PIAA should have a true East vs. West title game
New Castle (48) Vs. Archbishop Carroll (77)
Mar 13, 2015
Seven years.

That’s how long it’s been since the Philadelphia Catholic League basketball teams earned entry into the PIAA playoffs. Since then, it’s been a grueling uphill battle for teams on the western side of the state to navigate their way to a championship. Or just a berth in the title tilt.

On March 20, in the Class AAA boys bracket, it’s quite a matchup between Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Carroll. Yep, the same Archbishop Carroll team that beat New Castle, 77-48. That same Patriots squad that hails from the Philadelphia Catholic League. Oh, and Neumann-Goretti, ya, that’s another Philadelphia Catholic League squad.

So much for East vs. West. What kind of a championship game is that? Nobody outside of Philadelphia will care about that game. And the attendance won’t be nearly as high as it was at last year’s Class AAAA boys championship when New Castle fans flooded the GIANT Center in Hershey. An estimated 5,000 New Castle fans made the trip last year to Hershey.

Good luck getting anywhere close to that for this year’s Class AAA championship game. Plenty of empty seats disguised as fans will enjoy that all-Philly clash. Pardon me, while I yawn.

The state championship the Red Hurricane bagged last year gets more and more important by the year. Just look at last year’s bracket. A narrow win over Abington in the “western” final. Can you really call it a “western” final when one school is located out east? I wouldn’t call that a true “western” final. Actually, New Castle’s thrilling win last season over Hampton in the western semifinals should have taken place in the western final.

The ’Canes conquered more odds than you know last season. Study the bracket. The deck is stacked against the western squads.

How about the 2013 state Class AAAA championship, pitting Chester against Lower Merion? Two District 1 schools. That’s right, Lower Merion, remember that journey, New Castle fans? All the way out to Williamsport for the “western” final. I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t realize Lower Merion is located on the western portion of the state. Maybe west Philly, but not the western side of the state.

The 2012 Class AAAA championship also featured a Chester-Lower Merion matchup, dueling District 1 squads. I think by the time the state championship game rolled around, folks on the western side lost all interest in the remainder of the postseason. It was time for spring sports.

How many quad-A champions have represented the west since the inclusion of the Catholic League Schools? Any guess? If you answered one (New Castle), you’re right. You don’t win anything more than the satisfaction of knowing you’re right, but good for you.

Now let’s take a look at the Class AAA field now, since that’s where New Castle is competing now.

Last year, Neumann-Goretti battled Susquehanna Township, a District 3 school. Neumann-Goretti won, flexing its muscles against a school from Harrisburg. No representation from the west. And you won’t find any western schools in the 2013 title tilt either, when Philadelphia Catholic League schools Imhotep Charter and Archbishop Carroll clashed for the crown. Imhotep Charter won, if you’re scoring at home.

You have to go as far back as 2012 when Montour came out of the west, a true western school, to play for the Class AAA title. Neumann-Goretti topped the Spartans for the championship. Montour knocked off New Castle in the second round of the state playoffs in overtime, in fact.

It’s too bad the PIAA can’t take a page out of Rocky IV. East vs. West. Rocky vs. Drago. I’m pretty sure we could find a Rocky on this side of the state to stand tall and challenge the bully.

The admission of the Philadelphia Catholic League into the PIAA playoffs isn’t solely to blame. I have no problem with the Catholic League schools having a shot at competing for a state title. Isn’t that something, a Catholic sportswriter who attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through the completion of high school is taking the side of the Catholic League.

But what I disagree with is the monopoly the league has on things. If there are too many eastern schools in the postseason and not enough in the west, then remedy it somehow. Cut down on the number of participants in the state playoffs from the east.

The teams are too good out there to keep them out, you say? Well then they need to win their district or at worst finish runner-up to play in the state playoffs. Otherwise, the state is being deprived of a true East vs. West matchup.

I totally understand the argument, too, that the Catholic League should play for its own championship. You’ll get no argument from me on that subject. Especially when the vast majority of those schools could beat just about any community college. Perhaps even select NCAA Division III schools, too.

Having an East vs. East championship isn’t logical — at all. It would be like the NBA moving a Western Conference team into the Eastern Conference playoffs since that’s the dominant conference. And it just so happens that New Orleans — which would miss the playoffs in the West, would be the No. 6 seed in the East if the playoffs started today.

Let’s get on the ball a little bit here, those making “decisions” in the PIAA. It’s time to at least have a true East vs. West championship again. It will attract more interest at least, and certainly more fans to the championship games.

(Email: rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com)
Nightly Roundup
Mar 13, 2015 Nightly Roundups
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 12 5 17 14 0 48
Archbishop Carroll 15 22 16 24 0 77
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