The D9Sports Tournament of Champions is in full swing, and it’s time for the Boys’ Midwest Region first round.
(Photo: C-L celebrates a PIAA second-round PIAA playoff victory in 2015)
The top four seeds include No. 1 2004 Bradford, No. 2 2001 Elk County Catholic, No. 3 2015 Clarion-Limestone and No. 4 2008 Coudersport.
Here is how this works. You have until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to vote for which team you think is the best in each matchup. At that point, the winners will advance into the Round of 32.
BOYS’ MIDWEST REGION FIRST ROUND
(17) 2019 Clearfield vs. (1) 2004 Bradford
2019 Clearfield advanced to the Round of 64 with a 57 percent to 43 percent win over 2014 Punxsutawney in the play-in round. Clearfield went 13-11 in 2019 and beat Bradford, 63-61, to win the District 9 Class 4A title before losing in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Bison, under the direction of Nate Glunt, were paced by first-team All-District 9 choice Cade Walker, who was a junior, and third-team selection Karson Rumsky, a sophomore. Walker finished his career as a 1,000-point scorer.
Bradford, under Dave Fuhrman, went 21-7 in 2004 and beat St. Marys, 63-52, to win the D9 3A title before advancing to the PIAA semifinals with wins over Erie Strong Vincent, 70-62 in overtime, Central Cambria, 53-33, and Lewistown, 62-56 in overtime. In the win over Strong Vincent, Bradford was forced to overtime when Ramon Richard scored with two seconds to play for Strong Vincent. But the Owls won the OT 12-4. In the OT victory over Lewistown, Bradford rallied from 13 down in the second half to get the win. Stuart Morris’ driving layup with one second to play in regulation forced overtime, and Bradford never led in the game until the 2:30 mark of OT. The Owls lost to Moon, who featured future Penn State star and NFL center A.Q. Shipley, 54-36, in the semifinals. Fuhrman was named the D9Sports.com Coach of the Year, while Shawn Manning (13.5 ppg) was a first-team All-D9 selection and Jon Hannon (10.5 ppg) was a third-team All-District choice.
(9) 2020 Ridgway vs. (8) 2020 Elk County Catholic
Ridgway went 20-8 in 2020 beating Clarion, 41-32, to win the D9 title and then knocking off Shenango, 57-49, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before losing to Farrell, 51-33, in the second round. The Tony Allegretto-coached Elkers were led by Matt Dush (14.0 ppg), Zack Zameroski (12.9 ppg) and Dan Park (8.4 ppg).
ECC finished 27-2 in 2020 topping Cameron County, 53-36, to win the D9 title and then topping Imani Christian, 56-34, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before losing to Cornell, 53-44, in the second round. The Crusaders, under the direction of Aaron Straub, were led by Regis Wortman (14.5 ppg) and Mark Kraus (10.4 ppg). They played Ridgway twice during the regular season beating the Elkers 38-30 and 42-32.
(12) 2015 Clearfield vs. (5) 2007 DuBois Central Catholic
Clearfield, under Nate Glunt, went 20-4 in 2015 and beat Punxsutawney, 57-33, to win the D9 4A title before losing to Obama Academy, 66-52, in a subregional game. The Bison were led by sophomore Will Myers (16.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg), a second-team All-D9 selection who went on to score a school-record 1,436 career points, as well as Tommy Hazel (13.8 ppg) and Erik Sellers (10.3 ppg). Hazel was also a 1,100-career point scorer.
Mike Nesbit’s 2007 DCC squad finished 27-4 with three of the losses coming in the postseason including believe-it-or-not twice in the District 9 playoffs. The Cardinals lost to Keystone, 41-40, in the D9 1A semifinals then dropped a 52-48 decision to Coudersport in the consolation game. But that didn’t stop DCC from making school history. An upset of WPIAL champion Leechburg, 74-62, started a run to the PIAA championship game for the Cardinals who also beat Western Beaver, 77-63, Clairton, 49-46, and Kennedy Catholic, 51-50, to reach the title game. The Clairton game saw the Cards rally from a 44-36 deficit with just over five minutes to play by using a 10-0 run, but that didn’t even hold water to what happened in the semifinals against heavily favored Kennedy Catholic. DCC trailed by the Golden Eagles by 18 with 13:07 to play, 35-17, but went on a 19-0 run in a span of just 3:46 to take a 36-35 lead with nine minutes left thanks to seven created turnovers. Kennedy rallied to go back ahead by three, 50-47, with under a minute to play before Andrew Welch scored with 44 seconds left to back it 50-49 Eagles. That set up a play that no one in Tippin Gym that night will ever forget as Welch hit a 3-foot leaning backward jumper with just over two seconds left to send DCC to its first-ever PIAA title game. Dom Varacallo, the current DCC head coach, set the play up with a beautiful pass out of a trap. While DCC lost to Reading Central Catholic, 58-33, it still goes down as the most successful season in Cardinals boys’ basketball history. Nesbit was named the D9Sports.com District 9 co-Coach of the Year while Christian Spilman (10.2 ppg, 6.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 spg, 48.4 percent shooting) and Chris Wulderk (12.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 apg) were named second-team All-D9 selections. Spilman, a junior in 2007, went on to score 1,000 (1,036) points in his career.
