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Boys Basketball: Pioneer Athletic Conference Final Four Preview

The Pioneer Athletic Conference boys basketball playoffs continue on Friday at Spring-Ford High School with the semifinal round.

Methacton will take on Frontier division winner Pope John Paul II at 6 p.m. after a win over Spring-Ford in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Liberty division champ Norristown will face Perkiomen Valley at 7:45 p.m. after the Vikings’ win over Pottsgrove.

Here is a look at Friday’s playoff games:

Pope John Paul II (2) vs Methacton (3), 6 p.m.

Records >> Pope John Paul II – 7-3 PAC Frontier, 8-8 PAC, 11-11 overall; Methacton – 8-2 PAC Liberty, 14-2 PAC, 18-5 overall

Head-to-head >> Methacton cruised to a 69-49 victory over Pope John Paul on Dec. 22.

Playoff history >> Methacton is hoping to secure the first back-to-back championships in the last 13 years after knocking off Spring-Ford in last year’s title game. The Warriors have won the league three times since 2012…This is PJP’s first playoff appearance since 2016. The Panthers are looking for their first PAC playoff victory since winning the championship in 2011.

Pope John Paul II won several close games, including two overtime contests to secure the PAC Frontier title. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

On Pope John Paul II >> The Panthers won their last five Frontier division games to lock up a spot in the Final Four, including overtime wins over Phoenixville and Pottstown. They had trouble with the other side of the division, losing all six of their crossover games. Pope John Paul II has three double figures scorers in Drew McKeon (13.2 ppg), Sean Bustynowicz (11.5 ppg) and Justin Green (10.3 ppg). McKeon’s 67 threes, including a game-winner in the overtime win over Phoenixville, rank second in the league behind Methacton’s David Duda (69). Bustynowicz and guards Chris White and Tyshere Malachi are also threats from the perimeter, while Green does most of his work down low.

On Methacton >> The Warriors are peaking at the right time, having won 11-straight games and rolling through Spring-Ford, 87-51, in the first round on Wednesday. Jeff Woodward, a 6-9 forward, gives the Warriors an huge advantage in the paint, while Duda is an experienced sharpshooter heading to East Stroudsburg next year. Junior guard Brett Eberly and senior forward Ben Christian also return from last year’s championship squad. A key for the Warriors has been the emergence of junior Erik Timko, who led Methacton with 18 points in their first round win.

Methacton junior guard Erik Timko, right, has emerged as a third scoring option for the Warriors this season. (Owen McCue — MediaNews Group)

Matchup >> The Panthers can stay in this one if they get hot from deep, unfortunately the Warriors have been red hot as well from the outside, knocking down 14 threes in their win over Spring-Ford. Like most of the league, Pope John Paul II doesn’t have an answer for Woodward inside, and Methacton should have a chance to defend its championship next Tuesday.

Prediction >> Methacton 66, Pope John Paul II 50

 

Perkiomen Valley (5) vs. Norristown (1), 7:45 p.m.

Records >> Perkiomen Valley – 7-3 PAC Liberty, 13-3 PAC, 18-5 overall; Norristown – 8-2 PAC Liberty, 14-2 PAC, 18-4 overall

Head-to-head >> Norristown won the first meeting, 55-54, on Dec. 14. The second meeting was just as close as Perkiomen Valley pulled out a 52-50 victory on a last-second shot by Tyler Strechay.

Playoff history >> Perkiomen Valley has won the PAC title two times, the last coming in 2017…This is Norristown’s third straight trip to the PAC postseason, but the Eagles have yet to pick up a playoff win, falling in overtime the past two seasons.

Perkiomen Valley’s AJ Hansen scored 13 points in the Vikings’ PAC playoff win over Pottsgrove on Wednesday (MJ McConney – MediaNews Group)

On Perkiomen Valley >> The Vikings defeated Pottsgrove, 61-48, in the first round of playoff action on Wednesday behind 20 points from senior Tyler Strechay, who leads the league in scoring at close to 20 points per game. Sharpshooter Zach Krause, averaging 13.6 ppg, can give the Vikings a scoring a boost when he is hot, and point guard AJ Hansen is a reliable ball handler and tough defender. Senior forwards Bryce and Ian Streeper provide some size up front for the Viking and are capable passers out of the post. Sophomore Kam Parks gives the Vikings some athleticism and energy from the wing. Perkiomen Valley wins with its defense, holding opponents to a league low 45.6 points per game this season.

On Norristown >> The Eagles are a senior-laden group that thrives on its defense as well, often pressuring full court and playing with a scrappy style that forces opponents into mistakes. Senior captain Tyler Lyons and senior forward Mickeel Allen set the tone for the Eagles, but Norristown’s balance on the offensive end has carried it thus far. Senior guards Marcus Sanford and Xavier Edwards bring toughness on both ends, while sophomores Nizer Kinney and Aaron Reddish have provided some length and shooting for the Eagles. Kinney, a 6-4 forward, scored 21 points in Norristown’s win over Perkiomen Valley in December, including three 3-point shots. Reddish, a 6-5 guard and the brother of current Duke Star Cam Reddish, has been a valuable addition after transferring from Westtown.

Norristown’s Samuel Etheridge (center) fights for the ball against Pottsgrove. The Eagles rode their way to a Liberty Division title with defense and a balanced scoring attack. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Matchup >> Not much separates these two teams as was displayed by the two close contests this season. In games like this, the advantage usually goes to who has the best player in crunch time. That nod likely goes to the Vikings with Strechay, who is having a league player of the year type season and has already proven he has the ability to hit big shots.

Prediction >> Perkiomen Valley 53, Norristown 52

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