The D9Sports Tournament of Champions is in full swing, and it’s time for the Boys’ South Region first round, the last first-round region on the boys’ side.
(Johnsonburg celebrates upsetting Lincoln Park in the PIAA 1A semifinals in 2013. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
The top four seeds include No. 1 2013 Johnsonburg, No. 2 2008 Bradford, No. 3 2005 Elk County Catholic, and No. 4 2004 Keystone.
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 32.
(16) 2018 Clearfield vs. (1) 2013 Johnsonburg
2018 Clearfield advanced to the Round of 64 with a 60 percent to 40 percent win over 2007 Bradford in the play-in round. The Nate Glunt-coached Bison went 15-10 and beat Bradford, 42-36, to win the District 9 Class 4A title before losing in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Clearfield was led by senior Reese Wilson and sophomore Cade Walker, who went on to become a 1,000-point career scorer.
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).
(9) 2003 Clarion vs. (8) 2001 Bradford
In 2003, fifth-seeded Clarion went 21-8 and beat DuBois Central Catholic, 50-39, to win the District 9 Class 1A title, its first D9 title since 1986. The Bobcats, under Rob Leone, then beat Homer-Center, 41-40, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before losing to California, 58-39, in the second round. It was Clarion’s first PIAA win since 1986. Leone was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Coach of the Year while Joel McNeil (10.1 ppg) was named a second-team All-District 9 selection. The team also featured future Redbank Valley head coach Greg Bean (8.5 ppg), who went on to win the 2015 2A title with the Bulldogs and is now an assistant coach at Waynesburg University, and future Forest Area girls’ assistant coach B.J. Roth (6.9 ppg).
Bradford, under Dave Fuhrman, went 20-6 in 2001 and beat Brookville, 61-49, to win the D9 Class 3A title before knocking off Penn Cambria, 65-48, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and losing to Peabody, 62-55, in the second round. Senior Jared Wells (11.6 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 spg, 32 made 3-pointers) was named a second-team All-District 9 performer.
(12) 2010 DuBois Central Catholic vs. (5) 2005 Coudersport
DuBois Central Catholic went 21-6 in 2010 and beat Elk County Catholic, 49-45, to win the D9 1A title, its first District 9 title since 1976, before losing to Neshannock, 63-50, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The win in the D9 championship game was an emotional one as it happened less than 36 hours after DCC head coach Mike Nesbit found out his daughter Lauren had been critically hurt in a car accident in Butler County, and Nesbit had arrived at the game straight from a Pittsburg Hospital – Lauren made a full recovery. Junior Chris Marshall, who went on the score 1,412 career points, was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year after averaging 18.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 56.7 percent from the field.
Coudersport, coached by Chris Fink, finished 27-3 in 2005 losing to Elk County Catholic, 71-46, in the D9 title game – an ECC team that went to the PIAA quarterfinals and featured many of the same players who went on to win a PIAA title in 2006 – before beating Iroquois, 61-48, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and Duquesne, 52-40, in the second round prior to losing to Blairsville, 54-51, in the semifinals. The Falcons were led by junior Ryan Jones (18.7 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 spg, 2 bpg), who was named a first-team All-District 9 player and went on to finish his career with a school-record 1,907 career points, now the second-most in school history.
(13) 2012 Smethport vs. (4) 2004 Keystone
Smethport went 18-6 in 2012 under the guidance of former Johnsonburg great Dan Zeigler and beat Brookville, 47-38, to win the D9 Class 2A title, its first-ever title in basketball, before losing to Jeannette, 73-43, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Junior Zach Smith (15.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg), who went on to star at D3 Pitt-Bradford before walking on at D1 Pitt and is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,629 career points, was a first-team All-D9 choice, while senior Kevin Lord (15.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) was a second-team selection.
Keystone, under Greg Heath, finished 24-5 in 2004 and beat Moniteau, 63-47, to win the D9 Class 2A title before topping Saegertown, 55-52, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and Westmont-Hilltop, 47-35, in the second round. The Panthers lost to Beaver Falls, 80-63, in the quarterfinals. The win over Saegertown was drama-filled, as Garrett Heath hit a pair of free throws following a technical foul on Saegertown with 8.2 seconds left and the game tied at 52 following a long-distance 3-pointer by Saegertown. The official explanation as handed down following the game by District 9 Basketball Chairman Jim Manners after he talked to the officials was that the technical foul was called because Saegertown head coach Ryan McKissock “stood up and one of the players called a timeout. The technical was accessed because of excessive timeouts called by Saegertown.” In other words, Saegertown called a timeout when it didn’t have one. But McKissock’s version of the events was that he didn’t call a timeout and that he was told the technical foul was accessed because of excessive celebration. Garrett Heath, Greg’s son, was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year and a second-team Class 2A All-State performer after averaging 22.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.9 blocks per game and hitting 49.9 percent of his shots including 39.5 from 3-point range where he made 73. He also shot 81.3 percent from the free-throw line and finished his career with a District 9-record 2,215 career points – now third-most in D9. At the time, he was just the second player in D9 history to top 2,000 career points. Sam Swartzfager added 10.1 ppg for Keystone.
