MIDDLETOWN TWP. >> Last year, Abington girls basketball coach Dan Marsh wanted his team to avoid a first-round district playoff bye.
The Ghosts ended up with the No. 9 seed and went on to win the District 1-6A crown. This season, the Ghosts were a bit stronger in the regular season and elevated themselves into territory for that first round bye, unofficially earning the No. 5 seed at Sunday’s District 1 playoff seeding meeting at Penncrest.
Souderton earned the No. 1 overall seed in 6A, barely edging out No. 2 Central Bucks South while reigning District 1-4A champ Lower Moreland earned the No.1 spot and Jenkintown laid claim to the No.1 seed in the A District 1/12 regional, which the Drakes won last year.
All playoff seedings and matchups are considered unofficial until Monday afternoon, allowing for any late changes in the brackets.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten something as high as a five,” Marsh said. “I think we were six in 2010 when we won a district title and last year we were nine. Our strong schedule really bumped us up there, we’re a five loss team up there with the one and two loss teams.”
Marsh said he likes play that early round game but also noted his team’s hectic four-game week to close the regular season, so the time off is also a benefit. Abington didn’t get to practice last week and with playoff teams able to schedule as many scrimmages as they want, Abington and the other top seeds have ways to stay sharp.
While the Ghosts are getting used to having a bye, Plymouth Whitemarsh earned a first-round skip for the second straight year. The Colonials check in at No. 6 and await the winner of the Downingtown East-Owen J Roberts first round game.
PW lost to Abington in last year’s district final and Colonials coach Dan Dougherty saw the value of securing the extra home games during last season’s playoff run.
“I think all the kids are a little tired and emotionally spent from the long week we just had with Abington, Senior Night, the post-Super Bowl celebrations and the parade and playing Souderton (Saturday),” Dougherty said. “It’s a chance to recharge our batteries and we’re excited to be guaranteed at least two more chances to advance.”
Dougherty said the bye allows his team to put away game-planning for one team and focusing more on what it has to do better.
“It gives our kids a chance to get back in the gym and work on fundamental things like shooting, team defense and communication,” Dougherty said. “With four seniors starting, you also want them to enjoy the last time we have together.”
Proving nothing is settled until the end, Upper Dublin saw its positioning flip-flop in the final days of the season. The Cardinals were No. 8 but ended up switching with Council Rock North and earning the No. 9 spot and a first-round home game against Pennsbury, barring any late changes either way.
UD coach Morgan Funsten wanted to take the positive out of it and thinks the opportunity to play that first Saturday of the tournament can help his team.
“Keeping the girls in a routine and playing that first Saturday, we know with Pennsbury we’re facing one of the best coaches around (Frank Sciolla) so they’re going prepared and with the mentality they can beat us,” Funsten said. “We’re looking forward to just getting out and competing again. If we want to make a run, the road is not easy but we don’t want it to be.”
Should UD advance, Funsten’s seniors will have a chance to qualify for states for the fourth straight season, something none of his senior classes have been able to do.
“We have good senior leadership, they’ve been there and their goal is to qualify for states,” Funsten said. “That’s No. 1 on our list and that can be accomplished before you try to win the district, so that’s topping our list right behind preparing for Pennsbury.”
Barring any changes, Abington would face the winner of CB East and Pennridge in the second round. Marsh was optimistic that the Ghosts would be able to set up a boys-girls doubleheader that round, with the Ghosts boys claiming the No. 2 seed in their bracket and hopefully fill up the gym.
“It’s like one of my assistant coaches said, we can get back to normal now,” Marsh said. “It’s been game-game-game-game and we haven’t had a lot of time to practice. It was nice that we ran off 10 in a row, but we got humbled (Saturday) so it gives us a chance to get back to work and back to normal.”
Central Bucks West will be the No. 14 seed in 6A, Pennridge is No. 21 and returns to districts after a two-year absence and Cheltenham secured a spot at No. 23. Out of the PAC, Methacton checks in at No. 17
In the 5A bracket, Mount St Joseph Academy unofficially secured the No. 5 seed, Upper Merion is No. 10 while Upper Moreland nabbed the final spot in the 16-team bracket. The playoff bid caps a remarkable turnaround season for the Golden Bears, who went winless in 2016-17.
With Lower Moreland grabbing the top spot in the four-team 4A bracket, Gwynedd Mercy Academy took No. 2. The Lions topped the Monarchs in the district final last year.
St. Basil Academy, the reigning champion in the District 1/11 3A bracket, will defend its title as the No.2 seed. With the bracket split between two districts, the regional final will be held in the district of the highest seeded team in the final.
It’s the same story for Jenkintown, which finished the regular season 21-1 and heads the six-team A bracket. Veteran coach Jim Romano said it was a good reward for his players’ hard work all season and the team is looking forward to both districts and the BAL tournament that begins this week to bridge the time off.
The 6A and 5A girls finals are slated to be held at Temple’s Liacouras Center along with the 5A and 6A boys finals while the 6A girls semis will be held at Bensalem and the 5A semis at Harriton. The 4A and 2A girls finals will take place at Council Rock South.