Breaking down the PIAA boys basketball playoffs

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

Class AAAA

WPIAL/City League: New Castle (26-0), Hampton (21-5), Seneca Valley (17-8), North Allegheny (21-4), Gateway (16-6), Perry (12-13)

Around the state: Chester (24-3), the District 1 champion, could defend its PIAA title behind 6-foot-7 senior Rondae Jefferson, an Arizona recruit chosen for the McDonald's All-American game.

• Philadelphia's Roman Catholic (19-6) won the District 12 title with guard Shep Garner, a 6-2 junior being recruited by Miami and Xavier, among others.

• Lower Merion (23-3), the District 1 runner-up, could return to the PIAA final with 6-6 senior forward B.J. Johnson, a Syracuse recruit.

• Harrisburg (24-2) won the District 3 title behind 6-5 senior Shaquon Sheppard (14.0 ppg) and 6-2 sophomore Jahaad Proctor (13.0), both transfers from Susquehanna Township.

• Erie's Cathedral Prep (21-2), led to the District 10 title by 6-foot senior Sheldon Zablotny (19.0 ppg), has nobody taller than 6-3.

Don't overlook: St. Joseph's Prep (21-5) finished third in District 12, yet features 6-5 senior Steve Yasturia (Notre Dame) and 6-4 senior Miles Overton (Wake Forest).

Notable: Chester beat Lower Merion in last season's PIAA final, 59-33. The past five PIAA champions have come from District 1. Schenley won the 2007 title. ... Chester won, 60-46, over Lower Merion in their March 1 district championship. ... New Castle is the PIAA's last undefeated boys team. ... District 4 champion Williamsport (22-2) features 6-3 senior Isaiah Washington, a Penn State recruit.

Final prediction: Chester over Lower Merion

Class AAA

WPIAL: Montour (21-4), Chartiers Valley (22-4), Mars (21-4), Beaver (19-4), Thomas Jefferson (17-7), South Fayette (14-10)

Around the state: Neumann-Goretti (21-5), the three-time PIAA champion, features 6-foot-3 junior Ja'Quan Newton, a guard with offers from Georgetown, Miami, Syracuse and others.

• Imhotep Charter (23-5) lost to Neuman-Goretti, 52-51, in the District 12 title game despite 17 points from Providence recruit Brandon Austin, a 6-6 senior.

• Allentown Central Catholic (23-3) won the District 11 title with junior Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman (21.0 ppg), a 6-4 guard drawing mid-major offers.

• Berks Catholic (26-3), the District 3 champion, features 6-9 junior Nana Foulland (13.0 ppg) and 6-5 sophomore Connor Jack (11.0), brother of Penn State freshman Donovon.

• Abington Heights (25-2) won its second straight District 2 title behind 6-2 junior J.C. Snow (19.0 ppg) and 6-6 senior Jason Bamford, who scored 25 in the final.

Don't overlook: Northeastern (22-4) placed sixth in District 3 but has potential with 6-1 point guard Khalid Nwandu (20.0 ppg), a Mount St. Mary's recruit.

Notable: Neumann-Goretti won the 2012 title with a 48-45 victory over Montour. It also won the 2011 title over Montour, 55-45, and the 2010 title over Chartiers Valley, 65-63. ... Imhotep was PIAA Class AA champion last season. ... Along with Austin, Imhotep features 6-6 junior Basil Thompson, who has an offer from Delaware. ... Imhotep and Neuman-Goretti each faced Class AAAA favorite Chester this season. Imhotep lost, 63-61. Neuman-Goretti lost, 58-41, on ESPN2.

Final prediction: Imhotep Charter over Berks Catholic

Class AA

WPIAL: Beaver Falls (23-3), Burrell (19-7), Apollo-Ridge (17-8), Quaker Valley (20-5), Brentwood (14-10), Greensburg Central Catholic (22-2), Jeannette (18-5).

Around the state: Holy Cross (23-4) has a strong inside game with 6-7 center Josh Kosin, who had 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in the District 2 championship.

• West Middlesex (22-3), which moved up from Class A, won the District 10 title behind 6-foot-6 senior Matthew Dogan (26.0 ppg.), a Gannon recruit with 2,000 career points.

• Communications Tech (19-7), the Class AAA runner-up in 2006, earned District 12's top seed from Philadelphia's Public League.

• Wilkes-Barre Meyers (23-3) beat Holy Cross, 59-41, on Dec. 18 but lost the rematch, 59-45, in the District 2 championship.

• Loyalsock (24-3) has relied on 6-5 senior Roger Wilson (15.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg), who had 18 double-doubles en route to the District 4 title.

Don't overlook: Lakeview (21-4) of Mercer County lasted five overtimes against West Middlesex before losing, 71-65, in the District 10 championship game.

Notable: Beaver Falls beat West Middlesex, 50-41, in a tipoff tournament game. Dogan scored just eight points, his season low. They could meet again in the state semifinals. Dogan's season-high was 45. ... Quaker Valley reached the state semis last year before losing to Beaver Falls, 55-45. ... Comm Tech nearly beat Class AAA power Imhotep Charter, losing 45-42. ... Holy Cross reached the 2012 semis with a 58-56, 2OT victory over Comm Tech.

Final prediction: Beaver Falls over Holy Cross

Class A

WPIAL: Vincentian Academy (25-1), Clairton (16-7), North Catholic (16-6), Lincoln Park (19-6)

Around the state: Robert Vaux (19-8) lost 67-66 to Imhotep Charter in the Philadelphia Public League championship despite 45 points from star senior Rysheed Jones.

• Philadelphia's Math, Civics and Sciences Charter (23-2), the second seed from District 12, has two Robert Morris recruits (5-11 Britton Lee and 6-7 Jeremiah Worthem) and a 6-8 teammate, Quadir Welton, committed to St. Peter's.

• Johnsonburg (26-2) claimed its first District 9 title in 30 years with a 37-29 victory over Ridgeway.

• Exton's Church Farm (21-6), which lost to MCS Charter in last year's quarterfinals, won its third consecutive District 1 title.

• Ridgeway (22-5), the District 9 runner-up, lost to Lincoln Park, 65-46, in last year's PIAA semifinals.

Don't overlook: Bishop Guilfoyle (20-5) won the District 6 title with a 42-39 victory over Bishop Carroll behind 22 points from Brandon Drenning, son of Guilfoyle's first-year coach, Chris.

Notable: Lincoln Park was PIAA runner-up the past two seasons. ... Constitution, which beat Lincoln Park in last year's PIAA Class A final, 68-49, has moved to Class AA. The Philadelphia public school is the third seed from District 12 in that bracket. ... Lincoln Park lost to MCS Charter, 70-55, in the 2011 final. ... Vaux's Jones, a 6-3 point guard, holds offers from UCLA, Temple and St. John's. His game-ending free throw beat MCS Charter, 62-61, in the District 12 final.

Final prediction: MCS Charter over Lincoln Park

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