(14) 2018 Karns City vs. (3) 2005 Elk County Catholic
Karns City went 17-8 in 2018 and beat Brookville, 34-31, in the District 9 Class 3A title game before losing to Mercyhurst Prep, 78-47, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Chase Beighley led the Chris Bellis-coached Gremlins with 13.2 points per game, while Austin Fahlor added 11.2 points per game.
Elk County Catholic went 27-3 in 2005 and beat Coudersport, 71-46, to win the D9 1A title and then beat Western Beaver, 54-37, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, and Conemaugh Township, 61-45, in the second round before losing to eventual PIAA runner-up Kennedy Catholic, 51-48, in the quarterfinals. The Aaron Straub-led Crusaders were led by sophomore Jesse Bosnik (15.1 ppg, 3.1 apg,. 20 spg, 45 3-pointers, 80.2 percent from the free-throw line), a first-team All-District 9 selection who went on to score 2,083 career points. Senior Marcus Genevro (11 ppg, 53.7 percent shooting) and Adam Simbeck (9.9 ppg, 51.4 percent shooting) were third-team All-District 9 selections.
(11) 2011 Brookville vs. (6) 2003 Keystone
Brookville, under the direction of Bud Baughman, went 22-3 in 2011 and beat Moniteau, 58-49, to win the D9 2A title before losing to Jeannette, 68-57, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Raiders were led by second-team All-District 9 selection 6-6 junior Zane Hackett (13.3 ppg), who went on to score 1,016 career points. Also playing key roles for the Raiders were Kyle Baughman (9.8 ppg), Dan Ion (9.8 ppg) and Jared Heschke (8.0 ppg).
Keystone, under the guidance of Greg Heath, finished 27-1 in 2003 beating Karns City, 50-45, to win the D9 2A title before topping Sharpsville, 47-28, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and losing for the only time on the season to Farrell, 63-44, in the second round. Junior guard Garrett Heath was named a second-team Class 2A All-State player and the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year after averaging 22.4 points per game and scoring 25 or more points 11 times, including five times at 30 or more and three times at 35 or more. Heath hit 75 3-pointers and shot 80.5 percent (161 of 200) from the free-throw line. He finished his career a year later with a then-District 9 record of 2,215 career points, only the second player to ever hit 2,000 points in D9 history at the time, and still sits third all-time in D9 history in scoring. Senior Ben Cobler (14.0 ppg, 3.2 apg, 82 percent from the free-throw line) was a second-team All-D9 selection.
(10) 2016 Clearfield vs. (7) 2007 Elk County Catholic
Nate Glunt’s Clearfield Bison went 23-3 in 2016 and beat St. Marys, 56-42, to win the D9 Class 3A title then topped Obama Academy, 68-51, in a PIAA subregional game to advance to the PIAA bracket were it lost to eventual PIAA runner-up Mars, 68-60, in a game Clearfield led by two going to the fourth quarter. The Bison were led by junior Will Myers (17.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 45 percent shooter and 40 percent from 3-point range where he hit 83, a first-team All-District selection. Myers scored his 1,000th career point in the final game of the year and ended up as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,436 career points. Junior Tommy Hazel (13.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 48 3-pointers) and senior Cody Spaid (11.2 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.3 bpg, shot 60 percent from the floor), a 6-7 senior who went on to start at Pitt-Greensburg, were both second-team All-District 9 selections. Hazel finished his career with 1,147 points.
A year after winning the PIAA title, ECC, under the direction of Aaron Straub, went 27-3 in 2007 and beat Keystone, 54-37, to win the D9 Class 1A title before knocking off Northern Cambria, 65-49, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and losing to Serra Catholic, 65-58, in the second round. The Crusaders were led by 2,000-point (2,083) career scorer Jesse Bosnik, who was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year after averaging 20.6 points, 5.1 rebounds. 5.0 assists and 3.2 steals per game and shooting 52 percent from the floor and 38 percent (57 made) from 3-point range. Bosnik went on to play college baseball at St. Bonaventure and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After his baseball career, he returned to college, this time at IUP, to play basketball. Fellow senior Josh Salter (11.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 47.5 percent shooting, 39.3 percent 3-point shooting (42 made) and 81.8 percent free-throw shooting) was named a second-team All-District 9 team member.
(15) 2007 Kane vs. (2) 2008 Bradford
Kane, under the direction of Jeff Labesky, went 16-11 in 2007 and beat Smethport, 54-49, to win the District 9 2A title before losing to Monessen, 77-53, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Wolves were led by second-team All-District 9 choice John Bizzak (12.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg), a junior, who ended his career with 1,018 points.
Dave Fuhrman’s Bradford team went 20-8 in 2008 and beat Clearfield, 63-37, to win the District 9 Class 3A title, then topped Chartiers Valley, 63-39, and Hopewell, 50-39, to reach the PIAA quarterfinals were it fell to Steelton-Highspire, 72-41. Furhman was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Coach of the Year while seniors Ryan LaBrozzi (17.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.9 spg, 50.1 percent shooting) and Ben Lanich (14.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 53.6 percent shooting) were chosen as first-team All-District 9 selections.