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Upper Merion, Perk Valley among Team of the Decade Tournament snubs

Upper Merion's Matt Faw (33) drives to the hoop against Northeastern's Antonio Rizzuto (5) in their PIAA-5A second round game at Manheim Township High School on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (Mark Palczewski/For MediaNews Group)

It happens every year on Selection Sunday. The field for the NCAA Tournament is announced and teams across the country are shown celebrating their seed and their inclusion in the big dance.

After making their instant picks and reactions, the analysts start debating. Did the committee get it right? Who should be in? Who got snubbed?

That’s the stage we are at now in the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Best of 2010s boys basketball bracket.

We received a number of nominations and suggestions, but with the field featuring just 16 teams, some are going to be left out. After a great decade of basketball in the area, some of the teams on the outside can’t help but feel like they belong.

Below are nominated teams that narrowly missed a spot in the tournament and still deserve recognition.

2016-17 UPPER MERION >> The Vikings went 17-12 in 2016-17. They finished first in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division and reached the Final Four in the PAC playoffs. They reached the District 1-5A title game and the second round of the state tournament.

Upper Merion had been building toward this season for years. The roster was almost entirely composed of seniors who had been playing significant minutes since their sophomore seasons.

Upper Merion’s Ethan Miller (20), Joe Breece (12) and Tim Biefalski (13) enjoys the last moments of their District 1 semifinal at  the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Upper Merion defeated Bishop Shanahan 45-30. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

As juniors, they took a big leap forward on a Tuesday night in the middle of January. The Vikings, who were still in the Suburban One League American Conference, beat unbeaten league rival Plymouth Whitemarsh, 57-43.

“PW for a really long time didn’t have many league losses,” Upper Merion head coach Jason Quenzer said. “We would previously get the doors blown off of us. When we held them at our place we were like, ‘All right. This is a staple win. We can win against some good teams.’ Definite confidence-builder.”

UM finished the 2016 season as the 15th seed in the District 1-4A playoffs and lost a heartbreaker to Academy Park, 53-51, in the first round.

The team returned most of its rotation in 2016-17 with high expectations but, after a handful of games, star center Matt Faw went down with an injury that would keep him out until the final game of the regular season. He missed 17 games and the Vikings went 8-9 during that stretch.

“That time when he was out was when we really found different roles and people stepping up and getting minutes they probably wouldn’t have gotten in the first place that we needed,” Quenzer said.

Faw didn’t really get into rhythm until the district playoffs. He return for the PAC postseason but didn’t look himself. He fouled out — Upper Merion fans would argue about three or four of the calls — in the PAC semifinal loss against Spring-Ford.

“In the locker room (after loss to Spring-Ford) everybody was devastated,” Quenzer said. “They were like, ‘Man, what if we don’t live up to the expectations?’ I think being in that playoff atmosphere … being in that kind of game that late in the season is good for them. It made them a little bit hungry.”

Upper Merion’s Aidan Newell stretches to shot past Newcastle-Antrim’s Casey Hoover in first round of PIAA Tournament at Cheltenham High School on March 10 , 2017. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

After a break before districts to get the team clicking on all cylinders, Quenzer and the Vikings were a dangerous eight seed. They beat Strath Haven in the first round before going into top-seeded Chester and coming out with a win. They beat Bishop Shanahan in the semifinals at Temple University but lost the championship to Penncrest at Villanova University.

In states, Upper Merion won its first-round game over Greencastle-Antrim before losing to Northeastern.

Ethan Miller, who scored the 1,000th point of his career in the season-ending loss, and Faw gave Upper Merion a size advantage over most opponents. Miller stood at 6-foot-6 and Faw 6-foot-8, plus Anthony Shepherd at 6-foot-6. On the outside, Aidan Newell was the engine at point guard and Andrew Persaud a three-point shooter. Joe Breece also played big minutes, bringing the most energy and arguably being the team’s best rebounder despite his sub-6-foot frame.

“That group of guys,” Quenzer said, “they were all so coachable. They took direction really well. They liked being around one another and playing with one another. They literally would try sleep in the gym when everyone would leave and just play all night long. Every custodian knew their names. They were in there all the time together.”

2016-17 PERK VALLEY >> The Vikings finished the 2016-17 season with a 23-7 record. They finished first in the PAC Liberty Division and won the PAC championship. PV reached the district quarterfinals and second round of states.

