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Marple Newtown gets playoff berth it deserved

As Marple Newtown’s boys basketball team walked off the floor Thursday evening at Harriton High School, there was no doubt in their minds as to what had just been accomplished.

Winners of six straight and seven of eight, the last installment of which was a gutsy 69-63 overtime win away from home, Brian Shane’s team knew it had done all it could to force its way into the District One Class AAAA playoff picture.

“Hey, we won six in a row,’ Shane said Sunday. “The kids did what they had to do. I said that to them afterwards. We did everything we could, so we just have to wait. If we didn’t get in, I think it was a hell of a season, especially the way we finished it.’

All that remained for the 13-9 Tigers was to see if the math agreed with their sense of achievement. Sunday, they got confirmation of that.

Marple earned the 31st seed in the District One Tournament, getting a date in Friday’s opening round with No. 2 seed Methacton.

The Tigers are one of seven teams from Delco to earn berths in Class AAAA. They did so the hard way, mired at 7-9 in mid-January and needing a torrid finish to earn a second season.

In the final six games, they twice topped Harriton, beat a Penncrest team that also made the playoffs and went to Upper Darby to down the Royals in the closing seconds, consigning the Royals to a rare playoff-less season.

“I told the kids that I didn’t know if we needed to win all six, but we told them we’d need at least four or five,’ said Shane, making his first district appearance in three years at the school. “And they just kept winning all those games, just kept knocking them off. It was a pretty incredible run.’

Penncrest (13-9) will take part in the only all-Delaware County matchup of at least the first two rounds. The No. 28 Lions will head to No. 5 Penn Wood (17-5) in Friday’s opener. The winner gets the winner of No. 21 Council Rock North and No. 12 Lower Merion in the second round. Penn Wood and Lower Merion played an elimination game in the second round of districts last year, one in which the Aces bested the Patriots.

Defending District One champion Chester (13-9) drew the No. 11 seed, meaning it hosts No. 22 Hatboro-Horsham. The Clippers, losers of six of their last nine, are in line to tangle with the winner of No. 6 Abington and No. 27 North Penn in the second round. Chester beat Abington in the District One quarterfinals last season.

Ridley (18-5) is the No. 9 see and will entertain No. 24 West Chester Rustin in the first round. The winner gets the winner of No. 25 Great Valley and No. 8 C.B. West.

Ridley could square off in the quarterfinals with Conestoga, the No. 1 seed, which they’ll meet Monday in the Central League final. Conestoga has won the previous two meetings this season.

Academy Park (16-6) just misses out on a home game, falling to the No. 17 seed. The Knights, making their second straight playoff appearance, have to trek out to Oxford to visit the No. 16 seed, with Conestoga the likely prize for the victor. Academy Park is 11-1 outside the Del Val this season, the only loss coming to Episcopal Academy.

Springfield (14-8) is the No. 20 seed, traveling to No. 13 West Chester Henderson. The winner gets the winner of No. 29 Cheltenham vs. No. 4 Plymouth-Whitemarsh. In Class AAA, Glen Mills (16-6) earns the No. 3 seed and a visit from No. 6 Bishop Shanahan in the first round Saturday, Feb. 21. To get to states, the Battlin’ Bulls would likely have to play No. 2 seed Lower Moreland at a neutral site in the semis. Two Class AAA teams advance to states.

Delco Christian is the No. 3 seed in the Class A tournament, setting up a date with No. 6 Faith Christian in the first round. The Knights, who beat Faith Christian 63-34 last week, would face the winner of No. 2 Plumstead Christian and No. 7 Christopher Dock in the semifinals to determine one of the District One’s two PIAA bids.

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