The boys’ Final Four is set in the D9Sports Tournament of Champions with two KSAC teams and two AML teams set to do battle to see who the fans deem the best team of the D9Sports.com Era (2001-present).
(Photo of 2015 Redbank Valley head coach Greg Bean, who guided his team in the PIAA Quarterfinals in Class 2A for the first time in school history. Photo by Deb Arner)
The first semifinal match is an all-KSAC affair with 2002 Karns City, the No. 3 seed out of the East, facing off against 2015 Redbank Valley, the No. 4 seed out of the West.
The second semifinal game is an all-AML matchup with a pair of PIAA runner-up teams squaring off when 2007 DuBois Central Catholic, the No. 5 seed out of the Midwest, takes on 2013 Johnsonburg, the top seed from the South.
Here is how this works. You have until 11:59 p.m. Friday to vote for which team you think is the best in each matchup. At that point, the winners will advance into the championship game, which will start at 10 p.m. Monday, April 20, and run through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, April 21.
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(4-W) 2015 Redbank Valley vs. (3-E) 2002 Karns City
This is a matchup of a pair of District 9 Class 2A champions.
Karns City beat Moniteau, 69-48, in the 2002 championship contest, while Redbank Valley knocked off Cranberry, 40-36, in the 2015 title game.
To reach the D9Sports Tournament of Champions Final Four, 2015 Redbank Valley defeated No. 13 2013 Karns City (73 percent to 27 percent), No. 5 2004 Johnsonburg (51 percent to 49 percent), top-seeded 2012 Ridgway (54 percent to 46 percent), and No. 3 2004 Elk County Catholic (62 percent to 38 percent).
In reaching the Final Four, 2002 Karns City beat No. 14 2008 Cranberry (78 percent to 22 percent), No. 6 2016 ECC (65 percent to 35 percent), No. 7 2018 Coudersport (54 percent to 46 percent), and the overall top seed 2006 Elk County Catholic (70 percent to 30 percent).
Redbank Valley went 22-7 in 2015 and won the school’s first District 9 title since 1980 with the win over Cranberry. The Bulldogs, under the direction of Greg Bean, then dispatched Bellwood-Antis, 60-53, and West Branch, 62-46, to reach the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time in school history before losing to eventual PIAA runner-up Aliquippa, 70-36. Bean was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Coach of the Year, while Jake Dougherty (16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 spg) was a first-team All-D9 selection and Devin Shumaker (11.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 spg) and Zach Westover (9.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.8 bpg) were third-team All-District 9 choices.
Karns City went 27-2 in 2002 and didn’t lose until February when it dropped a regular-season decision to Wilkinsburg. The Gremlins also went to the PIAA quarterfinals thanks to wins over Maplewood and North Star in the first two rounds of the PIAA playoffs. The North Star game was a 47-46 overtime decision when future Redbank Valley head coach Patrick Craig hit a shot with eight seconds to play in overtime. Craig had also tied the game with three free throws with 18.8 seconds left in regulation after being fouled taking a 3-pointer. Karns City, coached by Jeff Loughry, fell in the PIAA quarterfinals to eventual PIAA runner-up Sto-Rox. The Gremlins were led by Craig (21.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg), a 1,000-point career scorer, and Brian Hilderbrand (10.2 ppg, 8.7 apg), who were both named first-team All-District players.
(5-M) 2007 DuBois Central Catholic vs. (1-S) 2013 Johnsonburg
This game features a pair of PIAA runner-up teams who took very different paths to the state championship game.
In 2007, DuBois Central Catholic actually finished fourth in District 9 before rallying to reach the PIAA Class 1A title game upsetting heavily favored Kennedy Catholic in an exciting semifinal contest.
In 2013, Johnsonburg won the District 9 Class 1A title and then reached the PIAA title game with a mammoth upset of its own taking down Lincoln Park.
To reach the D9Sports Tournament of Champions Final Four, 2007 had wins over No. 12 2015 Clearfield (78 percent to 22 percent), No. 4 2008 Coudersport (51 percent to 49 percent), No. 1 2004 Bradford (54 percent to 46 percent), and No. 3 Clarion-Limestone (57 percent to 43 percent).
To advance to the Final Four, 2013 Johnsonburg, the only top seed to reach the Final Four, recorded wins over No. 16 2018 Clearfield (92 percent to 8 percent), No. 8 2001 Bradford (67 percent to 33 percent), No. 4 2004 Keystone (73 percent to 27 percent), and No. 6 2003 Keystone (73 percent to 27 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.
Johnsonburg went 30-3 in 2013 and beat Ridgway, 37-29, to win the District 9 Class 1A team then went on an epic run through the PIAA playoffs topping Eisenhower, 62-30, in the first round, Shade, 54-49, in the second round, and D9 rival Smethport, 54-43, in the quarterfinals (it also beat Smethport in the D9 semifinals). That brought about a semifinal contest against heavily favored Lincoln Park, the WPIAL champion and the PIAA runner-up from 2012 who trotted out four Division 1-caliber players, including former North Carolina State star Maverick Rowan. No one gave the Rams a shot to beat the Leopards, but beat them they did, 59-53, outscoring Lincoln Park 34-25 in the second half. Cameron Grumley and Cole Peterson each scored 22 points in the win, which sent Johnsonburg to the state title game for the first time in school history where they fell 83-63 to Vaux out of Philadelphia. Grumley, who went on to score over 1,000 career points at Division 2 Clarion University, and Peterson, who went on to a stellar baseball career at St. Bonaventure (the Rams won the PIAA baseball title that spring) and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers (he is currently in the minor leagues having made it as high as Triple-A last year), were named the co-D9Sports.com District 9 Players of the Year, while head coach Bill Shuey was the D9Sports.com District 9 Coach of the Year. Grumley, a junior in 2013, averaged 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 3.2 steals per game, while Peterson, a junior as well in 2013, averaged 15.6 points, 4.0 steals, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Both players topped 1,000 career points (Grumley 1,513; Peterson 1,598).