With the D9Sports Tournament of Champions now in the second round, it’s time for the boys’ Midwest Region.
(Photo of the 2017 Coudersport boys’ basketball team. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
Advancing to the second round in the Midwest were topped-seeded 2004 Bradford, No. 2 2001 Elk County Catholic, No. 3 2015 Clarion-Limestone, No. 4 2008 Coudersport, No. 5 2007 DuBois Central Catholic, No. 6 2017 Coudersport, No. 7 2011 Elk County Catholic, and No. 8 2020 Elk County Catholic.
Here is how this works. You have until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to vote for which team you think is the best in each matchup. At that point, the winners will advance into the Round of 16.
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(8) 2020 Elk County Catholic vs. (1) 2004 Bradford
Advancing to the second round with a 68 percent to 32 percent win over 2020 Ridgway, 2020 Elk County Catholic will face 2004 Bradford, an 85 percent to 15 percent winner over 2019 Clearfield.
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.
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.
(5) 2007 DuBois Central Catholic vs. (4) 2008 Coudersport
2007 DCC beat 2015 Clearfield, 78 percent to 22 percent, to reach the second round, while 2008 Coudersport topped 2006 Keystone, 76 percent to 24 percent.
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.
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.
(6) 2017 Coudersport vs. (3) 2015 Clarion-Limestone
Coudersport of 2017 knocked off 2002 Bradford, 72 percent to 28 percent, to reach the second round, while 2015 C-L topped 2010 Brookville, 75 percent to 25 percent.
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.
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.
(7) 2011 Elk County Catholic vs. (2) 2001 Elk County Catholic
2011 ECC reached the second round with a 63 percent to 37 percent win over 2006 Bradford, while 2001 ECC knocked off 2013 Brockway, 77 percent to 23 percent.
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)
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.