The moment everyone has been waiting for is here. It’s the D9Sports Tournament of Champions boys’ championship game.
(Photo: 2013 Johnsonburg (left) vs. 2002 Karns City (right) is the title game matchup of the D9Sports.com Tournament of Champions. Johnsonburg photo by Paul Burdick. Karns City photo submitted by Patrick Craig)
The championship contest pits 2013 Johnsonburg, the top-seed from the South Region vs. 2002 Karns City, the No. 3 seed from the East Region.
Here is how this works. You have until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to vote for which team you think is the best team in the D9Sports.com Era (2001-present).
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(3-E) 2002 Karns City vs. (1-S) 2013 Johnsonburg
These teams went a combined 57-5 in their respective seasons with Johnsonburg advancing all the way to the PIAA Class 1A championship game and Karns City reaching the Class 2A quarterfinals.
To reach the D9Sports Tournament of Champions title game, 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), the overall top seed 2006 Elk County Catholic (70 percent to 30 percent), and 2015 Redbank Valley, the fourth seed out of the West Region (55 percent to 45 percent).
In reaching the D9Sports Tournament of Champions title game, 2013 Johnsonburg topped 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), No. 6 2003 Keystone (73 percent to 27 percent), and DuBois Central Catholic, the fifth seed out of the Midwest Region (51 percent to 49 percent).
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.
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).