MIDDLETOWN TWP. >> Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Jim Donofrio won’t have to worry about his guys having any lapses in focus during their first round district playoff bye.
The undefeated Colonials nabbed the No. 1 seed in the District 1-6A bracket at Sunday’s playoff seeding meeting at Penncrest High School, leading a number of area schools that earned high seeds. While the brackets and matchups are considered unofficial until Monday afternoon to allow for any late changes, the Colonials will open up in the top spot and as a favorite to win the tournament.
Donofrio isn’t worried about getting his guys into the gym, but instead getting them to leave at some point.
“Our season right now is we’re hitting the gas pedal and going until this thing is over,” Donfrio said Saturday after PW topped Pennridge in the SOL semifinals. “We have plenty of incentive. This particular group of kids is as intense as any group of high school kids in any program in the country that’s working hard.”
Joining PW among area teams to secure byes are No. 2 Abington, No. 4 CB West, No. 6 Pennridge and No. 7 Norristown. The top eight teams in the 24-team 6A bracket are awarded byes.
Abington coach Charles Grasty wasn’t necessarily expecting to be seeded so highly, adding the No. 2 is the highest spot the team has earned in his tenure but credited it to the Ghosts’ schedule. Abington schedules tough on purpose and their competition winning all season helped bump the Ghosts up.
“We haven’t really had a lot of home games this year with how the season fell but our community will come out and support us, it’ll be fun,” Grasty said. “We feel like making our schedule pretty difficult helped us get up to the two-seed.
“It’s going to be a long week, we’ll do some fun things and keep it loose. Kids get tired of practicing each other, so we’ll try to get a scrimmage in there but mostly we’ll hang loose, play basketball and look to tighten up some things.”
Having a bye is a new experience for Norristown and first year head coach Dana “Binky” Johnson. The Eagles have been a stout defensive team all season and have played with discipline and for each other under Johnson, a former standout at Norristown.
Johnson said he’s not sure what to expect when he and the team take the floor for their playoff opener and added he’s been relying a lot on other experienced coaches around the area all season for advice.
“It’s very deserving for the work they put in,” Johnson said. “We’re really educating our whole program, 9th grade, JV and varsity on the accomplishment. We’re hoping to make this the norm, to be in the district playoffs every year and earn a top seed. This is what you work hard for.”
Pennridge caught a literal bad break last year when guard Sean Yoder fractured his collarbone and missed their first round loss on the road. Yoder has played every game this season and had been very, very good for the Rams, who stand at 17-6 entering the postseason.
Coach Dean Behrens has been through the postseason ringer before and with the bye, noted the biggest challenge is finding ways to stay sharp. Teams are allowed an unlimited number of scrimmages before their first playoff game, which can help.
“It’s a great situation for us to get a bye, now we’re trying to get a scrimmage and find that little bit of extra work,” Behrens said. “We’re pleased with where we’re going to be. It was a situation where I didn’t think we’d be that high when the season started but it was a pretty good season for us.”
Also in 6A, No. 22 North Penn heads to No. 11 Spring-Ford and No. 19 Cheltenham travels to No. 14 Conestoga. Methacton earned the No. 10 spot and will host No. 23 Perk Valley, again barring any changes prior to Monday afternoon.
In 5A, Wissahickon accomplished its goal of earning two home games barring any late shifts in the seedings. The Trojans earned the No. 4 seed in the 16-team bracket and it’s accomplishment coach Kyle Wilson felt was well-earned and well-deserved for his group.
Wiss, which went on the road as a No. 14 seed last year and won its way into states, won’t be overlooking their likely first round foe in No. 13 Strath Haven. The Trojans have a lot of experienced seniors on the roster and they’re hungry to cash in on what they battled for all season.
“We wanted the opportunity to have two home playoff games, Strath Haven is a solid opponent but we like where we are,” Wilson said. “Our kids were fine with going on the road to win, but our kids are confident knowing we’ll get to have a lot of our fans there and they’ve earned that. Our fans have been tremendously supportive of us.”
Upper Moreland finished No. 17 in 5A but with Springfield-Delco opting not to play in the postseason, the Golden Bears will take the last spot in the 16-team field.
Lower Moreland’s strong season earned it a No. 2 seed in the District 1/11 regional bracket behind top-seeded Bethlehem Catholic from District 11. The Lions will likely face Northwestern Lehigh in the first round.
Dock Mennonite nabbed the top spot in District 1’s 2A bracket after an 18-4 regular season. Coach Mike Fergus’ squad is a solid defensive team that made it to states last season.
Faith Christian Academy will head into the A bracket as the No. 1 seed and will also have a bye with six teams making the field. Phil-Mont Christian claimed the No. 4 seed while Jenkintown securely grabbed the No. 6 seed and will travel to No. 3 Plumstead Christian for a first round matchup between the BAL rivals.
The District 1 6A and 5A finals will be held at Temple’s Liacouras Center along with the 6A and 5A girls finals. Both the 6A and 5A boys’ semis will also be played at Temple. The boys’ A and 2A finals will take place at Council Rock South while the 3A and 4A regional finals will take place in the district of the higher-seeded team in the title game.
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