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H.S. Basketball Conference Championship Preview
By Matt Maisel
With one week remaining in Pennsylvania's high school basketball regular season, an elite number of local teams will play for conference supremacy. Teams will play their final regular season games, then on Friday and Saturday, conference titles will be decided in the Allegheny Mountain League, Laurel Highlands, Inter-County Conference, and WestPAC. Many of these games already have their matchups decided, while others will come down to this week's final slate.
ALLEGHENY MOUNTAIN LEAGUE
In the AML, the regular season wrapped up over the weekend. Beginning Friday, conference semifinals will take place at home sites:
- DuBois Central Catholic (AML South No. 2) at Elk County Catholic (AML North No. 1), Time TBD
- Johnsonburg (AML North No. 2) at Ridgway (AML South No. 1), 7 p.m.
- Brockway (AML South No. 2) at Elk County Catholic (AML North No. 1), TBD- Kane (AML North No. 2) at DuBois Central Catholic (AML South No. 1), TBD
The boys semifinals is a toss-up, even though Johnsonburg or Elk County Catholic will be considered the favorite by virtue of their regular season success. Make no mistake though, DuBois Central or Ridgway could win the AML title Saturday night. DCC defeated Johnsonburg in January while Ridgway lost to Elk County by only two last week.
On the girls side, Elk County Catholic will be the prohibitive favorite to win. The Lady Crusaders finished the regular season 10-0 in AML play, including wins by 22 over DuBois Central Catholic, 17 over Brockway, and 10 and 11 over Kane.
Three of the four teams for Saturday's LHAC Championships have been decided: Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort for the boys, and Westmont for the girls.
Bishop Carroll's boys (19-0) can wrap up the area's first perfect regular season with wins Monday at Bishop Guilfoyle and Friday at Hollidaysburg. Even if Bishop Guilfoyle beats Bishop Carroll at home on Monday, the Huskies have already locked up their spot in the LHAC Championship by virtue of their win over Section 2 first place Bishop McCort (BG lost to McCort on Saturday).
Bishop McCort's boys are playing inspired basketball, winning their last nine conference games. Nemo Trexler has taken the torch as the area's most electrifying players, as evident by his 25 ppg average in his last eight games and this dunk Saturday versus Bishop Guilfoyle.
Westmont's girls clinched their LHAC Section 2 title Friday by virtue of beating Bishop McCort. If the season were to end today, the Lady Hilltoppers would face Forest Hills and not Bishop Guilfoyle in the chamoionship game. The Lady Rangers, which split meetings with the Lady Marauders this season, benefitted from Penn Cambria's upset win over B-G last Friday. Ironically, it could be Penn Cambria which keeps Forest Hills from the title game if the Lady Rangers don't win their Wednesday season finale.
Only one of the four teams in next Saturday's ICC Championships have been decided: Bellwood-Antis' girls, which still has two games remaining in conference play but holds a two-game lead over next closest Claysburg-Kimmel, which the Blue Devils beat twice.
The ICC South representative will be decided after Monday's game between Southern Fulton (17-2, 10-1) and Northern Bedford (8-10, 6-5). If Southern Fulton loses, Tussey Mountain will take the ICC South title. If Southern Fulton wins, they will earn the ICC championship game spot by virtue of the conference tiebreak procedure of point differential. Both Southern Fulton and Tussey Mountain's only conference losses came against each other, but Southern Fulton beat Tussey by 14 while the Titans beat the Indians by 13.
Speaking of point differential, Juniata Valley has the inside track on the ICC North boys title by virtue of one point; the Hornets 51-50 win over Williamsburg earlier this season. They play Monday night in Alexandria. If Juniata Valley wins, they'll take ICC North top honors, but if they lose, we could see a three-way tie including Mount Union.
Southern Fulton currently has the inside track on the ICC South boys title, but Northern Bedford controls its own destiny. The Panthers, currently a game back of first place, host the Indians on Tuesday. Since Northern Bedford already beat Southern Fulton this season, a win Tuesday would give NBC a spot in the championship.
Only one spot remains in the WestPAC Championship games, which will be played Saturday at Pitt-Johnstown, beginning at 6:30 p.m. (girls) and followed by the boys game. Conemaugh Township and Shanksville will meet in the WestPAC boys championship; Township beat Shanksville 43-41 in December. Portage's girls have already clinched the WestPAC North title. They are currently 19-1 and 11-0 in sectional play with games left against Berlin and Conemaugh Township.
The WestPAC South girls crown will come down to Berlin and Shade and four games between the two of them. Each team has completed sectional play, with their only loss coming against each other. The next tiebreaker is wins against the other section; Shade plays Conemaugh Valley (Tuesday) and Ferndale (Thursday) while Berlin goes to Portage (Tuesday) and hosts Windber (Thursday). If each team wins out, Berlin will earn the WestPAC South title by beating Portage. However, if Berlin loses to Portage, the sectional title could be decided by overall win percentage, which Shade would likely earn by having more wins (not including in-season tournaments).
Not all conference champions will be decided by title games, though. In the Mountain League, the Tyrone girls have already clinched the conference championship, the Lady Eagles third in eight years, with a 64-35 win over Huntingdon on Saturday. Tyrone's boys team is one of three Mountain League squads with a chance to win the Mountain. The Eagles, along with Bald Eagle and Penns Valley, hold a 10-3 conference record with one game to play on Wednesday. Bald Eagle heads to one-win Bellefonte while Tyrone travels to Penns Valley. Bald Eagle swept its season series against Tyrone and split games with Penns Valley.
In the Heritage Conference, the boys title will be decided Monday night when Homer-Center (13-1 in conference play) heads to Blairsville (14-0). The Bobcats won the season's earlier meeting. If Blairsville wins, they'll take the conference title outright. Should Homer-Center win, the Wildcats and Bobcats will be named co-champs, pending season finales on Wednesday.
Blairsville also holds the inside track on the Heritage girls title. At 13-0 in conference play, the Lady Bobcats can clinch the conference title by winning at Marion Center (13-1) on Thursday. Blairsville beat the Lady Stingers by 17 earlier this season. Blairsville also has games this week at Ligonier Valley and versus Saltsburg, two teams it beat by a combined 66 points this season.