’s Reading, District 6’s State College, and District 7’s Penn Hills.
Our final four: Abington, Lower Merion, Plymouth Whitemarsh, and State College. Champion: Plymouth Whitemarsh gains payback against Abington and claims its first state crown since 2010.
Talented Imhotep, which was ranked No. 8 in the most recent USA Today Super 25, is the odds-on choice to capture the first-place trophy.
The quick and deep Panthers are fueled by Donta Scott, Chereef Knox, Dhamir Bishop, Jamil Riggins, and Bernard Lightsey.
Look for Imhotep to meet District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic in the semis. The Golden Hawks are sparked by 6-10 senior and Northwestern recruit Ryan Young, his brother Kyle, a 6-8 junior, and guards Justin Paz and DeAndre Gardner.
District 7 runner-up Quaker Valley is among the top contenders from the West. The Quakers’ Coletrane Washington, a 6-4 senior guard and Drexel signee, averages 22.5 points per game.
Our final four: Bethlehem Catholic, Imhotep, Quaker Valley, and New Castle. Champion: Imhotep eases past Quaker Valley and closes with a 31-2 mark.
The Eastern bracket contenders include Constitution; Math, Civics, and Sciences; Delco Christian; Dock Mennonite; District 2’s Holy Cross; and District 6’s Bishop Guilfoyle.
We’re expecting another semifinal between Constitution and MC&S. The Generals escaped the Mighty Elephants, 73-68, in overtime last year.
District 7’s Sewickley Academy, Our Lady of Sacred Heart, and Jeannette appear to be the primary challengers from the bottom half of the draw. District 9’s Cloudersport is another team to watch.
Our final four: Constitution, MC&S, defending titlist Sewickley, and Our Lady of Sacred Heart. Champion: Sewickley, with 6-6 forward Nate Ridgeway as its catalyst, nips Constitution in the final for the second straight year.