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D9Sports Tournament of Champions Boys’ Sweet 16 (Midwest and South Regions)

The D9Sports Tournament of Champions is in the Sweet 16 with the regional semifinals in both the boys’ Midwest and South Regions on tap.

(The DuBois Central Catholic boys’ basketball team finished second in the PIAA Class 1A in 2007. Photo by Patty Prescott. Submitted photo)

Advancing to the Sweet 16 out of the Midwest Region were top-seeded 2004 Bradford, No. 2 2001 Elk County Catholic, No. 3 2015 Clarion-Limestone, and No. 5 2007 DuBois Central Catholic

Advancing to the Sweet 16 out of the South Region were top-seeded 2013 Johnsonburg, No. 2 2008 Bradford, No. 4 2004 Keystone, and No. 6 2003 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 Elite 8.

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(5-MW) 2007 DuBois Central Catholic vs. (1-MW) 2004 Bradford

2007 DCC advanced to the Sweet 16 thanks to victories over 2015 Clearfield (78 percent to 22 percent) and 2008 Coudersport (51 percent to 49 percent), while 2004 Bradford topped 2019 Clearfield (85 percent to 15 percent) and 2020 Elk County Catholic (74 percent to 26 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 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.

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 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.

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(3-MW) 2015 Clarion-Limestone vs. (2-MW) 2001 Elk County Catholic

2015 C-L beat 2010 Brookville, 75 percent to 25 percent, and 2017 Coudersport, 51 percent to 49 percent, to advance to the Sweet 16, while 2001 ECC toppled 2013 Brockway, 77 percent to 23 percent, and 2011 ECC, 79 percent to 21 percent, to reach the final 16.

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 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.

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 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.

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(4-S) 2004 Keystone vs. (1-S) 2013 Johnsonburg

2004 Keystone dropped 2012 Smethport, 63 percent to 37 percent, and 2005 Coudersport, 59 percent to 41 percent, to reach the Sweet 16, while 2013 Johnsonburg knocked off 2018 Clearfield, 92 percent to 8 percent, and 2001 Bradford, 67 percent to 33 percent, to reach this point.

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 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.

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 District 9 Players of the Year, while head coach Bill Shuey was the 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).

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(6-S) 2003 Keystone vs. (2-S) 2008 Bradford

2003 Keystone rolled past 2010 Brookville, 70 percent to 30 percent, in the first round and then beat 2018 Karns City, 54 percent to 46 percent, in the second round, while 2008 Bradford knocked off 2007 Kane, 74 percent to 26 percent, in the first round, before downing 2007 ECC, 59 percent to 41 percent, in the second round.

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 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.

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 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.

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