Perk Valley’s dominant regular season secured the No. 1 seed in the District 1-6A tournament. After a first-round bye, the Vikings beat Garnet Valley before falling to Cheltenham in the quarterfinals. They lost playback games against North Penn and Penn Wood to enter states as District 1’s eighth-place finisher.

Perkiomen Valley celebrates with the Pioneer Athletic Conference trophy after defeating Spring-Ford in the 2017 PAC title game. (Sam Stewart/MediaNews Group)

In states, PV beat two-time defending champion Roman Catholic in the first round. In the second round, the PAC champs lost to Lonnie Walker and eventual state champion Reading.

The Vikings were led by seniors Justin Jaworski and Sean Owens and sophomore Tyler Strechay. Jaworski scored his 1,000th point early in the season.

2017-18 WISSAHICKON >> The Trojans went 19-8 in 2017-18 and finished second in the SOL American with an 11-3 record. They reached the District 1-5A semifinals and lost in the first round of states.

Wiss had a difficult schedule with league games against a Plymouth Whitemarsh team that won its first 27 games and a talented Cheltenham squad. In non-league games they faced strong competition in Norristown, Methacton, Perk Valley, Pennridge and CB West. The Trojans beat Norristown, Methacton and Perk Valley while losing to Pennridge and CB West. They split with Cheltenham and lost twice to PW, the first a one-point defeat.

Wissahickon’s Eddie Fortescue (3) lays up to the basket as Penncrest’s (12) Chris Mills (12) defends in the first quarter of their District 1-5A semifinal at Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

The Trojans took off in the postseason. Kyle Wilson’s group entered the D1-5A playoffs as the No. 4 seed and grabbed wins over Strath Haven and Great Valley. They lost a heartbreaker to the No. 1 seed, defending champion and eventual back-to-back champion Penncrest at Temple. It was the second year in a row Penncrest ended their district run.

In states, Wiss battled but lost in the first round to Archbishop Carroll.

This team was led by the trio of Max Rapoport, Eddie Fortescue and Zach Reiner. Rapoport was a knockdown shooter from three-point land, Fortescue a hard-nosed two-guard and Reiner a do-it-all point forward.

2017-18 CB WEST >> West went 23-8 in 2017-18 and finished as the SOL Continental champs with a 10-2 league record. The Bucks reached the District 1-6A semifinals and PIAA-6A state quarterfinals.

The Bucks earned the fourth seed in District 1 and, after a bye, topped CB East and Coatesville to reach the Final Four at Temple. They lost to Plymouth Whitemarsh in the semis and Lower Merion in the third-place game to enter states as the fourth-place finisher.

Central Bucks West’s Collin MacAdams goes to the basket during the Bucks’ District 1-6A semifinal against Plymouth Whitemarsh in Philadelphia  on Feb. 27, 2018. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

In states, West beat Emmaus in the first round and defending state champions Reading in the second. They lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Roman Catholic.

Shane McCusker, Collin MacAdams and Jake Reichwein were key contributors during the Bucks run.

2018-19 BISHOP MCDEVITT >> McDevitt finished the 2018-19 season with a 21-8 record. The Lancers reached the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals and PIAA-3A state semifinals.

McDevitt earned a first-round bye in the PCL playoffs. The Lancers knocked off Archbishop Wood in the quarters before losing to La Salle in the semifinals.

In states, the Lancers beat Camp Hill, Loyalsock and Neumann-Goretti, their second win over NG that season, before falling to Trinity in the semifinals.

Jamil Manigo earned first team All-PCL honors while Robert Smith was named to the second team.

COVERAGE AREA >> We also received suggestions for the 2012-13 Lower Merion boys basketball team. The Aces won over 30 games that season, including a PIAA-4A state championship over Chester.

Lower Merion would surely be included in any best of Southeastern PA or District 1 list, but we are focusing on the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media coverage area.

Listed alphabetically, our coverage area includes Abington, Archbishop Carroll, Archbishop Wood, Bishop McDevitt, Central Bucks West, Cheltenham, Dock Mennonite Academy, Faith Christian Academy, Germantown Academy, Hatboro-Horsham, Jenkintown, Lansdale Catholic, La Salle College, Lower Moreland, Methacton, Norristown, North Penn, Pennridge, Perk Valley, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Pope John Paul II, Souderton, Springfield (Montco), Spring-Ford, Upper Dublin, Upper Merion, Upper Moreland and Wissahickon.

Vote for the first-round matchups on Twitter @ReporterSports.

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