Predicted Pennsylvania State Champions: 2012-13   (Posted by Dave Kehler at 12/6/2012 )

PIAA member schools begin play tomorrow, and the season promises to be as fascinating as Pennsylvania boys' high school basketball usually is. Here are my championship predictions for the season.

There will be at least two new PIAA state champions this season, as last season's Class A champ, Constitution (Philadelphia), is now a Class AA school, and last season's Class AA champ, Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia), is now in Class AAA. I'm predicting that last season's Class AAAA and Class AAA champions will repeat in 2012-13. Statewide, there are 184 Class AAAA teams, 184 Class AAA teams, 189 Class AA teams, and 178 Class A teams in the PIAA.

Class AAAA Chester (Chester, PA) won the title with undefeated records in 2010-11 and in 2011-12, and the view from here is that they will win a third consecutive championship. Last season, Chester was 32-0, and none of their opponents in the PIAA tournament were very competitive, as they beat J. P. McCaskey (Lancaster, PA) 86-43, Norristown Area (Norristown, PA) 72-53, Coatesville Area (Coatesville, PA) 87-46, Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, PA) 67-48, and Lower Merion (Ardmore, PA) 59-33. All Chester teams are deep, so plenty of guys return with big game experience, notably Rondae Jefferson (Arizona recruit) and Darius Robinson. Conrad Chambers, an outstanding guard, has transferred to Chester from defending Pennsylvania independent schools' state champion Friends' Central (Wynnewood, PA). One of Chester's key advantages is that they play in a small league, giving them plenty of room on their schedule to play stiff competition to prepare for the state championship tournament. This season, Chester is playing a number of difficult opponents from other states in several highly regarded out-of-state tournaments.

Chester defeated Lower Merion in both the District 1 championship game and in the state championship game last season. These two teams are likely to meet for the District 1 and state titles again in 2012-13, and I expect Chester to win both times. I think that Lower Merion's stiffest test on the path to the championship game in the PIAA tournament will come from deep, quick, and defense-minded Harrisburg (Harrisburg, PA), who I expect to be the District 3 champion. I'm predicting that St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) will win the District 12 championship and will subsequently advance to the Class AAAA Final Four where they will be defeated by Chester in the eastern semifinal. St. Joseph's Prep came within a missed free throw of defeating Neumann-Goretti for the Philadelphia Catholic League championship last season and return Steve Vasturia (Notre Dame recruit) and Miles Overton (Wake Forest recruit). The fourth PIAA Class AAAA Final Four team will come from the western part of Pennsylvania, and I don't have a prediction on that one, as I don't follow teams west of the midstate.

Class AAA Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) has won the last three Class AAA state titles, and I predict that they will win another one this season. Last season, they were 28-3. Neumann has plenty of talent returning, including senior John Davis (Towson State recruit), terrific junior Jaquan Newton, and outstanding sophomore Lamarr Kimble. They have won the Philadelphia Catholic League championship four seasons in a row. I predict that Neumann's toughest test in the PIAA tournament will come from Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia), who has won the PIAA Class AA state championship in three of the past four seasons and has a number of key players back from last year's squad. I expect that Neumann and Imhotep will meet for the District 12 championship and then collide in the eastern half of the state tournament bracket. Another tough customer in the eastern bracket will be Abington Heights (Clarks Summit, PA), last season's District 2 Class AAA champion. Abington Heights finished with a 24-6 mark last season, falling to Boys' Latin Charter (Philadelphia) in a state tournament quarterfinal game. The outstanding player from last season's Abington Heights squad, J. C. Show, is back.

Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter (Philadelphia) will also be very good, and they are playing a difficult non-conference schedule. The way that the Class AAA state tournament bracket is configured, the third place team from District 12 plays in the western bracket, and I predict that either Philadelphia Electrical or Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, PA), 20-8 last season, will get that spot. Either of those two could make it to the Class AAA final four.

Class AA My pick is Holy Cross (Dunmore), who returns the core of last season's team--6' 7" Josh Kosin, 5' 8" Connor Callejas, 6' 3" Connor Jones, and Corey Joyce. Holy Cross was 25-6 last season, and they were eliminated from the PIAA Class AA state tournament by Imhotep Charter in a semifinal, 37-35, falling on an unusual play at the buzzer. I didn't see Holy Cross in person last season, but I have since watched some film, and they are equally effective playing an up-tempo game or when slowing it down. Kosin may be the best little-known player in eastern Pennsylvania. There is also another major contender from District 2, Elmer L. Meyers (Wilkes-Barre). Last season, Meyers was 24-3, and, like Holy Cross, they were eliminated from the state tournament by eventual winner Imhotep Charter, falling 66-51 in the second round.

Some other teams to consider include Constitution (Philadelphia), last season's Class A champ; Communications Tech (Philadelphia); and Delaware Valley Charter (Philadelphia). Constitution's starting five and sixth man last season were all seniors, but this year's squad includes no seniors but some outstanding underclassmen, such as sophomores Ahmad Gilbert and Tymir Watson (a transfer from another Philadelphia school, Boys' Latin Charter). They may be a year away from another state title. Constitution was 23-9 last season. Communications Tech was 20-10 last season, and they lost to Holy Cross in the second round of the state tournament, falling 58-56 in two overtimes. I think that Communications Tech's graduation losses were greater than Holy Cross's. Delaware Valley Charter was 14-8 last season and were eliminated in the first round of the Class AA state tournament. The way that the PIAA Class AA state tournament is structured, all five of these teams would be in the eastern half of the bracket. Last year's state tournament runner-up, Beaver Falls (Beaver Falls, PA), lost in the championship game to Imhotep Charter in overtime, 56-54. Beaver Falls' most outstanding player from last season has graduated, and I don't consider them to be a threat to win the state championship this season.

Class A The two major contenders are both from the Philadelphia Public League: Math Civics and Sciences Charter and Roberts Vaux. MCS was 19-10 last season, and they were eliminated from the Class A state championship tournament by the eventual winner, Constitution, in a semifinal, 62-37. Constitution had MCS's number last year, beating them during the regular season, in the Philadelphia Public League playoffs, and in the PIAA Class A state tournament. Last season's MCS team was the most discordant squad that I've seen in a long time, but they had plenty of talent. Several key players return, and they have added two major transfers. Three of the guys on the team this season have committed to play at Division 1 colleges next year.

Roberts Vaux was 15-11 last season, in which they were a Class AA school. They were eliminated in the second round of the state tournament last year. Stepping down in classification, Vaux is a major contender for the Class A title. They have a formidable backcourt with Rysheed Jordan and Sam Foreman.

Both MCS and Vaux are playing challenging non-conference schedules this season. I'll give the nod to MCS, the deeper team, to win the state title.

Lincoln Park Charter (Midland, PA) was the runner-up in each of the past two seasons, but the star from those teams, 6' 10" Devontae Watson, has graduated and now plays at Temple U. They may have a nice team this season, but I don't expect them to win a state championship.

Independents Schools that do not belong to the PIAA have their own post-season tournament to crown the independent schools' state championship. The last four of these titles were all won by Friends' Central. This year, I expect Germantown Academy (Ft. Washington, PA) to win this championship. Tall, experienced, and well-coached, GA will be difficult to beat.

this article was sent by Dave Burman