It is March Madness opening weekend, so obviously almost everyone's attention will be on the college game. Additionally, today and tomorrow in Hershey features the PIAA Basketball State Championships. While Pitt does not have a basketball commitment playing this weekend, there is actually a Pitt football recruit looking for a gold medal. Here is a quick look into the games on the boys side, and what to watch for if you dare to change your channel off the Big Dance. As always, the games will be broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) live.
Math, Civics & Science (15-14) vs. Kennedy Catholic (27-2)
Math, Civics, and Science or commonly referred to as MCS, is a Philadelphia based charter school that has been a small school power that is no stranger to the state championship game. They took home the gold in 2011, and finished as the runner-up to a Maverick Rowan-led Lincoln Park team back in 2014. Don't let the record deceive you, the Mighty Elephants (incredible nickname) play many AAA and AAAA schools as a member of the Philadelphia Public League. This will be an athletic and battle tested group.
Kennedy Catholic is the Western representative from District 10. They are led by 6'9" West Virginia commitment, Sagaba Konate. If you recall, Konate was a one time Pitt target, but interest waned from the Panthers eventually for whatever reason. Konate is a native of the African country of Mali, and has had siblings breakthrough to the next level, so the pedigree is there. He is far from a finished product, but he is definitely a major factor at the high school level. Aside from Konate, Kennedy has plenty of talent and actually handed AAAA Allderdice their only loss this season.
Mastery Charter North (27-3) vs. Aliquippa (29-0)
Mastery Charter North is another Philadelphia based charter that will represent the East in Hershey. They sport a big record, as they rolled to an undefeated mark in their section of the Philadelphia Public League. They rolled past Mahanoy and Danville in the first two rounds of states, but had to battle to beat Trinity and Camp Hill in the past two rounds. They will have their hands full with the Quips tomorrow.
Aliquippa is in the exact same position as last season. The Beaver County powerhouse is undefeated heading to the state final going against a well-regarded Philadelphia team. They came up short last season under the same circumstance, but it feels like they can bring it home this season. The Quips have a talented group that obviously has been dominant on the basketball court, but they also went 15-1 on the football field this school year as well. Pitt fans should have some interest in seeing future linebacker, Kaezon Pugh, in action. Pugh is just a good athlete, and one Pitt fans should be excited about him getting to Oakland in a few short months.
Neumann-Goretti (26-4) vs. Mars (23-6)
Neumann-Goretti is an absolute force in Pennsylvania High School Basketball. The Saints only have four losses on the season, one of which was to Paul VI of Virginia, who features Pitt commit Corey Manigault. Neumann-Goretti has won five of the past six AAA state championships. They feature Florida Gulf Coast commit, Rasheed Browne, along with a pair of juniors who are drawing serious major college interest in Quade Green and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.
Mars was one of the best teams in the Pittsburgh area all along, but they were upset in the WPIAL playoffs. They showed some resiliency and worked their way to Hershey as a three seed. The Planets feature a high level sophomore named Robby Carmody. The athletic shooting guard has offers from Pitt, Purdue, Xavier, Penn State, and Duquesne already. Is he good enough to take down a Philadelphia powerhouse all alone? Probably not, but Mars has a solid team around him that is coached by his father. Who knows where the Carmody recruitment will go, but Pitt offered early for a reason.
Roman Catholic (26-4) vs. Allderdice (28-1)
Roman Catholic is a very good basketball team boasting a ton of Division One talent....that is all going to Penn State. In fact, it's fair to say the Cahillities are the Nittany Lions' JV team, and they will definitely help the varsity next season, as at least two of them should start for Pat Chambers' squad from day one. Roman won it all last season with many of the same kids, so they know what it takes to bring a state championship home.
Allderdice has been a great story in the Pittsburgh area all season long. They are just a good, veteran team without a true division one basketball player - unless one of them picks up a late offer down the stretch. First of all, it is very rare at the AAAA level to win without a "D1" player, but the New Castle team in 2014 is one that comes to mind, proving it can be done. Still, this Dragons team is not short on talent. Cardiac Hill contributor, Aron Minkoff, wrote about the Jackson twins (James and Tim) in the past. The twin brothers for the 'Dice are very talented athletes that first attracted attention as football players. This may be the game of the weekend, and one worth checking out if the NCAA Tournament has a lull.