By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
CARBONDALE – Susquehanna, Valley View and Dallas recovered from District 2 championship game losses to post opening-round state victories Friday night that ended long droughts in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association boys basketball tournament.
The Sabers, Cougars and Dallas joined district champions Abington Heights and Scranton Prep to make it a successful first night for District 2 boys teams on the state level. The three district runners-up all registered the first state wins of the millennium for their programs.
Susquehanna, playing in the state tournament as the District 2-11 Subregional champion, came back from an upset loss to MMI Prep in the District 2 Class A title game to defeat Conestoga Christian, 58-54, at Carbondale’s Peter Turonis Memorial Gymnasium.
The win was the first for the Sabers in the PIAA tournament since they used their only previous state wins to reach the 1999 semifinal at Scranton’s John Long Center where they lost to Gerry McNamara-led Bishop Hannan of Scranton, 46-38.
“Since it’s only the fourth state tournament win in school history and the first three were by the same team, this is huge,” Sabers senior forward Eric Lee said. “We’re doing a lot of stuff that Susquehanna has never done before and it feels good.”
Susquehanna, which won its first Lackawanna League Division 4 and District 2-11 Subregional titles this season, ended a four-game state losing streak.
Valley View stopped a five-game slide in PIAA play by winning for the first time since the 1996 team made it to a state final in Hershey and the 1997 team followed by reaching the semifinals.
The Cougars defeated Mifflinburg, 64-45, at Shikellamy in their first game since letting a five-point halftime lead get away in a loss to Scranton Prep in the District 2 Class 4A final.
Dallas made its second appearance since 1991 and got its first win since then when it pulled away late from Lower Dauphin, 70-54, in Class 5A at Wyoming Area.
The Mountaineers were coming off a 61-36 loss to Abington Heights Sunday night in the last of 12 district championship games at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
District 2 boys teams went 5-1 on opening night, with only third-place Class 4A team Nanticoke loses.
The district went 8-4 overall with the six girls teams splitting with opponents from other parts of the state.
While the Susquehanna, Valley View and Dallas boys all managed breakthroughs, the other wins came from programs with a recent history of state tournament wins, Abington Heights and Scranton Prep in boys along with Dunmore, Holy Redeemer and Old Forge in girls.
CLASS 5A BOYS
Abington Heights trailed after one quarter, then ran over Garden Spot, 75-47, at Scranton High School.
Jackson Danzig led 4 players in double figures with 18 points.
George Tinsley, who also had 13 rebounds and 9 assists, and Jack Nealon, who hit five 3-pointers, added 15 points each. Corey Perkins had 11.
The District 2 champion Comets (23-3) earned a rematch with District 1 fourth-place finisher Chester (19-8).
Last year, Abington Heights earned its first ever state semifinal appearance by beating Chester, 65-61, in double overtime. Chester won Friday night, 61-47, over Martin Luther King of Philadelphia, the other team the Comets beat in overtime in last year’s tournament.
Dallas also placed four players in double figures also started a little slow before gradually taking control in its win over Lower Dauphin.
The Mountaineers broke away with a game-ending, 12-2 run.
Jay Bittner led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Joey Parsons hit five 3-pointers while scoring 18 points. Alex Charlton and Matt Mathers added 12 points each.
Jack Farrell came off the bench to grab nine rebounds.
CLASS 4A BOYS
Scranton Prep pounded Tamaqua, 69-35, at Marywood University.
The Cavaliers have won four straight District 2 titles and opened the state tournament with wins each of those years by a total of 124 points.
Scranton Prep’s inside game took over early, opening leads of 13-2 after one quarter and 34-12 at halftime.
For the second straight year, Scranton Prep (21-5) will get defending state champion Imhotep Charter (27-2) in Tuesday’s second round.
Imhotep Charter clobbered Kennard-Dale, 76-30, Friday.
Marc Kudrich and Dylan Howanitz scored 19 points each to lead Valley View. Jaden Duplessis added 13 points.
The Cougars (17-9) advance to face District 3 champion Berks Catholic (27-2) Tuesday. Berks Catholic defeated John Bartram from Philadelphia, 47-43.
The only loss by a District 2 boys team came when District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic overpowered Nanticoke, 71-30, at Bethlehem Liberty.
Nate Kreitzer hit five 3-pointers while scoring 20 points for Nanticoke, which finished 20-6.
Bethlehem Catholic (26-3) opened leads of 19-3 after one quarter and 33-6 at halftime.
CLASS A BOYS
Susquehanna managed just 22 points Sunday in a District 2 upset loss to MMI Prep in its first game without academically ineligible all-star point guard and leading scorer Mason Deakin.
Given four days to reorganize the offense, the Sabers surpassed that total midway through the second quarter of the state opener.
Susquehanna ran out to an 18-5 lead in the first minute of the second quarter, then fought off several charges by Conestoga Christian in a game filled with streaks.
Bryce Baldwin scored 23 points and broke a 54-54 tie by converting an offensive rebound with 1:02 left.
C.J. Stone and Travis Craig each hit one of two free throws in the final 11 seconds to clinch the win.
With Susquehanna protecting the lead in the final minute, Craig, a 5-foot-9 senior who moved from off guard to Deakin’s point guard role, grabbed two defensive rebounds and forced a turnover. He finished with seven rebounds and five assists.
“Travis Craig is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” Susquehanna coach Lawrence Tompkins said.
Stone moved into the starting lineup and provided 13 points.
Lee had eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help Susquehanna dominate on the boards, 38-20.
Conestoga Christian hit 10 times from 3-point range, including four straight in the fourth quarter and going 3-for-4 while scoring 24 points in 6 ½ minutes during the second quarter.
CLASS 6A GIRLS
Neshaminy ended Hazleton Area’s season in the first round of state play for the second time in three years with a 41-28 victory at Berwick.
Maddie Mrochko reached the 1,000-point mark for her career in the loss.
Hazleton Area finished 15-10.
CLASS 3A GIRLS
Dunmore and Holy Redeemer, two of the top four teams in the state, according to pennlive.com, each opened with impressive wins.
District 2 champion Dunmore scored the game’s first 31 points, holding Philadelphia Academy Charter scoreless for more than 13 minutes to start a 45-9 rout at Marywood University.
The Lady Bucks (26-1) led 20-0 after one quarter, 35-4 at the half and 45-5 after three quarters.
Dunmore will face District 4 champion Mount Carmel Tuesday. Mount Carmel (22-5) defeated Green Pond Notre Dame, 52-26.
Holy Redeemer broke away from a halftime tie to defeat Hughesville, 44-34, at Wyoming Area.
Sam Yencha scored 16 points and Sam Rajza added 14 in the win.
The Royals (23-4) play District 1 champion St. Basil Academy (21-5) Tuesday. St. Basil routed West Philadelphia, 74-21.
District 11 champion North Schuylkill pounded Mid Valley, 78-32.
The Spartanettes, who made the state tournament by finishing third in District 2, finished 17-9.
Freshman Olivia Ciullo scored 21 points as Old Forge defeated South Williamsport, 48-35, at Scranton High School to set up a second-round rematch.
Alexandra Nocera added 13 points and Lindsey Welsh had 10.
The District 2 champion Lady Devils (13-12) will play District 11 runner-up Minersville (23-3) Tuesday.
Minersville won at Old Forge, 54-39, in a December non-league game. It went to Philadelphia to open state play and routed Motivation, 71-23.