The first round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Boys Basketball Final Six commences Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Spring-Ford.
Perkiomen Valley gritted out three straight wins against Liberty opponents — including an upset of District 1 top-ranked Spring-Ford — to squeak by with the final wild card spot of the bracket and will take on No. 3 Methacton in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
No. 4 Pottstown has made the PAC tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season and will clash with No. 5 Norristown — the reigning District 1 Class 6A runner-up — in the nightcap Wednesday.
Division champions Spring-Ford (Liberty) and Upper Merion (Frontier) await the winners ahead of Friday’s semifinals also at Spring-Ford.
A breakdown of teams and opening-round matchups:
Methacton (3) vs. Perkiomen Valley (6), 6 p.m.
Records >> Methacton: 9-4 PAC, 15-7 overall, No. 9 in District 1-6A rankings. Perkiomen Valley: 7-6 PAC, 15-7 overall, No. 8 in District 1-6A rankings.
Head-to-head >> The two opened PAC play against one another on Dec. 16 with Methacton coming out with a 49-47 road win. Methacton won the second round between the two, 59-58 at home on Jan. 17.
PAC Playoff History >> Methacton has been the gold standard of the conference tournament the last decade. The Warriors have won four of the last five PAC titles and six in the last 10 years.
Perkiomen Valley hasn’t claimed the PAC crown since the 2016-17 season, in which the Vikings won 52-45 over Spring-Ford. The last time Perkiomen Valley reached the PAC championship was 2018-19, a 67-43 loss to Methacton.
Warriors at a glance >> Senior Matt Christian, a 6-foot-3 guard, has taken the mantle as Methacton’s primary scorer after the graduation of Cole Hargrove — last year’s Mercury Player of the Year — and is averaging 15.3 ppg, fifth-most in the PAC.
Along with Christian, 6-foot-3 forward Alex Hermann provides a hefty presence at the rim on the offensive end, averaging 14.4 ppg. Cam Chilson, Sal Iemmello and Jason Lagana bolster a corps of athletic guards for the Warriors.
Vikings at a glance >> One name stands out among the crowd: Julian Sadler. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound junior point guard is the PAC’s leading scorer at 21 ppg and is the only player averaging 20-plus. Sophomore guard Mason Thear has emerged as another primary scorer for Perkiomen Valley in recent weeks with a strong outside shot.
The Vikings also have size in big men Josh Tagert (6-foot-4), Kyle Shawaluk (6-foot-4), Morgan McKinney (6-foot-3), Shane Nelson (6-foot-3) and Hadi Iskandarani (6-foot-3).
Pottstown (4) vs. Norristown (5), 7:45 p.m.
Records >> Pottstown: 8-5 PAC, 14-7 overall, No. 6 in District 1-5A rankings. Norristown: 8-5 PAC, 10-11 overall, No. 17 in District 1-6A rankings.
Head-to-head >> Pottstown hosted Norristown on Dec. 22 and the Eagles came out with a 65-57 win in PAC crossover action.
PAC Playoff History >> Wednesday will mark Pottstown’s first appearance in the PAC tournament in 10 years. The Trojans maintained a dynasty of eight straight conference championship wins from the late 80s to mid 90s.
Norristown has made the PAC tournament in all but one year it’s competed in the conference and has two Liberty titles, but the Eagles have never reached the championship game. Beyond the PAC, Norristown excelled in the postseason last year, upsetting Methacton in the District 1 semifinals en route to the district final and PIAA second round.
Trojans at a glance >> Pottstown features the highest scoring offense in the PAC at 63.6 ppg and is the only team scoring 60-plus per game. That high-flying talent on the offensive end is highlighted by a three-headed beast in Sadeeq Jackson (15.3 ppg, fourth-most in PAC), Ty Elliot-Moore (14.8 ppg, seventh in PAC) and Abdul Jackson (14.2 ppg, ninth in PAC).
Eagles at a glance >> Norristown is much younger this year with Myon Kirlew (12 ppg) being the only returner with valuable minutes from last season. Despite that, the Eagles have a strong cast in guards Jayden Byrd (12.4 ppg), Jaden Wise and Andre Gordon. Roddy Gaymon and Jonathan Brooks have also been key cogs in Norristown’s machine.
Both Pottstown and Norristown have excelled offensively and struggled at times on the defensive end, so the opening round between the two has the makings for a fast paced, high-scoring shootout.
Spring-Ford >> The Rams (12-1 PAC, 20-2 overall) locked up the Liberty title and the No. 1 seed in the PAC tournament. Spring-Ford rode a 20-game win streak before a loss to Perkiomen Valley to close out the regular season.
Jacob Nguyen, a 6-foot-4 point guard, has led the offense with 14.9 ppg with E.J. Campbell bolstering 12 ppg. Caleb Little and Alex Lewis, as well as forwards Tommy Kelly and Zach Zollers, all highlight a group that’s been making the biggest splash after missing the PAC tournament last season.
The Rams are ranked No. 1 in the District 1-6A rankings and boast the leading defense in the PAC at just 43.7 ppg allowed. Spring-Ford last made the PAC championship five years ago and hasn’t won since the 2015-16 season. The Rams will take the winner between Pottstown/Norristown in the semifinals.
Upper Merion >> The only thing that kept the Vikings (9-4 PAC, 11-10 overall) from winning the Frontier title last season after matching Pope John Paul II’s record was a power points tiebreaker. In storybook fashion, Upper Merion took down the Golden Panthers, snapping their four-year division title streak to win it outright in its new Valhalla Gym last week.
Madison Tatom is a four-year starter and All-Frontier second-teamer who is averaging 10.5 ppg. Devon Nelson is another primary scorer for the Vikings averaging 10.6 ppg. The guard-heavy squad is also fueled by primary ball handlers in Colin Hirshorn, Alen Cole, Nick Smiley and Yusuf Riley.
Upper Merion, ranked No. 12 among the District 1-5A field, has never reached the PAC championship. The Vikings will face the winner between Methacton/Perkiomen Valley in the semifinals for a ticket to its first conference title game appearance.