(13) 2006 Keystone vs. (4) 2008 Coudersport
Keystone, under Greg Heath, went 18-9 in 2006 and beat Moniteau, 57-40, in the D9 2A title games before losing to North East, 72-47, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Panthers were led by D9Sports.com Rookie of the Year Kyle Rhoads, who averaged 10.3 ppg while hitting 44 3-pointers and adding 45 assists and 35 steals as well as Dan Ferringer (11.7 ppg).
Coudersport went 29-1 in 2008 and beat DuBois Central Catholic, 61-41, in the D9 1A title game before knocking off Homer-Center, 70-40, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and then beat Union (New Castle), 55-47, before losing to Kennedy Catholic, 58-43, in the quarterfinals. Chris Fink’s Falcons were paced by the D9Sports.com Player of the Year Blair Heimel (19.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 1.5 apg, 1.4 spg; Shot 63.5 percent). John Hau (15.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.4 bpg, 1.9 spg) and was named second-team All-District 9. Both Heimel and Hau were 1,000-point scorers.
(14) 2010 Brookville vs. (3) 2015 Clarion-Limestone
Brookville went 17-8 under Bud Baughman and beat Kane, 52-48, to win the D9 Class 2A title before losing to Washington, 57-34, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Raiders were led by third-team All-District 9 selection Chad Brocious (12.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.2 apg) and also featured a 6-foot-6 sophomore named Zane Hackett (7.9 ppg), who went on to score 1,000 career points. Baughman was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Coach of the Year.
C-L went 25-4 and won the D9 1A title, its first since 1961, with a 72-53 win over a Cameron County team that was led by none other than future Kentucky player Nate Sestina. The Joe Ferguson-coached Lions then beat North Catholic, 60-45, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before winning a shootout over Vincentian Academy, 97-90, in the second round behind 20 points and an amazing 21 assists from senior guard RJ Laugand. C-L lost in the quarterfinals to eventual PIAA runner-up Farrell, 90-73. Laugand was named the co-D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year with Sestina after averaging 17.6 points, 8.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.4 steals were game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 83.2 percent from the free-throw line. The school’s all-time leading scorer (1,832 points) he went on to a solid career at NCAA D2 Clarion University. Sophomore Dan Callen (12.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 51.4 percent shooting) was a second-team All-D9 choice and also scored over 1,000 career points finishing second in school history with 1,524 points (now third all-time) while Kolton Stiglitz (13.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 52.4 percent from the field) was also a second-team All-D9 choice after the 6-5 senior teamed with Callen (6-6) to give C-L twin towers.
(11) 2002 Bradford vs. (6) 2017 Coudersport
Bradford, under Dave Furhman, was 23-3 in 2002 and won the D9 3A title with a 42-39 win over Punxsutawney before falling to Penn Cambria, 57-50, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Junior Jess Whelan (19 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg) was the leader for the Owls and a first-team All-D9 choice. He went on to score over 1,300 career points in his career. Gregg Housler was a second-team All-District 9 selection.
Coudersport finished 25-1 under Brian Furman in 2017 and beat Brockway, 67-61, to win the D9 2A title before topping United, 80-45, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and losing to Greensburg Central Catholic, 72-63, in the second round. The Falcons were led by first-team All-D9 choice Jared Green (16.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.7 spg, 3.2 apg, 1.6 bpg), a junior, and second-team All-D9 selection Owen Chambers (16.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 63 3-pointers), a sophomore. Green went on to score 1,514 career points, while Chambers ended his career as D9’s all-time leading scorer with 2,239 career tallies.
(10) 2006 Bradford vs. (7) 2011 Elk County Catholic
Dave Furhman-coached Bradford went 17-10 in 2006 and topped Punxsutawney, 63-33, in D9 3A title game before knocking off Blackhawk, 74-56, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and losing to Moon, 66-45, in the second round. The Owls were led by second-team All-D9 selection Tom Morris (14.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.6 spg, 68 3-pointers), a junior.
ECC, under the direction of Aaron Straub, went 25-5 in 2011 beating Union, 51-39, to win the D9 1A title then topping Serra Catholic, 58-49, in the second round before losing to eventual PIAA runner-up Lincoln Park, 66-47, in the second round. The Crusaders were led by second-team All-D9 selection Darren Simons (10.9 ppg) and third-team All-D9 choice Ricky Pearsall (11.1 ppg)
(15) 2013 Brockway vs. (2) 2001 Elk County Christian (now Catholic)
Kurt Becker’s Brockway squad went 15-8 in 2013 beating Cranberry, 45-38, to win the D9 2A crown before falling to Mercyhurst Prep, 56-46, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Rovers were led by third-team All-D9 choice Clay Anderson (13.7 ppg, 2.9 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 spg).
Another Aaron Straub-coached team, ECC went 29-1 in 2001 knocking off Clarion-Limestone, 67-51, in the D9 1A title game then beating Rochester, 73-48, and Berlin Brothersvalley, 71-56, to advance to the PIAA quarterfinals were it lost to eventual PIAA champion Kennedy Christian (now Catholic), 64-48. A.J. Straub, a junior, won the first of his back-to-back D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year awards after averaging 18.9 ppg and hitting an amazing 127 3-pointers while shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line. Straub, the son of head coach Aaron Straub went on to a good career at D3 Carnegie Mellon, finished his ECC career with a school-record 1,677 points (now second-most). Straub went on to be named a third-team AP Pennsylvania boys’ Small School (Class 2A and 1A) all-state team member. Jason Hanes (12 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 53.8 percent shooting) and Tony Posteraro (11.2 ppg, 3.3 apg, 53.8 percent shooting) were both named second-team All-D9 choice.